I get a lot of questions and I'm only going to post the ones directly related to the process of creating my work. Answers to other FAQs can be seen on my website.
Question #1 Do you sell patterns?
On the one hand, this question irritates me. Doll patterns are pretty darn simple, how difficult can it be to sketch something and stitch it up? Also, why do people think they can buy a pattern and this will answer all their sewing questions?
On the other hand, I understand the desire to make something lovely of one’s own, the drive to make something with my own hands, and the fear of trying and failing. There are a lot of issues to discuss here and I’m not going to dwell too much on any one.I don’t offer patterns because I truly believe that you must try something for yourself. You may very well create something hideous, but never fear, the next attempt will be better. Having a pattern does not guarantee a good result. The pattern for my figures doesn’t change much (I use the same body and appendages for all) and is perhaps only 5% of the creative input (if that much). For me, the body is just the armature on which I will place the clothes and head that make each piece unique. I have created some pattern pieces for clothes, but each time I make a figure, the pattern has to be adjusted. In the end, my patterns are more like guidelines and I can’t sell guidelines (not with a clear conscience anyway).
Back in the old days, women everywhere made dolls for their kids using whatever materials they had on hand. I use a similar technique. I have a stash of cloth and that’s what I dig into. Because I never know what I’ll be doing from day to day, I have to be creative and use my knowledge of sewing techniques and textile properties to get me where I want to go. There is absolutely no way to write all this down for someone else to use.
Question #2 Where do you get all those great fabrics and how do you take care of them?
I use, almost exclusively, recycled (or upcycled) textiles (i.e. used clothes) for my work. I do this for a variety of reasons: a) old clothes are inexpensive; b) they are an excellent source of fine of wool, silk and linen; and c) they often have a faded, frayed 'patina' that adds realism to my work.
When examining clothing made of fine fabrics, you will notice care labels that clearly indicate 'dry clean only'. However, everything needs to be cleaned before it can be used and there is no way I'm going to take three garbage bags of wool suits and silk ties to the drycleaner. So, into the washing machine everything goes- be brave! Wools are tossed in to a hot water wash (cold rinse) with an old towel and plenty of mild soap. Silks get a cold water wash; delicate cycle optional. For wools use less water than you think you need (more abrasion) and for silks more water (less abrasion). Linens, do whatever you like. Wools and linens go into a hot dryer. Silks air dry.
My laundry philosophy is based on the fact that if something is going to disintegrate, I want to know now. Yes, sometimes things shrink or change color, but that's ok. I can still use it. And yes, the wools felt; they usually change a lot, but for the better. The end result is a collection of textiles that have wonderful texture and depth of color.
Question #3 How do you make those beetles?
I also love the beetles. They're really neat. The technique I use is a variation of the one described in Jane Nicholas' book (go to the reference page for more info) The basic idea is the same, but each step has been altered in some way to fit the needs of my work. I use scraps of brocades and other lovely things, in addition to leather, wire and glass beads. The process is almost too bizzare to describe here, so I think the best thing will be to devote a post or two to the technique (see Beetles Part 1 and Beetles Part 2).