Welcome to Transformative Healing Dolls BLOG
Summer Fun: Stitched pins and tiny wall hangings
Here's (top row left and middle) another view of my mother's pin and a view of her wearing the pin. Next (top row right) is a pin entitled "I love Gully" that I made for my sister, Ingrid. She loves birds and this one is about a seagull that has been returning to the beach at Lake Ontario near our family summer house in Sackets Harbor. This bird has a backwards twisted leg and my sister has been feeding him for about five years now! Amazing that he keeps coming back!
Next (middle row left) is a dancing dragon pin inspired by a medieval image of a similar theme. This is for a friend, Chris, who loves dragons. Then you can see (middle row middle and right) a pin I made for my mother in law, Shirley, after wonderful family vacation on Mount Desert Island, Maine which she made possible with her husband Paul. I combined some of the experiences we had there, kyaking, whale watching (we didn't see whales but saw dolphins and porpoises) lobster dinners and the wonderful Mount Desert itself. It is called "Mount Desert Island Family Retreat, Summer 2018."
And in the bottom row are three images of progress on a pin I made for my daughter who is going off to McGill University in Montreal. She asked for Winnie the Pooh and a bee, so I put a small bee in an image of Pooh with Piglet. When I showed it to her first (middle image) she said " but what about the red jacket that he always wears?" I thought, "oh no! I already sewed it together, how will I do the jacket?" But I was able to do it. I embroider these pins and then turn it inside out and sew the front to the back with quilt batting in between. I had already turned it rightside out and sewn it together. But I was able to still attach a tiny piece of red felt, making it into Pooh's red jacket, with black stitches. I think she's right. He looks better with a jacket. All of these pins use a very simple stitch, back-stitch.
Note: My sister, Ingrid is a fabric designer. She makes beautiful designs that then get turned into couch covers, wall hangings, bags and more. I have a few wonderful bags with her fabric designs and some pillows.
My mentor, Barb Kobe's book is out and some of my dolls are featured in it.
My healing doll making mentor, Barb Kobe has a new book out, The Healing Doll Way: A Guided Process Creating Art Dolls for Self Discovery, Awareness and Transformation. It is available on Amazon and also on her website and is just amazing! She talks about the process of creating healing dolls, something that she teaches over a period of a year. She invites participants to make a series of five dolls, (the guardian, scapegoat, lovingkindness doll, talisman and healer.) Each doll builds on the next to create a healing journey for the participant.
Barb's method is not to give patterns and tell her students what to do, but instead to create an safe environment that fosters creativity. She includes prompts for journaling, mind-mapping and other methods to inspire and challenge those who want to use the powerful medium of doll making as a means of personal growth.
She features many of her own expressive and creative dolls in the book, and also dolls by artists who have participated in her workshops. Some of my dolls are in there too, mostly the ones I made as part of her healing doll class. I highly recommend this book if you are interested in healing dolls or even just in the healing process.
Update on the Kalili Project: Two Sources of Inspiration
This summer I've been thinking about what I want to do with the Kalili project, but I haven't done a lot of work on it. I have decided, I think, that I do want to make the whole series in fiber to complement the twelve painted triptychs that I made earlier this year. But I still haven't figured out exactly how this will look.
I have recently seen a couple examples of story-telling through fiber art that inspire me to go deeper with my own project. If you haven't seen them yet, you should check them out!
The first is Sandra Sawatsky, from Calgary, Canada and her Black/Gold Tapestry project, featured in Selvege magazine. The artist decided she wanted to make a sixty-seven meter long tapestry that celebrates the history of oil or "black gold" and that encompasses the history of the world, starting with dinosaurs. This project took her nine years to complete. She was inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry, from the 11th Century, which depicts the Norman conquest of England. Sawatsky uses three rows of images, with a central featured image and then two on-going scrolls of images at the top and bottom, similar to the Bayeux tapestry. I am enjoying reading her blog posts about the process of making her tapestry.
The other project that inspired me is a fiber artist collaboration and curated, I guess you could say, by a writer Alexander McCall Smith. It is called the Great Tapestry of Scotland. McCall Smith put out a call and many volunteer tapestry artists responded, sending individual scenes depicting various significant moments in the history of Scotland. McCall Smith was inspired by the Prestenpans Tapestry at the Dovecot Studios in Edinburgh. For the Great Tapestry of Scotland, he commissioned a writer to create a narrative to go along with the tapestry panels. I am fascinated with Scotland myself, though I have only been there twice.
I hope to get back to my Kalili project by October and will keep you posted on the progress.
Dates and Details for Two Fun Events that I will be participating in this September:
Adams Morgan Day: Here's the poster for the September 9, 12-6 event that I will be doing with Amelia Shachoy. We will be sharing a table. She draws, paints and makes prints. I will be selling small items, such as my woebies in tins and some stitched pins such as the ones I showed above, along with some new small dolls. Please let me know if you have a particular theme you would like me to do for one of the stitched pins. They are more fun to do when they are personalized!
If you are in the area, I hope to see you there. I haven't been to this street festival before but I love street festivals and am looking foward to being a part of it!
Celebration of Textiles: Above is a poster for the Celebration of Textiles that I will be participating it along with Jill Newman on September 15th from 10-5 at the Textile Museum in D.C. This looks like a lot of fun too. Jill and I will be demo-ing needle felting. She makes wonderful fanciful creatures, jewelry and some abstract pieces, all infused with her "zazzy peacock" motifs and inspiration. There will also be dancing, opportunities to try out various fiber techniques, food, guided tours of the museum and more.
I am going to show my latest piece inspired by Frida Kahlo and having to do with my father's ancestry, five generations of grandmothers, as well as some other recent pieces. I will be starting a new piece inspired by my mother's German ancestry. We will see how it goes because I have only just started the piece and usually at these demos it can be tough to get a lot done. Hopefully it will be interesting to see what I start from and the progress I make.
Hope to see you there if you are in the area on that day. I know it's going to be hard to choose because there are always a ton of intriguing fall activities in the beginning of September.
Below are studio views of my first ancestor doll, inspired by interviews with my father. I used photos of five generations of grandmothers, my father's mother on up for this doll. I will be showing this doll at the Celebration of Textiles and will be demonstrating the beginnings of a similarly inspired doll about my mother and the generations of mothers before her.
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 Kalili 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!