Entropy is defined as the measure of a system’s thermal energy or unit temperature that is unavailable for doing useful work, often interpreted as the degree of disorder or randomness in the system.
For someone like myself, this could be a pretty confusing definition. I prefer the 2nd definition:
Lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder.
You might be wondering what on earth entropy has to do with creating, and doll making specifically. In the last few years a lot has been written about “creating the life you love” or “think it and you can make it” or “be all you can be”. And let’s not forget the ever-present vision board workshops. Whole industries have been created using these simple slogans and practices and for many people these programs have literally changed their lives. And, of course, if you work the program you will gain some benefit from it even if it didn’t change your life.
So, what does this have to do with doll making and entropy?
Back in the day, before the Internet and zoom, if we wanted to up our game or just do something worthwhile for ourselves, we had to really commit to the experience by arranging our lives around attending an in-person event and having the wherewithal to pay for it too. Once the money was spent we were determined to get something out of this event/workshop/class etc. In other words, we were probably investing resources that not readily available with the hope that the workshop/class/event would lead to better opportunities for relations/income/creative expression. I would get writer’s cramp from taking so many notes, afraid I’d miss some crucial tidbit of information. I was determined to incorporate whatever I learned into my daily life and just knew I would, very soon, be at that happy place I’d envisioned for myself. Maybe a month or two would go by and I’d still be hooked into the energy from the event, but eventually it would fade and not too surprising, I’d be somewhere close to where I was before I’d committed to the event in the first place. But now I had accumulated “stuff” and needed to find room for it.
My favorite ones were those on how to organize your life and free yourself from the burden of your stuff. The weekends and the supplies of boxes and bags clearing out closets, garages, sewing rooms and books held such promise. I told myself I would be frugal, and enjoy the empty spaces that promised freedom. just to start filling the void with similar things. How many shoes do you really need if your social life is Zoom and FaceBook Live?
Because of my work and creative process, I spend a great deal of time on my computer. And like many people who do the same, I find it incredibly easy to shop online, enroll in workshops online and have everything delivered to my front door or to my email.
If you enjoy doing creative project you probably enjoy watching a variety of YouTube how-to videos. And I’d go so far as to say you checked out the links to additional resources below the video and purchased one or two items. These distractions reduce your ability to focus on the work at hand (writing this blog for instance) reducing your level of output and creating a general feeling of disorganization. This, more than likely, spills out into your living space as well. Too many projects going on at the same time. Too many ideas for something else, which of course needs material you don’t have readily at hand. And on and on it goes.
I admire those who have successfully managed to keep order and predictability as a priority in accomplishing their goals, whether it’s finally getting to that project that had been waiting in the wings for a few years or sustaining a vegan lifestyle. As part of my admiration for their discipline and dogged determination, I also must acknowledge to myself that I am not a lesser person for not incorporating the same discipline of mind and that living in my chaos I get to experience the predictable and grow from the challenge of dealing with it, whether it’s with people or computer issues, I am more aware today of my limitations and copying skills than I was only a couple of years ago.
Like all things, entropy will eventually get us all in the end.
When I first learned how to sew, everything had a seam allowance. The standard was a substantial 5/8 inch. Darts and other markings were transferred to the fabric with a little spiked wheel on a handle and transfer paper coated in colored wax. The little wheel always reminded me of a tiny pizza cutter that might perforate rather than cut through a pizza crust. It made the tedious work of transferring pattern markings more entertaining.
When I moved from making garments for myself to making stuffed animals and rag dolls, I relied on that little transfer wheel and waxed paper for more than just darts and pleat markings. I used it to transfer faces to the fabric and to outline the simple mitten hands and soles of feet and shoes. Realizing early on that this was probably not the most efficient way to transfer more complicated pattern markings to fabric and with limited resources, I hit the local libraries and thumbed through collections of craft and sewing books and magazines. This, of course, was in the days long before Internet searching and YouTube tutorials. It didn’t help that I’d skipped passed quilting and more serious garment construction – all of which would have undoubtedly been a great deal more useful than my very basic sewing foundation saving myself a lot of headaches. I was operating on what I already knew and my relative impatience to get on with things.
When I wanted to move from simple mitten hands to hands with fingers, I found it impossible to do the rudimentary marking transfers to pattern pieces that inevitably got chewed up in the sewing machine. How was I going to get around the problem of trying to sew delicate fingers keeping to a seam allowance indicated on the pattern. I was still at the stage of relying on other dollmakers’ patterns to make dolls, but was feeling frustrated by my limitations.
