Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Interview with Doll Maker

March Comes in like a Lion and Out like a Lamb!
Interview by Miriam Schulman, @schulmanArt

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SchulmanArt: When did you start making dolls?
Gwen: I've always made toys, since I was a child - I sorta had this thing about Santa Claus, I thought that was a fantastic idea, I wanted to live at the North Pole when I grew up --you know Miriam, funny that, me husband is a big, jolly bearded fellow, that makes deliveries for a living.

Do you have any formal art training? 
Gwen: I dunno what I can tell ye about school - I have an English degree from a state school, with a minor in art BUT, I don't have any sort of degree in fiber art, it's for the most part things I learned from older people who remembered - I don't even know if they have classes in this part of the world in old-timey embroidery techniques or hand-sewing. I like fleece and felt because they're easy to shape, but I sorta like to find old fabrics that people want anymore, particular cast-off clothes for the fabric collage dolls - I don't have a lot of nostalgia for the past, but I do like wondering who they belonged to, and what they were like.

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How do you get ideas for dolls?
Gwen:  I watch a lot of television - not the kind you'd think, tho, mostly news programs and documentaries and things.. what Other People are thinking about it sort of fascinating to me, snatches of conversation. People will say things that will sort of stick in my head, sometimes strange things people are talking about on facebook -- I used to check out the original Art&Artist discussion board on eBay for that, just to listen to people talk, it doesn't usually matter about what, sooner or later, if you're talking, you'll start saying something.

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Who is your customer? 
Gwen:  You know, I'm always surprised by that - they're never the people I would think. I have a hard time talking to people, but the dolls, they're great little ambassadors to the outside world, they say things I don't know how to say. Who the message reaches is pretty interesting to me, sometimes.

How do you stay focused on creating?
Gwen:  I don't know that I have any rituals, well, i have lots and lots, I'm particularly fond of Saints, but I don't have any that involve creativity - Academically I understand the question but its never been hard to make things - Its kinda hard to Stop making things and do laundry or something more practical instead.  I don't know that I have a "Structured" environment, or a schedule -- everything is usually at sixes and sevens. I don't really have much of a life outside of work, I have to say, 'competing demands' are usually ignored, pretty much -- unless they're urgent (Gwennie, they've come to  turn off the gas, or Mum, we've nothing to eat!). That's probably not good, I'm trying to make more time for a home life.

The studio space is very small, its about eight feet. It's white, mostly. I usually describe it as "my doll-house size studio deep inside the Bridgewater Triangle" I don't just make dolls, I do a lot of collage art, too, and I make assemblages, so there's a Lot of stuff here, I guess you'd say, fabrics and threads and beads and lace, sure, but also broken toys and Junque, paint, ink, paper by the pound, chain for the jewelry, glues and epoxies, tools of all sorts, my cool button maker, brushes and knives and knitting needles.

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Do you have any pets?   
Gwen: Yes, I have two turtles - people think that's not really a pet, but like an aquatic decoration or something, but it's not true, they have a lot of personality. They come to recognize you, they know me from my husband for example, and prefer he feeds them (he always overfeeds them) but they'll bang on the glass if I come by holding their food, too. I'm really fond of my turtles. The tank isn't in the studio, it's in my bedroom - I don't usually remove them from it unless I'm cleaning the tank. They have activities they enjoy, but being held isn't really one of them. I also have four children.

Gwen sells most of her hand made dolls on etsy, while you are there, check out all the other great artists like the ones featured here!