email conversations 2- why dolls

Helen writes- How did we get to dolls? Why dolls? Can you answer that? I can’t. Why the
kinds of dolls we do? We’re both making vintage dolls. We have both done
funkier dolls in the past. Why vintage dolls? Why dolls at all?

I know inside my head, I’m just not sure I can explain it.
Dolls? I have always been interested in figurative art- not at all by abstract. My brain works towards the figurative- when I look at abstract, I see figurative. I have always been most interested in depictions of people- in any art. Painting, sculpture, life-drawing. When I did pottery, my work was all about fitting a figure onto a 3-d space or form. How to put a figure inside a bowl, on a plate, around a cup. That was what drove my interest. I have always had a desire to make dolls in the back of my mind. I am sure I was thinking about it even when I was in Art school. I just never seemed to have the time to explore it and to be honest, the guts. Right before the fire, I was so sick of doing the pottery that I decided to take a sabbatical from it. I started painting and print-making. On my list of things I would explore was dolls. It wasn’t until after the fire that I tried my hand at it. Once I started, everything else dropped away.
I love the 3-d, the materials, the high level of craftsmanship that has grown for me. I love turning a flat piece of fabric into something with life! Every figure has it’s own set of problems that need to be worked out, so there are constant challenges. Plus, I collect stuff- and everything I’ve saved over the years can be used with the dolls. It seems to incorporate everything I am interested in, inspired by and curious about.
Vintage? I started out thinking about wooden dolls, like the wood artist mannequins. Also, I was working to dress two antique porcelain dolls of my MIL’s. I was taking every book about dolls out of our library, but mostly historical. I was and still am, very interested in the old copyright drawings for dolls like the Izannah Walkers and the Chase dolls. I never even looked at any patterns that other people were doing until I joined the doll club and then took a Gail Wilson Workshop. That was about a year after I started, and when I was getting very serious about it. I think that was when I found and joined VCD. I like making the vintage dolls because I feel like I learn a lot by using the original patterns- like reading a book in the original language or something! Sometimes I make the dolls I wish I could afford to buy. If I had unlimited money, maybe I wouldn’t bother! I don’t know… but I think I would because I am so curious about them. It takes me into their place somehow- When I was taking care of my in-laws in the fall of 2002, I was very focused on dolls of 1910 – 1925. It made me feel more connected to my MIL who had Alzheimer’s.

3 thoughts on “email conversations 2- why dolls

  1. om god i hope this gets to you, my name is cal. i too am only working with dolls. i am a sculptor for my carreer and a painter of dolls in my spare time. we both have the same sensibilitie about the dolls we choose. i also make plenty of shadow boxes using dolls to tell the story. i haven’t gone back to figurative work in the traditional style since i have seen these dolls in a special way. i won’t continue until i know you will even get this. i’m looking at the date and well it was 3/30/2004. just the same i’m interested in continuing this conversation. cal navin

  2. I want to tell you how very much I like your dolls!
    (My father also had alzheimers. You were very brave and loving, to take care of your mother-in-law).

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