A lot goes on inside

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 Aebischerand 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).

Cleanliness is a good thing…

Today is the day that I am getting my sewing studio back into a semblance of order and workability! Wish me luck (for not stepping on any errant pins), and perseverance (for staying with the job instead of getting side-tracked with a spur of the moment project)…

When I stopped working on Olive Sparrow goodness just before the holidays the sewing room had entered a catastrophic state – this is not unusual for the busyness the ensues in the 3 months leading up to the holidays. After a few last minute gifts for friends and family (all undocumented do to their JIT production schedule), it was time to relax and enjoy the festivities. Then there was that week we pretend that didn't happen between the end of last year and January 9th, which I designated as the official start of the new year for me. (that week was plain evil and I have decided it never happened!). 

Last week I was busy getting a painting ready for a client in Kingston, saddly missed her leaving for an extended winter down-south by a day, but was still able to deliver it to her home (300km's away one way) on Monday thanks to the generosity of her cleaning lady that helped me hang it.

Going to Kingston was a good trip though, as I had a chance to pop into their Chez VV thrift store on a day where I got 50% off. This always means that I stock up on lovely clothes to turn into dolly-goodies, and goodies I got this time. On the long drive back home there were many a great idea and inspiration swirling through my head – of course, these ideas will not come to fruition overnight, but the seeds have been firmly sewn. Lets see how they grow.

In the weeks ahead I am planning to list a few other dolls into my Etsy store, as well as redesigning the pattern of my 35cm doll. I also have plans for a much smaller doll, as well as a life-sized baby doll – all my own patterns. There will also be listings of doll clothes coming up. I am currently working out the most efficient way to photograph and document them. One thing that adds to the price of goods sold on Etsy is that if they are one-of-a-kind items, they take a lot of time for photography, processing the images, writing the descriptions, calculating postage, managing them in the store, etc. So I need to spend some time up front on making the process more efficient – otherwise I would have to pass those costs on to my clients, which I'd rather not have to do. 

This year will be full of plans and new ventures – I'm sure the ride will be bumpy at times, but I hope you'll come along for it… It's sure to never get boring!

Summer Solstice Celebration

To mark the longest day in the year Huxley got to stay up until dark. That was always a dream of mine and at seven, he can handle it. 

I returned home from an appointment at 9pm, at which time we took a blanket out into the backyard with a bowl of fresh local strawberries, some yogurt and honey drizzles. The mosquitos promptly chased us to the front porch, where they don't like to hang out. 

As the light changed to that wondrous summer-evening dusk quality we decided to go for a walk through what is referred to as the dog-park in our neighbourhood. We did not meet any dogs, but we discussed how in the olden days this day was often considered the day of the fairies. Huxley said that was silly, as there are no such things. On our walk, we passed through a collection of trees, crossing a little bridge (although there is no water underneath it) and we paused there. Looking into the very dark woods, I got Huxley thinking about the darkness and how without street lights it would be easy to imagine that fairies move among the trees.

Our walk took us through the playground too, where we stopped for a bit of time on the swings. The sky darkened, but it was still not really dark (living in the city procludes that). Returning home, we each litt up sparkling candles in lieu of having a bonefire. 

Now the days will get shorter again. Knowing this makes my soul feel a bit on the heavy side, yet working in the garden and having summer vacation ahead of us lightens that feeling.

Did you mark the Solstice?