I came across the freezer paper approach to sewing with mixed results. For this process the pattern pieces and markings are traced onto the non-wax side of the freezer paper. The paper, wax side down, is then ironed onto the fabric, or doll skin, creating a sewing guide over the fabric. The dollmaker would sew directly on the freezer paper following the sewing lines that were drawn on it. Once the pieces were sewn together, the freezer paper was torn away leaving behind the sewn pieces ready for the next step.
The wax would start peeling away from the fabric during sewing and I didn’t like re-creating the pattern pieces all the time. I know there are doll makers and quilters who swear by this method. I’m not one of them. For most of what I do this has limited application.
Sometimes the simplest ideas come to us when we quit trying to work out a problem on our own. I was discussing my dilemma with a friend and she asked why I was even incorporating a seam allowance at all. It would be much easier to just create a template that was only the sewing line, trace it out on the fabric, sew on the line then cut it away the remaining fabric with just enough of a seam allowance to keep the stitching from pulling apart when the piece was turned right side out and stuffed. And yes, it was so much easier, and a more efficient way to sew together a doll. Depending on the doll or toy, this step could at least be used for most of the seams that didn’t rely on a seam allowance to accomplish the construction, like arms and legs and most torsos and head.
This observation also brings to mind processes that were incorporated into the basic construction method by only a few doll artists in the past, and eventually incorporated by so many others in their patterns that the origins got lost somewhere along the way. Unfortunately, for the originators of these earlier hacks to the sewing process, they rarely if ever received credit or recognition by the up and comers who incorporated these developments into their own work. Just because it’s now being presented as a clever technique in a new pattern design doesn’t necessarily make it something new or different. Just a simple rehash of what’s come before.
Today, more than ever, it is the task of any artist who wants to create something unique and separate from the crowd to come up with an ever more challenging “twist” to the same old theme. What new little technique can I share that nobody else is doing (that I’m aware of or right now anyway)? How can I make my signature doll take on a new look that will again draw my old customers to me as well as pull in just a few more? How does my product compare to similar dolls? How do I set my work apart from the multitude of others proliferating the Internet?
It’s certainly a different game from thirty or forty years ago and figuring out that using a seam allowance for everything isn’t as efficient as accessing and utilizing as many techniques and hacks as you can to get your work out there among the public is ultimately what counts if in the end selling a product is what counts.
Recently I was given an extraordinary opportunity to present my doll art in an online environment that had the effect of pulling me out of my self-imposed retirement, promoting my art and teaching classes. What, I suppose, was not all that surprising was the underwhelming response I received as a result. After all, I had bowed out of doing anything public with my dolls for years and had made myself almost invisible. My reality check was just how invisible I had become.
I was at a crossroads about what I wanted to do about this. Was I just kidding myself that I could jump back into the fray and be at the same recognition level as everyone else that had been working it for years? Well, yes.
We all believe we can come back in where we left off and nothing changes. We pretend to ourselves we still have our loyal followers; we still pack in the students and our work can still be found in many of the same venues we had been featured in before. Of course, we discover to our chagrin that just because we sat it out for a few years (quite a few in my case) the reality facing us clearly lets us know this just isn’t so.
My initial reaction to my disappointment was feeling very exposed, embarrassed and ashamed that I was unable to bring in the recognition and attention this event deserved. So much was given to me and I had failed to meet my end of the bargain. Perceptions are a funny thing. At the time these were pretty strong feelings. My monkey mind went straight to the pity party. Being disappointed when things don’t come out the way you anticipate is a real ego bruiser.
So, what was I going to do about this? Throw in the towel and give it up as a bad job? Continue beating myself up over it, swearing to never do that again and crawl back into my comfort zone? Admit to myself that what I enjoy doing is simply a delightful little hobby and leave it at that? Or, was I going to review what I had in front of me, and use it to strategize how I was going to parley this experience into something I could build on?
We all come up against many crossroads in our life and there are bound to be a few decisions along the way that didn’t turn out as anticipated but did offer what you needed and not necessarily what you wanted. You chose a career path that turned out to be less than an ideal fit but you were able to use those skills someplace else that ended up being a better fit. By sheer happenstance you connected with someone and that person has been the love of your life for ever since. Sometimes we weigh our options and choose wrong and if we didn't learn anything from it then we're likely going to chose something much like it again. Sometimes circumstances outside of us dictate what happens and we have to make adjustments and look at different options or choices. There is no right or wrong about it, just life experience and how we incorporate those experiences into future decisions.
