Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Dolls have Souls

 Chapter 1.
 Enter the dolls

In 2004, when  I first applied to do my MVPA at CSU Wagga Wagga , I put for a proposal  for my intended area of research., as I re read that paper now I cannot helped but be a little astonished at how well I did actually adhere to the original concept. It has varied a little of course because if it had not grown and matured and morphed over the years I have been working on it I would have considered the work, invalid.
I  intended in that proposal to launch an investigation into personal relationships between myself and important figures in my life to date I proposed to make a series of textile lengths that were to be complimented by highly embellished hand constructed textile boxes. I intended to create a collection of fabrics and boxes that were to contain imagery of memories and stories of associates, important and influential in my life. I wanted to extract emotional responses in my art audience. I have throughout my career in art making have noticed that works can strike different chords with different people colours, imagery, composition, that are created by the artist can mean different things to the viewer. I believe that if the artist nurtures the personal and human element in their work it encourages the viewer to embellish the artist’s original concept and apply their own experiences, memories and emotions, thus layering their own story into the concept. These audience overlays can range from analytical cognition to unconscious intuitive understanding.
I intended to use symbolism, images that represent a personal symbol for each person that I portrayed in my investigation.
As I was beginning to embark on this process of determining central figures in my life, the most central of all, passed away. My mother, thus I began a process of incorporating a grieving process and an investigation of interpersonal relationships between a mother and daughter into my art work.
Many years ago in a dark and dingy second hand store in Beauforte Street in Perth Western Australia I cam across a basket of small yellow oval shaped boxes. This basket was located in the store under a stack of chairs, piled so high it almost reached the ceiling. The boxes were small fitted snugly into the palm of my hand and were decorated with simple brush stroke designs, swirls of red and blue. Opening a box I found a set of six tiny dolls constructed from wire and wrapped with cloth threads and fabric scraps, they were minute, very simple and intricately beautiful. Contained with the dolls was a tiny scrap of paper, with charming instructions; “Before, going to bed, tell one worry to each doll, then place them beneath your pillow. Whilst you sleep, the dolls will take your worries away!"
I have since found that these dolls are the result of a Guatemalan legend, they are tiny, hand-crafted dolls  The dolls are clothed in traditional Mayan costumes and stand one half to one inch tall

Guatemalan artisans bind pieces of wood together or twist together short lengths of wire to create a frame and fashion a torso, legs, arms, and head. By winding cloth and yarn around the frame, the artisans give the doll shape. They use scraps of traditional woven fabric to make the doll costumes and wind more yarn to create the head, hair, feet and hands. Sometimes, they add a tiny woven basket or other traditional implements. Finally, they place a set of 6-8 dolls in tiny wooden boxes or cloth pouches for sale.
The indigenous people from the Highlands in Guatemala created Worry Dolls many generations ago as a coping strategy for daily troubles. According to the Mayan legend, when troubles keep a person awake, he or she tells a worry to a doll only one worry for each doll is permitted. Then the worrier places the dolls near their bed. The dolls then go out into the night and solve the trouble for the person who then sleeps peacefully through the night. When morning breaks, the person awakens without the worries that the dolls solved during the night.
These little dolls so intrigued me I bought a few sets and gave them to several members of my family. My mother adored hers and used them constantly.
When my sisters and I cleared my mothers home after her death we found a pile of envelopes in the bottom of her dressing table addressed to each of us. Inside these were some item she wished us to have on her death and a small personal message for the recipient. Mine contained my mothers much loved trouble dolls and a message written on the outside of the envelope;
 “Dear Julie-Ann I have not the time to post these, I always thought there were seven dolls, but there are only six , one for each member of our family. Maybe the 7th is the baby I aborted. Be Happy love Mum”
Thus Began my investigation into the personal life experiences and relationships my mother entrusted to my life and the dolls became my symbol for her, my family, myself and my experiences in life.
Geri Olson in her paper; “Dolls, Protection Healing Power and Play”…1988, describes that dolls in their earliest form were works of art that were used in ritual and ceremony, she states that in both art and ritual the unseen world is made visible and is acknowledged by the creator and the audience, this world is entered and experienced within the artistic expression, through all of our senses, movement, sound, emotion, shaping and embellishing an object to make it “special”
My mother made her dolls special by attributing family characteristics to each doll and asking to have individual troubles for each family member deal with through the dolls,
I then developed this idea by “reinventing “, the dolls through my drawings to fit this profile,

