__The Christmas boxes arrived in Costa Rica, so I can now tell you about Popeye and Carmelita. I stumbled on Popeye in an Out of the Closet, my favorite thrift store, last November, and thought he'd be perfect for Malekai, who collects action figures. Popeye has a burly body and grizzled face with a cigarette hanging from his lower lip. He was battered and his clothes stained, but OTC was taking 50% off bric-a-brac that day, so I claimed him for my resident sailor and soon- to-be friend of Carmelita. (He's a wire doll, but more about that in a future blog.)
__When I got him home, there was work to do, as his white sailor hat and pants needed to be cut
off, the stains "Shouted" ™ out and everything washed, dried and sewn back on. (The "Shout"
worked just as Evette had said it would. Shout out to Evette, pun intended!) The shirt was
beyond repair and wouldn't come off, so I covered the sleeves with some striped jersey left over from Paulette's* arms and legs, and he was done, except for sewing the pants and hat back on and reattaching the black leather pouch that hangs from his belt, which I imagine contains chewing tobacco. (And maybe a can of spinach?) Popeye the Sailor Man was ready for his trip to Costa Rica. But where was Olive Oyle?
__I 'd been planning to send Mirabel as Sophie's Christmas doll this year and thought she'd be the perfect companion for Popeye (Mirabel, not Sophie!), but then I remembered that she'd gone home with Sallie for the weekend, so I decided to make another one. While each doll is different, I usually make a drawing of the face so I can make more than one of the same doll. In this case, I hadn't done that, so I had to copy from pictures. Luckily, what resulted was Mirabel's twin, Carmelita. Like Mirabel, Carmelita has brown eyes, ruby lips and black braids pinned on top of her head in an off-hand, attractive way. She has black tights, silk, ivory arms, and, like all of the dolls, a red heart. (Except for Andre Ethier, whose heart is Dodger Blue!) Instead of Mirabel's sequined skirt, Carmelita has a simple sundress in brown cotton with pink polka dots and maroon ribbon ties which criss-cross in the front, like Mirabel's peasant blouse. Finally, she wears a lacy shrug and a red rhinestone necklace, like Mirabel's. When she was finished, I was surprised to see how she towered over Popeye, but his brawniness balanced out her height, and by the time they were shipped off to Costa Rica, they were the best of friends. They arrived last week at the Lizard King Resort, where they were warmly received and feel very much at home.
_This weekend I plan to organize my sewing room, which is bursting with dollar evening gowns that have been piling up since I started making dolls a few years ago. Last week, while shopping at the Good Will with Evette, I found a giant, white petticoat that I thought I'd use instead of the purple one, which is now gone. ** But after trying it on, I decided it has way too much potential to cut up. And after seeing the Tina Bausch documentary yesterday with Raphael (a Wim Wenders film, which everyone should see, even if you're not a dance aficionado), I've decided to keep the evening gowns too, and who knows, maybe even wear them! (After all, why should my dolls have ALL the fun?) Which brings me to next week's topic: Dancers, doll dresses and gowns for grownups! Oh - and making wire dolls. (With help from Sophie and Malekai, I hope!)
See you next week!
"Really, there is no one but Matisse." I wasn't sure why Picasso said this when I first read
it on the back of a Taschen book on Matisse, because up to that point, I thought Picasso
was the greatest painter and didn't know much about Matisse. But after Picasso led me to
Matisse, I understood, and am now entranced with both of them. And with Giacometti,
Toulouse Lautrec, Monet, Van Gogh, Vermeer, and so many more.
After I started making dolls, I wanted to learn how to embroider and make beautiful faces, so I started buying art books at a wonderful used bookstore in North Hollywood. It was there I discovered Toulouse Lautrec's posters of dancers from the Moulin Rouge. I started dressing my dolls in crinkling taffeta dresses, ruffled petticoats and bloomers.
The same thing happened with music. A few years ago, while working on Paulette, who was to be a dancing doll for my niece on her eighth birthday, I heard the "Suite Parisienne" by Jacques Offenbach from his comic opera, "Orpheus in the Underworld." It was the "Can-Can!" It made me jump up and dance around the room with Paulette!
I told my sewing partner, Yvette, another Los Angeles area doll maker, about it. Together, we googled Offenbach and saw the dancers in their bloomers and petticoats and fancy dresses. We decided we would make a chorus line of "Can-Can" dolls. That
didn't quite happen, but we've both made lots of dolls since. Yvette shared some of her vintage taffeta with me and I shared the huge purple petticoat from the 1950's that I found at a thrift store with her. (To learn more about Yvette, visit her etsy shop AllAboutEvette)
Making dolls put me back in touch with art, the way one experiences it as a child: a total, uninhibited embrace. I am so inspired by the great artists when I design a doll and energized by Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Scarlatti and so many other composers when I sew, that the hours fly by and I end up hearing some incredible music in the process.
While putting the finishing touches on Carmen, my latest doll, I heard a lively, exotic, piece of dance music that seemed written for her: "Fandango" by Boccarini. So everything is jumbled up with doll making: art, music, work and dance. I feel like I'm back in kindergarten and have just been given a box of beautiful, waxy crayons with
exotic names like "magenta, " "heliotrope" and "vermillion," and my only job is fill a giant sheet of art paper with anything I want. Maybe you have something in your life that makes you feel that way.
My next blog post will cover seam rippers and Strauss.
See you next week!