Since I want to continue pursuing my love of doll making and enjoy sharing that experience with others through teaching, I know there will be necessary steps and time to build back what I once had. Nothing we do, if we care about it, happens overnight. This means spending more time expanding my catalog of doll patterns and e-classes, making those connections that will give my work the exposure it needs to grow and introduce others to my work. I will continue blogging about doll making and its relevance to life, the universe and everything.
I was doing some hand work the other day and realized, not for the first time, that this activity is frequently disrupted by the need to replenish the thread on the needle to continue and complete the project. We’ve all done this; cut off a new length of thread, waxed it (maybe), then go through what sometimes seems like an arduous process of threading the needle. But this simple act of threading a needle can be as thoughtful and as meditative a process as the handwork itself.
Hand sewing is being in the present. You are focused on what is going on in your hands. Watching the progress of the stitch work as it evolves all the while making adjustments as you go. This is as true for embroidery work and beading as it is for sewing on a button or hemming a pair of pants. Each project begins and continues with a threaded needle.
Each step in a project is, of course, its own meditative process. Careful consideration goes into which project grabs your attention. Feeling inspired by something you saw on social media you want to try? Maybe you’ve started a project and can only dedicate short periods of time to it and right now is perfect. Or, there’s that pile of mending you’ve been meaning to get to, and now is as good a time as any. Did you notice how focused you were, how thoughtful you were, how natural it felt to just be in the moment? If not, you probably noticed a tinge of regret when something or someone interrupted you by pulling your attention away from your point of focus. It’s so small you barely registered it happened, but it did.
For me, this process begins with that simple act of threading a needle. I let my hands do the work while my ceaselessly chattering brain follows along, eventually quieting down and finally becoming the observer. Knotting the thread and holding the fabric begins the meditative process I slip into without a notice and come out of when the last stitch is done and the thread is cut away. Setting the needle aside and examining my work I feel a shift in wakefulness and maybe for a few moments a sense of peace and quiet inside.
So much of what we doll makers/crafters do is meditative, solitary and healing. The creative process is what allows us to maintain our sanity, our sense of self and above all to be present in the moment. We go through many trials and challenges in the span of a lifetime. Sometimes we are alone and struggle in silence, while at other times, we are part of a bigger story and share in the collective experience. We get lost in all the noise and caught up in the fear. We can't seem to find our way back to center. When it feels like the world is crashing in, look for one of those projects you've been meaning to finish, or start. Darn a holy sock or two, then make sock monsters.
Handwork is all about being present and in the moment. It helps us find our center, our core. It helps us heal.
If you are an artist, you more than likely have an inventory of items that you regularly use to create your art, right? Your supplies are always at the ready when you embark on a new project. You carve out time and make space, ready to dive in, then… Oh darn! Something is missing and your project has come to a screeching halt. You’ve rummaged around your stash looking for that very special piece or an acceptable substitute. No point buying it again, if you know you have it somewhere. You had your heart set on it for this project. Not being able to put your hands on it nags at you until you unearth it from somewhere in your vast inventory or drop everything and get another one. Rather than do a work around, you decide a quick run to Michael’s or alternative crafting resource to pick up that special “thing” is needed and you’ll be back in business in no time, right?
This begs the question of just how much fabric, trimmings, beads, books, tools (including sewing machines), etc. have been purchased and hauled home or delivered in pursuit of our craft? Ask any person if they really need all that stuff in their inventory to make their art and more than likely their answer will be, “Yes, of course. Don’t you?”
And what about those quilt shows and craft fairs we’ve attended? You got caught up in the energy and excitement of the event and bought random stuff you convinced yourself would not be available for sale after the event was over. And besides, that thing or fabric or trim would be perfect for __________. It’s like bringing home a souvenir. A year later, when you see it in its bag in the back of the sewing room closet, you smile at the memories and remind yourself of that project this stuff was going to be used for. And for those times you resisted buying everything in sight, you probably said to yourself, “I should have bought _________. Who knows when I’ll ever see ________ for sale again.”
Years later, I still have stuff I have yet to actually use for anything. Still trying to convince myself that it’s important enough for me to keep just in case I remember why I thought it would be perfect for a doll I was going to make. The found object of delight goes back into the depths of wherever I hauled it out from until the next time I decide to take a field trip into the closet or garage looking for that thing I know I have, but just can’t quite remember what box or bag it’s languishing in.
