Well, I'm back at my yellow-topped table at the Farmer's Market on a Thursday afternoon, trying to figure out why is it that I will happily spend hours without food or drink, (or even a bathroom break!) to pin, cut, sew and rip out stitches on a scrap of material, wire and poly stuffing, which, at the end, is only this inanimate thing called a "doll."
I was talking to Erika about this recently and we agreed that the doll, during its creation, becomes a little bit alive. The best example for me is my doll Delphine. I made her right before Christmas 2010, and as soon as she was finished, I noticed that she looked like Eva (nom de doll alert!), my younger sister, who passed away in March 2008. Delphine definitely looked like Eva. And Eva had chosen Delphine as one several names she had used during a period of her life….
As enchanted as I was by Delphine, I had finished her in a hurry because I wanted her to be done. Now, I didn't like it that her arms were too long and lumpy and her body was too big for her head. Also, I had made her a red dress for the holidays, but preferred the black skirt and pink petticoat that I put on her originally. And I was anxious to try the new hairstyle I had just invented called "highlighted bundling." So I refashioned Delphine by cutting down her body, reshaping her head to be more square,
replacing the blond braids with highlighted, blond bundles, and made new arms and legs from black and white striped cotton with black silk boots. Then, I put her in a powder blue silk dress. But Delphine still didn't seem comfortable.
During this time, I was devising a technique for doll hair which I call "looped bundles." (I think I must have been half-looped when I came up with the idea!) I decided to try this style on Delphine in "dirty blond," made from a taupe tee-shirt. This shorter style and more muted color seemed to suit her. I refreshed her makeup and gave her a new sparkle. But then I realized that the black and white stripes weren't right any more. I have some material with pastel polka dots from which I have already cut out the arms and legs and will make these for her, leaving the black and white stripes for a future doll with a more stripey bent.
At some point, I realized, as if in a dream, that my remaking of this doll imitated Eva's remaking of her physical self in her life. For a time, she had a rounder figure. As she matured, she got slimmer. She also had darker hair when she was young, which she wore very long. As an adult, she became a beautiful blond with a shorter, curlier style. She loved vintage clothes and jewelry and always looked so delicate, feminine and beautiful in an old-fashioned way. Oh, it's hard to describe my lovely sister! And of course, a doll is not a person. Yet, when I look at Delpine, I think of Eva, with her sparkling eyes and her gentle smile…
Dolls are just inanimate objects. And yet, they become animated as I work on them. Even sitting on the shelf, long after they are finished, each one has his or her own special look and personality. And to me, they come alive in my imagination. Like a dream.
Have a great week!
Delphine has gone through many changes since she first came to be a year and a half ago. As you can see, she has lost weight and has had several hairstyles. The most recent is "curls," a new method of tee shirt hair I designed. For now, these bundles of curls are pinned on top of Delphine's more tomboyish, straight hair. The new do makes her
look like Michelle Pfeiffer, no?
Last Christmas, the dolls had a Mad Hatter's Tea Party with the porcelain tea set made by my Montana sister Vera. Here you can see Delphine, Carmen, Mariel and Mimosa in their party dresses, enjoying tea and Christmas cookies. (Please note how many dresses Delphine wears for this photo shoot!)
This adorable hand painted miniature porcelain tea set is from MUDDSLINGER Pots in Montana!
Saturday night, my two nieces and I saw the "Nutcracker" ballet. We took the train to the
Civic Center, then walked up the hill past the Disney Center to the elegant, bejeweled
Music Center, also known as the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. We barely had time to notice the fountain in front as we were bustled into the lobby and onto an elevator to the balcony, where we quickly found our seats as the lights dimmed and the curtain rose.
Then we were transported to the turn of the century, as beautiful people in holiday attire walked to a Christmas party, where we met Clara and Drosselmeyer, the magician. We
watched him give her a nutcracker, which later became a life-sized, handsome soldier.
We watched women in colorful ball gowns dance with their partners in colorful tails, as
boys and girls cavorted and received presents of dolls and toys.
