Welcome to Transformative Healing Dolls BLOG
For this newsletter, I thought I would share some of what is going on in my studio.
Above is an image of one of the triptychs from the Kalil Project, which I talked about in my previous newsletter. This one is a pivotal scene where Kalili is turned into a tree and the only thing that can save her is if her companions, Rosetta and Fireball reach into the trunk of the tree to hold hands. Unfortunately this is extremely painful for them. All the painted panels are laid out with some details still to be added.
Below you can see some of the panels in progress, with details of some of them. There are twelve triptychs in all. Each scene represents a continuation of the journey as Kalili goes about healing the overworld with the help of her two companions.
At the bottom are two preliminary attempts to recreate the panels in fiber. Seen is the central panel of the image from above of Kalili turning into a tree. And to the right is the beginnings of a stitched central panel of Kalili turning into a dragon. I am experimenting with stitching these panels now but will also try felting them in part. I am also interested in the ancient textile art of stump work, a technique where the stitched or sewn images are stuffed from behind to create a three dimensional effect.
Ancestor Doll: An ongoing project that I just finished, an ancestor doll, representing five generations of my family. I was inspired to make this doll at the one year anniversary of my father's death on June 1st. I recently looked through photos from the five generations of his family, focusing on the women. This doll represents the four generations of women who came before my dad. The felted doll represents the matriarch, Clarissa Myrick Webb.
Save these dates:
September 9, all day-I will be sharing a booth with Jackson Art Center artist Amelia Shachoyat an outdoor market in Adams Morgan. More details to follow.
September 15, all day-Textile Museum Celebration of Fibers. I will be doing a felting demonstration together with fiber artist Jill Newman. Again more details to follow.
End of November, beginning of December-exact date-TBA, JAC Fall Open Studios!
Since it is summer, I thought I would also show you some scenes from this past couple months.
Top image is of my ancestors on the shores of Lake Ontario, the same beach where my son and step mother are sitting in the beach scenes. Peter, sailing in Annapolis Harbor. My mother and law standing at the waterfront of Kingston, Ontario, where she and I and my son visited recently. Me and Peter on the C & O Canal Trail starting from Georgetown. We have been participating in the bike patrol along that trail for the past few years. A field seen along a four mile walk in the Berkshires countryside, visiting my mom. And me and my mom on this recent visit.
Learning new materials and techniques:
Over the last month, I have started a new journey which has meant learning about new techniques and new materials. These include how to make medieval style images of clothes, landscapes, animals and more. And learning how to paint with goache. So there has been a pretty steep learning curve for me. This is a project I have been wanting to do for a long time now but haven't been able to because of the two grant projects I was working on.
I have been spending more concentrated time in my studio, and less interaction with the outside world-which has its pluses and minuses. I am so happy to be finally seeing this project come into reality. At the same time, I do miss spending time with people doing things such as the Flip Doll Project.
The Kalili Project
Many years ago, even before I learned to felt, I created a series of dolls and then wrote a novel about the story of these dolls, called Kalili's Journey. I had been wanting to illustrate this story for a long time but now, with this hiatus between big projects I have some open ended time to work on it.
I will share with you some of the first panels. Eventually there will be twelve. Each is a triptych with a central scene in the middle and two supporting scenes on either side. Then my next plan is to figure out a way to translate these panels into fiber, either stitched or felted or some kind of combination of the two. But first the twelve painted panels.
Here are some images from what I have so far. I have also been posting on Instagram as part of the 100 day project #100dayproject on Instagram if you want to go look it up-not too late to join!) as a way to inspire myself. The idea is to post each day an image of a 100 day project that you are working on. This is going to take more than 100 days but it is a start.
Before I even started making these panels, I spent a couple weeks painting directly from medieval images that I found on Pinterest, a great resource. Below are some examples of these first efforts. There are so many things I love about these medieval illuminated manuscripts.
I love the use of gold, the idiosyncratic ways that people and animals are depicted, not to mention the very creative sense of perspective. This has all inspired me in my art for a long time. I was interested in looking at the way each image is framed and from looking at these images, I decided that each of the twelve triptychs of my story would have a frame that matches the theme of that part of the story.
Good news about the Jackson Art Center-we have a new lease!
I also want to share the good news about the Jackson Art Center where I have a studio and have been spending most of my time this year. I don't know if you remember that we have been trying to get our lease extended. Back last summer I went with several other JAC artists to testify on behalf of the center. Well, we have heard that we are getting a new lease for 20 years! It does involve a significant rent increase with annual increases but it is a lot less that we had originally feared. Up until recently I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to stay there but now it looks like I am going to be able to.
