Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Transgender Doll

Just in case you found this post accidentally, or opened it because the title seemed a little shocking - wait.  Don't go.  I want you to meet someone.  Please meet Dianne Nicole Joy.  She is a transgender boy-to-girl doll with a very pensive expression and a [true] story to tell.

This doll was made by me two years ago during a class with Ankie Daanen and Marlaine Verhelst, two wonderful and inspiring Dutch artists.  I usually work in fabric, but I wanted to practice something outside of my comfort zone - clay.  So off I traveled to Florida for the class.  
At the time, I had discovered that someone very close to me is transgender.  
A doll class was a much-needed escape and naturally, my feelings took shape through my art.   It has taken me two years to share, but I feel ready today.  

The doll we were making was supposed to be a harlequin holding a little clown toy.  Understandably,  my doll didn't feel like like playing.  I was in pain.  I was in a LOT of pain.  I was the first person that knew this big secret, and it was very shocking and devastating to me.   My friend loathed himself for it, and that was probably worse than the confusion of acknowledging that he was essentially born a gender that he could not always identify with.   Of course this isn't about me - it's about my dear friend.  I can't go into all the details, but suffice to say that it was absolutely tremendous at the time. 

My doll doesn't want to be a clown.  He wants to be someone else.  He wants to be a girl.  But he doesn't WANT to want to be a girl.  He is very ashamed.   He's not like all the other harlequins.

The doll sits on top of an antique calculator in my home.  I'm a tax accountant by profession and it's part of who I am.  That's why she sits there - because I am a safe person for her and she can trust me.

Instead of holding a toy, my doll holds his feminine self in his hands.  This is because Dianne Nicole Joy hides inside.  She feels pain and can't express it.   She cannot be herself.  

He has a very pensive expression.  He is wondering what to do and how to go on, and pondering other things that only two years later, I have only begun to understand.  

It is difficult for me to share this with you.  Dianne Nicole Joy doesn't follow my blog, and I hope that she doesn't know I wrote this.  It's not that I'm hiding, or doing anything wrong.  I think she is a beautiful person and I can only just begin to imagine what he is going through inside every single day.  I just need my outlet.  I need to share this with creative people like you.

'Transgender' is something that society has only began admitting in recent years.  I am not sure if I am as accepting because of society today or because someone I love is "trans."   It may very well be my own first-hand experience.  Ten years ago I would have thought it was ridiculous, and today I see how real and how serious it is.  I only know one transgender person, and so I can only talk about this one experience.   I am glad I have my art.  I believe that dolls take on the feelings of the artist, and here is living proof.

Thank you for reading, and thank you for letting me share.  Please leave a comment if you can find the time.

Happy dolling!
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Saturday, September 09, 2017

Quilting Up a Storm

This blog post is dedicated to my parents, who are hunkered down at home in Anna Maria Island, Florida, awaiting Hurricane #Irma.

I'm quilting because of them.  Read on and I'll tell you why.

My parents live on a tropical island surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay.  They have various reasons why they did not or could not get off the island, and are staying put.  First they thought Irma was moving towards the East coast, but now we see it's going west and headed straight at them.   "The traffic is too bad, the bridge is up, we have nowhere to go," etc.

 Though I've tried very hard, I realize that there's nothing I can say or do to make them evacuate or to make this go away.  If I could, I would be there with them but I can't do that either.  So all I can do is hope.

My mother is a jokester and says she's taking a sleeping pill tonight.  Rather than worrying all day I spent it doing something very meaningful that reminds me of my parents.  I pulled out an old, unfinished quilt project.

 I'm quilting up a "storm."

I first started this quilt project 11 years ago, and actually brought some of it to Florida once when visiting nine years ago.

I had written about it here on this blog back then, and a couple of really nice people made a few blocks for me.  I still have them.  I hope when I finally finish the quilt, I can let them know.

The pattern is based on a very old photo that I saw somewhere, I can't remember exactly where.  I just found it intriguing.  I also know that it was not easy figuring out how to put the pieces together to get a peacock block.  I wrote instructions down but it is still like a puzzle.  That might just be the reason this project became a "U.F.O. (UnFinished Object) for so long!
my peacock block pattern and instructions

The blocks really are interesting.

some finished blocks
Actually I was living abroad when I started this quilt.  At the time, most fabrics at my disposal were from India.  There wasn't any American cotton quilting fabric around, really, so I ordered online.  The company didn't ship internationally.  I had to have it sent to my parents, who then shipped it to me.  I don't know if I even like peacocks anymore, or the fabrics I got.  But I know that I'm going to love this quilt once it's done because the whole history of it is special.   And I really must finish it this time.

funky fabric

I am so glad I did this today.  What a wonderful, happy feeling to reconnect with something that has been set aside for so long.  It reminds me of my parents and since I couldn't convince them to leave the path of the hurricane and can't be there with them, this was a big help to me today.

