Usually I'm inspired by a branch or root ball, the shapes evoke some kind of idea of how a doll will eventually manifest. In this case, I began with an evocative face from the well-known prolific artist and illustrator, Mary Vogel Lozinak. She owns three stores on Etsy and makes her living entirely from her art. This face challenged me both the because of the size and the doll's expression. I'm usually drawn to 'happy faces' but I wouldn't categorize Mary's faces 'happy'. They could be stand-alone pieces of art and each contains a whole lifetime of stories to tell. I wanted to use one of Mary's faces because Brigit loves Mary's faces and I love Brigit's dolls from Mary's faces so I chose this particular face because it was one of the happier I found on her site and I felt a connection with her.
As I held the face in my hands and began picking through my stash of branches, I tried 8 or 10 branches and nothing was happening. I almost gave up! But then I came across a gnarled branch. Heavy and three-pronged and when I placed the face on the branch, it fit perfectly just like a puzzle piece. I was off and running!
I felt like she needed some arms to help balance out her face, so I tried many different sizes and shapes until I stumbled on these flowing arms that fit her personality, which was rapidly beginning to make itself known.
Step 3 is when the body is mostly finished and I could finally attach her face to her body, a very satisfying labor. I patiently drew the wire through the jewels on her face and back around her spine to create a hangar and affix her face. Since it was all one piece of wire, this turned out to be quite tricky and my patience was tested but I finally got it all worked out.
Step 5 begins by the final arranging of skirts and fabrics and beads--I started by scalloping the bottom edges of the fabrics to echo the roundness of her face but I found my fingers braiding some of the thinner, longer materials around her skirt. That was just what I was looking for! The braiding gave her dress weight and interest and helped balance and ground her.
Gypsy Lee finally cried out, "Stop! Let me rest...." I listened because we both needed a break. I'd been working 5 hours steadily without a break and I needed a glass of water and some sustenance! I knew she wasn't finished yet but I got to show her off to my friend, Brigit who had dropped by on an errand. Brigit's immediate and enthusiastic response surprised me. She raved that this was the best doll I'd ever made and that she could totally feel her spirit! At that moment my ambivalent feelings about her expression changed and I, too, felt her beauty and power.
In this case it was the following day when I put the finishing touches on her...In my dreamy morning state before I get out of bed but after the alarm's gone off I often 'work'; I had a vision of some kind of headpiece for her, like a nest or something. I also noticed her bare arms and wanted to add a little flair there to echo the doily's scallops. I tried a nest but that was definitely not working so I decided to repeat the braiding of her dress with colors to match her face and ended up winding the braids around her 'horns'. Perfect. It was just enough color and weight for the top without overwhelming her face and it brought our her interesting horns which is what drew me to that particular branch in the first place!
To finish her up, I filled out her hair (made of goat's hair moss that I found on my recent trip to Idaho) and sewed the rest of the braiding down where it would look best. A dab of glue here and there made everything secure and after much twisting of both my head and the doll this way and that and hanging her on the wall for a bit, I declared her ready to share with the world.
Ta Da! A finished new Spirit in the form of a doll. Meet Gypsy Lee, Queen of the Dance...