Then there are the workshops. These are wonderful places to commune with fellow crafters and dollmakers interested in the same things as yourself. You learn new techniques and processes from the workshop and the other attendees. You are encouraged to purchase the “necessary” items recommended by the instructor to make your workshop experience a success. You don’t mind. It’s all part of why you took the workshop anyway, wasn't it? And, if you are a real enthusiast, you’ll buy enough of the recommended supplies to make at least a half dozen more for all your friends and family for Christmas. Of course, the reality is that you probably won’t get the original project completed by the end of the workshop let alone making more as gifts.
Some, not clued into the world of crafters and dollmakers, may see this as a type of hoarding, while others, of like mind, see your stash of fabrics, paints, beads, trinkets, found objects, yarn, books, patterns and all those bags of stuffing as necessary and very cool. The only problem is that as time passes you notice that your work space is getting smaller, due in no small part, to all those great things you’ve been hanging onto over the years. You are being crowded out by your stuff and you are trying to convince yourself and your family that you are scaling back rather than admitting you are being consumed by your stuff.
Another thing you notice is the shelf-life of some of your treasure has expired. It doesn’t matter that the package has never been opened. That clay is absolutely unusable. Those paints have all dried out and the dyes are all crusted around the inside of the container. Those custom hand-made sheets of paper are ruined with mold and not one bottle of glue is usable.
You realize, again, that you have duplicate copies of your favorite craft book(s), crafting videos and/or pattern(s). You cringe when you realize you purchased something you already own after going on one of your search-and-find expeditions. However unintentional, you now have two or three of that item, AND you are reluctant to return the newest acquisition(s). I know this to be true because what I laughingly call my sewing room is in reality an oversized warehouse for my stash and maybe there's enough room left for dollmaking.
Like a nesting bird, you’ve tucked away some real finds that are cherished and just waiting to be incorporated into that special project. For many of us, revisiting our stash of fabrics, trims, articles and books can spark new ideas which are food for an artist. Rediscovering a piece of vintage fabric, or hand-made paper can trigger the creation of some of the best pieces you’ve ever made. But somewhere between hoarding and having a well-organized supply/inventory near your work area is the key.
Oh, dear! What to do????
Like other areas in our lives, organization is actually freeing rather than restricting. You know where your stuff is and you don’t have to waste hours hunting for something you think you may have but aren’t really sure if you do or not. For us artist types, sorting and organizing our stuff by color and storing in transparent/translucent storage boxes is ideal. All your yellow fabrics go in one container, accompanying trims go in similar containers associated with that color.
Set aside a weekend once a year for going through your stash of fabrics, trims etc. If there really isn’t enough there to do anything with, throw it out. But if it’s something that has fallen out of favor set it aside to donate to a special nonprofit organization or program that might use your discards. I’ve donated to women’s prison projects and puppeteers. What programs are in your area that might be just perfect for some of your stash to find a new purpose? Libraries are my favorite place to donate craft books and videos. Most public libraries will probably not put your books out on the shelves for others to check out, but they will have them is a special place for sale to help them raise much needed revenue to keep their collection current for all their patrons.
Here’s a news flash--you actually save yourself money. Holy cow! Just the cost in time alone repurchasing something you later discover you already have should be enough to help you get your crafting/dollmaking house in order.
And what about buying just enough of what you need to complete a project. If a project calls for one fat quarter of fabric, restrict yourself to that one fat quarter. If you really believe you will make more of that project buy what you need when you get to that point and not before. Don’t buy the largest bottle or tube of something. Get the smallest size, especially in paints and glue. These items have a very short shelf life and like buying food you never eat; you’re just throwing away your money.
When you’re in a workshop, share as much as you can rather than buy your own supplies. When you are going to use a specific product or color of something only used in that workshop, buddy up with other participants and share or check if you can get a “sample” size rather than purchasing the standard size off the shelf. I love the cosmetic counters in the department stores. The sales clerk will often give you a small sample of product to use before you commit to a purchase. This is just the right amount to get a feel for the product and help you decide whether it’s right for you. This should be something you’d want to do for any workshop project. If you’re going to save anything, it might be those little containers you get from the cosmetic counter. They are the perfect size for what you’ll need for most workshop projects and especially if sharing supplies.
