Design, Simplicity and Excess Zeal


"Make everything as simple as possible,
but not simpler."

-- Albert Einstein

This quote is an interesting one to think about while designing a pattern. One of the tension points I have been facing in my Izannah Walker pattern design is wanting things to be simple enough that they are do-able, but not so simple that it loses what makes it Izannah-like. A lovely doll maker who has tested my pattern described the arm and leg design as having "excess zeal." This made me grin, because in a way she's right. Excess zeal has pulled me along in my studies of Izannah. Excess zeal led me to attempt an Izannah Walker doll as my first published pattern rather than a simpler pattern. Excess zeal helps get a lot of things accomplished in life but excess zeal can also get you into some tight spots. ;-)

Izannah made things in a particular way because of the design we can't see. An example would be the second covering on the Izannah dolls. Why the second covering? Why was that needed? I'm tweaking that part of the pattern now.

Dixie's Prototype Doll

My theory is that second covering was needed because the lower legs were connected to the outer covering and not to the upper leg. The legs were "pulled on" when the outer covering came on. What supports my theory? This picture of a well-loved Izannah Walker doll shows a lack of connection between the thigh and lower leg. In the dolls I have personally seen, I have felt (gently!) for indication of stitching at the knee under the second covering. Either there is no connection, or the kind of joint/connection used allows for a loose swinging joint. In fact, the original dolls have a lot of movement at the hip and knee joints - they are not stuffed hard at those points. I believe the second skin IS the joint in the original dolls at the knee at least. But is this practical to design my pattern that way? I'm still deciding. So what does this have to do with Albert Einstein and simplicity and my pattern? I'm not Albert or Izannah, but there is a conclusion and it is this:

If you make something too simple,
it becomes something else.

I can simplify the pattern and eliminate the second skin, etc. And it will still be a nice doll pattern. But would it be Izannah-like, then? Not to me. And so the tension point between do-ability and authenticity continues. The second skin is coming along much better than I thought it would. This makes me happy! I am determined the entire pattern will be done with tweaking by New Year's Day. Because I have been working on this pattern since 2007...check the backposts.

Below is an update on the Izannah head sculpt I've been working on. :-) Fun!


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"Do not let what you cannot do
keep you from doing what you can do."

John Wooden




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