My Dollmaking History
I have been making dolls since the 1980’s, when I started making traditional Swiss fabric dolls which are the same as Waldorf dolls in body, with a different way of making a head. I have also made porcelain dolls, knitted dolls and mixed media dolls.
My love for the Waldorf-type doll started in the early 90’s when I read a book by Karin Neuschütz (Doll Book, 1985). While reading about the benefits of the dolls and their impact in a child’s life, I envisioned myself conquering the North American toy market with these amazing creations. When I dream, I dream big – sadly, while trying to work my very first head from the books instructions, I got stuck – without access to sheep wool, I had used polyfill stuffing and my head was a disaster. It was put into a box with other doll making items until 2007 when my son attended nursery school at a local Waldorf School (Waldorf Academy in Toronto, then known as The Allan Howard Waldorf School).
Listed in the first newsletter we received was a workshop for doll making with the lovely April Quan – a long-time artist, creator and doll maker par excellence. I showed up to the first workshop evening with my 20-year-old head – discarded it and made my son a doll from all the wonderful natural materials that are the key ingredient in the dolls. Odilon, as he was named is to this day one of my favourite dolls because it was through his creation that I rediscovered my love and need to make dolls.
I spent the next 2 years researching doll making techniques, sourcing supplies, reviewing the works of other doll makers and designing patterns for the bodies. In 2009 I was ready to make my first collection of dolls for sale. I now create a group of dolls every year and also make many custom dolls. I always love a challenge — such as making dolls for props for the Shadowhunter TV series, or a very detailed Sherlock Holmes doll for a collector. These commissions push me as an artist and teach me skills continuously.
The Olive Sparrow children are my soul work together with my calling as a painter of mixed-media fine art (www.monikaaebischer.com). Working with my hands and textiles is another aspect of mine and through the Olive Sparrow I live my dream of creating and using all of my accumulated skills. My dolls are each created as a little soul, I don’t believe I could mass-produce them on a constant basis – something would be missing for me. I regard the time between making the dolls almost as a growth period (gestational time).
I also make my dolls because I have always loved to play with dolls and as the mother of a son; it makes the little girl inside me very happy and excited every time a new little soul is created.
My Olive Sparrow Children are beautiful, high-quality cloth dolls based on Waldorf values such as high quality workmanship, materials and nurturing design.
How to get an Olive Sparrow Doll
I list some of my ready dolls in my etsy store, most are sold directly from my studio, on my Facebook page and at various Waldorf school fairs around the Toronto area (I post notices on Facebook, Instagram and my blog). If my Etsy shelves are empty – contact me to see who is available for their forever family directly from my worktable.
I also accept orders for custom dolls. If you would love a custom doll, please ensure that you contact me at least 6 weeks before the time you would like to receive the doll.
Christmas doll orders are best placed by late August to ensure your doll can be made in time for the big day. However, there are some possibilities for a doll to still be made in time if you contact me during the first week of December (or take a ready made doll and change clothing) — just drop me a line or give me a call. I love being Santa’s helper.
Currently available dolls are listed on the Etsy on-line store:
Click here to see the latest Olive Sparrow Doll pictures:
Doll making Workshops
A few times a year I offer a 3-day doll making workshop where you can learn to make your own doll. I also teach a pocket doll workshop and if there is enough interest, a doll clothes one as well. Check over on the Workshop page for dates and details.
A manifesto is a public declaration of principles and intentions, often political in nature. Manifestos relating to religious belief are generally referred to as creeds. Manifestos may also be life stance-related. (From Wikipedia)
My Dollmaker Manifesto
I make natural cloth dolls (Waldorf-inspired) out of all-natural materials. I strive to have each of my dolls be his/her own character – this means that although elements of each doll might be similar to the other – they are like children, each has its own gestation period.
When I create I use my authentic voice to guide my creativity. I also ensure that although I might be very inspired by another dollmakers idea, I will not copy it without significantly altering the idea so that it serves as a starting point only. If in doubt, I will contact my dollmaking colleague in question and send them an image of the idea to obtain their feedback.
I continuously raise my own bar of creativity and inspiration by looking to my doll making colleagues so that together we inspire ourselves to grow and keep to a high standard – i.e. the smallest, tidiest stitches, finely finished clothes, quality materials, professional presentation, use of my own drafted/altered patterns for both the dolls’ body and clothes.
Under the name of The Olive Sparrow, I create dolls with a look that is closely inspired by the minimalist approach taught by Rudolf Steiner and the Waldorf Philosophy. The dolls and their clothes are of a timeless nature that encourages our children to love them as a prime companion – not as a fashionable accessory on par with a store bought, trendy doll that comes with a plethora of add-ons, and becomes just one of many toys.
Each doll is made up of the following materials:
- Skin: 100% cotton (Swiss-made to Öko-Tex-Standard 100)
- Stuffing 100% “green-processed” wool batt from Canada
- Hair: 100% Wool, or a Mohair/Wool Blend
- Clothing: 100% natural fibres (linen, cotton, silk)
- Shoes: Recycled felted wool sweaters, or pure leather
- Face: 100% cotton Embroidery Thread