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.
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….
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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.
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.