About The Artist

Thoughts from the artist

Before fashion week, before fashion models and magazines, there was the doll. It is documented that even during the Revolutionary War wooden dolls were allowed safe passage to America because of their importance representing the fashion of the day. Even YOU TUBE has videos on the influence of 18th century fashion and it’s impact on designers’ creative process. What better way to provide a tangible example of fabric style and fashion than to use a figure or a doll? This is one way the doll was used in the 18th century. Today we give the doll importance for various reasons – rarity , the period it represents, it’s value as an antique, and its fabulous dress and accessories. Yet I hear time and again talk of how someone does not divulge that they collect dolls to anyone other than fellow collectors. The doll after all is a toy a child’s plaything. Or is it.

The doll or figure representing the human form was used by ancient peoples for ceremonial rituals for example, as in the case of the Hopi Kachina dolls (of which, by the way, beloved actor John Wayne was a huge collector). The ancient Egyptians used dolls to represent their gods and educate their people in their religious beliefs. These wonderful objects now have a respected place in museums as statues or figures with descriptions of their use… though they are not ever referred to as “dolls”. The wooden dolls of the 18th and 19th centuries, English Woodens, the so called Queen Anne dolls, the French Court dolls, Godnertahls, Penny Pegs and so many others, all command high prices from dealers, and are sought after by collectors. The original dolls are all one of a kind, often made by unknown artisans. Some are beautifully dressed in remnants of fabric, perhaps from gowns made for ladies of the day, while others are more simply dressed.

My years of study at The School Of the Art institute of Chicago (also known as SAIC – less of a mouth full) where I earned  BFA ,have given me many valuable tools – how to look at something and really see it, and how to research a subject . I strive to learn all I can about the subjects I have taken on. I think having the privilege of walking through a world renowned art museum on a daily basis naturally fuels ones drive to know more, whether about paintings or furniture or dolls, or the artists who created them.

Perhaps the most valuable to me is the knowledge of materials and mediums, past and present, how some of the oldest materials and methods are still used, and how some have evolved into safer and more durable ones that provide the same result. One of the mediums that has not changed substantively in many hundreds of years is enamels. I spent significant time in my years at SAIC studying enameling, and am fortunate to be able to create enameled eyes for my dolls,capturing that deep look and feel of the period. I’ve heard many times that looking at them makes one feel as if they’ve gone back in time, and I think the eyes are a significant factor. Whether it’s a painting, or a sculpture, an artist wants to hear that there work has evoked some emotional response or feeling.

People ask me why I distress my dolls, and use 18th century fabrics, after all, they’re new dolls, shouldn’t they look new? Quite simply, I love the age, the patina of the old finishes, the wear that gives them a feeling of life and history. As an artist I want to evoke an emotion with my work. And we have never seen one of the antique wooden dolls when it was new, so in many cases we’ve little idea what they might have looked like, or what the original artist may have been attempting to create. Further, most if not all of the original antique dolls have had so much work done – new hands and legs, eyes replaced with glass, repainting of features, new noses and ears, and quite often new gowns . The old fabrics have a different feel to work with, and often seem to more readily accept the look I’m trying to create. I think, too, that re-purposing a small remnant by using it in a way it might have been used in its day gives that fabric more honor as art in its own right, than archiving it away in a dark drawer, or worse allowing it to be discarded because it may be so small or the garment of which it’s a part so tattered. When it comes to fabric choices I use a mixture of old and new. Like any artist the fabrics and trims are my pallet. I choose what works to get the look I am after. This brings me to the dreaded misused and confusing word “reproduction”. With all the work done to restore many “original” dolls, they are truly classified as “restorations”. I want my work to be an accurate representation of the artistry of the period, but I refer to it as “in the style of 18th century” wooden dolls and furniture. They are all original, and one of a kind. I do not duplicate exiting antiques, though I continually study the styles and materials of this period Nothing is made from molds or castings, or mass produced. Each piece evolves into the finished work. With hundreds of hours in each doll, clearly I love what I do. I love the wooden dolls, I love to create them, I love their history and this period of history. The fact it is called the age of enlightenment is so fitting. I hope to enlighten people, in a small way through my dolls and furniture and the period rooms, in their value as art . My sincere hope is that artist dolls and the artists creating them will gain the place and recognition they deserve – to be viewed as art and artists in their own right.