About Dixie Redmond's
Izannah Walker Inspired Dolls

I was talking with some people recently about my Izannah Walker inspired dolls, and some questions came up. So I thought I'd take their questions and put them in an interview format for me to answer as an FAQ.

How did you come to study Izannah Walker dolls?

I first heard about Izannah Walker Dolls from Teresa Baker, who led a group called Coffee with Tea. The group focused on learning about antique dolls, and a number of people in the group were making Izannah inspired dolls. I am also in a group called Vintage Cloth Dollmaking, and one of the members posted that Lucy's Doll House in Camden, Maine had an original Izannah Walker doll. So I went to visit the doll, and was allowed to take pictures to bring back to those groups.

Why did you start writing the Izannah Walker Chronicles?

When I was first studying Izannah's dolls, I bought every book that I knew of that referred to her work, or had pictures of her dolls. After that, I went to every site which mentions Izannah Walker dolls, looking for a kind of resource online for in-depth study. There were lots of great homage sites with information about Izannah Walker dolls, but there wasn't a site that was a central station to all the sites out there referring to Izannah Walker dolls. So I started the Izannah Walker Chronicles. Whenever I was able to take pictures of original dolls I would post them. My aim is to provide a site where someone could learn a lot about Izannah Walker dolls.

Original Izannah Walker Doll
photographed at Lucy's Doll House

Do you think you're a little obsessed with Izannah Walker dolls?

Maybe. Okay, yeah. But is that always bad? Once I said aloud to my family, "Big things are happening in the Izannah Walker World..." and my smart alec son said, "Oh....so there's a WORLD now, mom?" You gotta love kids, 'cause they keep it real, and keep you humble.

Dixie Redmond, holding an original Izannah Walker doll.

Izannah is a kind of example to me of someone who faced constraints and achieved in spite of the constraints she faced. So I not only respect her creations, I respect her drive and determination to make a mark in a world that wasn't always kind to women.

Why do you use the word "inspired" to describe your dolls?

I'm not Izannah Walker. There is no way my dolls could be anything but inspired unless I were Izannah Walker. For one, we don't have available to us all the exact materials she would have used in making her dolls. I consider every artist's work "inspired by" Izannah Walker.

I have studied the original dolls closely, photographing and measuring them, thanks to Lucy's Doll House. I hope that my work captures the feeling of the original dolls but also that they express "Dixie Redmond" in them.

What do you think about other artists making Izannah Walker dolls? Do you think yours are the best?

There are a number of interesting dolls being made by other artists. Some artists have approached making Izannah-inspired dolls by copying the dolls they own, and others use a looser approach. I think it's all good. I make the best "Dixie Redmond" dolls that I can.
Dixie Redmond Doll, in process

How long does it take you to make an Izannah Walker inspired doll?

A friend will say, "Are you STILL working on that doll?" and another artist I know calls my dolls "Rare Dixie Redmond Dolls." Why do they take so long, you ask? Well, they are many steps in my process. After I make the torso, I sculpt a One of a Kind doll with paperclay. I do this in many different stages, drying completely and sanding in between every sculpting session. After that, the doll is gessoed, and sometimes covered with stockinette cloth, and then gessoed several times again. Then the doll is painted with a series of built up glazes. Perhaps 5 or 6 times. After that I paint the body, and make the clothing for the doll. A doll can take up to 100 hours from start to finish.

Do you use molds in making your dolls?

Not at this point. Each of my dolls are hand-sculpted one of a kind creations. I don't have anything against molds, and may use them to reproduce a sculpt I expecially love in a limited edition way.

I'd like to buy one of your dolls...where do you sell them?

I sell them from this site blog when they're finished.  I have a mailing list (top right sidebar) sent to those who have signed up to receive it and usually offer dolls first to that group. Many of these people have bought some of my very early dolls and I feel grateful to them for
supporting my creative venture.

Do you take commissions?

No, I don't take commissions. It is important to me that each creation is allowed to become its own little being, with room to be a little odd or whimsical, if they want to. Anyone who has created dolls knows that they sometimes insist on a particular color, or trim, or hairstyle and that doesn't always match what a collector may have dictated. So I may sometimes make a doll with a particular hairstyle, for instance, because someone suggested it. But I am clear in my mind that I am not making the doll for that person. IF the finished doll appeals to the person who made the suggestions, then all the better. But the creation must come first.

I want to try making my own...do you have an Izannah Walker pattern I can buy?

I have a pattern I designed and used for an online class.  It is now available as an e-book. You can learn more about it by visiting the Izannah Walker Workshop.

Do you own an Izannah Walker Doll?

No. It's a dream of mine to own an original Izannah Walker doll some day.  UPDATE!   YES!  I now own a very beat up one armed Izannah Walker doll.  She is named HOPE and I love her!  

Do you make other kinds of art and dolls?

YES - I make paintings as well.

If you have other questions, please leave them as a comment. I'll be happy to answer them.



Dana said...

It's so nice to get to know you a little better in this way, Dixie! I feel so honored to be able to take your class and glean from your years of studying these amazing works of art. Thank you for your generosity in sharing with us!


Robin's Egg Bleu said...

You're a woman after my own heart! I completely agree with you about all you stated. I too am asked to do commissions which I've graciously had to turn down. One thing about commissions, is that the purchaser has their own vision of exactly how the doll will look, and it's definitely going to differ from mine. This can lead to disappointment on both ends. Either the buyer doesn't complete the sale, or purchases the doll out of a sense of obligation and resents poor little dolly every time she looks at her.

On the topic of molds...I think it's great to make a mold of your OWN work. That's how most artists make it big. It's your work, and a time saver. People don't have to wait as long for your work to become available. I've seriously thought about it myself, but worry that I'll rely too heavily on the 'shortcut' and begin to lose my modeling skills. And I think collectors really do want the soul that shows through with each new sculpt.

I read a comment recently about people like you and I, and many others inspired by the Izannah style who use paperclay, describing our work as "cheating". I fail to comprehend the logic in that comment. We are using our own sculpting skills, not piggybacking off of someone else's original work and calling it "pure."

True artists work off inspiration around them. Anyone can make a mold of another's work and reproduce it...but to then call it the real thing, is ridiculous.

Dixie, you are a true artist.

Dixie Redmond said...

Hi, Robin -

Thanks for your comments. I find them thought provoking.

I respect the choices made by those who have made molds of their original dolls *and* those who hand-sculpt each individual doll. Even Izannah's dolls had to have a starting point with an original sculpt that was used to make her original iron molds. Her mind for engineering showed her that using a mold would expedite the process. Nothing wrong with that.

I am sure the comment was meant to affirm the maker of that particular doll and not to tear down others' works. Any dolls made that honor good folk (what I named the first doll made with my pattern) are dolls that deserve to be cherished and loved.

McNally School said...

I loved reading this post and also the comments. I feel the same way about making something according to someone's specifications! It ruins the whole act of doll making for me. I don't even want someone to ask for a doll with a certain hair color. It's such a personal thing - making dolls. I think that's also why I like sculpting them from scratch. I feel more connected to the whole process when I do an original sculpt each time. And I just love paper clay. Some day, I would like to try to make a molded fabric head - not because I don't want to be called a cheater... but I'm curious about how to do it. I just bought a book on John Wright and his doll making story. It tells about how he and his wife worked to figure out how Lenci dolls' felt faces were molded. It was so interesting!

Julie said...

Hi Dixie, Thank you for that wonderful interview, I truly enjoyed it. I don't know if I said it before but I am saying it now. I think you need to write a book. I love the knowledge you collected and I too like the way you think.

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

John Wooden