Violetta took shape from the feet up. I made her at the same time as Constance and Fifi and decided to give her similar long pointed feet. Instead of stitching her toes, I embroidered red shoes, another one of my fixations, then let her character build up from there.
I love the story of The Red Shoes and all it’s variations (Violetta’s shoes were originally much brighter but dip dying them in red wine dulled them down to a deep blood red).
The original version of the story is a cautionary tale of the dangers of pride and vanity but I prefer the later (or possibly earlier) interpretations of it where the shoes are a metaphor for the passions, drives and longings that will tear us apart if we don’t find a way to live with them in a balanced way.
I spent almost an entire week stitching and embroidering the red silk shoes in my Stitch gallery, and it became a full on compulsion until they were finally finished.
These dolls started as a combination of fabrics rather than a clear idea of what they would end up looking like. I always wanted them to be a pair, one dyed with indigo, the other with onion and both using the pale grey Liberty print fabric and the dark grey antique kimono scraps.
I’ve got a massive hoard of Liberty scraps, I just can’t throw any of it away. The prints are so beautiful that I think it’s such a shame to not use even the tiniest wee bits of it. The same goes for kimono scraps. I’ve collected old kimonos since I was a teenager and once they inevitably fall apart after years of wear and tear, I salvage what bits I can and save them up for quilting or doll making.
I wanted these dolls to have long, skinny, floppy arms and legs and a sort of laziness about them. The fabrics are so soft and fine that the dolls flopped over naturally but I added elongated feet and ears just to exaggerate it a bit. I love the way the feet have turned out on both of them.
I’ll be adding Constace and Fifi to my new Etsy store in the next few weeks, along with other creatures and dolls. If you’d like to keep up to date you can find me on Facebook
I’ve wanted to make a faun for a while now, and this one has been in progress for about a month. Sometimes I feel that a doll or puppet takes on a life of it’s own, this one has such an intense, coquettish stare and once I’d taken her out into the garden to photograph her, she looked like she might get up and wander off on her own. I’d been drawing fauns for a while without much idea of when or how they would find their way into my work. She started off as a regular doll, but as soon as I added her ears she looked like she needed horns and hooves too.
She’s a bit of a collage of fabrics and fibres, each with it’s own backstory.
Her legs are made from silk and Norwegian alpaca fleece from this farm. The fleece is from a pure white alpaca and hasn’t been dyed or chemically treated at all. The farmer, Anne Line, knows every one of her animals by name and considers her flock as members of her family. I don’t usually use animal fibres in my work, unless they are antique, salvaged or from wonderful farms like this one.
I generally use calico for the bodies of my dolls and puppets but I like the way the silk worked for this one, the dye looks more liquid than on the calico. The silk came from an Edwardian night dress that I found in a charity shop in Edinburgh about eight years ago. It was way too long for me so I took the bottom twelve inches off and kept the silk stashed away until I decided to use it for Fauna. When I tore the fabric the silk threads were so fine and wispy that I used them as the golden hair around her horns.
Finally, her little hooves are made from Victorian metallic fabric. I have no idea what it would have been used for back in it’s day, but it was left over from a project I worked on in a vintage boutique in London. I only have a small piece of it, but it’s so heavy and parts of it have tarnished to a beautiful blueish bronze colour.
I have a feeling there will be another faun on the way, perhaps a male next time….
If you’re interested in seeing my work in progress, updates about exhibitions as well as how I make and use my vegetable and herbal dyes you can follow me on Facebook here.
I first moved to Oslo, Norway in October 2012. It was six weeks before I was due to exhibit as part of a collaboration with Scottish Artist Louise McVey and at that point I had no idea what I was going to make for the show. I’d brought suitcases full of scraps of fabrics and threads with me and decided to collage them into little towers, just like the ones outside the window of my little studio.
Glasgow, my home town, is known for it’s rows and rows of almost identical sandstone tenements, and the pastel coloured buildings of Oslo were so different. Each one seemed to have it’s own particular windows, gates and doors and it’s own colour scheme. Instead of the huge curved bay windows of Glasgow’s tenements, they had rows of tiny little squares and rectangles.
These towers ended up being the first art works I made in Norway. They were made from fabrics I’d collected, salvaged and hoarded since my college years in London, and it seemed to make sense to use them up to make my first art work of my first impressions of my new life in Norway. I don’t usually use a sewing machine to make my sculptures but I like how scruffy and scratchy the stitching looks on these, it’s a good reflection of my state of mind at the time. I was surrounded by boxes, threads, fabrics and yarns in a tiny wee room looking out at all the blue and yellow and white buildings with their tiny windows, trying to take it all in and and get my head straight, desperately missing home but hoping that my new life was going to be as lovely as I hoped it would be.
I try to keep my posts on here for new work as and when it happens, but I’m working on some new little houses and these came to mind. If you’d like to keep up with the work as it’s in progress you can find me on Facebook here.
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.