I met Barbara Willis 10 years ago when I participated in a workshop she taught, and I have followed and enjoyed her work ever since. There is nothing quite as wonderful for an art doll artist as taking a workshop with a master. Prepare yourself to be dazzled by her work!
SHARING MY STORY
I live in an old bungalow-style house in Mountain View, Northern California, 35 miles south of San Francisco. I grew up here and raised my children in the same house where I grew up. The children have long since gone and have been replaced by one lovely cat. My studio is just out my back door and down the porch steps. This is where I spend as much time as I can, designing, sewing, going through my stash of fabrics, laces, trims, and buttons.
Collecting vintage trims is a favorite pastime for me. I seize every opportunity to hit a flea market or antique shop, in hopes of finding a special treasure. In fact, acquiring the materials in places far and wide is an integral part of my creative process. Shopping for textiles is as much fun as creating the dolls. The textiles give me creative direction, and dolls beg for them. Fabrics and embellishments are central to my art, and creating a cloth doll marries the two together in a very expressive and personal way.
I might have lived in the same house all my life, quite an uncommon thing these days, but that’s not to suggest that I am a purely stay-at-home type. Sharing the doll making process and the creative approach to the craft of doll making has long been my true passion. I compare teaching as the cherry on top of the whipped cream to describe my delight in it. I have enjoyed so many wonderful opportunities to share and teach all over the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and England. Traveling to all these far-flung teaching venues provides plenty of chances to resupply my glorious stash of textile treasures as well.
I’m not content just to create the elaborately dressed and expressive dolls, and teach face-to-face workshops in this art; I have also developed patterns for many of my designs, and as I say on my website: “I hope to have you join this journey with me”.
I have also written respected books on the subject of art doll making. In Cloth Doll Artistry and Design and Costume Techniques for Flat and Fully-Sculpted Figures, I guide the reader step-by-step through basic and advanced construction techniques to create three projects. Along the way, the reader will learn how to use vintage images, perform elaborate soft-sculpting and use sophisticated costuming methods, as well as being inspired by a gallery of dolls by other well-known artists. I also collaborated with friends and fellow doll makers extraordinaire to write Cloth Doll Workshop: From the Beginning and Beyond with Doll Masters elinor peace bailey, Patti Medaris Culea and Barbara Willis. I was thrilled with the way they presented our three very diverse styles as applied to a basic doll as well as sharing design tips and techniques, and giving glimpses into our studios. This title is aimed at beginning doll makers, but has plenty to offer more experienced ones as well.
There are three main threads that tie together my enthusiasm for my work: First, cloth dolls and fiber fancies continue to be my passion. They are a creative, expressive and personal way to share my art with you. Second, I enjoy sourcing my materials, and I relish any shopping opportunities that might turn up the special types of embellishments I adore. And Third, it’s all about the people I’ve met through my work. My journey is sprinkled with precious friends who make dolls and share their inspirations along the way. I am truly blessed to be inspired to be a better creative me by all those around me.
THIS IS MY STUDIO, WHERE THE MAGIC HAPPENS
THIS IS MY BOOK
THIS IS MY ART
FLAT DOLLS WITH VINTAGE TEXTILES
VICTORIAN SLIPPER NEEDLE CASE AND SCISSOR KEEPER
SOME PICTURES FROM OUR RECENT CRAFT SHOW
PEGGY ANSTRAND’S BUTTON DISPLAY
Peggy and I both work at the Oakland Museum’s White Elephant Sale. We spend our volunteer hours in the sewing supply department. Peggy prices and displays the buttons, and through her I began to understand the lure of the button world.
Peggy studied fashion in college and later became a sales representative for several trim companies, including a button manufacturer and importer. Her husband bought her first button book: BUTTONS by Diana Epstein & Millicent Safro. Peggy said, “Oh my! It seemed those pictured buttons could only be in a museum. I never dreamed I’d see them in person”.
“The road to the button world was easy” says Peggy. She joined the National Button Society, the California State Button Society, and a local button hobby club.
There is a lot to learn about buttons. There are modern buttons, old buttons, some buttons made just for button collectors, and hand crafted buttons made in the 18th Century, which are like beautiful jewels.
Because she had always enjoyed making hand crafted items, it was easy for the buttons to take her on a path to making button jewelry, and interweaving buttons with poems, or placing appropriate picture buttons on embroidered pieces that are found at antique and second hand stores. She invites everyone to explore the world of buttons. It is very easy to get hooked!
ZANAIB NIA GREEN
THREE LADIES is made by wood burning and embellishing.
This piece is made by soaking a heavy piece of leather in water and drawing the design with a knitting needle.
Donna’s display showed her exquisite jewelry and her handmade cards, which are suitable for framing.
Suzanne is my mosaic buddy. We go to a workshop every week with master mosaic artist Shirley Herring. We are both like sponges soaking up every bit of information we can. This is Suzanne’s whimsical bird series.
The mosaic bug has really got me! I’ve been making purses for twelve years, and I believe I’ve made my last one. I’m in the process of transitioning my studio from a sewing studio to a mosaic studio. Fortunately I have a place to donate my fabrics and trims collected over many years (The Oakland Museum White Elephant Sale). I’m not sad to see everything go, I’m excited to know that I will be able to work on my mosaic work every day, and since my studio is in my home, every night as well.
As a group, we have just completed our last craft show. It’s been ten years of sharing our art with so many of you we can now call friends. It’s been fun. We will still create, because after all, we are artists. The blog will continue as a place to share our work, and the work of our guest artists.
Our readers have asked me about purchasing the art on our blog, and the answer is…usually. Occasionally, something has been sold, or is not for sale, but be sure to ask.
You can contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org