An Artist's Journey at Maida Today

Oh yeah, baby!
I HAD to have the sky blue cat glasses.

Maida Today will be featuring artists in a column called "An Artist's Journey." I really enjoy reading about other artists and their journeys. But I thought it was only fair that I should answer some of my own questions. Also, I thought that in answering the questions it might prompt me to think of more questions and perhaps better questions. So here is my version of An Artist's Journey.

How long have you been making dolls and selling them?

I've been making dolls since 2006. I went to art school and studied painting and printmaking. After I had kids my art got set aside for a while. I kind of fell into doll making a bit like Alice fell into the rabbit-hole. I was selling smalls that I purchased at antique auctions on Ebay to make a little extra money. At one auction I bought a box of old cloth dolls. I loved them. I ended up selling the dolls on Ebay, and in researching how to list them found the whole wonderful world of primitive folk art dolls. Since I have a background as an artist and enjoy sewing, I thought I would try my hand at doll making. Now, of course, I wish I had saved those vintage cloth dolls.

What was the first doll you made with the intention to sell like? What prompted you to make that doll?

The first doll I made to sell was a cloth fairy doll that I drew the face on with markers. I don't have any pictures of that doll. I wanted to create a woodland fairy kind of doll, but out of cloth. I think I sold that doll for $15.

Were you a doll person as a child? Do you remember making any dolls as a child?

I wasn't a huge doll person as a child. I had the requisite Barbie. I enjoyed role playing with other people more. I used to make what we would now call stump dolls with embroidered faces and give them to baby cousins. I remember one in particular I made as a 9 year old.

What were your play interests as a child?

I've always enjoyed making things. I remember once taking the issue of an Archie comic book where Archie, Jughead & Co. were in the circus. I did this at my granddad's house. I took a box and made a diorama, carefully cutting out the circus characters and then pulling thread through their shoulders and then connecting to the sides of the box so it looked like they were in the air. I played "pioneers" or "olden days" with my brother and the neighbor children, crawling through the animal tunnels in the blackberry bushes behind our house. Usually I had a blanket wrapped around me as a makeshift old fashioned dress. I liked drawing and making mud pies. I usually enjoyed making a "house" of some sort outdoors.

How has your work changed since you began doll making? How do you see it changing in the future?

In the beginning I was making dolls completely out of cloth with faces drawn with markers. Over time I have learned a bit about sculpting dolls from paper clay. I really enjoy both, but I see myself doing more in the cloth only arena in the future. Not that I won't make clay over cloth dolls, just that I want to make some experimental works and concentrate on making more paintings as well.

What prompted you to design patterns? Do you see yourself designing more patterns in the future?

Seeing an original Izannah Walker doll is what prompted me to design a pattern. I drove down to see the doll, and caught the Izannah bug. After seeing many Izannah dolls, and planning some vacations around seeing more, I decided I wanted to create a pattern. At first I was going to make it for my own use, but then I decided to make it for other people to use. And so my class grew from that idea. I'm glad I decided to go that route, because truthfully, it has been a joy to see what people have done with the pattern. I intend on designing more dolls in the future. I really enjoyed it, although I had no idea how much work it is!

Where do you create your dolls?

I sculpt in my kitchen to the left of the stove and I sew and paint in my basement work area.

Who inspires you and why?

Inventive people with kind hearts inspire me. People who like to share inspire me. My husband inspires me and supports my creativity. I admire many, many modern artists and would get into trouble forgetting one if I made a list. But there are several artists I admire because of their keen design sense and incredible work ethics.

I enjoy Milton Avery's work. You can read about him here. I like his sense of color and the way he used the space of the picture plane. But his life inspires me just as much because he made art even when it was very difficult. He didn't get much acclaim in his own life, because his work was too abstract for the realists and too representational during the abstract hey-dey. And yet he kept on painting. He's similar to Izannah Walker in that way, he kept on creating despite the constraints of life.

If you own any antique dolls, what drew you to purchase those particular dolls?

I own this doll which is a Babyland Rag that has lost her face. I love how someone made do with her even when she wasn't perfect.

I own a Helen Pringle doll that I stumbled on in a local antiques mall. It's the funniest thing, I just went over to it, picked it up to see how old it was and if it was signed, and there was her signature.

I own this little papier mache doll on the left.

What three encouragements would you give to the beginning doll maker/artist?

1. Don't expect that you will be a master artist with your first doll. Allow yourself to be a beginner.

2. Learn all you can. Books are there at the library on doll making. There are many great classes out there and lots of free resources on the web.

3. Try different mediums. That way you won't get in a rut.


Christine Crocker said...

How fun getting to know more about you Dixie.
Everyone has such interesting lives and how they began dolly-ing.

Your little school girl picture is adorable~I'm sure my little sister had those very same glasses~very chic.

Judi Hunziker said...

Dixie, your kind "sharing" spirit is what I love the most about you, hugs~Judi

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

John Wooden