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Nothing like a bit of bunting …

January 17, 2022

I enjoy bunting and the celebratory nature of flags, and the way they are used in communication at sea.  I am not sure what I want my flags to say.  There are many calculated quotes I could use. I am currently embracing my inner child and her need to be recognised and attended too but do not plan to evoke a string of unnecessary words.  Instead, I will make each tiny flag hint or suggest self-love, and playfulness while being creative. That art is not about material gain, institutional correctness but exploration, fun, wholesome exposure, and passive exhibition. Flags and bunting help me do that. 

My dolls are me …

January 11, 2022

My ‘dolls are mute, like the dolls I made as a child using card, paste and cut outs from glossy magazines and mail order catalogues.  This latest incarnation is a little more sophisticated and robust, made with wire and felt and made to measure clothes. Yet, they are no more alive when they stand so bashfully on their makeshift stage.  For me their creator, however, they do represent the essence of humanity.  They are fragile, unstable, they cannot voice their fears or delights. There are no words. They are clumsy and inept. They cannot see or mark progression or growth. They have no purpose. They are hopeless.

From the moment I purchase the fabric to make the ‘dolls, cut the wire and form the ‘flesh’ around their twisted skeletons they become me, or I become their carer. While in my presence they are treated as sentient. I give them a story and hope. 

They represent a 6-year-old girl who for no fault of her own was not allowed to express her hopes and fears. She was speechless, fragile, and neglected. Her dolls represented her unspoken words, in pretty frocks, carefully coiffured hair, painted faces, manicured nails and high healed shoes they walked on the perfect stage of life that she had no hopes to experience yet. 

I did of course grow up and live a relatively full and happy life. However, it was not without trauma and difficulty. I continued to have spasms of severe mental illness that was proven to be connected to those harsh dark days after the war.   

When I find myself in uncomfortable situations presently, and fearful, It is not surprising that my ‘dolls become a tangible connection to the past and an important part of my well being and a purposeful lifestyle today.

Sunday hats …

January 9, 2022

This week I wanted to make some hats for my ‘dolls.  So, while I was dyeing with rhubarb for another project, I felted 6 hats, in turn on a champagne cork, and popped them into various mordants and later 3 into the rhubarb pot.  Then I boiled a few twigs of eucalyptus with the other three. In a few hours I had some lovely hats that needed bling.  So, with a few tiny beads, buttons, feathers and a little stitch work … Voilà

Time for hats …

January 3, 2022

I have alopecia, while my baldness doesn’t bother me, I do get cold and wear lots of different hats.  I have hats for all weathers and occasions. Although I must be careful in windy weather as a gust at the wrong time can have awkward results.

When I began making my ‘dolls I did allow them to have hair, unfortunately the process proved to be more complicated and a little unattractive.  So, I abandoned the idea and the hairless and faceless ‘dolls were born, and they have grown in stature and number.  I didn’t consider hats for them until I made the ‘dolls inspired by the painting called the Waiting by Degas, where the dancer’s chaperone needed a hat. So, I made one with felt using an upturned egg cup as a shape. It was successful but a little oversized and inclined to become misplaced and like me without hair there is no way a hat pin will hold it in place.  So, the hat had to be secured firmly so it didn’t move at an inopportune moment while stop motion filming.

As time has passed, I am thinking that hats might have a useful and dramatic effect in coming films. I have also discovered that champagne corks make perfect sized hat moulds, so my kind neighbours have provided a few corks after recent New Year celebrations so I can be a milliner for a while … please watch this work in progress. 

Sunday stitching …

January 2, 2022

During my studies I was lucky to get a bursary from the Textile Society that allowed me to buy a new mobile phone, with a Dragon Frame tether and software for my laptop that enabled me to make improved stop motion films.  A little later I attended a Textile Society Vintage fabric event at Chelsea Town Hill where I bought some scraps of lace and other beautiful elderly fabrics to make costumes for my ‘dolls and an antique Kantha bedspread.  It may be as much as 100 years old and has some signs of wear.  I have learned kantha embroidery and while my feeble attempts will not match the original stitch work and later repairs I am enjoying my endeavours to prolong its life a bit more. 

A cart and a chair …

December 30, 2021

The light in my house has been poor since October and will not improve, I think, until the spring comes at the end of March.  This typical seasonal discomfort is not insurmountable, while I cannot successfully film, this inclemency and confinement to home has allowed me to focus on other things.  Such as making dolls, sets, and props, I have been able to stitch some more complex backdrops.  It has prompted me to commit fully to writing and drawing.  The chair was the result of one of these exercises.  Presently I am making a chaise longue which I will share soon.

