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A doll is born …

June 23, 2021

While decluttering my wardrobe I gathered some rather bedraggled and distorted wire coat hangers; the type one gets from the dry cleaners and fit for nothing after one use.  One was decidedly human and with a little more twisting a person appeared.  Looking rather malnourished and in need of flesh or in my case some felt.  Also, somewhat like my paper dolls not yet aesthetically pleasing and not going win any beauty contest.  Let alone convince my tutor that they will make it as work of art. 

So, while I continued to develop my coat hanger people, I had to begin some decisive research.  As a rare book cataloguer and printmaker, I used books as a primary and secondary resources using keywords in the data bases and card catalogues. contents and indexes when browsing the shelves.  For contemporary or the latest information Journals was often the better option.  However, I am in lockdown the University Library is closed; the online resources are available; unfortunately, I have a motley crew of coat hanger people with not a keyword among them. 

Early in my research my coat hanger people were little more than paper dolls; while they were 3-dimensional they could barely stand; so, I needed to find a way to give purposeful balance to my wobbly ones.  With these thoughts came words like ‘sculpture’ and ‘construction’ and later was gifted a book about wire sculpture by Gerald F. Brommer; I understand he is a watercolourist but more important for me an art teacher.  It is a presentation of photographs and ideas, and a listing of working methods used by his students and other artists while making wire sculpture and other 3-dimensional construction.  He talks about the need for making 3-dimensional work; how it ‘adds another form of communication to the working art vocabulary of the student’ and goes on to say, ‘it is possible that he can portray the delicate and unbalanced qualities of a young colt better in wire than in oils.’ Later, he goes on to discuss assemblages and found items; a daring suggestion in 1960s to say that ‘found items can be an exciting experience … and become fascinating assemblages’ and not only in the domain of Pablo Picasso and Alexander Calder (Brommer, G.F. 1968) 

Encouraged by these thoughts I remember; I am a child of the ‘found’. My father a shipwright, built our houseboat home, sailing yacht and various other crafts from the spoils of salvage.  He bought and sold scrap to finance his going concerns.  Timber was found washed ashore at the water’s edge or reclaimed from other waste; nothing was overlooked as unworthy until it was.  However, it was not seen as art but as a shipwright my dad saw the beauty in the balance, elegance in the craft as much as he saw its value sailing across the Solent or weathering a stormy sea.   My mother made do and mended during the war and until she died. She took great delight in unravelling a cardigan past repair and reknitting some socks, finding the right thread or remnant from her ragbag to patch a torn frock, her darning was beyond compare, all tenderly crafted but artistically disregarded. 

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