Work of Heart in Progress Day Three

I made some great progress on my Work of Heart Doll today.  But first I wanted to share this link to an article about the Memphis Child Advocacy Center’s important work.

I’ve stitched and stuffed all but one leg of the doll I’m making for the Works of Heart Art Auction at the Memphis College of Art on February 12.  The last leg will be placed over a stanchion attached to the original wooden heart so the doll will stand up forever.  My husband is drilling it into place for his contribution to the project.

My favorite needle

I use a carbon steel curved needle that was given to me by a German doll maker some 10 years ago.  It’s just the right size for stitching the limbs and hair.

Silk brocade for the heart

I love both the red front and the gold back of this gorgeous butterfly print fabric.  I decided to make the dolls heart showing both.  You’ll only be able to see a little slice of the gold from the side view, but it’s a nice warm little detail.

The silk butterfly heart

I’ve made the limbs and fingers out of proportion to give the piece a gangly, tree-like appearance.  I haven’t quite decided how to do her hair, but I’ve got a bit of embroidery embellishment planned for her body, plus I’ll have some vines and leaves surrounding her.  I’m looking forward to what comes forth in the studio tomorrow.

Doll in waiting

And wait till you see her big rooty feet!

Here’s the link for the Works of Heart Auction

Work of Heart In Progress Day Two

I got all the hand stitching done for the Work of Heart Art doll.  (See preceding post for the details).  I tend to focus on the hands and head first when I start making a doll because if I’m going to have problems, that’s where they’ll be (isn’t that true of life?)

Here’s a picture of my hand stitching.  On delicate pieces like the fingers I always use a double stitch.

Neat little stitches on the front
Continuous reinforcement on the back

I spent a lot of today painting fabric leaves.  I want to use more of my own surfaces designs in my work rather than depending on the prints I can find.  These will be sewn together and embellished a bit.  I tried different thicknesses of paint and different background material to provide some variation.  And I finished the head and hands.

painted leaves, head and hands -- strange beginnings

Tomorrow I’ll work on armature, stuffing and construction.

A New Work of Heart In Progress

Each year, the Memphis Child Advocacy Center has a wonderful Valentine’s  fundraiser called “Works of Heart.”  It’s a juried show and each artist is given a wooden heart to turn into an original work of art.  It’s pretty cool because these works are made specifically for the show.  You can’t get much more unique than that.  And generally, since it’s an auction, you get to buy great art for a great price.  I love that it happens at Valentine’s Day.  It’s a great way to honor love.

The Memphis Child Advocacy Center is dear to my heart, since I grew up in a fractured family in Memphis and witnessed many of the harsh realities children face in our society.   The MCAC has helped heal many children’s hearts and minds.  They keep child safety at the forefront of Memphis political and cultural dialog.   I lived most of my life in Memphis, so while I love my home in Portland, Oregon, Memphis owns a large piece of my heart.

Here’s the MCAC mission statement:

“Helping victims become children again. That’s why we’re here.

The mission of the Memphis Child Advocacy Center is to serve children who are victims of sexual and severe physical abuse through prevention, education and intervention.

Our vision is a community where children are safe, families are strong and victims become children again.”

I love that – they do a great job.  One of the charming and insightful things they do is give each child who comes through the center a new teddy bear.  A soft, touchable gift — a toy that lets them know they are loved and valued by the community.


I’ve been fortunate enough to donate art work to this event several times.  Here are two of my past Works of Heart.

Warrior Girl

It’s been several years since I’ve been able to contribute, but this year, I’m in.  I just started this new piece.  I have this great wood pattern print fabric.  I may make the doll’s heart from this lovely silk butterfly brocade.  I have some ideas of spring and renewal being rooted in the heart.  I’ve been pondering these things during the past chaotic month of moving, holidays and other art deadlines.

I have the week-end dedicated to this piece.  I have made some plans but I’ll be letting the piece speak to me as I work on it.  It will be all hand-stitched and crafted from an original design.  I thought I’d post the beginnings and make some regular posts on its progress over the next few days.

Wooden heart, wood fabric & perhaps heart material
Rooted heart sketch

For more information on the 19th Annual Works of Heart Auction, please follow this link.  You can also explore the website for more information on the Memphis Child Advocacy Center.

And do something nice for a child this Valentine’s day!

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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