"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!