“It’s a doll lotta love”

How do you thank a friend’s mum who gave your husband three tickets to see Robert Plant and refused to accept any payment for them?

You make her one of these:

Here are the particulars of plush Robert Plant, from head to foot:

• The hair is of course of paramount importance. Look at that glorious mane! To achieve a natural blond look, I used three different shades of cotton embroidery floss, about five skeins in total. For the curl, I wetted the floss and left it to dry wrapped tightly around an assortment of spikes: the tines of a fork, hairpins, skewers; but the most effective was a 200mm ‘norge needle’ left over from my husband’s previous job in medical physics. In case you were wondering, a norge needle is a sort of catheter that is ‘introduced to’ (translation: jabbed into) a gentleman’s perineum, then my husband would shine infrared light up it to zap prostate cancer. Don’t worry, this norge needle had never been used before.

Aside from the curling, the hair was the most time-consuming part of the doll because, having only ever made dolls of ageing male politicians who had a few wisps of cotton wool or yarn on top, I had no experience of creating a lush headsuit like Plant’s. Each lock was individually hand-knotted, which took ages. The task reminded me of the proprieter of a chip shop we used to frequent; he must have been at least 70% bald, but had two rows of very obvious hair plugs across the top of his forehead. At the time I thought that either he was so vain that he had deluded himself the sad little sprouts were going to trick everybody into thinking he had a full barnet, or that he could only afford to re-forest a small part of his head. Now I wonder whether he stopped there because installing hair is so incredibly time-consuming and tedious for everybody involved.

• The torso: Plant in his heyday seemed to be very partial to a diaphnous bed-jacket. I made this one out of an old sari I had lying around – at university I wore a lot of ripped-up saris. One of the many reasons why I am unlikely ever to get a tattoo is the thought of the things I used to wear ten years ago – or even five, or two years ago. At least, unlike tattoos, they are easily removed. The sari was inclined to fray, so I sewed French seams; this means that Robert’s little bed-jacket is technically better made than any of my own clothes.

Possessing a chest rug which today’s popular singers would either be too prepubescent to grow or too sappy not to wax off at the record company’s behest, Plant tended to set it off with a selection of necklaces. I found the silver tortoise charm in an old box of beads; I think I must have bought it for my mum, who is a fan of tortoises, but forgot to give it to her. Sorry mum; it is Robert’s tortoise charm now.

• The leather trousers are too baggy, but I pulled a tendon in my hand sewing them so couldn’t face taking them in to emulate Plant’s moose knuckle, an essential feature of any 70s rocker worth his trousers. The leather is from my husband’s coat, which he only stopped wearing when it fell apart and not because he finally realised Matrix daywear does not behove anybody.

• The footwear: it was surprisingly difficult to find a clear picture of what Led Zeppelin wore on their feet. I was shocked, however, to find several photos of the band wearing Mary Janes. Mary Janes! The least rock’n’roll footwear after these!

I sought the advice of my friend Jo, who has made Led Zeppelin Christmas baubles and therefore can be considered an authority upon the band, and she suggested cowboy boots. So he has purple felt cowboy boots, not that you can really see them.

The doll is 17 inches tall, completely hand-sewn and the flesh-coloured felt used throughout was left over from some dinosaur tail props I made for Pappy’s 2009 Edinburgh show. I’ve made a lot of odd Edinburgh props in my time.

All in all, I’m pretty happy with how the Robert Plant doll came out, but if I were to make another, I would model it on this photo of him instead:

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2 Comments to ““It’s a doll lotta love””

  1. I have a route to get this n front of Mr Plant himself. No promises – but let’s see what happens…..

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