I used to be a sewer; now I’m a drawer

Flying dream (the wings are a little book)

I started creating visual art when I was in my 30s.  After treatment for major depression/mild bi-polar disorder, I became hungry for color. Depression is a common side effect of having a long term disability, but I think it runs in my family.  Fortunately, since I had a disability that included seizures, self medicating with alcohol was not an option for me.  I found other outlets.

I’d always written poetry and stories, and I was a chronic doodler.  But after actual medical treatment for depression, I felt like a veil had been lifted from my sight and I was enchanted with the color of everything.    I started embroidering, something I hadn’t done since I was teenager.  It became a wonderful introduction to the healing power of handwork.

I started exploring the vast world of fabric art and branched out a bit with art quilts and wall hangings.   One day I came home and my 10 year old daughter had made a little doll out of my fabric scraps.  I wanted to make one, too.  So I did — and a whole city of dolls and fabric sculptures popped into my imagination and out of my hands.  I was self taught — well, I read a lot of books on cloth dolls and hand sewing techniques.  I learned to crochet and knit.   I combined forms and had a great time.  My work got more and more complex.

a bird told me

During the same time, I went through a lot of life changes and moved from Memphis, TN, to Portland, OR, at age 46.  At one point, I took a job that just exhausted me and I thought I’d never get back into art and creative work.  Then, I  got married, had to quit that job, and started making dolls and writing again.

At the end of 2010, though, we had to move to a one bedroom apartment and I no longer had the room to store the stuff  for making the elaborate dolls.  I’d always wanted to hone my drawing skills, so I decided to put my creative energy into drawing, writing and working with watercolors.  Now I rarely sew, but I draw a LOT.  I think one of my problems with watercolor is that I still imagine I can just layer one color on top of another — I have an opaque imagination.  Still, I love the way watercolor works — and pencils, pens, acrylics — ahh, art offers so many possibilities.

Since I’ve not posted my fabric work on this blog yet and I have lots of new readers and followers, I thought I’d post some of my past work over the next few weeks. It’s a lot.  I worked in fabric for almost 15 years!

One of my first dolls:  Desdemona Stargazer who lives with my sister/friend in Memphis

I chose to use my dolls to express ideas about bodies in transformation.  Because my neurological disorder  makes me walk funny, I made bird women who were half bird and half human — they wore braces and had weak wings.  I made tree people, who couldn’t move but bloomed anyway.  In mythology, gods and goddesses go through all kinds of transformations, they become trees, they sprout wings, they lose one identity and shape shift into another powerful being. This imagery fit how I wanted to feel about my own body’s transformation.

Hathor, the Egyptian Goddess had her head replaced by a cow’s head — she was a goddess of humor

I also loved making characters & dolls for children of all ages:

Dude be stylin’

That’s enough for now.  I’ll post more over the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, here’s a self portrait I did about a year ago:

51 and still playing around

Remember, if your life changes, don’t give up your creative impulses.  Let them evolve — you’ll surprise yourself!

Paint Party Friday is having a Auction Blog Hop to Benefit Sandy Hook Elementary, plus they’re having their usual blog art tour, so stop by and see the creativity blooming there.

Keep doodling.

26 thoughts on “I used to be a sewer; now I’m a drawer

  1. Oh, thank you so much for sharing all that beautiful work! I'm a new reader of your blog and I really enjoyed learning more about you. ~ Peggy Lynn

  2. What wonderful work! I love them all! There really is a lot of power in all forms of creativity and imagination. We weren't given these gifts for nothing.

  3. Lovely post it really spoke to me, my art has had to change over the years because of life circumstances, it went painting, designing tapestries, doll making and then back to painting with children's illustrations added. You just have to have an outlet for the creative thing that is inside all of us. love your dolls.

  4. I so enjoyed your writings, dolls, and your self portrait. You are an inspiring and brave woman. I love what you said to never give up on our creative impulses despite life's trials. Take care!

  5. Wow.. you are one very talented Lady. Love your fabric dolls and art as well as your drawing. I use watercolor and then layer with acrylics sometimes. I mostly painted with oils until recently so watercolors are new to me. I always say that Art is heart healing. Its amazing how good it makes us feel doing something creative. HPPF

  6. Wait a minute here. Did you actually write “that's enough for now” in your blog? Talk about hungry. Every picture I looked at, I wanted to see ten more. I love the stories behind these artistic explorations and love the art. Wow, Joy! I'm so fortunate to have found your blog!

  7. WOW! This is one awesome post and truly inspiring! Loved that your never gave up and evolved and emerged out of difficult situations. Your fabric dolls are a Sensation!!!! They are too good!!!
    I have always loved watercolors but have been scared of trying them as I felt I wouldn't be able to control it's fluidity…but since the past 2 years, I have started giving it a try and now I have changed the opinion of myself…there's a long way to travel though.
    Do post your past art, would love to see more 🙂
    HPPF Friend!

  8. Your dolls are just amazing! They're all so cute with their strong and unique personalities. Also thanks for sharing your personal story. And I do think you're right. No matter how busy you get, it's so important to make time to be creative, even if that means having to let the way you unleash that creativity evolve (a.k.a. leave your comfort zone).

  9. how wonderful! Truly special! Happy PPF! 😀 Thank you for taking the time and visiting my blog and for your kind and lovely comment! Have a wonderful week!!!

  10. Wow all those wonderful and unique pieces! I really love the dolls…keep going for creativity…thats the way life goes 🙂 your quilting art is amazing too 🙂

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