Just another thought about supplies for workshops. Go through your stash and pick from what you already have rather than buying everything new just for the workshop. There are few items outside what most of us have in our stash that we would have to purchase to be fully prepared to enjoy a dollmaking workshop.
If the facilitator includes using her products as part of the workshop fee, then by all means take advantage of it, you’ve paid for it.
All this to say, we dollmaking crafters love our stash. Just roaming through a collection of beads and buttons can trigger ideas. But maybe…just maybe…when we feel that urge to buy an extra half yard of fabric, or the deluxe set of stamping inks rather than the smallest sampler size, we might consider taking a breath and asking ourselves if this is something we really need right now.
Although this post isn’t specifically about doll making, I realized that I have a habit of turning down social engagements to work on some aspect of my doll making or other crafting projects in the works. I have no regrets about turning down the social engagements, however, when I've planned on spending a weekend working specifically on one of my projects and must alter my schedule, sometimes I do regret giving up my alone time to be social.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed an increase in articles focusing on the importance of social/community connections as part of overall well being and good health. The message is that being alone may be too closely identified with social isolation which is detrimental to our health and longevity.
But then I ask, what about being alone to take advantage of mindfulness, clearing space for yourself and detoxing from being around people in general, as some self-identified introverts would tell you. And what about making time to just play and be creative? Unplugging from social media, text messages and letting the creative process be all that matters in the moment is good for your peace of mind and rejuvenates the soul.
So, what is the difference between being alone and lonely or socially isolated? I found this definition as I was perusing articles on the subject, What’s the Difference Between Being Lonely and Being Alone?
According to the Macmillan Dictionary, the definition of alone is “without anyone with you.” So, it is a physical state in which you are by yourself and no one else is around.
Maybe you’re alone in your car on the way to work or alone in your office working on a project. It isn’t projected as a positive or negative, it’s just a descriptor that says you are by yourself.
Can’t argue with that. Pretty obvious when you think about it. But sometimes we pin emotional states of being onto being alone and burden it down with all sorts of negative attributes. I came across this article, Being Alone: Pros and Cons that offers a few points to consider when being alone:
As long as we know we can use our alone time in pursuit of activities that feed our soul and bring us joy, we are in that grateful place that helps us move through the rougher times. We don’t feel the pinch of loneliness so much and can be more relaxed and comfortable in our own skin when dealing with people and situations that would normally send us scurrying for the nearest exit. Whether we admit it to ourselves or not, we like our alone time and selfishly guard it against intruders who would like to impose their “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” on us. Just knowing we have a refuge away from the rat race can be the space we need to stop ourselves from diving headlong into negative self-talk and hiding from the world.
Here is additional information about creativity and isolation; Solitude is an Important Part of Being an Artist and Here's Why.
It’s no surprise that we are increasingly dependent on modern technology for almost everything in our lives; from keeping in touch with family and friends, banking, purchases including our groceries, almost every aspect of how we do business, to an entire array of technology devoted only to our health care. A time when we weren’t plugged into the Internet is becoming harder to imagine or remember. But have we become too dependent on the Internet for all that we do? And is this a good thing?
There have certainly been many studies conducted scrutinizing the subject and I’m not here to support one study over another. However, I am interested in the value of the online experience versus face-to-face interactions in areas of creative art and participating in classes or workshops, and being actively engaged in group settings. My focus here is strictly on dollmaking and other creative endeavors associated with dollmaking that can be done online or in person. There are cases to be made for the healing arts and virtual training of employees. But this is not that.
Many of us dollmakers have had the luxury of being able to take classes and workshops from our favorite artists in person, so when they offer a class online, we may find it advantageous to sign up because this, at some level, brings back some of that energy felt in the class or workshop with the teacher/artist and the sharing with the other participants. It may be in part that we are comfortable with the teaching style of a particular teacher/artist or have learned how to interpret the patterns and instructions from this dollmaker/artist and this is an opportunity to try our hand at a new project they have created. Sometimes, as I’ve discovered, taking the online and the in-person class from the same teacher/artist actually deepens the experience of not just making a doll, but experiencing the process from a different perspective. Same teacher, same project, yet a much fuller experience overall because I had the benefit of both.
