I've been planning to take a break from doll making, maybe a long one! Very soon after I made that decision and put away materials so that I had some elbow room I had another idea. What if I made a head form by sewing a simple cloth shape, stuffed it with fiberfil and sculpted it with a bit of hand stitching? I could build it up with layers of paper strips and paste. That was easily accomplished with our hot, dry climate shortening drying times to almost nothing.
I made a face on the surface of the dry form with polymer clay. My original idea was to stack several heads together with a cord running through the center of each one so that they could hang like a big necklace. I scaled back my plan and made the character you see above. The wooden box I used for his body became a puppet stage. The puppets represent those competing inner voices that urge us with a "Yeah" and a "Nope". The arms were donated by a doll I made years ago. I was unable to remove the pinwheel without damage to the arm, so it stayed.
He is thinking maybe,"Yeah", or maybe, "Nope". The answer depends on which way the wind blows.
This piece will be part of a show at The La Veta Gallery on Main, La Veta, Colorado, beginning July 24.
What happened to that sketchbook I bought more than a year ago? Not much. I recently pulled it out of storage and started making doodles and marks, mostly with crayon pastel and pencil, then adding puddles with watercolor. These are the simple materials I enjoyed in elementary school!
I have been trying to work quickly and intuitively without giving any thought to purpose or result. Maybe I'll be able to look back at these in time and find shapes, compositions .. and marks that will lend themselves to a bigger purpose. But for now, no rules, just doodles!
I finished up with a large painting project this week. Painting as in walls. This is what I found when I reamed out the paint tray as much as possible for the last time. Nice work!
I had resolved to enjoy a little break from my studio but I needed to take refuge there while I processed a roller coaster of emotions prompted by the events of the last 10 days.
A little bit of fabric collage was an easy choice. I enjoyed doing a lot of this type of design when I was making the Hoop Skirt dolls, but it has been a while. I started by digging into my supply of hand painted scraps.
Then I laid out some of my favorites. The background needed more interest and depth, so I painted the base fabric. I love painting wet into wet, first using black paint only and adding a rust wash when the piece was almost dry. Then I transfered the collage onto the painting. Below is the result.
This was fun, so I made 2 other collages just using available scraps, eliminating the painting step.
All 3 of these could be greatly enhanced with free motion machine quilting. I seem to be out of batting, and sewing machine needles at the moment, so that will have to wait. I'd like to continue with a few more, and then just quilt the best ones. It is hard to say how, or if, this will fold into future work, but it is not important to know that now.
The weather last weekend was perfect for a studio tour! Pleasantly warm. Very little Wind. The Eldorado Studio Tour that had been scheduled for last weekend (May 16 and 17) sadly didn't happen. When the event was cancelled back in March, my frantic scramble to get work finished tapered off! But, I could have been ready!
Finally, my website is fairly well organized. You can see the dolls and a few paintings there. I still need to work out some name and measure a few pieces. Please contact me if you have any questions about a piece.
Now I find that I need to catch up on some housekeeping chores and start to figure out what I would like to present at the studio tour next year!
"This Girl of Mine" is my tribute to mothers and their daughters everywhere! Happy Mother's Day!
This figure stands about 18" tall. She is made in my "flat head" style with a stuffed body sewn with hand painted fabrics and free motion machine quilting. I haven't made many (or any other) dolls that portray children. I continue to be amused my the little girl. She seems so reluctant to have Mom haul her out for an introduction. I enjoyed finding this piece when I was taking new pictures of everything.
The Eldorado Studio Tour had been scheduled for the weekend after Mother's Day, May 16 and 17. With the tour now cancelled, I made this date my goal to reorganize my website my and take pictures of all the new work. This seems to be harder than making the stuff in the first place! You can tune in on my progress by checking the "Studio Tour" page on my website. I still have a week to go!
This is just a note to follow up on the studio clean out project I wrote about earlier this spring. I no longer have to worry about the weird ugliness of my very last doll ever because I have thrown out or donated most of the possible components! Yah!
I created this little character one day last week just using scraps of things on hand. I was at loose ends. With the May Studio Tour cancelled my interest in finishing up the dolls in progress had waned a bit - quite a bit. And, the 100-mask challenge was finished. The process of making this figure and the resulting doll reminded me of some earlier doll ideas, so I dug out a box labeled "inspiration Dolls" just to see if any inspirations presented themselves.
It was fun to see these familiar faces again. The Largest doll here is about 12" tall and the smallest is close to 5" tall. Some of them became the first in a series or introduced one element that was used elsewhere. And, yes, there was a little but of inspiration.
Maybe what I should do next is dig deeper into the stash of collected items on hand and see what could happen. I have a silly vision of using up everything - every scrap of fabric, every bead and button. That would be another 100-piece challenge! It would be interesting to see what #100 would be, or if that would even be the last one! I'm not committing to that idea, yet.
