I have always enjoyed soft toy sculpture, whether it be toy animals or dolls, due to the infinite opportunities this medium affords for creativity, originality and self-expression, as well as the way that the further the project develops, the more it takes on a life of its own!
My soft toy journey started with Edward and Rosie, two bears I made for my young daughters at a workshop in Hobart.
A stint at the Steiner school introduced me to Steiner dolls, felt and wool fairies and animals and hobby horses.
When the children were older, I attended another weekend workshop in Armidale with Helen Gould, where I made a classic country rag doll, Country Sally. My 8 year old daughter had to join me on the Saturday afternoon, as her Dad was busy and the other participants and Caroline were so enamoured with each other that they made her a mini doll for her to dress and decorate on the Sunday (white-haired doll on the right). It resulted in a further Mother-and-Daughter workshop for Mothers Day, where my two daughters and I made three delightful dolls based on Helen’s pattern Petal and Flower Bud. Jen made a green doll, Caro a blue doll and mine is in the middle!
After that experience, there was no stopping them. Ten year old Jenny went on to make me another doll for my birthday (the remaining doll in the Country Sally photo) and the two girls enjoyed crafting Christmas angels on the kitchen table.In late August 2000, I treated myself with a good friend to Millenium Madness, the first Doll-O-Rama Cloth Doll Symposium at Griffith University, Mt Gravatt, in Brisbane, Queensland. It was wonderfully stimulating and creative! See if you can find me! We were given a showbag of goodies, including a cute sun badge, each one unique.
We had to take along a small brooch for a pin doll swap on registration. I replaced my Wollomombi Wock Wallaby (a play on the rock wallabies, who lived in the nearby Wollomombi Gorge, NSW) with a beaded totem doll made by well-known dollmaker Lynne Butcher (http://members.tripod.com/lynne_butcher/index.html).
There were fabulous displays, competitions, shopping bazaars with all manner of wonderful doll making paraphernalia and a huge variety of workshops. I enjoyed three totally different courses. My first workshop was a Felting Madness with Ann Maullin (http://gumnutdolliesnewcastle.blogspot.com/2009/07/ann-maullin-oriental-dance.html and http://annmaullin.blogspot.com/), who had beautiful dolls in sea colours and a lovely manner. Here is a photo of my friend and I on the right with Ann Maullin (yellow tshirt) and two other students.Geraldene Just was next with her highly creative Shellyback Bogles, mythical creatures who arrived from Scotland as stowaways in the convict ships’ ballast and went on to colonise the drains and sewers of Brisbane. Because they lived in dark places, their colours were dull and neutral, their character relying more on textures and feel.
It was a full-on fast workshop with no time for cutting threads or tidying up ends, as Geraldine was keen for us to go home with a finished sculpture, plus the requirements list had been a bit sparse, so a few of us found the whole process slightly stressful, but after being given some of the missing materials required and getting to the decorating stage, I relaxed and got lost in the wonderful world of imagination! I had taken in an old broken metal steamer, which came in very handy as a metal collar for my warrior of the drains, who cleaned old bird nests off the sewer walls with an old toothbrush.
Another concern Geraldine had was the fact that all the bogles might look the same, but she need not have worried. All took on different appearances and personas, depending on the materials used and their makers’ different personalities. I have noticed this trait time and time again when doing workshops with other participants. See how different they all are!
I enjoyed making this creature so much that I made him a bride when I returned home.
My final workshop, Amazing Annie, was with the bubbly, energetic and enthusiastic Jane Coughlan (http://clothdollpatterns.com/patterns2/id32.htm and https://dollmakersjourney.com/coughlan.html) with her humorous dolls, which shared their designer’s happiness and joy. However, I was exhausted by this stage, so never finished this doll. It certainly was a memorable experience and a great way to celebrate the first year of the new millennium!Another very happy and joyful dollmaker, who shares my love of colour, is another American dollmaker, Patti Medaris Culea (http://www.pmcdesigns.com/). My daughters and I met her at a Craft Show in Sydney in February 2002 (photo above) and I own a number of her books.
Jodie Carleton (http://vintagericrac.blogspot.com/) of Ric Rac taught me to make her toy elephants Parsley and Beet at a workshop in Ballarat (see photo below) and I also attended a weekend workshop in 2011 with Melly and Me (https://www.mellyandme.com/) and other textile artists at Peppers, Hepburn Springs, Daylesford.
I also booked in for a workshop with the highly imaginative and creative American doll artist, Akira Blount, at the Geelong Fibre Forum 2011, but unfortunately had to cancel, much to my everlasting regret, as I have since found out she died in 2013. Here is her obituary: http://www.923wnpc.com/cgi-bin/newspost/viewnews.cgi?category=1&id=1375876604.
She really created some amazing and original artworks, which you can see in her gallery: https://www.akirastudios.com. I particularly loved her work from 2001 to 2004. Below is a selection of toys I have made over the years…
I really enjoy toymaking and while I get many of my patterns online or commercially, I also own a number of books in my craft library.
So, the next three book posts will cover felt toys and animals; soft toy dolls; and finally, sewing with children.