More vital and relevant I have begun writing a book, or rather illustrating a story book about my beloved dolls.  The chair will feature in it along with the cart made by my brother and has appeared in other films that can be seen on YouTube, both have the potential to star in other dramas. 

Poem to my ‘dolls …

December 29, 2021
A work in progress

I love textiles – fabric – fashion

and

Making – doing

I love to stitch! Mend and repair

also

Knit – darn – wrap

From this grew a passion for dolls

and

furthermore

Coat Hanger Dolls

Even the beginning attempts

at worst lifeless

at best – Neanderthal!

I fell in love with these ugly creatures

I studied puppets – wire sculptures

An array of the absurd   cruel   weird

downright   horrible

yet tantalising

I grabbed the boorish and ran

I ran

They stood

Enjoying a frock

a nod to fashion

Coat hanger dolls

Became

Unlike ventriloquist dummies

My dolls were bashful

and

mute

No idle chatter – small talk

Empty kettles ached to step from graceful statue pose

In elegant ensemble they yearned to dance.

Stop   motion   animation

beckoned

alluring but

not love at first sight

For a while a slippery costly slope

technical equipment marshalled  

Otherness

It felt the honeymoon was over

Yet my ugly children rallied their delights

and

With learning

good fortunes came to the fore

We animated illuminated danced and smiled

Much at one another

The Chair …

December 28, 2021

This was not my first attempt at an upholstered seat. With some foam left over from previous project I made a settee and while it was very lovely it was not in proportion to the dolls. They are 1:6 I think, with disproportionately long legs. The first settee was possibly 1:5 or 1:55 is useful in my films to set a scene or give comedic effect, neither is a bad thing, but a bigger/ better chair was required.  I did not have adequate foam, so the result is rather ungainly … so what’s new?  I cut the foam with a breadknife and covered with off white cotton stockinette and needed a more pleasing cover. I chose brown felt and stitched it coloured threads and is acceptable and suits my appreciation to the common objects.

Inspired by a book by Pablo Neruda called ‘Odes to common things’ and my aversion fancy pants technology and life style, I wish to celebrate the ordinary.  During lock down my familiar objects like my comfortable chair afforded me such comfort and joy. 

Not like Cindy or Barbie

December 21, 2021

When I was a child, we rarely had new bought clothes.   I was the eldest and biggest so, I did get seasonal new items from time to time when my outgrown garments were passed down to my little sisters.  Mostly our wardrobe was filled by donations from friends and family.  We enjoyed little new delights like socks and underwear when income allowed.  My mum went to great lengths and much care to repair, restyle, and make our clothes as required. She spent many hours machine and hand stitching and knitting; her singer sewing machine was a permanent feature near or on the dining table.  Socks and knitwear were darned, dresses, blouses, and skirts, and trousers were lengthened or shortened accordingly. She would unravel cardigans and jumpers to make others. I never found this practice less than wholesome until perhaps I learned that my cousins and friends at school had a different experience. 

In time I learned to make my own outfits and took delight in making some fashionable additions to my utilitarian wardrobe.

When my own family came along my mother continued to create for her beloved grandchildren. Who enjoyed to open parcels when they said, ‘smelt of Nana’ and it was true! The bundle had the sweetest perfume, the items were pulled over their heads and proudly paraded and worn daily.

It was strange and remains dear to my heart that the clothes my mother made and even those made from scratch with new yarn and fabric never had a newness! It seemed that her stitching, knitting or crochet had worn away the harshness of the industrial new. Her warm energy and love to make for a growing family was imbued in the fabric. 

It is this feeling I find when I make my ‘dolls they seem to have a warm and weathered look unlike the look of Barbie and Cindy.

‘dolls take the stage …

December 17, 2021

I have been making my coat hanger dolls for over a year and they remain little changed since. They still represent the child’s view on the world.  The six-year-old has matured but she is easily transported to the old world and particularly since the pandemic. With enriched resources and some interesting technical advances, the ‘dolls now enjoy a play life away from weather hardship and passing of time … in a wonderful theatre of magic in a space imagination. 

While my ‘dolls are called coat hanger dolls for expediency I will use the word ‘dolls. The ‘dolls are carefully made, sculpted with wire, then felted, it is a complex and lengthy task but can be done in a pleasing and orderly fashion.  Even after an industrial episode to make a dozen or so, no two are alike, even without clothes they have their own delightful character.  They are without gender and their colour has no relation to nationality. They have heads but facial features or hair, with looplike hands with no fingers and very large feet.  As they are at the mercy of gravity, they have Velcro hook soles so they can stand on the Velcro loop stage.  While having disarming characters it was not until they were animated, with the magic of stop motion that they came alive and able to inhabit a 1:6 world on a workmate stage.