Thursday, March 17, 2016

The age of wonder

Telling people that I am a doll maker is often met with a few raised eyebrows - it's certainly an unusual choice of vocation! More baffling still it seems to everyone - as I am a mother to three boys! It's true enough that about four years ago now I started making dolls as special toys and keepsakes for my babies - it felt so wonderful to craft something just for them, made from lovely wholesome natural materials, and lots of love. Looking back though I can't help but think this was my path all along - that somehow I was always meant to do this sort of work. Since my earliest childhood I have been fascinated with story telling, always an avid reader and writer, I was lost in a world of make-believe - hosting mud pie cafes in the garden, searching for exotic creatures in the woods or setting traps to catch the ever elusive heffalumps and woozles! 
My sisters and I hugely enjoyed playing with our puppets and acting out stories, 
a favorite being The Dark Crystal.

 It is still a film that I delight in watching now with my own children. It's beautiful imagery - the light and shade of the fantastical world and its wonderful creatures. Truthfully watching it now I can't believe it was made over 30 years ago, before I was born! I think that is due entirely to the fact that what you are watching on screen is not animation or computer trickery - its real puppets with natural movements and textures. Films like the dark crystal ( and other Henson/Froud works like Labyrinth ) truly bought fantasy to life for me and have inspired me to invest my time and creativity in bringing the joy of make-believe to others, young or not so young. 
You are never ever too old to enjoy the mystery of what could be! 

It is rare to be able to meet and thank those who have influenced you, so you can imagine that I was very excited to work on a personal gift for the Frouds when I attended one of their talks.

Nature holds the greatest of inspiration - living on the edge of Dartmoor you really cannot help but absorb the emotive colour palette of the lonesome hills and dramatic stormy skies. For this doll I was particularly interested in the faded tones of our new garden, the tired looking moss and skeletal flowers of our hydrangeas all windswept from a long winter. All together our garden is looking pretty sorry for itself and I dreamed that maybe somehow a little springtime troll might come and bring it to life again!

And wouldn't you know - that's just what happened!

 Doll making as I'm sure I have said sometime before is a rare art in which you can enjoy many different crafts! Designer, sculptor, dyer, felter, spinner and knitter all at once! It's wonderful to bring forth a totally new creation from simple raw sheep's wool and cotton fabric scraps. 

This troll saw some new details for me, most notably the use of wire armature in her hands and feet allowing much better expression of movement and the ability to hold objects, there is still so much to learn in the respect of making true puppets rather than dolls which are more suited for cuddling! 
But I like to think this little creature offers a nice blend of both!

Needles to say the talk held by the Frouds last weekend was fantastic, it was lovely to go with my sisters and hear about the costume design and inspiration behind one of my favorite films! We even got to see some examples from the film which were exquisitely crafted! It's really encouraged my belief that there is still a place in this world for this sort of art, and that it keeps magic alive for future generations!
I have to admit to being a little starstruck when I nipped to the stage after their talk to give Wendy and Brian my little gift, more so when they opened it then and there which I hadn't really expected! Most who know me will tell you I'm quite shy and reserved at the best of times, so I'm sure my face was truly scarlet! I'm so thrilled that they liked her, it feels an honour to know a little creation of mine
will be in such fine company! 

For those of you who are not familiar with the work of the Frouds please do have a nosy at their site
the world of froud, their art is exceptional! This project has really opened my imagination to the blending of waldorf doll making techniques with more abstract fantasy designs - I wouldn't be surprised if more Fae folk appeared in the studio again! xx

Friday, March 11, 2016

A little chimney sweep

Sometimes I get the opportunity to time travel through my doll making! This months custom doll is inspired by the Dickensian era, to a time where little ones could be seen scampering down the streets of London, covered in soot with nothing but a penny in their pocket and a cheeky grin!