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  • Andrea Durnell

It's a long way from the forest!

This time of year, for me, is the middle of process of creating my dolls. I have to start transforming them from the log that they were to the personalities they will become. It is not a simple matter of just putting clothes on them. Their names and expressions have to fit as well as their clothes. I have to start merging each animal's posture and habits with the human traits I think they possess. Their clothes might explain who they are or it might be their accessories or, in some cases, their names contain an explanation about them.

Right now, they are sitting shyly in my studio waiting their turn to receive a tail (or not), anticipating their undergarments (and in some cases their gender yet) and excited for their clothes which will send them along their way to finding homes during show season when I drag them around and introduce them to people hoping to find that special connection with someone.

As I attach each head and sew each limb, I am observing them. How do they hold their head and limbs and what do they seem to be saying to their neighbors? Who has a sense of humor? Who is the instigator? Who is just trying to blend in? Who has traits everyone else wants to avoid? Any small thing that stands out at this point will be considered as I move forward. I also take into account how they change at each stage of their coming-to-life. Who I thought they were is not always who they become and I have to remain open to this transformation or the character just won't be believable as an individual at the end.

My studio is packed full of what may look like chaos, but what is actually stacks of old fabrics and accessory items carefully catalogued in my mind as key pieces for someone. I have a lot of aha moments and have a lot of sticky notes to remind me. There is some method to my madness!

The dolls are brought along in development in stages so that each year's menagerie probably has its own flavor. All of them receive sawdust-stuffed bodies attached to their heads with sturdy wire. Next we have a series of "Days". Tail Day, Underpants Day, Shoe Day, Bag Day, Hat Day and Clothing which takes many days.

Of all the days, Underpants Day is my favorite. Not only does it make me chuckle, but it tells me more about each doll than any other day. I feel like if I had to see a row of humans in their undergarments, I would also learn a lot about them by how they behave in that situation! Will they be commanding, oblivious, relaxed and free, uptight, nervous, relieved, superior, humble, bold, inappropriate, accepting, nurturing of others,grateful, embarrassed, several of these things? Their demeanor will guide me on how they will ultimately be clothed and accessorized.

Follow along and see the days of their lives on facebook and watch as each doll is finished and introduced. I usually include a brief review of their creation from log to "living". At the end of each doll season I create a photo book of that year's menagerie.

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