Hello and Welcome
Last Friday I had the pleasure of being the first ‘Follower’ to be interviewed by the group Art Dolls Only for their new Featured Follower section. I can’t tell you how chuffed I was when they asked me to be the first, and these are the questions I answered. Click on their logo to go to their website and find out more about this fascinating group and their talented members.
How long have you been a doll maker?
I have been a doll maker for about 3 years. I had the opportunity to take redundancy from my Council job about 5 years ago and started a sewing business originally making reproduction vintage style dresses and shirts (I still make all of my hubby’s shirts), this led to millinery for a short while and then a friend told me about her doll collection. She collected beautiful cloth dolls and I realised that there was a market for cloth art dolls and a whole new world opened up to me.
As a child I had made many dolls for myself and loved to make them little dresses and accessories, but these were forgotten as I had my own children and they had no real interest in rag dolls. Instead, I sewed fancy dress costumes and the like for them. But finding out there are adult doll collectors opened up all the old passions in me and many new ones, browsing art dolls on Pinterest is one of my favourite things to do. Through Pinterest I discovered BJD and Blythe dolls and of course art dolls, so now I find myself pulling away from cloth and towards clay and one day in the future porcelain I hope.
What does your work area look like?
It usually is a bit of a mess, I have several projects on the go at anyone time, and to be honest way more material than I can really use. The house we live in was in quite a bad condition when we got it, but this meant that we were able to rebuild it how we wanted it, which was hard work but so worthwhile. By re-arranging the first floor a bit and putting up a few extra walls I was able to have a sewing room all of my own. I painted it my favourite pink and blue and put up as many shelves as I could fit in, but still I don’t have room for everything, and have material stored by type in boxes in the attic. (Luckily easy access though, as I am always in and out of those boxes).
I have, also, been known to spread and it is not unusual for the family to come home and find my work all over the kitchen table as well as I tend to do clay work in there away from the material in my sewing room. And then there is hand-sewing in front of the telly in the evening so, there are usually bits all over the coffee table in the living room too.
What advice would you give new doll artists?
Try every technique you can find and experiment, and don’t be afraid to put different styles together. It might not be the style of doll you want to make, but it will teach you loads that you can then put into your own style. I learnt a lot about Waldorf inspired dolls this year and attended the European Waldorf Seminar which was absolutely fabulous. I learnt so much about different stuffing techniques, making hair and needle felting. I had done a lot of needle felting already but this took it to a new level. And now I can use those techniques in my dolls without necessarily making Walldorf type dolls, I have them available in my arsenal so to speak. Needle felting the Walldorf faces taught me a lot about face structure that I can now apply to my clay sculpting. And also don’t except to be perfect first time, nobody is, practice lots.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on a set of dolls, one of which cannot be revealed yet. I am part of The Makers Medley, a small group of international artists and we set a monthly theme for ourselves and for anybody else who would like to get involved to make a doll (or other piece of art) to suit the theme. I have found that being part of the group has really helped me push the boundaries of my work. I try to make a doll each month that incorporates a new technique or material so that I am always learning new methods or stepping outside my comfort zone. This has meant that I have a large variety of styles in my work at the moment, but also it has led me on a journey to see what materials and techniques I want to take further and hopefully as I go, I am developing a style that will be mine and recognisable as such.
Two of the dolls in this range use an idea that I have for improving my cloth dolls. I love textiles and material and have mainly made cloth dolls, painting faces on to the stuffed doll’s head and I do like the faces I get, but there is also something missing. My goal is to make a doll that has a completely ethereal feel, and, though I get close, fabric just doesn’t lend itself to this look. So, I am experimenting in putting a layer of paper clay over the fabric face, just the front not the whole face, thus enabling me to sculpt a little more in the way of features but mainly to paint on a much smoother surface and get the eyes to look like my usual doll’s eyes but better. And still have the benefit of fabric at the back for sewing on hair and attaching to the neck. It’s a work in progress, but I am very pleased with the results so far.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their responses to my last blog post. The results were really interesting and it was very heart warming that so many of you lovely people got in touch. I shall be blogging about the results in my next blog post, and letting you know how I have decided to implement them.
So until then, take care everyone.