However, if you’ve never taken a workshop from a doll maker you admire, an online class might be very appealing. It’s an opportunity to engage with someone you’ve admired from afar and this is as close as you’re likely to get to experiencing their process and art at an affordable price. I don’t know about you, but I’ve enjoyed the work of some very fine artists at a fraction of the price of taking their classes/workshops in person. Most have been extremely generous about answering questions, sharing shortcuts they’ve learned along the way, and with today’s technology, creating quick little videos to demonstrate a process or technique that may not have been clear in the initial online class or workshop. And unlike the in-person workshop experience, these little gems of insight can be saved and reviewed over and over. I have many techniques bookmarked on the Internet that I refer to when I’ve forgotten something I haven’t done in a while, such as how to make a magic ring. And best of all, everything you need is right there at home, including your favorite coffee mug filled with your favorite beverage. What more could you ask for?
Hands down, given the opportunity, I would much prefer an in-person experience over an online experience, even though I’ve just pointed out some great benefits to the online learning experience. For one thing, you’re hooked into the energy of the artist/teacher and the other participants right away. Not to ignore the energy generated in a group setting online, but the in-person experience is the connecting with others that re-enforces our need to be with other people. Your own excitement and expectations adds to the group experience enriching it, hopefully, for everyone.
You are bound to learn stuff not included in any of the written material shared by the teacher/artist. This has happened at every workshop/class I’ve ever taken. Even when I was a teacher it happened. Participants ask questions, others in the group share their own experiences and insight and the next thing you know you just got some great bonus stuff you hadn’t planned on. Some of the best learning moments I’ve had came from side conversations with other participants, demonstrations with alternative materials and live demonstrations of processes that may not have been so clear in the pattern instructions and would more than likely have been missed completely in an online workshop or class.
If you’re a little, or even a lot, introverted, like me, you might find more comfort in the online class/workshop experience. There’s no pressure to really participate and “keep up” with everyone else in the class. For the most part, it’s not required that you engage at all. Just download the materials and go about your business. You might be able to convince yourself that you’ll eventually get around to making that doll, but will you really? Sometimes. If what you want to do is learn how to make a doll and not connection with anyone else in the group, you are free to do so. There are no expectations. You rarely, if ever, have to show your work and whether you finish the project is of little consequence. More than likely someone in the group will ask that one question you’ve been asking in your head and it all works out just fine.
But sometimes, the comfort of isolation isn’t always a good thing. If more and more of your contacts and “friends” are only on the Internet then maybe it’s time to consider some real face-to-face connecting with people who share a common interest, like dollmaking. Set a goal for yourself to save the funds you might need to take that class and connect with people again in real time. It’s a worthwhile goal and helps us disengage from the Internet for a while and reconnect with people we’ve only been communicating with online.
I’ve met some really terrific people through dollmaking and we stay in touch through the Internet. But if I had only taken an online workshop with these same individuals I might never have known what great people they are and would have missed out on some very good times.
I love how technology has allowed artists to bring to life their creations through photography, video demonstrations and interactive media. But not all of us, me included, have the wherewithal to accomplish these feats of wonder. However, there are a few things we can do to improve the presentation of what we are sharing with our community and the world through Internet access to just about everywhere.
I wanted to highlight 2 doll makers and their different approaches to presenting their work to us, the public. When you peruse their websites and look at their products on the different social media platforms you get an idea of how different artists approach presenting their art to the world and to their customers. Each takes a totally different approach to how they make are and how they “teach” their unique designs to others. Yet each is able to bring to light what I find most important in sharing with their customers—communicating the process of the How-To; How to make a doll that can actually looks like what you wanted when you bought their pattern/booklet/kit. For dollmakers that prefer to make dolls from other artists’ patterns rather than come up with something themselves, these two artists are a nice place to start for ideas, inspiration and some good how-to’s.
One of my favorite go-to bloggers is Adelé Poe. Not only is her work lovely to look at, but she offers an incredible amount of free recourses to help the budding doll artist make it in this world of elbow to elbow competition. You want to learn something about photographing your art, she has links to classes that can help you. But you say, “I don’t even own a camera! Where do I start?” Adelé has suggestions and links to help you sort this out, or ask more informed questions about what you need for your particular project. She has delightful patterns and tutorials that are clearly illustrated and simple to follow.
An exquisite doll maker and excellent pattern designer, Arley Berryhill brings such inspiration and detail to his work you don’t think you could possibly recreate one of his pieces from a pattern and instructions. Not so! His patterns are clear, in-depth publications that are worth having and referencing for the costuming alone. Beautiful photography accompanies each doll pattern; however, the bulk of each pattern and instructions is done with clearly presented illustrations that make each step understandable without cluttering up the page.
