Painting and illustration has always been my passion but when I discovered paperclay a whole new world opened up to me. Portraiture is something I have always wanted to do but felt nervous about it because it is in my nature to want to achieve a good likeness and my attempts never seemed good enough. Paperclay offered me the opportunity to sculpt faces in a very different way to how I had worked before. It offers more freedom of creativity and thus giving me the chance to let my imagination roam and create a more surreal sculpture.
I wanted to make a doll that has expression, an ethereal look, neither a human or a doll. She is my first part clay part cloth articulated sculpture. Her head moves and has a cloth back and neck, so the face is almost like a mask. Her face is painted with watercolours and her expression is crucial to the character that emerges from the brush. The wrong shaped eyebrows or curve of eyes will easily spoil her expression, so this is the time you hope the phone doesn’t ring or you sneeze! Choosing her hair is fun and I get to play with different colours and textures. Fine mohair is the right scale for hair, but it takes a lot of work to make it look right, sometimes it is straight or crinkly.
Her body is made from a tight weave vintage sheet, the type of which you can no longer buy, crisp but slightly textured, and a natural white which doesn’t glare at you like the over processed ones of today. The perfect surface to paint a tint of flesh colour on to match the painted clay body sculpts.
I decide to stick with the natural theme and joined the arms and legs with a fine waxed linen thread. I love this stuff and I’m pleased I have found a use for this lovely tactile thread! String is also a passion of mine and I am always buying natural or coloured string or threads in the hope I will find a use for it and I invariable do, I love the feel of it and it’s so useful!
When I get to the clothes making and designing I can barley contain myself because this is where she starts to come alive. I can choose her personality right down to the shoes she wears. For this latest creation I decided the delicacy of muslin was the perfect weight for such a fragile creature. Shades of blue suited her perfectly, dyed by myself so the tones are the same but in different intensities. She wears bloomers and a dress with linen thread embroidery and hand dyed silk ribbon. For years I have collected small bits of leather and this pale pink soft leather is perfect for her slip on shoes.
She has no name yet, but I have to live with her a while before I decide. Sometimes I don’t name them because it defines the character somehow, so I leave it up to whoever buys her as we all see different things in art.
I recently painted one of my sculptures on brown paper in watercolour. It’s strange painting a doll and lace is funny to paint, especially on brown paper! But she’s emerged very much like an illustration, no surprise there! It was fun to paint and I tried hard not to spend too much time on it but it’s so tempting to put in detail. I struggle with loosening up which is why I have been doing quick sketches of Alfred!