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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Every Day Magic Links

I read a story called “The Yellow” by Samantha Hunt in the November 29th New Yorker.  It tells a tale that lies on the edge of the tragic and the fantastic.  In it, after a witnessing a miracle, a man says, ‘but I don’t believe in magic.’  A woman says, ” ‘That’s just like not believing in car accidents.  Just because you don’t want them to happen doesn’t mean they don’t.’  She clucked at him, scolding.’It’s not belief.  It’s whether or not you’re going to let magic ruin life.  People pretend the world is ordinary every day.’ She held her hips. ‘Because they have to.'”

I’m not sure you can get to their links if you don’t subscribe to the New Yorker, but try this to read the whole story.

I hope that the magic in the story leads the characters to a new understanding of life, but it’s not guaranteed.  I keep trying to ground myself in ordinary life, but magic keeps happening.  If believing in it ruins my life, I hope it’s spectacular ruins, like those of Greece and Egypt and Guatemala.

After reading the story this morning, I checked my email and there was a new post on a blog I follow called  Over The Moon,by a delightful young writer who shares her “succulent love affair with life.”  This post starts out as a suggestion for a dictionary game, then gets into a discussion on believing in your own intuition and ends with a beautiful poem by Pablo Neruda on the dictionary.

In this season of rush and commercialism, in this time of electronic games and web searches, this post is a refreshing look inward into simpler forms.  A little faith in the self, a little faith in the resilience of reference books, a desire for fun and games, a little help from an intuitive friend and a great poem added simple magic my morning.  Hope you enjoy it, too.