Making New Families

1.JPGcreating families

I started making dolls as a diversion from painting and drawing. Within a year or less,
I was making these little people full time and teaching all over the country. These dolls
were very personal to me, a way to explore who I am, what I’ve experienced in my life, and my studies involving other cultures. They were a way to put everything together — drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture. Now I was incorporating my love of fiber, color, embroidery, beading and exploring the idea of what is a doll. How far could I go outside the boundaries of doll making, and still have the piece be a doll. I am still pushing those boundaries.
I have made dolls that are also books with pages, elaborate dolls, crocheted and felted dolls, and dolls that are just fragmented elements of a figure. I can’t imagine ever being “done.”
There is still much to explore here.

When I group them together, I start to see new families.
If you have lost a loved one, you can create an effigy figure to keep you company.
I have made many of those to help me go from grieving to healing.
If you don’t fit in with your original family, you can create another one.
There are many ways to go here, and the only limit is the imagination.

With a doll, you are never alone.  Have you ever made a doll?


you look like you’re from my tribe.  wanna hang out?



DaDa in SaraLand, daily life as an Artist and Catalyst

This kind of thing happens all the time.

I’m in my studio, where I can do whatever I want, in total silence, or with my music of the day.  These days my thoughts jump from drawing to painting, to printmaking, to fabric dye painting, to designing fabric, printing more cloud photos, make more photo collages, and then. . . . there are the dolls.  They don’t give up and they are the loudest in their insistence on being born.

They call me.  They stare at me.  They comfort me.  They always want more from me.  And like the Mom I once was, I can’t say no.

we're okay now
sister and brother

These 2 little guys have been waiting patiently for me to return for a whole year.

I put them in a comfortable chair together and told them I would be back soon, while I went off to create many self portraits.  This turned out to be the year of the self portrait.front1

There were so many photos, altered photos, stitched photos, torn photos, and then there were drawings.  I believe it will never stop.  So much growth has occurred inside of myself by working in this way. It has been good.  But, as I once put the dolls aside to work on my self portraits, now it is time to put all those self portraits aside and return to the dolls, my children.

I want to do something more than make them.  Something I used to do years ago.  I taught all kinds of fiber classes and my favorite and everyone else’s, was always creating the doll.   There are many that are complete and each one has a story.  Quite a few are living in other homes with other mothers and I can only hope they are being treated as the special children that they are.  It is always hard to let go.

The best dolls always end up as self portraits, revealing something more about myself, as a child, an adult, a mother, a teacher, a friend.  There are dolls about my mother, my father, my daughter, and a best friend.  These dolls keep me close to those people that are no longer part of my life, but who have helped form the person I am now.  Dolls are surrogate friends and children.  With a doll, you are never alone . . . not if you made that doll, thought it up all by yourself, and it grew out of your heart.


This doll is one of a group of 3 “Homely Girls” with attitude issues.  The rebel artist was formed inside of her and she will always be closer to me than all the others.  But I’ll never tell.  What’s important to know is that your doll can reflect some part of you that is essential to your being.  She can serve as your reminder to be true to yourself.

It has been a few years since I made a doll, and I wonder who or what will  need to be created.

Some things I know.  There are dolls waiting in my head to be born and I don’t know what they will look like.  I start with pieces of fabric, drawings of faces, some of my favorite dolls to hang out with me while I get started, and, of course, sketchbooks and notes.  I will begin by creating connections in time with various images and materials on a bulletin board.  I have all this stuff here from working over 30 years and it all feels so special, these scraps, broken figures, odd things that would seem to be trash to anyone else but me.  There are many drawings of dolls from other cultures that inspire me.  These pieces carry memories, ideas, plans, and even parts of special people.

Once i get started, I always want to share what I am doing by teaching.   I have never cared for classes with patterns and step-by-step methodology.  I like to share everything I know and have done.  I will demonstrate anything that involves learning a technique, such as carving a face, stuffing, stitching, and we’ll make rug hooked masks for your dolls if you like.  My interest is in supporting you to express yourself and to be all that you can be.  There is just me, doing what I love to do, and running my mouth about it all from excitement, and this overpowering desire to give it all to you.  When I know someone wants to learn, to step out of their comfort zone and shows enthusiasm for my kind of work, I am there for you.  My goal is to be your catalyst, your person to go to with ideas and questions, the one who smiles and says, “Why Not?”

The working board




Flip it Over

Flip it over

Check out the Back

Might be a big surprise

Sometimes the front talks to the back and tells it what’s really happening

You’ll never know if you don’t flip

Look for Dada

Waiting to jump right OUT.

But you don’t know what Dada looks like and

it runs right on by you.

Imagine all those possibilities.

SEA  10/21



Is one image better than the other?  or, just the other side of the story.




something about process


dolls in progress
dolls in progress, waiting

Some of these babies wait a long time.  They’re hanging out on the floor, keeping each other company.  Here they are today.

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There will be some changes soon.  Thinking of taking them apart, just pieces, and trying something new.  Will let you know what happens.

new dolls from old things

start with drawings of faces, make carvings to print on fabric, stuff the heads,  old needlepoint pieces on their heads for a landscape hat

the process

they need a place to sleep, eat, play, and work

make bodies and some clothes

they need stronger arms and legs to stand on their own, without MOM,

looking for good sticks, wire and dyed rags new clothes, for their journey

my people like to travel, have adventures, just like us


sister and brother
sister and brother