I really wasn’t sure about this doll until she was completely finished. Every so often I’ll make something that feels too close to a self portrait and it’s always a bit unsettling. I’ve been making variations on this doll for years now. She’s been in drawings, paintings, she’s been collaged, crocheted, knitted and sewn, and every time she says something about where and who I am at the time. This is never intentional. Maybe that’s why it’s uncomfortable to work on her. I never intend to make portraits of anyone but once in a while portraits happen.
In this incarnation, she’s been made with coffee, boiled acorns and indigo dyed calico, linen threads, black silk, and her hair is made of felted Icelandic wool.
This is the second of my rabbit dolls and the first one to wear clothing! Her skirt is made from a tiny piece of silk organza that was left over from a ballerina’s tutu I made for a show at Glastonbury ages ago. It’s so fine and stiff that it creases like paper. When I first dyed her with a nettle infusion, she was so green that she looked like a little frog, but the colour faded to a much softer shade once she’d dried.
Just like the original Blue Rabbit doll, the ears were a bit of a last minute addition, she was going to stay bald, her little face is so delicate that I didn’t think she’d need anything else on her head, but on a whim, I’d decided to cut the legs off of a pair of jeans to make them into shorts and the left over denim was so pretty that it made sense to make her some little ears with it.
Oh, and the “Birthday” bit. Something about the pale blue stripes and the layers of silk reminded me of something, somewhere in the back of my mind that I can only identify as a very distant memory of a birthday party.
I’d gathered a basket of rose hips last autumn to make syrup, left them in the fridge and forgot about them. After a while I decided to make them into dye instead. Like the nettles, you just boil up the rose hips for an hour or so, leave them to steep and then use the dye directly on the fabric. The colour is a warm, soft peachy pink, I love how it looks with the nettle dye on this doll.
This was my first nettle dyed doll. The green wasn’t supposed to be so intense but it turned out to be a bit of a happy accident. I prefer working with plant dyes, firstly because there isn’t the same toxic stench, or need for rubber gloves that you have with synthetic dye, and the colour is so much softer and it seems to reflect light differently. These nettles were picked from my garden, dried then left to steep in boiling water for a few hours before dipping the doll into the dye bath.
I finished this girl last night. I’ve been carrying her around with me for a few days and now I think she’s finally done. I’m designing my dolls as I make them, rather than drawing or planning them out first. The dyes and the threads and the unexpected shapes made by the grain and the folds of the fabric make most of the design decisions for me. I’m not sure where her rabbit ears came from, they just seemed to make sense. She’s been dyed with indigo and acorns then sewn up with linen. Her ears are made from a tiny scrap of 1940s fabric that I found in an antique suitcase in Ayr in the south west of Scotland. She doesn’t have a name yet, but I’m sure she’ll tell me at some point.