Sister Dolls

I haven’t posted much on my latest project because I was making a commission that was also a gift and I didn’t want the recipient to see it ahead of time.  Now the commission’s been delivered and I’m free to show my latest.

This piece was commissioned by a friend who loved my Survivor Doll:

Her best sister friend had recently lost a sister.  She wanted something that spoke to the spirit of sisterhood.  She gave me lots of time to mull over it, but I was still late delivering it.  I think, though, it came out pretty good.  Some of the delays had to do with my recent move and an incredibly busy schedule for the holidays and afterward.  Other delays were had to do with the nature of cloth doll making.

I was inspired to make a mortal and an immortal doll.


The pale doll represents the immortal sister and the spirit of sisterhood that stays with us even when we’re  isolated from our sisters.  Some of us become unable to communicate with our sisters, whether they are sisters of choice or from our family.  But I tried to represent how the longing for a close sisterly companion is a universal and constant thing.

The immortal sister has a heart made with a light fabric imprinted with a gold metallic crane, the bird that represents longevity.  That fabric is also strewn between them and the mortal sister holds a scrap of it close to her heart.  Her heart is dark with metallic gold decorations and waves.  It isn’t possible for us to be so light-hearted left here on earth.

The beads represent the energy and love that remains a constant gift from the immortal sister.  I began working with bead structures on the Survivor doll out of some need to return to something elemental.  I remember making models of molecules and things in school and it seemed visually necessary to me to show something magic and energetic and undefinable — in words — to be in the hands of those who survive.

When I imagined the dolls, I wanted the mortal’s gaze to be fixed on the magic structure in her hand. That’s where the cloth dollmaking related delays came in.  My first doll body was chewed up my sewing machine and I had to send my sewing machine to the shop. I hand sewed another.  I have used this type of fabric many times, but this particular shade seems to be a weaker weave.  I painted the face and the paint on the eyebrows merged into one big blob.  I make the heads and bodies from the same piece of fabric (it makes the neck stronger) so I had to sew another one.  This one tore as soon as I started to needle sculpt the nose.

I began to suspect there was a lot of mortal discomfort in this fabric.  I was very attached to the color scheme, so I tried once more and everything went well until I positioned the dolls.  I used a dowel for the spine armature, just as I did for the immortal doll.  She did exactly what I wanted, but the mortal one just would not let me position her head — I  may have over stuffed her.  I tried to adjust it with a few stitches and that fragile fabric threatened to give, so I left it alone.

Now I think that she’s too preoccupied to see what’s right in her hand.   The beads that flow from her hand have a little teardrop prism at the end.  The beads from the immortal doll have a heart-shaped prism at the end.

I stitched to the base two pieces of rice paper.  The one in the front says “Love is the mystery and the energy.” The one in back says, “My sister is always with me.”

Here’s a slide show of the work from start to finish.  Enjoy!

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4 thoughts on “Sister Dolls

  1. These dolls are incredible! I love their nakedness and the you are such an expert at shaping the legs. And I am really coveting the hair of the immortal doll. I related to the issues you had sewing – our relationship with our sisters can be as difficult and fragile and just as much work in real life.
    Can’t wait to see more dolls!

    1. Thanks Mary Jo. The hair is a wonderful wool that’s very soft to the touch. I’m glad you like it. My next project is for the Memphis Child Advocacy Center’s Works of Heart benefit.

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