Thursday, May 28, 2009

Renegades Flourish in a Doll's World!

Cheryl Smith, of Toronto, Canada, is the creative energy behind Magpie Artworks. She's delved into fabric and fibre since childhood, both personally and professionally. She worked in textile manufacturing and related industries since the late 70’s and has been quilting since the early 90’s. Her dolls will take you on an imaginative journey into fantasy and 'what if.' But if you visit her website, you will see that her quilts are just as stunning and imaginative. Recently Cheryl made a doll that was presented to Mark Lipinski. I know you'll enjoy Cheryl's guest blog. -- Dawn
From the Magpie's Nest, Cheryl Smith in her own words:
Dolls! They get me through life.
Creating a doll takes me to a safe place where I can mix colours, fibres, textures to my heart’s content. There are no rules; renegades can flourish!

I am passionate about fabrics and equally so about colour. What good is a luscious fabric if the colour is mediocre? For me, both components have to participate in order to have a great fabric. I love to touch and caress and admire and imagine. Silk in all its forms sparks my interest, especially velvet, dupioni and taffeta. At 12, I used to send away for exotic fabric swatches. Yup! My allowance went to fabric swatches, well, and 45’s! Great fabrics can send me to a very happy place and can touch me deep within.

The doll seems the appropriate vehicle for honouring some of my luxurious stash. It feeds my personal need to amuse and be entertained. Dolls can accomplish that, but the jester takes me on a much deeper journey. They take on a life of their own and there’s a lot of chatter!

Entering a doll's world

After I exhausted my interests in sewing clothing, weaving, quilts and fibre art, my latent interest in dolls resurfaced. I tried making a few throughout the years, but with very limited success. I considered taking a class, but couldn’t find one in my area. So, left to my own devices, I bought some patterns and books and started making dozens of prototypes. I had worked in fabric development for years, so making endless samples seemed a natural part of the process. I kept at it until I got where I thought I wanted to go. The breaking point was when I realized that I had to let go of my fear of not being able to paint a face! I realized that with practise I would get there. I relaxed and moved forward.

I had been approached by a friend of a friend to donate a doll to a celebrity charity auction, an event hosted by singer Diana Krall. I was glad to participate, but somewhat trepidacious. I got over myself and made this little jester out of silk charmeuse, beaded his headpiece heavily and sent him on his way.

Joining group awakened possibilities

I was very fortunate to happen upon an amazing doll club in my travels, Creative Doll Artists, with Marianne Reitsma at the helm. This group awakened me to paper clay, polymer, armatures and endless possibilities. What a wonderful group. The club had acquired a tremendous amount of lace. A challenge to use some of it was expected.

I had decided to make a mermaid, and knew I wanted a prop for her to sit on. It would be a fish. It was a bit of a challenge as I kept layering through papier mache, paper clay and paint unsuccessfully; but, then it struck me that I could just glue some lace on it! I cut the lace apart, dyed it, and glued each individual piece onto the fish. The torso presented a bit of a challenge, but I managed my way through it.

Embellishing is always the most rewarding part of the process; I added beads and embroidery and needle felted some wool to simulate sea weed.

Entering the Grand National

The Grand National is an annual juried quilting event in Canada. I don’t usually take part in competitions, but was talked into it! The theme was “Fantasy”, but the trick was to have a quilting component as it was in fact a quilting competition. I brought Emma to life with hand dyed cottons, velvets, jacquards and lots of embroidery and beading. I made a box out of discarded lumber, covered it with some quilted fabrics and added some legs. I invited Miss Mary Maude to join her. I added a little crazy quilt to enhance the quilting component. This little ensemble managed an honourable mention.

Miss Mary Maude was quite small, so the urge to go bigger was haunting me and along came Gallagher. He’s almost 4 feet tall! I hand dyed some cottons to get the colours he liked and added lots of beads and embroidery. His face is needle sculpted cotton with cloth over and paper clay. His face was created with pencil crayon and acrylics.

I’m not sure when the notion struck me, but I decided to try my hand at wire armature. I had previously taken a sculpting class with Marianne Reitsma so had a basic understanding of the construction process. I made Edgar first, and then quickly added Percy and Oliver. (See top photo of the three.) Armatures are something else! They can bend and twist and do amazing things. I really enjoyed the detour with them and working with wools and coarser more textured fabrics.

Where I'll be and recent projects

This August I am fortunate to return to Gibson’s Landing, B.C. to teach doll making at their annual fibre art festival. This time I shall be teaching jesters and costuming them. I wanted a new class sample to take with me, and was half way through Agatha when I got a call from Judy at Sew-Sisters Quilt Shop asking me if I would take on a commission. She wanted to give Mark Lipinski a doll as a gesture of thanks for his contribution and new energy to the quilting world. She wanted to present it to him while he was visiting Northcott Silk, north of Toronto.
How could I refuse? Le Marquis is dressed in the finest of silks, hand dyed cottons and an abundance of beading and stitchery. And beside him is the ever adoring Agatha, wishing he would stay.
I have been adding beads to my work, especially fibre art, for over a decade. Beading is very addictive for me and worse than peanuts because I can never stop at just one. I made a little Chatelaine, or two, or three. See what I mean? I get started and can’t rein it in! The obsession is escalating as you can see in this beaded bird! He’s about 14” tall and pining for a friend!
Thanks for joining me!

And a special thanks to Dawn for such a generous invitation.


Alec Smart said...

Awesome dolls. Do you work solely on a commission basis or do certain retailers or gift shops carry your creations ?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your comment, Alec. I currently work on a commission basis,and would welcome your request!

Anonymous said...

Cheryl - your writing is as inspired as your dolls - thank you very much for sharing them with us!

Shelina (formerly known as Shasta) said...

Wow these are amazing! Absolutely gorgeous.

Fibreartist said...

Great article Cheryl! Thanks for the link! Miss you, hope we can meet soon! Donna

marion said...

Cheryl's work is amazing, always alive and fresh with colors and talent!