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Flip Dolls are finally ready for their show space...
This week was a big week for me as we finally got to hang the flip show in the beautiful Studio 7, at the Torpedo Factory. Sheep Jones, who made flip paintings along with the flip dolls made by me and Susan Sherwin, shares this studio with Tory Cowles. I am so honored to be able to show my dolls in this space.
It took us a whole morning to hang the show. Susan's husband, Steve, a former stage set designer was hugely helpful in getting everything set up correctly. It was so wonderful to finally see all the dolls in their element and together. My biggest concern was that the largest flip doll wouldn't balance. It has to hang from a wire and balance on a wooden rod, so that when the doll is flipped from one side to the other, it will hang evenly. When the big moment came, it worked out just right. What a feeling of accomplishment and triumph. Also gratitude for all those, including my husband, Peter Marks, who helped to get me to this point!
The origin of our flip doll idea
Susan and I had talked about the idea of doing this collaboration back in January of this year. We were interested in the potential of a flip doll, to allow us to explore two opposite sides of our personalities, or alter egos. Sheep heard us talking and invited us to show the dolls in her studio. She works with a different Torpedo factory artist each month, allowing them to exhibit in the front space of her studio and most often she collaborates with them. For us, she made flip paintings.
Barbie/Anita Bryant and Miranda/Pegasus-the meaning behind Erika's flip dolls
My dolls ended up kind of complicated in theme. One side, the Barbie/Anita Bryant side, is my darker side. The side that is constrained by what women are told by society that they are "supposed" to be. Barbie, with her need to be perfect in appearance and behavior seemed the perfect representation of that constraint. And Anita Bryant is her nagging mother or the voice of society telling Barbie that nothing she does is ever quite right. Both my small and large flip dolls explore this theme. In the small doll, Anita Bryant is a smaller figure emerging out of Barbie's shoulder, as in the "bad" angel on her shoulder. In the larger doll, the Anita Bryant part is a huge head swallowing up Barbie's head.
The other side of my doll is Miranda and Pegasus, the flying horse. The idea for this side of the doll started with a concept I learned about from the Shambhala Buddhist tradition, called "wind horse." In this tradition, the wind horse is a centered place where one is calm and cannot be thrown, from the "horse" no matter what happens. In the small doll, Miranda sits on the horse, who became Pegasus, the flying white horse. And in the larger doll, she became one with the horse, wearing his head on her head.
Susan Sherwin's flip alter ego doll emerged out of her own exploration of what her alter ego might be. A gregarious an out-going person, she saw Mrs. Fezziwig as one side of her personality. Mrs. Fezziwig is a character from a Charles Dickens novel, "A Christmas Carol." This is the side of Susan who is more outwardly focused, festive, bold and loud. As she thought about her alter ego, another quieter, more introspective character emerged. This was Neko, a Japanese geisha woman who transforms into a cat.
Here's what Susan says about her doll:
In my daily life, I usually live in the middle of a continuum, in jeans and a comfortable top. Aesthetically, I’m pulled by two extremes.
One is Mrs Fezzwig in Charles Dicken’s “Christmas Carol”, a boisterous hostess at everybody's favorite party. Perfectly dressed with all the frills and perfectly correct. She is theatrical, historical, social and married.
At the other extreme, I'm Neko, the Japanese geisha that was magically transformed into a cat. Very stylish, very quiet, and intuitive. There are storied in Japan that the geisha was cursed or punished by this transformation. I think Neko changes when she chooses, to look at life from the cast’s point of view. In this world, things do not have to make sense. They need to feel right.
Neither Mrs Fezziwig nor Neko are grounded: not surprisingly, they have no feet! You can be only one or the other, they can not be mixed. But I love both.
The origin of the flip or topsy turvy doll:
The concept of "flip doll" or sometimes, "topsy turvy" doll has to do with two aspects of a personality, sometimes opposite, sometimes related. A common theme for flip dolls is "little red riding hood" and the wolf. I've also read some intriguing notes about flip dolls that were created for slave children in the American south. One theory was that because black children weren't allowed to have white dolls, their mothers would make flip dolls for their children. The black characters could be flipped so that the white doll showed on the other side when no one was looking.
A Topsy-Turvy doll is a double-ended doll, typically featuring two opposing characters. They are traditionally American cloth folk dolls, which fuse a white girl child with a black girl child at the hips. Later dolls were sometimes a white girl child with a black mammy figure. Precise facts about their origins are rare, but as late as the 1950s, "Topsy and Eva" dolls were marketed by Sears, Montgomery Ward, and The Babyland Rag company (aka Bruckner).
Flip Alter Ego Doll show at the Torpedo Factory:
The opening for our show is this Thursday, November 12 from 6-8. Visitors to the show will have a chance to make their own paper flip dolls. The location is Sheep Jones' studio at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, VA, Studio 7.
I've been making dolls for about ten years now. I believe that dolls serve as representations and reminders of the best part of ourselves. I am excited to share with you here my learnings about new methods and techniques for doll making and healing. So glad you are here!