©2019 by Andrea Durnell Folk Art.

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Doll Season

Village Folk anthropomorphized animals begin as found pieces of wood that already resemble the animal.  I carve any type of wood I come across on my walks, and prefer the quiet and simplicity of hand tools rather than power tools. I want the carvings to look like they might have been whittled while passing the time along a wagon train route, or perhaps by lantern light after the day's work was done on the homestead. I want them to look like they have lived a lot and have a story to tell.

 

The era for my dolls is quite broad and general. A lot of my inspiration comes from pre-19th century art, textiles, and literature, whether satirical, written for children, or those things illustrating the habits of the day. At that time, lap pets were becoming more commonplace. Throughout history, humans have imbued their own traits and values into the actions and appearances of the animals they spent time with. A couple of artists, John Elias Ridinger (18th century) and Wilhelm von Kaulbach (19th century) were two among so very many who used animals to portray and make light of the actions of human society. Storytellers employed this method throughout history in order to focus on the moral of the tale, rather than naming a specific human, which would be far more offensive. I used to carve mostly people, but I find certain traits are quite charming in animals, but seem mundane in humans. Animals bring a smile to the people who see them, and I’m often asked about the story behind each material I used to create my characters. Perhaps the elements used in my work remind them of someone, something, or some time that they, too, want to preserve.

 

I employ as much antique and vintage material as possible. I prefer materials that are badly deteriorated or too small to be preserved whole. I am particularly fond of colorful sackcloth, woolen mill ends, and I get very excited about clothing that is threadbare and full of holes. I couldn't cut up something perfect if I tried. The materials reflect a time when nothing was thrown away and what was available for creating a doll when "making do" was at the end of its road. The clothing styles tell the doll's story, and usually hint at a profession. Most of the dolls are well read, and have something in their bag, either a poem, a book, or a snippet of newspaper, that further defines who they are. Whenever possible, I use tattered pieces of newspaper or magazines from the 19th century, because the details are as important as the larger elements.

 

With each material I use, and for every small detail I add to a doll's story, I think about how many hands and minds came together for the growing, weaving, dying, processing and creating that went into them. I’m happy to do my part to keep a bit of that collective of thought and work alive. While my author friends write stories, my chapters are these one-of-a-kind dolls. They tell not only the story of where I have been, but also reflect who I am.