Yes, life has been busy for me, and I haven't had the time I want for sewing, dollmaking, or art.  I know that will change eventually,  but this quilt is important and I don't want to wait until the coast is clear.  Maybe I will make a doll using some leftover fabric.  Hopefully it won't take another 11 years to complete!  But I am not moving this project until it's done.  It's staying of that ironing board.

just getting started
Maybe in my own way, this is me assuring myself that everything will be fine.  The unfinished quilt will get done, and Irma won't harm my parents.  Everything is going to be ok.   That is why I say that I am "quilting up a storm."

Happy Quilting!

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Something Fishy Going On

 I'm back!

And I've gone fishing!

Thanks to a little inspiration from a wonderful artist, Marlaine Verhelst.

She has created a wonderful doll called "the Elf and his Fish."  I haven't felt creative lately but I think Marlaine is just what I needed.

The fish is just the beginning.
He is made of a toilet paper roll, a styrofoam egg, and Paperclay.
His eyes are supposed to be marbles, but I had a couple of Swarovski crystals lying around and they were the perfect size.

I decided that he has to have scales so I made them by cutting a drinking straw at an angle, and pressing it into the wet clay to make a pattern.

Eventually fishy wishy will get painted.
Keep posted and I will show you my progress!

Happy fishing!

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Monday, May 30, 2016


Today is Monday -- Memorial Day -- and since I had some time off from work I took the time to make some photos of my most recent doll.  She was done some time ago but I haven't shared her yet.  Here she is!  Her name is Anaïs and she is made entirely of fabric.  
She is some sort of eclectic mix between Persian princess and victorian sass.  She loves orchids and feathers, and so do I.

Here are some "details":

Swarovski beaded bracelet

"trapunto" hair
Trapunto is a quilting technique where yarn, batting or stuffing is added inside the layers of fabric to give pronounced "stuffed" effect.  The doll's hair is sewn on and "stuffed."

Thread with a crystal on top, "growing" on the orchid

Anais was a lot of fun to make.  Happy Memorial Day and Happy Dolling!
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Sunday, July 26, 2015

She's Collared!

The bodice is making progress and it's turning out to be very intriguing.   It's a very high collar that stands up and makes a big statement!  I've been working on it for some time and I'm finally happy with the design. I feel like something really good is going to evolve from this.

It almost looks like a flower...

The collar is made up of two layers.

From the back, it looks quite regal!

Standing pretty, waiting for more.

My next step is to finish the sleeves and decide what's going over the chest area.  I want something ornamental but I don't want to detract from the "poof" of the collar.  

I'll post more photos along the way.

Happy Dolling!
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Friday, July 03, 2015

Drafting a Dress

So today I'm off from work due to the 4th of July holiday, and I'm using my "day to play" on what else?  My doll, of course!

I'm ready to design the dress bodice, which is one of the trickiest parts dollmaking for me.
I've drafted the pattern, transferred it onto paper towels and taped the pieces together to see how the bodice fits.   It's not quite there just YET, but I will cut, tape, tuck, tweak and try to get it right.

The moral of this story is:  
If you have paper towels, a felt tip marker, scissors and tape, you can drape a shape right over your doll to make a bodice.  If you don't feel comfortable designing your own, use one that you've already made or that you like a lot, and try to modify it right on your doll.  It's a pretty good method :-)  If you're good with computers, scanning and resizing things can be helpful.

The bodice is the main part of the dress.  Once it is done, the whole dress should come together really quickly.  I already have my fabric picked out!  Hopefully I'll have some more pictures to show you soon.

Happy dolling!

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Bouncing Buddha Babies

This afternoon I was walking around Chinatown in NYC and could NOT resist these little cuties.

I love Chinatown!

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Sunday, June 21, 2015

Crown Jewel A-La-Found Object

All that glitters is gold, isn't it?  Let me show you how transform a sparkly "found object"into a crown jewel.  

This "jewel" is a Swarovski Schonbeck teardrop chandelier crystal.  It's been lying around in my stash box "like forever." I always knew I would use it someday!  I don't have a crystal chandelier hanging in my dining room, but goodness gracious, this crystal needs to be displayed.
On a doll, of course!  

The hat or "crown" turned out to look more like some sort of Persian Fez.  I wasn't really planning it, but it just sort of "happened" that way (like almost everything I do with my dolls!)  But I think it's a happy accident, and so I wanted to share.

The pairing of a simple hat with a large sparkly handmade ornament is really inspiring me.  Have you ever started a project and let it go on for a long time because you can't figure out where it's headed?  That's what has been happening with this doll.  Dragging on and on...  Finally finally finally, I reached a turning point.  The jewel is is "talking" to me.  It's the starting point for the development of the entire costume.  Call me crazy (aren't we all?)  but it's almost like the doll is beginning to tell me who she wants to be now.  Because of this thing on the hat!  Sometimes it can take forever to figure these things out.  Little things can really go a long way.

If you can relate and this is making sense to you, read on!

Anyway, that's my own haphazard (but logical?) doll making process and way of thinking.  On to more practical matters:  how to take a found object and make it into an opulent cabochon?

In order to put the crystal on the "Fez" just right, I thought it would be a nice touch to encrust it with beads.  That's the trick because the beads really make it "pop,"  Here's how I did it.

The first step is to decide what fabric you want to mount it to, and choose some matching seed beads.
I used matte gold colored beads, size 10/10.  You can use whatever size seed bead you want, or a combination.

