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.
How about a few more "Hoop Skirt" dolls? I retired this style after making a group of six pieces in 2014. This was one of the first doll styles I made and sold in 2009. This success began a series of over 100 pieces in the smaller size (26" across the base) and 30 dolls in the larger size (about 23" across the base). The shape of skirt changed a bit over time and I tried a variety of design strategies, always relying on machine quilted fabric collage for the skirt But, finally, enough was enough! I recently pulled out the few pieces remaining in my inventory, thinking I would like to present them this spring. Well, they just didn't look that good! So, I am in the process of making at least two more.
The piece below was painted about this time last year. it was part of a group of fabric paintings using free brush strokes and printing. This piece got pretty wild! Parts of this are great, but taken all together it is a bit much. I decided to use part of this in a skirt for a large hoop skirt doll.
I was hoping to have this finished for the blog pictures. As it turns out, the photo makes it easier to see a few more adjustments to make. I have now broken up the patterned blocks a little more with strips of black, and I have painted the bottom stick and the bodice turquoise, adding wood finials on each side of the base.
I am happier with these design changes. But for some reason she doesn't hang straight, kind of drooping down on the right side. I haven't figured that out yet. Also, I discovered that there isn't quite enough skirt fabric to wrap around the edges, so I'll have to add a narrow bias strip on each side. I'm beginning to remember why this style was in retirement! I to share a photo of the finished doll soon!
Her hair was flat and messy. She was over dressed. Her kids were cute, but didn't really show up. So, I wondered if I could give her a new look. I have a different eye than I did when I originally made this doll in 2015.
I removed the quilted skirt/ruffle thing hanging at the back, the shawl and necklace. I wrapped her arms with another layer of green to cover the patterned fabric and simplify the form. Then, I moved one child up to her shoulder so that it is easy to see. Her new hair is dark brown instead of black and pulled to one side to balance the child. The yellow ribbon repeats the color of the child's clothing below. I realized that her hands were begging to hold a book, so I made one, using bright colors to reference other colors in the piece.
Here is the new look!
This is the end of the first year of trying to blog rather regularly. The practice has helped me maintain some focus and motivated me to keep moving along so that I have something to share. That alone made it worthwhile. My thanks to anyone has checked in now and then to see if anything is happening.
For 2020, I plan to post a blog entry twice a month on the second and fourth Fridays.
I have figured out that Art Dolls are my main thing. They amuse and inspire me. All the fiber and mixed media tricks I have learned can come into play and there is still much to learn. Having said that, I won't be limited to dolls. I might get involved in something else, and that's OK, too.
In the past 10 days I have done several things to gear up for a new year of doll making. First, I pulled out a number of notebooks that I've kept over the past few years. These tend to be very messy. If an idea hits me, I make some sketches and notes...right next to the grocery list, or whatever. The process of culling and organizing these was interesting and has given me lots of "new" ideas. Then, I dug out the inventory leftover from the past few years. I can see why some of this stuff has yet to find a home! There is one large bin to be explored and I hope to find some better stuff in there. Finally, I emptied my boxes and cabinets of all the treasure that I have saved for doll making. This was fun and made a pretty big mess in my studio. I found a box of parts: hands, feet, legs and so forth, that had never been used or had been salvaged from an unsuccessful project. The dolls pictured above and below grew out of the parts box this week.
The next step was to register for the Open Studio Tour that takes place in our community in mid-May. This will be a new experience for me. I sincerely hope that the panic I am feeling right now will translate into some wonderful new work in 2020!
These are the dolls inspired by the Apache Medicine Bag I saw this fall. I've been struggling along with this idea for weeks, so I was pleased to finish these figures. Each is about 20" tall and designed to hang on the wall. I had originally planned for these figures to have arms built on a tube and held out straight to the sides with a simple cut dowel for hands. When I decided to bend the arms down I got involved in making wrapped wire arms with polymer clay hands.
I have one more hand painted fabric I'd like to use in this way, and then maybe it will be time to move on.
This doll is smaller at about 15" tall.
I enjoyed developing the quilting and the texture of the fringe and beads. Very near the end of the process I realized that she would be so cute with little feet, and this began a frustrating struggle. This might have been much easier if
I had thought of this detail in the first place. Back tracking is always harder, but worthwhile in this case.
Now that I am looking at this photo I see that perhaps I should make the arms dangle, too.
This is a tool I made for fabric painting. I discovered these 7 circular pieces in a bag of thrift shop treasure. The texture and uneven thickness of each disc makes me think they were cut from a gourd. A hole had been drilled in the middle of each one. I threaded them on the handle of a paint brush putting a little masking tape in between each to keep them apart. The uneven shape lets them wobble a bit as the paint loaded tool is rolled across a surface. I have loved this for fabric painting with results pictured below.
I've wished I could paint on canvas with the same reckless abandon! So, what would happen if...
I used a brush to start these paintings with some basic color blocks as under painting and then just rolled and rolled until they seemed finished, or at least at a stopping point. They almost look like paintings of fabric or possibly landscape. I'd like to work with this process a bit more, possibly creating some new tools.
By the way, doll making continues. I hope to be ready to share some new work very soon!
This is a little project from the summer and/or fall of 2018. I enjoyed it again when I sorted through a box of collage stuff recently. I worked on this over a period of a week while we were traveling in our RV. Before we left home I had made a "book" using the backs of recycled note cards. I glued strips of fabric to hinge the pages in an accordion-fold style. I had also gathered bits of collage papers to take along and then collected a few things as we traveled. I just painted and colored for a little while each day, working on both sides of each double page. You can flip pages and keep looking without coming to the end. I would love to do this again sometime soon!