Now read the continuation of the interview with IGMA Fellow doll maker James Carrington.
Pictures in the end (this page).
I've been asked to do it many, many years ago by a porcelain doll-maker in '/24th. I'm using paired molds in 1/24th because porcelain shrinks. So, it's slightly larger.
I thought I couldn't do it, but sculpting that, which is much more suggesting sculpture, I found fascinating.
We have in our scale doll making the depth of a shadow, the grooves around the nose, are very shallow. A little darker color around or in that will really bring out the fact that there is a crease in that. Because in the human head you can see that line, but in a tiny doll, it's harder. So, use a tool right, paint and just tint that and it brings a roundness to the face.
I was convinced that because I have large hands I couldn't dress that small… Recently I have been 'coerced', led, into thinking that this might be a good idea. I spent weeks telling myself that "I can't do it". Until I thought: "try a simple one first". A medieval costume is much more simple. And I shocked myself when I found out that it actually worked!
The only trouble was: within 2 days I decided that I must experiment with a Victorian dress. I could have taken the Victorian period of the crinolines, the simple gathered skirt, but I'm not like that…
I have tried a draped front and a gathered bustle with a foundation and actually, hours later, I was so shocked! Not only did it look better than I thought I could ever do, I found it delightful to do!
It means slightly different techniques, a lot less sewing, because this bulks, and a lot more careful, careful gluing.
DHB: It's a big challenge, isn't it?
Yes, it is scale again… I'm a textile expert, I have dealt with textiles since childhood and somebody reminded me today that I have over 60 years experience… It's just that when I see something new, I get frightened, just like the newest person. I feel like I've gone back…
DHB: And you have to be careful about scale when it comes to fabric…
Yes! And this one of the things I love about teaching, which I'm passionate about. I watch people coming, thinking that they are going to be the class 'idiot', that we will laugh at them, and it's those that have those little 'triumphs', that thrill me more than anything.
And I have never finished a class without learning something new… Usually from somebody who's done it for the first time, and I can create 'habits' that perhaps I don't need any longer, but it's what I do, and I can't change… They come up with questions that make you think! And you think 'I must break old habits'
DHB: That's actually an encouragement for us "newbies"!
first published on 03/17/2012
Yes! Regularly… I would want to make a very aristocratic lady and she has a life of her own… She will always want to be a hooker, a 'torch figure'. And I have tried to 'fight' that doll. I usually end up ripping the elegant rig garbs and putting a red rig garb on it and I'm so thrilled that it has been so obvious.
When I'm teaching I always say: "bring in good ideas, because that will always start you off, but if the doll 'wants' to do something else, don't fight it. Let it. Because 'she' or 'he' is stronger than you are". It's happened in class, when people get so frustrated…
The first time I taught, at a big school, a lady wanted to do a particular character holding a tankard of ale, and she couldn't do it. It was for her daughter, who had bought her the course, and she wanted to give it as a present. She got very frustrated and she dropped the doll once, somebody saw it from another angle and said "she's a torch singer!" This time we gave her the red wig, made a microphone, found some leopard skin fabric; we dressed her and it was the most wonderful doll!
Sometimes putting it in front of a mirror, when you are not sure, looking at in the mirror, or a photograph, just take a quick photograph, it will show you what it is, what you really want to do. But relax! The beautiful lady you want to do won't emerge until she's ready. The other one is ready now.
Sometimes I fight it, and now I know better. We can put it to one side in a gentle place and say "I don't know what story you're telling." Start another one…Keep it close. The danger is that you clear it away and then you have to take everything out and it takes up too much time, then it's too late to work on it… it discourages you.
I'm lucky. I live on my own. I create chaos everywhere and there's nobody to complain. If someone is looking after a husband or family, they take up a lot of time. You must insist that there must be a space in the day to do your dolls.
DHB: Has it ever happened that you have a certain doll that you picture in your mind and you couldn't translate into the actual real doll?
Yes. And then again, I look at some old photographs and I think that I have lost my talent. Because distance from that doll makes them look better than I remember them.
I have a very dear friend who talks about the 10-minute-doll. She's been a very long established doll maker called Cat Wingler. We talked about that for 10 minutes a doll is so beautiful, and then you review it again and you see something about it that is so obvious, nobody else sees it, but we do. She says "if we sold that doll and we thought it was beautiful forever, we would probably never make another one". Because we're trying to find the ways to make the 'perfect doll'. It's a quest!
DHB: Is it a good idea to take pictures of your early work when you're learning something new? Then when you look back you can see your development…
Look at your culture. Look at your roots and learn to treasure them! Look at your history, it's magical; and it will be magical to 'strangers' to your history.
Don't be shy when you present your work. Don't apologize for the mistakes. They can't see them.
I sent a doll to a lady customer and I told her "It's not quite what I wanted to do" and she 'screamed' at me and said "Jamie, we can't see inside your head! We look at your work and we love what you've done. We don't think that there's another way of doing it" And I love Sally for saying that to me! I share it with newer people and say: have confidence in it. Learn to be young and a child again. The damage is, as grown-ups we think we have to do things 'correctly' and 'properly'. You might be missing new and magical things.
Give yourself freedom! Have a lot of fun!
And keep breathing while you're sculpting. We can tense our bodies. It's about learning muscle memory.
Keep it going and don't allow too much time in between. Just do a little bit each day. If you do too much, you'll start doubting yourself, you'll lose confidence. You start saying "I can't do it perfectly, therefore I won't start…" We all do it! Adults get taught very dangerous habits.
Try, by hook or by crook, to get to one of the big shows, and see these completely mad, old, happy, enthusiastic, crazy people, and realize you have joined the best work in face-lift in the world! You can't actually tell anybody just how old someone was, because they are always on a new thing, a new experiment, they find a new glue, or a new brush, and that's what keep people young!
I try to teach my students to behave like a Turkish rug-maker. They put a mistake into their work. Only the gods do perfection. If you try and be perfect, you'll offend the gods.
DHB: Is there anything you’d like to say to Brazilian artisans?
And don't seek approval from others, give yourself approval. This is the most fun thing I have ever done! There isn't enough time in the world to complete all that I want to do.
DHB: And you'll fail! (laughs..)
One day… Because I love the Latin temperament! I have an English brain, but an Italian heart. I love the sounds. I love the faces in Brazil.
It's one thing I'm learning, because now I'm teaching in Holland and Scandinavia, and I'm learning yet again, that the Danish face has a little round cheek, that the Norwegian face has tiny little nose, the Dutch has a different look shape... it's so inspiring! I'm learning something new. You never ever stop learning.
There's a 'roundness' to the Brazilian face, a 'fullness', there's this passion… the sounds are 'round', and it's also incredibly romantic. You believe in the dreams.
I love Brazil.
DHB: I wish you can come to Brazil someday to teach…
All pictures are courtesy of James Carrington