I started out as a fashion designer in New York City, but quickly became disillusioned as to how truly uncreative it was; for the most part the majority of designers are encouraged to just copy whatever a higher priced company is selling. I packed up, left the city and went back to college for nursing, intent on making “creative” endeavors a thing of the past.
Just as I was about to graduate, however, I saw an advertisement for a doll kit that I just had to have. From the day I received that kit my life took a new direction. Having a fashion background and being able to draft patterns, I was soon making my own original cloth dolls and selling them at local craft shows. I began working part time to have more hours in my sewing room.
Over the years I tried all sorts of media yet always returned to cloth, which I find soft, comforting, and pleasing to the touch. My frustration at the limits to facial detail achieved with fabric markers and iron-on crayons ended one day when I saw a cloth doll that had an oil painted face. I had at last found my “niche” in the process for doll making, and began perfecting a pattern for a doll with a canvas head that could be painted separatelyfrom the body.
I begin with a true-to-size sketch of a particular doll, usually with exaggerated proportions as I find that personally pleasing to my artistic vision; I have always loved big feet and odd shaped heads. I draft a pattern from the sketch and sew it up in muslin to see how I like it; I usually make a number of adjustments and sew up samples until I am satisfied with the shape. The head is sewn in tightly woven sheeting, then gessoed so I am left with a surface identical to a painting canvas. As I like the possibility of lifelike poses, my dolls usually have a flange neck so the head can rotate in thesocket. I often fill the body cavity with pellets so the dolls can shift poses as well. I paint the faces from photos Icome across in magazines (my pediatrician’s office is missing a few copies of children’s magazines...) I layer oil paint and keep working on a piece until it suddenly feels alive to me-then I know I’m done. I then apply hair and draft clothing patterns from the stuffed body.
I started out making just little homely kids, but when I saw how many colors the doe suede I used for flesh comes in I couldn’t help fantasizing - hence my fantasy creatures began. I have made clowns and a number of other oddball creatures, trying to utilize my collection of antique buttons and challenging myself to use the most obscure or unusual material for hair on each, (“Lady Lemongrass has a bunched up old crotcheted collar for hair, for example).
I cannot ever imagine my life without dollmaking; it combines so many creative elements that I love--sketching, painting, sewing, fashion, hair styling, button collecting, to name a few. Having had my work recognized by NIADA and becoming a member in 1999 was a momentous validation of my creativity, and given me life-long relationships that provide never-ending inspiration and joy.
|'Gracie' 24"||'Stanley' 24||Close up of "Doris" and dolly, 24"|
|'Lady Lemongrass'||'Jack in the Box'||'Spice'|