Fifteen Years to Now

Fifteen years ago, I started this blog. Sometimes I read things on it from the past that I've forgotten, and that is a gift for today. I've grown and changed as an artist. Life has brought me to paths I didn't imagine I would walk, as it does for us all. 

Fifteen years ago my kids were little, and I was interacting with life and school through that mom-of-little-kids lens. Like this mom I saw diligently working her way through a rainy parking lot at the grocery, followed by a little girl carrying a pink umbrella. The years pass so quickly. 

Now, one child will be charting his course on his own after college, and we will search for and build a good future with our other son for his future. Choices are available to one, while another waits for options needed to move forward. 

But some things have not changed, and in the best way. Fifteen years ago I was experimenting with sculpting with Creative Paperclay, and today I have a paperclay creation drying in the oven. There is something encouraging, and I hope symbolic, about shaping that clay and see it become something. It's a metaphor of sorts. 

Setting Creative Micro-goals

A member in an online group I lead suggested that instead of having "a challenge" we have a micro-challenge. Instead of "Make X Type Doll" we would choose "Make arms for X type doll." It was pretty successful, so each week a discussion thread has focused on goals for the week. Some of us need the structure of community for encouragement to create.

The pandemic has caused many of us to lose some creative focus and to be isolated. With extra work and constraints on everyone's plate, it really makes sense to set smaller goals. Ecouraging each other in meeting those goals has been key. Also key is having Zoom meetups where we share what we've accomplished. It's been rewarding to see others make progress and motivating to try to make progress on our own goals. If someone doesn't make progress that week, we carry goals over to the next week. We attend to see what others have been doing and to cheer them on. Win-win. 

So micro-goals are simply the smaller steps needed to meet a larger goal. "Make a doll" becomes choose pattern, cut out pattern, trace pattern on fabric, cut out pattern get the idea. It's kind of like picking a bouquet...every bouquet begins with one picked flower. It's the collection of flowers that makes it a "bouquet"

If you want to read another post about finishing projects, go here

If you'd like to read more about setting micro goals, go here: 

On the power of small wins:

This past week has brought some unexpected challenges our way, which aren't about creativity. I'm trying to remember that small steps can make for big accomplishments. 

The First of the Hopestill Clan

May I introduce you to Starr Hopestill? 

After making hand sculpted dolls for years, I decided to have a mold made of my antique Izannah Walker doll. How this came about - I was working on making my antique Izannah Walker doll  a new arm (not sewn to her directly) and a new foot (not yet attached - to be attached to clothing, not the antique doll). Anyway, as I was really studying Hope (my antique doll) so closely, I wondered what she might have looked like when new, with a different hairstyle, or skin color, etc. So I set off on a journey to have a mold made. Fragile Hope was NOT touched in any way with mold making materials - technology helped with that. It has been a years-long process to get from that thought to a reproduction doll, but I have completed that circle with this first doll of the Clan Hopestill. 

While I was painting this doll, with current events playing in the background, a classmate of mine from high school came to mind. I haven't seen or heard from her since high school (I moved away), but I remembered her as a beautiful spirit. When she smiled, she shined like a star. And so the name Starr. I will be keeping this doll for myself, at the advice of my friend Edyth O'Neill who is a long time doll maker and doll collector. But Starr needs sisters and perhaps a brother and some cousins. 

The Quirky Story Teller


The little wooden guy was found in a local antique store with the note, "from an attic in Searsport"...which tells you absolutely nothing about its age. He's very primitive, but he has a quirky little spirit. I asked for him for my birthday years ago. 

Who knows what his story is?  Maybe he was the first carving of a kid, or maybe he was created from an old float by an old-timer watching the shore. Or maybe he was created by an artisan inspired by old things. He's cracked and his arms don't go down anymore, so he always looks like he's telling a story. And maybe he is. This past year would include some doozies! 

For some reason, he always comes out on display in spring. 

Looking Back

 I'm going to be doing a Zoom presentation with the Dollology doll group. While pulling my presentation together, I searched through my blog for early works and when I did what. It was interesting to see how *busy* I was writing in the early days of this blog, and how infrequently I wrote in other years. In the quiet years a lot was going on with my kids before they both graduated from high school. Also, from 2009 on, Facebook got a lot of what would have been blog posts in a previous time.  This was a good activity to do on this gray Sunday morning in Maine, I got to see a timeline of the last 15 years. Here's a thumbnail gallery of some of the images of paintings and folk art dolls I saved to put in my presentation. In reviewing I could see the growth I've made over time as a doll maker and a folk artist. 

Designing a Match for my Izannah Walker Doll

For a while now I have been pecking away at making a matching arm and foot for my antique Izannah Walker doll. For the arm, I made a strap that goes across the shoulders, and the new arm is attached to that. My plan for the foot is to make a foot but have a stocking hold it on. We'll see. Anyway, in order for it to feel right, I've been tweaking the pattern. The tenth version got pretty close. I still see some things which could be tweaked, but I think I'm at the point of diminishing returns on this. I find when I keep needing to revert to an earlier numbered pattern piece that I've hit my mark in terms of design. 

The good thing about this process is when I am done I have a good pattern piece to use when making dolls inspired by my antique doll Hope. 

Chicken and Sausage Gnocchi Soup

 Chicken and Sausage Gnocchi Soup

The guys in my house like this and one of my son's friends ate 7 snack bowls of it. I use homemade broth. You can adjust depending on what you like.  I usually make this a day ahead, let cool, then reheat in a crockpot the next day.  It thickens up a lot. 


3-4 ribs celery diced

3-5 cups diced carrots

2-3 onions chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil 

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1-2 tsp dried basil

1-2 tsp dried oregano 

12 cups chicken broth

4 to 6 cups chicken, chopped

2 precooked Old Neighborhood Hot Italian Sausage, diced and sautéed until browned 

1 can evaporated milk

(If you like it more milky, add another can of evaporated milk and reduce chicken broth)

Two 17 oz packs of potato gnocchi 

2-3 precooked red potatoes, chopped with skin

4-6 cups of rinsed chopped spinach

Saute veggies in olive oil until onions are translucent. 

Add chicken broth, chicken and dried herbs.

Cook on simmer for around 20 minutes.


Bring to boil, add gnocchi.

Take a little of the hot broth and stir into the condensed milk.This keeps the milk from curdling.  

Once gnocchi is floating on top, slowly add milk, stirring as you pour milk in.

Add chopped cooked potatoes with skin on. Simmer for a little while before cooling. 

5 minutes before serving, add chopped spinach, heat until it is wilted.  


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

John Wooden