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!
Introducing Mitzi and Donette. Sophie helped with Mitzi, who is a cousin to Mimosa, and has brown eyes, red hair with gold highlights and red and white striped arms and legs with black boots, a la a sophisticated Raggedy Ann. She has a navy blue and white polka dot dress, tied in back with navy blue satin ribbons and a stiff, white petticoat, cut from the gigantic wedding petticoat from Goodwill. It was really hard to cut into that petticoat, because you never know when you might need one, especially one with a label that says "One Size Fits Most."
Mitzi was to have been the first of the Tomboy Dolls, but I couldn't resist giving her high-heeled, black boots instead of the more athletic look that the Tomboys will have. Mitzi also has a black back of the head, instead of orange, so you can see her scalp when she does cartwheels or hangs upside down from a tree. (You see, she's a tomboy anyway, as are all the dolls.) This is an example of one of those "flaws" that Erika mentioned, which all our handmade dolls have.
Last night, I finished Donette, who is Tonette's twin. I accidentally cut the legs shorter than intended and had to redo them. But now she is perfectly proportioned and all that is left is to finish the dress and make her petticoat.
People often ask how long it takes to make a doll. I have a hard time answering because, as you know if you've been following this blog, I make a doll in stages and sometimes work on several at once. So, while it may take seven or twelve hours for one doll, they actually are made over a period of days, weeks, months, or, as in the case of Donette, years!
Another reason it's so hard to determine the time is the decision-making process. Which face do I use, or shall I create a new one? Then, I pin the pattern on the fabric and cut out the head in one color and the back to match the hair color (unless I change my mind, as in the case of Mitzi).
Next, I transfer the drawing of the face to the fabric, then embroider the face, which takes about an hour. I love doing this because it looks like a painting. Donette's face was embroidered several years ago and took less time than usual because her features are more childlike. As she is a duplicate of Tonette, I wanted a different hairstyle for her and finally settled on the curly hair you see here. This style took several years of trial and error, but I love it! You'll be seeing it on more dolls soon, including Delphine, who is due for another "do." For now, here are some pictures of the latest dolls, and a couple of me, "blogging" at the Farmer's Market.
We would love to hear your thoughts on doll making, embroidery, things that you make, and art in general, so please send comments. Sophie and I hope to add a longer "Comment" page soon.
In the meantime, have a great week!