In the very first Charcoal I created in this series, it is not entirely evident that I redesigned the usual configuration of three male dolls to three female that is usually represented in the group of six dolls. However as there are four females and two males in our original family this is how I have depicted group drawings of the dolls In individual drawings or less than full groups I have usually depicted the dolls as female as it is the female relationships in my life I have explored the most and the mother, daughter relationship and the importance of nurturing within those relationships 

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Journey nearly ended

Its been a long time since I have posted on this blog I have finished my second doll am about to start number three. However today I drew Its been so long since I picked up a piece of charcoal and this canvas has been waiting a long time for its resolution I started it in St Helens in 2006 Wow ! four years! I always knew I wanted an eagle on it after my Dad's death in 2007 the eagle has become the symbol for my father as much as the dolls have been a story for my mother. The prolific amount of eagles in this small community have urged me closer and closer to completing this canvas, and today I just woke up and wanted to draw Mind you never again am I going to use charcoal in the downstairs foyer White ceramic tiles are not companionable with heavy charcoal especially the way I apply it. So next time I will be on the front verandah Mind you with the bay and the bush its not a bad spot to draw. Next I will tackle the box to contain the dolls I was contemplating making it some kind of paper mache bird that the dolls could reside inside very much in keeping with the African legend I found about the magic of a soul being placed in the body of a bird so it can ascend to heaven. Paper mache may be too time consuming so I am still considering it

Sunday, March 14, 2010

1st 3-d doll

I have finished the 1st of the dolls I was very happy how she went together It took me a while to know what to do with the face I did not really want a simple stitched face Yet I wanted it simple and graphic enough for a viewer to read into it as in my drawings. My drawings were simple face drawn then rubbed
into mostly the faces were purely accidental.
The stark stitching I had in the beginning was just not quite right so I cut and glued and secured with hand stitching a piece of transparent fabric. I had previously dyed and printed on this The stray lock of hair and configuration of the face was random when I viewed the finished piece I was a little put off by the line from one eye to the mouth Then it reminded me of the scars on my mothers face from car accidents and cancer removal surgeries she had had So I left it. When I make the next dolls I will embroider printed fabric into the faces. Faces emerged in my transparent hangings these were random and unintentional as well.
The photos don't quite do justice to the doll she is very tactile and pleasant to hold she has an unplanned twist to the body that works very well it echoes the rhythm of the charcoal drawings. I will make different poses for the next dolls.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The beginnings of the 3d dolls

I have begun working and this is the fronts piece for the doll I am going to make them as Mirka Mora did with simply a back and a front sewn together and stuffed I want to keep the construction as simple as possible because all the detail and work will be in the surface application. I am machine embroidering and adding bits of prints and other embroideries I have constructed in my journey so far On reviewing my artists journal once Julie Montgarrat asked what I was going to do with all the bits the little swatches and experiments I have done along the way I did not know then Now I know this is one application. I am using my lovely old treadle to embroider not only because it is by far the best free motion sewing machine I own but it also connects me to women in my past and women of the 3rd world countries that still use these machines for their wonderful creations that compliment their domestic lives It reminds me how I saw wonderful embroideries and applicate in the hills above Chang Mia in Thailand wonderful clothes being created by mothers for their daughters up coming wedding ceremonies.

How these dolls will fit in with what I already have and how I will present them is yet to be determined I have a few ideas that I will toss around then try to put some substance to along the way. I am ready to start on the back view of the doll tomorrow and hope to post a pic of the finished doll by the beginning of next week Providing this method works well I intend to make the six dolls Two Male, four female one female with blonde hair as the representation of my family.

To Begin

I have set this blog up as a way of working through my masters degree I have just this year and two units to complete One is to finish off the practical work I have been doing since I began and the other is to collate and justify it all in a theses.  I am revisiting many of the readings I have previously read and written on "Way of all Women", by J Ester Harding, Of Woman Born, by Adrienne Rich, "Joy Hester" by Janine Bourke to name a few. Joy Hester is one of the artists who have influenced my work as is Frida Karhlo and Mirka Mora I am as fascinated by these women's personal life stories as I am by their work.

I will be posting thoughts and photos on here as I progress through the year and blog about what I am currently working on. I am embroidering right now, influenced by Mirka Mora I am endeavoring to actually make a set of the dolls I previously made small air dry clay and fabrics sets only to give as gifts to my family . Now I have the urge to actually make bigger dolls I hope by embroidering them and basing them on my drawings that I create something new and not merely recreate the small Gutamalan set you can purchase So far I am happy with what I am doing I will post pictures once I make the first one up