You might be wondering where the dolls are. I have been talking about new ones in the works, yet no pictures and no status reports on this here blog. Last week was the school March break (we spend 3 days in bed with the flu, then had some fun – pix to come), the week before I finally got the studio in order and actually did some work on the newest dolls. Here a bit of background.
Last fall, I spent a focussed time of almost 3 months working exclusively on The Olive Sparrow items. My painting practice was put on hold, so that I could focus on the dolls and doll clothes. Not completely though. In the background I spent time restructuring and renovating my studio. For those of you new to visiting here, I am also a professional painter (Monika Aebischer, and the other slightly forgotten blog). I have maintained my professional artist studio going on 18 years. It is a lovely space in downtown Toronto with a gorgeous 3rd story view into the west. My dolls on the other hand have been created in my downstairs studio here at home. I have not been able to do textile work at the painting studio for the past 6 years, because of the resin that I work with on my artwork – resin is a magnet for even the smallest fiber floating gently in the air.
Splitting my work up between home and the rented studio has felt wrong for some time. I love my studio and like to spend time there. Last summer this all overwhelmed me and I fell into a dark hole. A hole that didn't let me see any sunshine and made me question my artwork, my dolls, my life – not fun. One day (one of many) where I sat in my studio, with hands paralized by darkness, I looked around and was struck by an idea – if I build a wall to seperate off the resin area, I can do different work again at the studio. Reinvigorated, I set myself to organizing the task – simple I thought and quick – not so… Together with the help of my amazing superintendent in the building, supplies brought there with the help of my husband and son, and most of all time and gentleness towards myself, I started the process in August 2011. The beginning of this year I worked on a painting comission, then I set 3 weeks aside to get it all done! I even painted the floor white, and the whole space is a new inspiration. (I'll show some pix in a bit).
Two weeks ago, I brought some of my dolls in progress there and each day spent a few hours working on the babes. Here is another type of inside look that shows how I weight out the stuffing for each doll limb. I have developed a chart for each pattern so that I remember the weight for each part. I find that important, so that every time I stuff a limb, it will be the same – quality control.
The head and wig-base for a 44cm doll, hand stuffing, inner arm, outer arm. Legs with the feet done and the inner leg and outer leg stuffing.
Lots of weighing out to be done for each doll. (There is another babe in the background)
One foot stuffed, the beautiful eco-wool for the other foot ready. I am always amazed at how much wool will fit into a dolls to make it solidly stuffed.
When I stuff the limbs, I create an inner core that I needlefelt very solidly, then wrap it with a loftier outer layer. It all is inserted into the limbs with help of a "funnel" as I call it. If a doll isn't stuffed very solidly, it will easily misshape over time. Especially when a child sleeps with a doll and possibly ends up laying on top of it. Hence compacting the wool as much as possible at the outset means that the wool doesn't really have any place to compact into. Also wool naturally felts together through rubbing, so why not start that process before putting lofty fiber into a limb. I tried many different ways to stuffing a doll and this process has become the one most logical for me.
Finding a rhythm in the creation of my various endeavors is a challenge, one often thwarted by life getting in the way (grrr). But I have been gifted with various ways to express myself and to create not one type of work, but many. Often when I make something "just for fun" and "just as a little gift" – one or more of the dear ones in my life comment "you could sell that". But not everything I make is meant to become a commercial enterprise. Rather on the other hand. I have decided that I am very selective of what I will offer to the world for purchase – my paintings, wet-felted and The Olive Sparrow goods. There is also teaching in my future – dolls and wet-felting, in my studio and as a traveling instructor (more to come about this).
I thought your description on how to make the solid core in the doll parts to be enlightening. I sometimes sew cores of left over fabric scraps for my dolls. I look forward to the time when you feel like traveling and instructing.