In the meantime, I plan to finish photos of all the new work and get that posted on my website under a "Studio Tour" tab.
These guys were begging for masks ... since social distancing was not possible for them. How could I resist?
I have been imaging a "tube" figure for awhile. This is the result so far, after a number of disappointing attempts. The polymer clay heads were built on dowels and then mounted together on a base with stuffed canvas bodies. The tallest figure is 14" high. Maybe they need arms, but this way there are no hands to wash!
OK. These four are set to weather the virus as best they can, but could I justify making masks for all my dolls? Guess not. Maybe I could do something more useful?
This week I connected with a group that is planning to make 6,000 masks for our community. So far, I've sewn 65 masks. I challenged myself to clear out my fabric stash and sew 100 masks. There is still stuff stowed away here and there, so it is still possible.
I forced myself to throw way handfuls of scraps as I was cutting these out, especially the really tiny pieces and fabrics I never liked very much, anyway. But, I've always been drawn to the odd, inbetween pieces, sometimes even more than to the whole, flat fabric, so I kept the little bits that called to me. Now my stash is smaller, but better than ever! I could still make masks for my dolls!
The pin cushion hat turned out to be the best part of series little series!
I started with a gourd that has been in my "collection" for at least 10 years. It was a wonderful body form, about 7" high and about 12" around at the fullest part. I sawed it in half to make 2 body backs and emptied the inside to create shadow boxes. (Well, not boxes.) The form was so intriguing that I made a paper mache cast of the best half which you will later.
The polymer heads were made directly on the gourds. (Note: the gourds which cracked in the heat of the clay oven, requiring paper mache repairs.) The bases were a pair of candlesticks with heavy brass bases. I mounted the gourds on the bases with wire, glue and paper mache. Then, I settle in to develop the interior.
Select pieces of sewing pattern tissue finished the inside of the gourd. I used old metal zippers to finish the cut edges. A few inches of an old tape measure , a thimble, a zipper pull, and lace scraps came into the design. I have a small collection of other treasure, buttons and spools, but I had trouble fitting this stuff into the curved interior form. In the end some delightful illustrations from The Harriet Harper Book of Stamped Needlework, Fall 1925 Edition, were perfect.
This is the cast I made from the gourd. It was fairly easy to do and turn out to be very gourd-like. My idea was the hang this figure, rather than set it on a base. The round form made this trickier than expected. The inside was still challenging, but I eventually got a couple of spools to glue in place. I may figure out how to add a few more things.
This series is on hold for now. When I can return to the grocery story I hope to find a little butternut squash to use as a form for some paper mache casts. And, maybe I'll make some more pin cushion hats. That was the best part.
I've been thinking about my family history, seeking clues about my heritage that can be expressed in my doll making. The Mary Jane Garment Company is one of the early stories that I know about that involves the business of designing and sewing.
The Lincoln Overall and Shirt Company of Lincoln, Nebraska, introduced a line of garments for women and children in 1911. This was quite early in the history of the ready-to-wear industry. Until this time women either sewed clothing for themselves and their family or employed a dressmaker. This new line included aprons, kimonos, and petticoats for ladies and rompers and creepers for children. My great grandmother, Mary Jane McFall, an expert dress maker, designed these items for her son-in-law's company. The line was named in her honor: The Mary Jane Garment Company.
The family connection didn't end there. My grandmother, Ruth McFall, was employed as a typist at the Lincoln Overall and Shirt Company. She was also the model for the first catalog. Two of of the original photographs are below.
I am charmed by introductory page of the first catalog. These claim to be beautifully made quality garments. I'd like to think this was true! Note the final paragraph.
"Know Mary Jane and you will like her. No matter how
she appears, she is always the same dependable Mary Jane,
and her watchword always is Quality and Service."
The Mary Jane Garment Company was later sold and was still in operation, with some of the original machines in use, as late as 1970.
I have been sewing for nearly as long as long as I can remember. Before that, I watched my mother sew. Over time I have gathered a collection of sewing notions. Some are leftovers, or were purchased for a project that never happened. Some were salvaged from throwaway garments. And, once in a while I buy a bundle of treasure at a thrift shop or an estate sale. The button I used for a hat on this girl has been in my button box for at least 45 years. I may have played with it when it was in my mom's button box.
The idea of using sewing notions and ephemera in my work has come to mind recently as I try to figure out how I can express my personal and family culture in my dolls. Using these treasures fights with the desire to keep and save them. But the time has come to let them go where they can be enjoyed. I see lots of possibilities in the shadow box figure idea pictured here. Her body is made from paper mache covered with polymer clay. The head and arms are polymer clay. She is embellished with buttons and part of a zipper.
The story of the Mary Jane Garment Company would fit here, but deserves more time than I have now. I'll begin to look through the collection and scan some photos for a blog post in March.