It’s the Holiday Season and I’m at the kitchen table having a cup of coffee and a Snickers bar. As usual, time keeps flying, and again, a year and six months have passed since my last post. Since then, Liz and I made three dolls for Miracle Mile Toys, a wonderful store that just moved to its new location at 5464 Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. The dolls are styled after Raggedy Ann, but with original faces and other touches. I call them Olive, Opal and Oralia, in the tradition of each doll having a name starting with “O,” after my little grandson, now four. “O” carried the dolls into the toy store last Friday in their wooden box and delivered them to Christine. They now sit on shelves throughout the store, playing with the other toys at night, after the store closes.
The dolls have hand-embroidered faces, eyes looking to the right or left, and red felt hearts. They wear bloomers under their dresses so they can do cartwheels, climb trees, ride bikes and do anything else they choose. They’re tomboys, after all, and can easily change from a dress into jeans and a tee-shirt. They have red and white striped leggings, black boots and wear their long hair in pigtails or braids, so they can run faster and climb higher. The dresses are made from a small floral print fabric from International Silks and Woolens. Finally, the dresses have pockets to hold small treasures found while playing outside, or for coins for the gumball machine.
My love of rag dolls began years ago when my three year old daughter got a Raggedy Ann for Christmas. Then, in 2011, she brought back a Raggedy Andy found in a thrift store in Costa Rica. He was losing his stuffing and had to be taken apart and rebuilt. After that, I made a series of Raggedy Ann’s with different colored hair, and helped my niece, Sally, make an Andy. Raggedys are fun to play with because of their bendable arms and legs and soft, cuddly bodies. I made hair made from tee-shirts strips, stretched and sewn on in separate bundles, so it can move and fly around in funny ways when the doll does flips and cartwheels, as rag dolls love to do.
Since my last blog post, Raphael and I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and saw some wonderful impressionist paintings, not to mention the Met itself! And this past fall, here at LACMA, we saw two great exhibits: Chagall and Carlos Almaraz. Go, if you can.
Have a great Holiday! More in 2018!
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!
_I'm at the Farmer's Market at Third and Fairfax in Los Angeles, having a hot chocolate
with just the tiniest bit of whipped cream. All around me are holiday shoppers, grabbing a quick bite between purchases at the nearby Grove. I'm thinking about my sister,
Veronica, who was here two years ago and fell in love with this place. (Veronica is a nom
de plume that I chose for her. All of us at dollsbysasha have noms de plume, including
Raphael, Sallie, Colleen, Sophie and Sophie's partner in Costa Rica, Malekai Lucien, who
wins the prize for noms de plume!)
_I'm also thinking about Veronica because she challenges me in my dollmaking. It was she who requested that her birthday doll, Winnifred Harmonia, have highlights. As a result, I had to figure out how to work gold embroidery thread into the rust colored braids. Later, the idea of highlights inspired the ribbon-streaked bundles that are now my signature hairstyle for all dollsbysasha.
_But highlighting wasn't enough for Veronica. (Veronica is a potter in Montana who made the doll tea set that you may have seen here. You can visit MUDDSLINGER POTS facebook page to see some of her work.) After toting Winnifred back and forth to her studio, Veronica realized that the green taffeta party dress wasn't going to work for her little assistant, so she requested that I make the following: khaki pants, a white tank top and a denim artisan's apron.
That was in March and with all the doll making this year, I didn't get it done and it has been preying upon me. So this week, I set up Santa's workshop, heated up a pot of hot chocolate, and got to work. You can see the finished product here, modeled by Mimosa, with of one of Veronica's vases and a bowl.
_ Mimosa looked so cute in Winnifred's new outfit, she didn't want to take it off. The saucy little khaki pants seem to have brought out the tomboy in her. And hence, another inspiration has given birth to the Tomboy Doll, to be launched soon! I'm so excited about it, I haven't even told Sophie and Malekai yet. (They've been busy working in Santa's Workshop, Puerto Viejo, on some clothespin dolls and chocolate, which sound like a great combination!)
_I can't complete this blog post without telling you about Sallie's holiday dress, which I made last Sunday after we finished her doll, Lucia. The dress was a challenge, as I only had so much green taffeta. Luckily, I had a black taffeta vintage skirt that I was able to piece with the green to make wide stripes, with just enough green left over for the bodice. I finished with black straps and a little black ruffle at the neckline. We both especially like the back, which is tied with black and green ribbons.
_I think the reason I've been enjoying this holiday season so much is because I have re-discovered my creative side, which is the child in all of us. Remember standing in front of that easel in kindergarten with pots of paint and that long-handled paintbrush? Did any of us have the slightest hesitation filling that paper with ocean-liners, suns, giant flowers, or our entire families in front of imaginary houses?
The more I sew, the more I dip into that childish delight in drawing, creating and figuring things out, coming up with new ideas and putting them into action. So, discover your inner child and let your creative side bubble up. You'll be amazed at what you will find.
Have wonderful Holiday, be it Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or by any other name.
Sallie, who is nine, came over yesterday to make an outfit for Raggedy Andy. Last month, we made Andy himself. First, we cut him out. Next, we drew the face and embroidered it. I did one eye, she did the other. I did one half of the mouth, she did the other. This is how Sallie learned to embroider. (Sophie was there too, working on Suki.)
Next, we cut a heart out of a scrap of red tee shirt and hand sewed it to the left side of Andy's chest. After that, we pinned, then stitched the front and back of the body, right sides together. Here is where Sallie got to practice using the sewing machine. Again, we divided the work down the middle, she did one side and I the other. Then came the hard part: stitching and stuffing the arms. Once the arms were done, we attached them to the body, then stuffed it. Little Andy was coming to life! Next, we attached his black boots to his red and white striped socks, pinned the two sides of each leg, right sides together, stitched, turned and stuffed them. Attaching the legs to the body can be tricky, so I pinned them, hand basted them, then we stitched them to his body with the machine. Andy was almost done!
Finally, la piece de la resistance: the hair. I cut strips from a clean, red tee shirt and bundled them together by tying them in the middle with another strip. I made lots of these bundles in different lengths, for the sides, bangs and back, then sewed them on. We had wisely made the back of Andy's head out of red cloth so that the hair blended in nicely, with no empty spots showing. We took pictures to show our progress.
It took two sessions to make Andy. The outfit was also two days. But it was worth it. Sallie and I discovered that making doll clothes can be more complicated than making a doll, if you've never done it before. The first attempt at Andy's outfit turned out like a clown suit. Yesterday's attempt was better, but we had to redo the pants legs several times before we could squeeze his black boots through. We finally did it, attached the "blouse," a blue ribbon for his bowtie and a big snap to hold his outfit together in the back. All that's left to do is sew on the buttons at the waist and the pants legs.
Last month, Raphael and I saw Picasso, Matisse, Monet, Lichtenstein and Giacometti at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA. I've been devouring art books lately, mainly Picasso and Matisse. But to see the actual paintings and sculptures and realize that these works are housed within a short bike ride from our house, sent chills down my
spine. After leaving the European Contemporary Art from 1900 to 1950 section, we stumbled upon Lichtenstein's multiple versions of Monet's cathedrals, and then saw the Monet's themselves! What a day!
We ended our visit at the new Broad addition to LACMA, with a show about Mexican- American street and performance art from the 1970's and 1980's. More on that next time, as well as news on the Global Bazaar at the Los Angeles Crafts and Folk Art Museum and the amazing doll tea set from Muddslinger pots in Missoula Montana: see more of the tea set and more at MUDDSLINGER-Pots on facebook and etsy.