My love of art dolls and desire to create art dolls started in 2002 when I took a workshop with Laura Balombini. I met Laura earlier in the year at the Paradise City Art Festival where she was an exhibitor. I was intrigued with her dolls and sculpture. As we talked about polymer clay she told me about a workshop she was offering later in the year at her studio in Maine. I signed up that night when I got home.
I found myself getting excited as the workshop drew closer. This was my first three day, away from home workshop. And it was wonderful; a small workshop (5 students plus Laura) with individual and group instruction. What I enjoyed most about the workshop was Laura’s approach. She provided general tips and techniques and then encouraged us to follow our own voice in creating our dolls.
I made two sheets of clay for the body; a skinner blend of purple and gold clay and a multi-color blend of red, fuschia, ecru, orange, yellow, and green clays. When the two sheets were presented side-by-side the multi-colored blend won out. With the bodies curing in the oven, we started to work on the doll heads. While others in the class created heads that had human characteristics, I decided to make a cat head complete with whiskers. Instead of hands, my doll was given paws. By the end of the workshop Elio had been born.
Now I’m not sure what caused me to make that crazy color blend. Those weren’t “my colors.” There must’ve been something in the freedom of the class that made me want to experiment with new colors. And it is possible that the colors prompted me to make a cat head instead of a human head. (I’m also a cat-lover and owned by two cats so perhaps they sent me a subliminal message.) But the point is I allowed myself the freedom to follow my own voice, to let the piece take me on an adventure instead of me trying to control it. Letting go in this way is not an easy task. It can be scary. It can be exhilirating. And it is something that I still battle. Remember, I made my first art doll, Elio, in July, 2002. I didn’t return to art dolls until this year.
Elio was given his name sometime after the workshop. I can’t remember how it came about. (Funny how that happens in my art work; things “just happen” and sometimes I find the meaning later.) He has adorned my studio all this time, reminding me of how much fun it is to make art dolls. Thank you, Elio, for being my original inspiration. Thank you for bringing me back to an art form that I love. And thank you to Laura for encouraging your students to follow their voice.