My point here is to present two distinctly different approaches to doll making yet similar in the care each artist takes to address the needs of their respective audiences. The presentation can be fancy, high tech and full of hyperlinks, or simplicity itself with low tech, hands-on instructions and are clean and easy to follow. Neither artist assumes the customer knows the next step, and attempts to minimize any second-guessing on the part of the customer/doll maker by what the artist meant or intended with the instructions and/or illustrations.
Of course it is impossible to cover everything a doll maker might have a question about, but these two artists are examples of successfully presenting beautiful work while answering the questions and concerns of their customer base.
I love pursuing through the doll making websites like Dollmaker’s Journey, Cloth Doll Supplies, Doll Street Dreamers, Joggles and Cloth Doll Connection. And of course, ideas and inspiration a plenty can be found at sites like Pinterest and Etsy inviting us in to see more and linger a while. There are some great freebees to be had from simple patterns to tips and techniques on just about anything you can think of.
In less time than it takes to type the keywords “doll making” into a google search, a plethora of suggestions comes up. And if you’re like me, you’ve enjoyed discovering new sites, artists and some great tutorials from this process. And more times than not, you found something that caught your attention that really engaged you. Sometimes this would have lead to a purchase, which of course, was the intent after all.
More than likely it is the photographs and video samples that draw us in to “see” more of what a particular website has to offer. No matter what is being presented, we rely on the visuals and then the descriptions to inform us about the product. Yes, yes, I know. As doll makers, it's in our nature to want to touch and hold a doll; look under the skirt; really see how it was put together. But because this is the Internet, afterall, it's a 2-dimensional experience with photos and drawings. If you want to see more you have to buy the finished doll or the doll pattern.
So, what’s my point?
The product, in this case a doll pattern, may be well represented in photographs and/or drawings on the cover of the pattern. However, the doll on the cover may not necessarily be reflected in the pattern beneath the cover picture or the price you just paid for that pattern. You have no clue, in fact, what you just bought. You believe you bought a booklet of comprehensive instructions and a clearly laid out pattern to construct a doll and its accompanying accessories similar to the one represented on the cover photograph of the pattern. You expect that your skill level is more than adequate to tackle the project and feel confident in your purchase. Most of the time your expectations have been happily satisfied and the doll you make from this pattern will look similar, if not exactly, like the doll represented in the photograph. An added bonus is that today's technology allows for a variety of approaches to making your own version of the doll pattern you just bought and easy access to the seller and/or artist of that doll pattern to answer questions.
But what about those other purchases?
Unless you are a skilled doll maker, have lots of reference books at hand to assist you, or can figure out what to do without any assistance from the pattern or the instructions, you might be hard pressed to make a doll from the pattern you just purchased let alone something that comes close to what the doll in the picture looks like.
Unfortunately, there have been a few doll patterns I’ve purchased over the years that were less than adequate in pattern design and/or instructions. Even at my level of experience, I found them difficult to read, hard to follow and/or lacked all the pattern pieces necessary to complete the doll. It’s frustrating to discover after your time and expense all you have to show for your efforts are three relatively useless sheets of paper. But boy, oh boy, that's a fine looking photograph of a doll that probably wasn't made from that pattern.
So, what are our options?
There are a few things that we do to address this problem. We can do nothing and cross it off as a bad purchase. Treat it as a lesson learned and think twice about purchasing anything from that source again. Contact the artist or website where the purchase was made and find out about their refund policy. Sites like Etsy can assist with this process. Clarification on issues you have with the pattern can usually be taken care of when communicating directly with the artist. If all else fails, find some value, however small, in your purchase. Is there something that can be used in something else that will justify the purchase of the pattern and maybe even enhance some other doll project?
Satisfaction with a product, even a doll pattern, is mostly subjective. A lot depends on the skill level of the doll maker and whether the pattern lines up with those skills. In future posts I will explore, in my view, what makes a good doll pattern and share some links to sites and doll makers and other artists I find particularly useful in this area and great references.
Here are a few resources I consider top notch and should be considered by doll makers at any level:
Books that can be found on Amazon.com:
Pattie Medaris Culea books and patterns
Susanna Oroyan books and patterns
rootie studio : leslie o'leary: Pattern Shop
Welcome to Chomick+Meder, Figurative Art and Automata
Gayle Wray Dolls