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!
On January 24, 2012, Raphael and I went to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's preview
of "In Wonderland," an exhibit of surrealist women artists from Mexico and the U.S. which
includes several works by Frida Kahlo and friends. "In Wonderland" is a reference to Lewis Carroll's "Alice In Wonderland" and the introductory notes state that the works show a different perspective, as if these artists had been "down the rabbit hole," both in the sense of their personal lives and trauma that happened to them as children, as well as in the fact of their being women.
We arrived at 8:00 p.m. on a beautiful Thursday evening in L.A. where we met the friend who had invited us, Meg Hunt. (Nom de Plume alert!) After some wine, a delicious salad with walnuts and apples and a visit with our tablemates, two women who had driven up from Palos Verdes for the event, we ambled into the exhibit and each lost ourselves in the art, bumping into each other occasionally over the next hour. The show, which is part of the ongoing Pacific Standard Time series, consists of paintings, sculpture, photography, "constructs" and architecture. Not surprisingly, many of the works have dolls in them. There were lots of paintings of women, but no female nudes in the manner you might expect to see in paintings by male artists.
At ten, I found Raphael and Meg, whose feet were hurting as much as mine were, as we both
wore heels. [Meg and I, not Raphael!] On the way to the parking lot, we discussed our favorite works and artists from the show. It was liberating to see women depicted from a female point of view. I liked Frida Kahlo's wedding portrait with her husband at the time, Diego Rivera, where he is gigantic and she is tiny, and a painting by Dorothea Tanner, who looks strangely modern in a 1930's era self-portrait in black pants, sitting astride a stool, looking young, beautiful and powerful. There were too many works to adequately describe here, so I want to go back and delve into this exhibit in greater depth. I also want to explore the connection between Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland" and some of these works. More on this soon!
Well, Veronica has thrown down the gauntlet. Again. First, I am to make a friend for Winifred. That's the easy part. But also, Vera tells me that Winifred wants a puppy. And it has to be a St. Bernard. And three-dimensional, with tee-shirt "fur." It's always a challenge, but I'll give it a try.
First, the dolls: Vera has already named this one "Cordelia," who will be a variation of Mimosa. [see pictures of Mimosa on the "dolls" page and in an earlier blog post, where she models Winifred's studio outfit.] Another doll, Hyacinth, a red-head, is named after a character in Mary Gaskell's 19th Century novel, "Wives and Daughters." [More on that next week.] These dolls will be the first in the "Tomboy" series. You can pictures of Cordelia, Hyacinth, Donette and Mitzi modeling their current hairstyles here. It's fun to imagine how to redesign their shoes, bodies and clothes to make them more tomboy-like. I'll be posting pictures as the dolls move from the drawing board, literally, through the creative process. And there's a new Raggedy Ann in the works, who'll have brown eyes and brown curls. [Wait till you see the new curly style!]
Liz [Nom de Plume alert!] and Malekai are working on some wire-framed dolls, Also, Liz
promised to send me one of her drawings for a new doll and I can't wait to get started!
It's going to be a busy year. Now, go see some art! Till next week….
__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!
_It's a new year and I'm excited about the dolls I want to make. First, I need to finish the dolls started over a year ago whose heads are sitting in tissue paper-stuffed jars in my sewing room, all with temporary hair pinned on. First on the runway is Donette, Tonette's twin. (coming soon to the Doll Gallery). Tonette and Donette are slightly smaller and thinner than he other dolls and Donette will have highlighted, bundled hair, instead of Tonette's more quaint braids.
_Next will be Mitsuko. I made a doll named Mitsuko last year, but gave her away without
telling the owner her name, so I am reusing the name Mitsuko, or Mitzi for short. Mitzi
will be Mimosa's twin, and may be the first of the Tomboy dolls, of which the concept is
still forming in my mind. The Tomboys will be 31" tall, like most of the other dolls, but
will have flat shoes instead of the signature high-heeled boots and will wear jeans or
khakis instead of dresses, so they can jump and play more easily. They'll also have
shorter hair so they can run like the wind. (I'm now thinking I will make separate boots
and dresses for them so they can indulge their feminine side whenever they feel like it, as some tomboys like to do.)
Which brings me to the question: What is a tomboy? When I was a child the 1950's and
60's, a tomboy was a girl who liked to play outdoors, and, if she was lucky, play with the boys. If not, she would do all the things boys did: run, play baseball, climb trees, play cowboys and Indians (and not just as an Indian princess who gets captured and tied to a tree). At the same time, a tomboy didn't necessarily give up her femininity, although it was okay if, like some girls, she didn't care about nail polish or dolls.
I have an older and a younger brother. (The younger one was my charge from as early as
I can remember, so he brought out the mother in me.) But my big brother was two years
older and one grade ahead in school, so we were buddies when it came to playing indoors
in those early years. We'd play FBI and space travelers, making spaceships out of paper
bags, and we'd run and slide down the long wooden hallway in our stocking feet.
As we got a little older, I would often tag along with him for outdoor games with the
neighborhood kids. But my inclusion ended at the front doors of his various friends, as
well it should have.
When left on my own, I'd to ride my powder blue, J.C, Higgins 26" bicycle, (my "horse")
around the neighborhood in search of adventure. At other times, I'd gather my dolls and
stuffed animals, of which I had many, and have a tea party with the tin tea set my mother
had me wrap as a Christmas gift for one of my cousins one year, then put under the tree
for me. What a wonderful surprise!
