Why this particular craft? I love how dollmaking can incorporate so many aspects of ‘making’ - hand sewing, machine sewing, embroidery, dressmaking, millinery and painting, for instance. But beyond that, the end result is so much more than a static piece of art. If it’s a doll for a child, obviously the rewards are huge. But grown-up collectors get to hold my art and interact with it, too. It’s very fulfilling.
Have you tried plenty of others? I have been crafting, stitching, drawing or painting since I was young. I love teaching myself new techniques. And thank goodness for the internet; it’s so much easier now than it used to be. Even now that I concentrate more on sewing and stitching, I frequently switch crafts and paint or make jewellery or any number of creative endeavours.
Who taught you your crafting skills? I grew up watching my mother sew. In my memory, I can still hear the sound of her sewing machine late at night, making dresses for me to wear. My mother always lovingly praised any and all of my artistic efforts. My father complimented my work, too, but he tempered it with loving, yet honest constructive criticism. Those two approaches (unconditional praise and gentle criticism) gave me the confidence to know that not only could I successfully create whatever I wanted, but also that I needed to look critically at it to get the best possible result.
From where do you draw inspiration? Colour, for me, is the catalyst. A beautiful, vibrant colour, or the way one colour blends into another can energise me and get me thinking, “Oh! What can I create with those colours?” I am also inspired by art and illustration from the Golden Age of Illustration (the early 1900s), as well as historical fashion. I love the 1920s and have a collection of 1920s children’s books, which are a constant source of ideas and inspiration.
Where do you like to work? I am fortunate enough to have a room devoted to my art. On one large wall, I have an inspiration board overflowing with cards, vintage milliner’s flowers, photos, interesting business cards, drawings from my daughter ... all things that are pretty and make me happy. Tucked in one corner of my room, my main work desk is the same small drafting table I used in college. I would love to say it’s always neat and tidy, but the reality is I ALWAYS have piles of fabric, stuffing, sketches, bits of embroidery thread or works in progress piled up next to it.
What is your advice for beginners? Whatever makes your heart sing, do it! Whether you make a business out of it or just do it on weekends or whenever the mood hits, don’t let anything stop you from doing what fulfils you. Plus, figure out how you learn best - there is no ‘wrong way’ to acquire a new skill. If you like to teach yourself how to do something, that’s great! If you learn best by taking lessons, do that. Whether you create by just jumping in with only the materials you have at hand, or you painstakingly research techniques and collect materials before you ever start the actual project, let your heart guide you. Making art is good for the soul!