I  used some fabric left over from her "crown," to create a base.  I originally thought that I could bead right onto the hat, but that was too awkward, and it's much easier this way.  Because the fabric is thin, I ironed it onto a white stabilizer.  Even if your fabric isn't so thin, it's always better to use the stabilizer.  It will make it easier to handle, and easier to mount onto the hat.

Next you'll want to do the actual entrustment of beads around the crystal (or found object of your choice).  From this point on we will refer to your found object as "crystal" although you can use something different.

Lay the crystal down over the fabric / stabilizer.  Because it will slip around, draw an outline using a mechanical pencil.
Bead along the outline, one bead at a time.
Keep going around the perimeter of the crystal, beading another "line" on top of the beaded outline you just created.  You can do picot stitching or any type of random beading you want.  Take up 2 beads at a time, or 3, or 1 according to your whim.

Make 4 or 5 built-up lines (think of building a stone wall with beads).  Check to see that the edges reach to the top of the crystal's edges.  Sorry, I forgot to take pictures of these steps.  But I hope you get the idea :-)

Once the bead encrustment is ready, cut away the fabric/interfacing from the crystal, leaving about 1/2" allowance.  Then trim the stabilizer only down to the perimeter, so only the fabric is left for the seam allowance.  The next steps are as follows:

Thread up a needle.  Turn your work around so you are looking at the wrong side,  and baste around the seam allowance.

Pull on the thread to gather up the edges.  They will naturally fold over to the back.  Sew this excess seam allowance flat onto the stabilizer, taking stitches across the diameter of the back wherever needed.  (go back and forth with your needle and thread).

Turn it over.  The crystal has been flipped up to show how nice and neat the ornament looks.  

Attach the ornament to the hat.  I chose gel medium because it dries clear and is strong enough to hold the crystal permanently.  Liberally brush it onto the back of the ornament.

Place it down on the hat and press.  Lift the crystal to expose the fabric and use your finger or the back of your paintbrush to make sure there aren't any bumps.  Make sure the crystal sits well in the bead encrustment.

Use pins to hold it in place while drying.

Once it is dry, you can adding a little E-6000 glue around the inner edges of the beads to make sure the crystal doesn't flip-flop around.  Carefully paint the edges of the crystal with the glue, and use a blunt object to press the beads into the glue so it stays in place.

Don't put glue behind the crystal itself, where you might see through to the fabric behind.  If your found object is opaque, then this won't matter. 

I hope you will try this idea the next time you are looking for something to inspire you.  If you're like me, I'm sure you have a box full of "treasures" just waiting to be transformed into "just the thing."  I'm totally inspired and tickled pink now.  Stay tuned to see how her costume evolves!  I think she's finally on her way.

Happy Dolling!

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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Hair in the Wind

Go with the Flow!

This doll will never have a "bad hair day."  Her hair is permanently blowing freely in the wind!

Her hair is made entirely of fabric.  It's very detail-oriented and tons of fun.  This type of hairdo is like an artistic license to go 130 miles down a deserted road.  Nobody is looking, nobody minds.  And it feels amazing to create it!

She has a "part" down the middle (and a pin that I have been using here and there...)

I gave her a sort of "diva" curl- a mix of the roaring 20's and "something else!"  I guess that something else is ME.


Thus far, the hair is made up of two odd-shaped "gloves" that are haphazardly sewn onto the head.
There is no particular shape or reason to it... just a bunch of random folding and fun.

To make the "gloves, simply draw it out on the fabric, right sides together.  Sew and turn, stuff it a just a little, and sew onto the head.  You can add pipe cleaners if you like, so you can control the "movement."  Enourage folding, so it looks like wavy hair.  You will want to use lots of pins to make everything stay in place, then sew it down with small stitches.  That's it!

The result may look a little "extreme" but I have faith that this is going to be terribly fun-looking when she's all done.

I'm thinking some kind of hat with a big ostrich feather?  I have not decided yet.  I just go bravely, one step at a time.  I don't want her to look like Medusa, but I'm not afraid to let the creativity flow.  So, I'll figure out what belongs on her head and add some more "hair" around it.

Until next time,  Happy dolling!

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Saturday, May 09, 2015

Needlepoint for Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day!

Ever since I can remember, my mom made needlepoints.  These weren't your average needlepoints.  They were on the "okay this is really different" side.
I'm not saying that needlepointing is 'unplugged" or that people who do it are not like the "rest of us," but my mother's needlepoint canvas choices stun everyone who walks into the house.  Literally.

She loves nudes.
Nudes, nudes, NUDES!!

What a childhood I had!
And I'm not kidding.

After at least 45 years of needlepointing (some of her pictures are from my earliest memories), the entire house is full of bare-breasted needlepointed portraits from Picasso to Klimt to Renoir and more.  My poor dad!

So this year, I bought my mother just what she needs for mother's Day- another needlepoint.  It's not nude but I like it.  It's eccentric, like me.

Come to think of it, this looks like a great doll candidate....

I found it in this Etsy shop.

Happy Mother's Day to my mom and all the moms.  I hope you find what inspires you!
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