I hope girls are still tomboys and feel free to put down their dolls, run outside and climb trees. Of course, not all girls play with dolls, and some boys do. I just want to celebrate the freedom of all children, girls and boys alike, to play with dolls, or not, and to play hard and have fun, both in and out of doors!
On that note, I know the Tomboy dolls are going to be lots of fun to make and even more
fun to play with. So I'm off to the Good Will for a rust-colored tee shirt. I need it tonight so I can cut the strips for Mitzi's hair while watching football. The Lions are playing the Saints in New Orleans, so it should be a good game.
See you next 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.
_Last week, I told you about seeing the Joffrey Ballet's "Nutcracker" with my nieces, Sallie and Colleen. Since then, I've been fascinated by nutcrackers. My Los Angeles sewing partner, Evette, and I were in Joann's Fabrics in Studio City, stocking up on doll- making supplies last week when Evette stopped in her tracks, and I, being right behind her, bumped into her! "Look at that!" she exclaimed. There was a nutcracker display with all items 60% off! As we looked, we were tempted, because, after all, what is a nutcracker but a wooden doll? But then she saw a tailor, holding a bag of spools of thread in one hand and a pair of golden scissors in the other. On his head, instead of the black beefeater pompom, was a red pincushion, complete with pins. It was love at first sight and Mr. Tailor was in Evette's cart before you could say "Sugar Plum Fairy!"
Then I spied the seamstress. (In case you hadn't noticed, female nutcrackers are hard to
find.) I knew when I saw her, at 60% off, that she was mine. She has a silver thimble
skirt, a spool of red thread for a hat, and an old-fashioned, painted face. Sallie, who came over on Saturday to make dolls, told me that she got a nutcracker, too. After politely admiring Samantha the Seamstress and the tree, and lining up all the dolls on the bed in the sewing room as if they were on a toboggan about to slide down a snowy hill, we set up shop for our day of doll making. Out came the cutting board, the bowl of thread, the box of fabric, the jar of art pencils and markers, and the sewing machine. Sallie wanted to make a small doll, a la Mirabel (see the Doll Gallery), and was hoping to finish in one day.
_We started by choosing from a selection of homemade patterns. This one was copied from a vintage Guatemalan doll bought at a thrift store a few years ago. She is handmade and you can see the stitches where the legs are attached. The clothes are intricate and
colorful and sewn to her body. Next, Sallie traced the head on a piece on paper and drew the face, which was a classic doll face that looked a little bit like Samantha. Then she pinned the pattern to the fabric and cut out the head, using café au lait muslin for the face and black for the back of the head. The next step was to trace the face onto the fabric through the paper with a very sharp pencil. Then we had to make a tactical decision: To embroider the face or to draw it? As it was already 2:30, Sallie decided to depart from tradition and draw the face with permanent markers.
_After a practicing on a piece of fabric (I told her to keep it because it was so pretty!), Sallie drew the face in minutes, as compared to the hour or so it would have taken to embroider. Next, we pinned right sides together and stitched the head. After that, Sallie turned the head inside out and stuffed it. The turning and stuffing is time-consuming and takes some practice, but Sallie got it done to her satisfaction. Doll heads made this way tend to be a little imperfect and can look misshapen, but this is where a great hairdo comes in. I had a little doll wig already cut from the sleeve of a black tee shirt which fit the bill and after pinning it on, fashioning two braids and tying the ends with blue embroidery thread, Sallie's doll was coming to life!
_We took a break for hot dogs and fries and a walk to the fabric store, (sewing is tiring!), and then were back at work. Now it was time to cut out the body, arms and legs, all from different fabric, chosen by Sallie. After pinning the pieces, right sides together, Sallie and I took turns sewing them on to the body. Sallie next turned and stuffed one arm while I did the other. We then attached the arms to the unstuffed body, after which Sallie stuffed the body and I attached the legs. We were almost done, but it was almost time for Sallie to go home! (Sallie's mom and dad had come over in the meantime and brought some delicious mac and cheese for dinner, so we took another break.)
_With her Mom's permission, we were granted an hour to finish. I opened up the top of the body, took out some stuffing and stuffed the neck in, then pinned the head in place and quickly sewed it them together. Then I sewed on the hair with a few stitches and Sallie's first small doll was done! But because we had finished in a hurry, there are some things we may want to fix, such as reattaching the legs so the doll can stand on her own and re- sewing her head on so you can't see the stitching. Then we can sew on the blue sparkly necklace Sallie chose, and even the tiniest stitches won't show. Last but not least, Sallie wants to make her a brown dress, inspired by "Chocolate," the Spanish dancer from the "Nutcracker." So we need to have another sewing session soon!
_Sophie and I continue to brainstorm about dollsbysasha.com and how we can make dolls
and contribute to the world we live in at the same time. We've decided to ask Sallie to
help with some ideas and maybe even write her own doll blog. Meanwhile, Sophie has
been experimenting with a new format for the website, has started writing a children's
book about Suki in Costa Rica and has come up with some amazing drawings. Malakei
Lucian is starting to contribute some ideas too, so we'll have lots to talk about next time. We'd love your input too, so please feel free to leave comments!
More next time… And don't forget to enjoy the holiday season!
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!