Day 12: The Art In Dolls

A few days ago I wrote a post about "honest dolls" which was a response to Nesting Place's discussion about using natural fall elements for decorating rather than plastic decorations manufactured in china to look like natural decorations.

I don't think I wrote that post very well. I was not saying that only play dolls are dolls. In a historical sense, dolls are representations of the human figure. When I was talking about making honest dolls, I should have used the words "play dolls".

In the past century, dolls have been recognized as art, and as such artists have begun making dolls. Nowadays, we hear the word doll joined with other words. There are

kachina dolls
santos dolls
prayer dolls
healing dolls
art dolls
folk art dolls
play dolls
collectible dolls

The lists and categories go on. There are lists by maker, by material, and by purpose. It's a broad world. Sometimes the creations are "art" in the fine art and folk art sense. Sometimes they become art through their use and collected patina.

Some 25 years ago I studied at Monterrat College of Art. I studied fine art, and drawing and painting in particular. One of the assignments was to visit a museum that had folk art. I went to the Wenham Museum and saw Miss Columbia and remember seeing the word Izannah. But at the time, I couldn't really see the art in those dolls. I could see the "folk" but didn't really have a broader sense of art. I had a narrow sense of art.

We are always growing and changing. We experience more and we see something which changes our views. This is definitely true for me. In 2006, in trying to sell some antique dolls on Ebay, I "discovered" a whole realm of art called "art dolls". It's what I've been doing ever since.

Someone emailed me asking if I considered Santos figures dolls. I said yes. Yes, in the definition that a doll can be a representation of the human figure. But are they the kind of doll you give to a toddler to play with? Not usually. They are figural and decorative and have religious meaning, but are not the kind of doll used by children as play dolls. Usually. So again, I should have used play dolls as honest dolls, or maybe even the phrase "honest to goodness doll" to mean a doll you would give a child to use for pretend.

Some of my friends are now grandmothers. One of my goals in the next year is to create an artful pattern or two which a mom or grandma could use to make a play doll and an artist could use to make an "art doll" as well.

Whatever we make, let it be honest works of our hands. Let us put our whole selves into our creations. Let them be genuinely what interests and challenges us as artists. After a couple of days traveling for kid events I am looking forward to working on some creations today.

~ Dixie

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

John Wooden