Sallie, who is nine, was on the edge of her seat. After the curtain fell and the lights came up, she said breathlessly: "That was just wonderful!" She was excited to learn it was only intermission, not the end! After an unsuccessful attempt to get hot chocolate and coffee, (the lines were too long), we settled for cookies and water. We also found our friend, Katie, who had sat in a different seat during Act One, so we sat together for Act Two. The music, played by the Los Angeles Opera orchestra, was Tchaikovsky at his best. The costumes were bedazzling and the dancers even more so. To see some great pictures and learn more about this wonderful ballet, here is a link to the Los Angeles Times.
Seventeen-year-old Colleen was equally enchanted, but got added pleasure from watching her sister's reaction. Although the Joffrey Ballet is now based in Chicago, the 23 children in the cast were local, inspiring Sallie to vow that she was going to work even harder in her ballet class. There were toys, snow, a giant Christmas tree that grew taller, toy soldiers, sword-fighting mice, and dolls. My memory will be of softly falling snow and dancers who leapt and sparkled as if they were snowflakes themselves. Afterwards, we met family members at a little place for, finally: coffee and hot chocolate!
Next Saturday, Sallie and I plan to start working on some dolls inspired by "The Nutcracker." She's going to do some sketches this week and will come prepared to
translate them into her own creations.
Last week Sophie posted some early photos of my latest doll, Delphine, who is still in
progress, so updated photos will be posted soon. My "Nutcracker" evening may influence
the doll's dresses in the future, including Delphine's. More on that next time. (The
"Nutcracker Suite" just came on the radio, so I listen, transported, as I finish this!)
See you next week!
_Since the last post, Big Raggedy Ann got a new blonde bob and a blue dress with cornflowers with sprigs of green leaves. The back of the dress ties with three sets of light blue satin ribbons. This was an idea of my other doll-making partner, Evette. (Thank you Evette!) Most of the dolls we make have dresses that tie this way because it's easy and beautiful. Evette also taught me how to sear the edge of each ribbon tie with a match to keep it from raveling. Evette and I love to get together to sew and make dolls. She has created some beautiful dolls and has a great etsy site which you can find at: http://www.etsy.com/shop/AllAboutEvette.
_As usual, while making Blonde Annie, I heard some music which got Annie up and dancing. We were watching "Luxury Liner" with Jane Powell and Xavier Cougat. It's the scene where Jane gets all "dolled" up (pun intended!) for dinner and dancing in the main dining room on the ship. Xavier Cougat's band performs a wonderful Brazilian
instrumental number and Annie started shaking and flipping her hair around in time to the music. Who would have thought she would be such a good dancer? My goal is to post her performance on Youtube, but for now, you can see pictures of Annie here.
_My latest doll is Winnifred's twin, Federica. Here are some pictures of her in progress as well as the finished doll. Winnifred lives in Missoula, Montana, with Kath, who made the beautiful tea set in last month's blog. Check out her etsy site at http://www.etsy.com/shop/muddslingerpotz
_Sophie has been working hard on the dollsbysasha website, experimenting with a new format and trying to organize the pictures, which are mounting by the day. Please feel free to comment on the site. All suggestions and input are welcome!
I am currently reworking Delphine, Delfina's big sister. Delphine is one of my earlier dolls and has a more childlike face. She is currently blond with gold highlights and will have black and white striped legs, black boots, peach colored silk arms and a red dress with green petticoats. She is going to be the holiday doll this year!
The holidays are coming and we haven't even had Thanksgiving yet. So slow down, everyone, and enjoy it. Meanwhile, I feel like Santa and his elves rolled into one. I may have to invite Evette and Sallie over to help me in the doll workshop. (I wish Sophie could be here too, but I plan to make a trip with some dolls to Costa Rica in the New Year to stock the store and we hope to celebrate the holidays again there. Pura Vida!)
Finally, I'm hoping to go to the Los Angeles Ballet's production of the Nutcracker this
year. I may just have to invite Sallie to come along. What an inspiration for dollmaking!
Until then, have a wonderful Thanksgiving!