Many people think dolls are for children, but I think of them as a unique and true art form. Dolls allow me to explore endless creative possibilities because they combine many different mediums and skills at once. And they make me happy. What could be better than that?
Dolls help me to relax. I live in a high-stress environment, ride a packed subway, and crave creative “me” time – that doesn’t require sitting behind a computer, touching my phone, or anything involving technology at all. Dolls are friendly and real. They give me a warm, happy feeling.
Dollmaking is unique. Most people usually acknowledge painting and sculpture as art, but nobody expects to see a grown professional woman making dolls. It’s always amazing to see people’s surprised and gleeful reactions to my dolls. Maybe that’s why I love it so much; I’m not like everyone else.
I just like making dolls! I discovered dollmaking many years ago and never lost interest in it. It’s as simple as that. I love painting, sculpting, drawing, and sewing – and I can do all those things with dolls. I also relish the feeling when they “come to life.” I keep my dolls around the house and I love to look at them.
Being a doll artist is like having a special secret.
But it’s more popular than you might think. Over the years, I’ve gotten to know and admire quite a few doll artists from all around the world. I asked them a simple question: “Why do you make dolls?”
“I make dolls because I can use nearly all the crafts in doing so: sewing, knitting, crochet, painting, needle felting, etc. I have a very busy family and love my hobby. It gives me time to relax and think, and solve everyone’s problems!”
“People who do things can inspire the rest of us to go and do amazing things too. Isn’t that what we’re all searching for – the inspiration to go and do something amazing with the time, talent, and resources we’ve each been gifted?!”
“I don’t know why I make dolls. They satisfy a desire to create and challenge me to learn something new about myself… they tell a story.”
"I liked dolls as a child – but as an adult, I love them! They represent the good in all of us and display the diverse beauty of humankind."
"I make dolls to enjoy my childish way to understand the world and to touch a subconscious dimension, like a kind of therapy."
"Making cloth dolls is a part of my textile practice. I love to incorporate various fabric treatments – dye, print, stitch – into a doll. I am always incredulous as to what can be achieved in one small form."
"When I was a little girl, I saw one of my mum’s friends make beautiful dolls. Deep down, even at that young age, they spoke to my creative spirit... and I vowed to myself that one day I would make dolls like hers. Although it took a long time to embark on the journey, I finally let loose that spirit in the form of dolls. Dolls satisfy my inner self just as painting would a painter."
"I make dolls because they are so close to human beings. And there are so many techniques involved that it never gets boring."
"I enjoy making dolls because it brings several disciplines together – sculpting, sewing, color theory... you have the ability to acquire and practice several skills. I find it challenging and very fulfilling!"
"It's hard to explain even for myself and I don't have a clear answer. Probably the best answer is: because I like to make them! Making dolls includes a lot of what I'm interested in: sculpting, painting, costuming, mechanics, working with different materials, finding solutions, history, art, theater, being independent, learning new stuff, mastering my craft, and so much more."
How It All Began
My discovery of dollmaking was simple. It happened in 2001 when my kids were little; we lived in Seattle at the time. I was a stay-at-home mother, and I used to sew dresses for my daughters. I loved creating beautiful outfits, and my girls looked so adorable. But it seemed like they couldn’t go for two hours without getting some sort of stain on or tear in their clothes. I was dressing them up like dolls, but they were children.
I couldn’t give up my hobby, and in 2003 I got a new machine with lots of bells and whistles. I registered for a class at the shop I bought it from – where I saw a group of women seated around a large table with handmade dolls and all kinds of fabrics, fibers, and things I didn’t recognize. I think I went into shock because I couldn’t believe I was witnessing grown women playing with dolls. There was all this colored hair and fancy stuff… it was just too much for me. I had never heard of such a thing! I felt like I had fainted and was floating around somehow, looking down at it all from somewhere else. Where, I don’t know – but somewhere. I pulled myself together, went over there, and introduced myself.
A Perfect Blend
I quickly realized that dollmaking incorporated my love of sewing with very sophisticated patternmaking. It took me to another level – designing the dolls themselves (let alone their clothing) was like creating super-fancy designer wares, except my creations are stuffed and made into a 3D body. I was fascinated at how I could use darts to form a realistic body in any shape I wanted – and, of course, I could make any type of clothing without worrying about it being ruined. I also love painting and drawing, so I was very excited to incorporate that into the face of a doll.
Starting a Blog
Later that year, my family had the privilege of traveling and we stayed in Israel for some time. There, I started a Blogspot blog called Doll Makers Muse. It was a lot of fun, and all the people who wrote to me made me feel like I wasn’t so far away from home. Social media didn’t exist at the time, and I felt like a celebrity. I know it sounds silly, but it brought me so much joy – living in a foreign country and doing something unique. I really began developing my dollmaking skills during this time, and I’ve never looked back.
The blog has since been revamped, edited, and moved to this website. Because the content was very old, much of it either had to be discarded or tidied up. I kept as much intact as I could because it’s nostalgic, and it keeps getting better. It’s been many years already since I started making quirky doll art, and I’m proud of that.
Doll Life Today
My family moved back to the US several years later – back to my hometown of NYC. I don’t have the time I used to, and I have more pressure in my life. But that isn’t what defines me: I am an artist. Dolls are not a popular medium here, but I don’t let that stop me. I am not a fan of the subway or the ultra-urban setting, and I wish I could travel more and see new places. But behind a lens, I can create a world of unique stories that are both fun and daring by posing my dolls in unexpected places. I guess it helps me to enjoy my surroundings more. For now, I’ll write on my blog and share my dolls’ stories on Instagram. In a few years, they might go somewhere else. Maybe I will too. But for now, I’m living in my moment – with art in my life, befriending people who share my creative spirit. I will always continue to make these dolls and turn whimsy into reality, one doll at a time.
Making dolls is like playing a sport.
Sometimes the best part of being an athlete is the teamwork. Doll artists are special like that: we love each other’s work and find inspiration from one another.
Do you make dolls? I’m rooting for you.