Spring 2018 Open Studios
To celebrate this lease extension and also my new project, I invite you to our twice annual Open Studios at the Jackson Art Center. This year the Open Studios are Sunday, May 6th from 12-5. Hope to see you there!
PS: The image on the post card above is a detail of an image by JAC artist and friend, Sherry Kasky.
Just completed a "Crow Spirit" doll in Honor of Jackson Art Center artist LISA NEHER
My first experiences of Lisa Neher
I've been at the Jackson Art Center for almost three years now. Two years ago I moved up to the second floor, from a basement space in the bottom of the turret, to studio 15A. Almost at once I became aware of, Lisa Neher, across the hall in studio 18B, creating her large and exuberant paintings. Her presence was larger than life as was her involvement in the running of the Jackson Art Center. It was always wonderful to know that she was there across the hall from me. Here's Lisa's own experience of painting at the JAC: "Studio 18B is located in the second floor turret room of the old Jackson School. I am there every day during the week, and some weekends. When you're self-employed, you are never off duty. Good thing I love what I do."
Last December, Lisa passed away and in the beginning of January, her family held an informal gathering in memory of her. One of her cousins arranged a series of images of Lisa's paintings into a slide presentation and various people, family and friends, spoke about their memories of her. And at the end, her husband Roger offered some of her paintings to those who had gathered in her memory. I chose the crow painting that you see above.
Lisa and Crows
From talking to various family members and others that knew her, I learned that she had had a fascination with crows. She fed them whenever they came near her house in Falls Church, Virginia. And thus, the crows started to follow her when she went on walks beyond her property. They loved her and she clearly loved them and depicted them in several paintings. I was grateful to be able to have one of these paintings to have in my studio in memory of her.
"Crow Spirit" doll
In gratitude for this gift and also in honor of Lisa's memory, I decided to make a crow spirit doll, inspired by the painting I had been given. I wanted it to be playful and also wanted it to suggest the spiritual connection that Lisa had with crows. I am giving this doll to Lisa's husband.
Sometimes in my work I use animals to represent qualities that I want to embody or that I want my dolls to represent. I looked up the symbolism of crows and found that they are rich in symbolic meaning. Crows are seen as intelligent, far seeing and intuitive. Crow totems have been used by shamanic healers as at the boundary between life and death and are sometimes seen as messagers from beyond. And they are also symbols of transformation. There is also something humourous about crows-they can be playful and appear in Native American stories as tricksters and practical jokers.
In the doll that I made, I gave her wide wings/arms that can hang at her side or can be attached to the side of the head, as if upward about to launch into flight. The two crows stitched on her belly were inspired by the painting of crows that I was given. The red heart symbolizes Lisa's love of crows. The doll has two heads: a woman's head with a tiny mirror attached to her forehead, symbolizing her ability to see intuitively and into the future. The second crow head above the woman's head has a bright and playful expression. The spirals on her legs symbolize magic and universality.
To see more of Lisa's work and read about her, check out her page at the Jackson Art Center.
Other explorations: Inside out Flip Dolls
While I was working on the Revisioning the Flip Doll project over the past two years, I encountered something I hadn't seen before, the "inside out" flip doll. These were dolls that actually fit one inside the other, almost like nesting dolls, instead of being connected at the waist, separated by a skirt. One of the artists I interviewed for my project, Jihee Kang, made playful inside out flip dolls on the theme of "goldfish/sushi" or "womb." I also found a wonderful book, Flip Dolls and Other Toys that Zip, Stack, Hide, Grab & Go by Karen Wilson.
I especially loved her Saint George and the Dragon inside out flip doll and determined that once I was done with the grant project, I was going to make this doll and also try out some of the other ones. Above are the two versions of St. George and the Dragon that I made. It was really fun to do. I plan to also try her superhero inside out flip, but make one of my own design. I highly recommend the book if you like playful things that tweak your imagination.
I wanted also to share an article about the Flip Doll Project with quotes from interviews with some of the N. Street artists, see below.
Right now I am talking to some of the artists about an on-going connection, where I provide them with materials to work with on their own and then meet with them once a month. I want also to explore ways of helping them to sell their dolls. This hasn't all started yet but is in the works.
Save the Date: SUNDAY, MAY 6, 2018
I've been making dolls for about five years now. I believe that dolls serve as representations and reminders of the best part of ourselves. I am exited to share with you here my learnings about new methods and techniques for doll making and healing. So glad you are here!