Completed Dolls

Photos of my tiny critters all completed.

Gifts (Part 2)

Part 1 is here

I have just completed another piece that began with a gift. There is a place along the Perkiomen Creek I go almost daily to to hear the sermon of water over stone. I have posted previously of the gateway into Faerie that rests on the edge of this spot. No one notices me here as I journey and sculpt and listen to the stillness in my heart that the voices of the water bring to me. So really the entire spot is an unsurpassable gift to me which I return with offerings made there daily.

A few weeks ago as I sat long by the creek this interesting stick floated right up to where I was sitting. Another present from the creek! It had a fascinating shape so I drug it back to my lair. For many days the bit of wood was silent. And then my friends Crystal and Mary asked if I come to Bethlehem to sculpt on the sidewalk as part of the Artswalk. Having no idea what I would decide to create there, the piece of wood was in the assortment of “art mess” I scraped from the studio storage area. I decided to use the piece and took a bit of time to walk along the very small tree line behind the store.

I turned the stick this way and that and felt immediately muscle memory of twisting and stretching as if simultaneously waking up and emerging from something. I could feel in my body how it would feel to twist and pull along the twists and turns in the wood. Then an image of leaves bursting from fingers and feet. It was an interesting sensation and a lovely vision I at once felt the need to express. And so I began the piece on the sidewalk in the middle of town.

I am rarely sure what a piece is saying to me or anyone else as I am working and sometimes even long after. But I think for me there are two major themes in the work. The first is gifting. The stick was given to me by the place I spend so much time because I return giving to the place. This creates a debt, an energy in me to do something with what I have so generously received and pass that gift along via expressing in clay and bits of moss the feeling and vision it brought. Hence the gift is increased it once more. So now the stick is a duet, it’s form and story and my sensation and vision. It has become more than it was and it can connect to others differently than it could before. In this way tree and creek, artist and audience are connected by the act of giving. Had I hoarded the stick and done nothing with it, there would be no connection, no increase.

The stick was badly decayed and spongy in spots. I almost think of the spirit sculpted into it as a sort of fungus. Taking decay and transforming it into strange and wonderful things. So my stick spirit tells me a tale about decay being fertile soil for greening. Others will have their own reactions and feelings when they look at her or read my own thoughts on the piece. This is the task of creativity. Not to suffer for your art, sell tons and tons of work and get a book deal, be technically perfect. To focus on that creates fear.

Rather your creativity is a gift akin to my lovely chunk of driftwood. I think Van Gogh in a letter expressed exactly what creativity and art in their best form really are:
“When I see young painters compose and draw from memory, and then haphazardly smear on whatever they like also from memory, -then keep it at a distance and put on a very mysterious, gloomy face to find out what in Heaven’s name it may look like, and at last finally make something from it, always from memory, – it sometimes disgusts me, and makes me think it all very tedious and dull.

“They cannot understand that the figure of a laborer, -some furrows in a plowed field, a bit of sand, sea and sky, -are serious objects, so difficult but a the same time so beautiful, that it is indeed worth while to devote one’s life to the task of expressing the poetry hidden in them.” -Vincent Van Gogh

Driftwood Dryad

Categories: Completed Dolls, Harebrained Schemes and Useless Information, Myths for Everyday Life | Leave a comment

The Maenad

Back in my college days, one of the most distinct honors I have experienced was to learn Isadora Duncan dance technique for a whole year from Gemze deLappe, who learned it from Isadora’s daughter Irma Duncan.

I was filmed for an archive doing a few pieces, the Dance of the Furies, Water Study, and The Maenad. Back in June I began dreaming of this dance. In the dreams my costume included wings, not that the Maenads had them, but I think my subconscious was trying to tell me that the technique is very fairy!  When I envision the faerie revelers dancing away under the hill or dancing around a fairy ring, this is exactly the way I think they move. Beautiful, free, and with every movement intention and meaning.

The Maenads were the female followers of Dionysus. They followed him over the countryside in a divine state of madness brought on by dancing, music, and wine. Over the hills they rambled in a drunken revel. The first Maenads were the nymphs who raised Dionysus, goddesses, these Maenads would incite the human women of the villages they passed through to join in the swirling prophetic tempest.

The purpose of the revels was to gain insight and prophesy, it was not just a drunken orgy. it was the weak among the human followers who descended into debauchery instead of a state of divinity and prophecy. In their frenzied state the nymph Maenads could be very dangerous, often rending human and animal alike. They carried a wand of ivy with a pine cone at the top, called a thyrsus. It is a phallic fertility symbol, while the ivy wreaths they wore were a symbol of immortality. The Maenads were very powerful are often representative of the power of women unbridled.

I have sculpted my Maenad in a pose taken from Isadora Duncan’s dance of the same title.  The free sometimes wild movements of the Duncan dance piece reflect this feeling.   Dance itself is transformative, freeing.  I think of the Maenads as divine sisters,  much like my friends I see at gatherings at the Walking Winds Holistic Healing Center who dance between the worlds and bring back visions.  Dancing the seasons with these beautiful women is indeed a divine state of madness!  I’ll skip the whole flesh rending thing though…..

Please visit the Walking WInds Holistic Center site:

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Aurantiaca, Keeper of Lost Dreams

Aurantiaca is the Keeper of Lost Dreams.  I actually started her back in May 2009, she was going to be in a two figure piece.  But the male figure that was supposed to be with her scorched horribly during curing, resulting in the nickname “Bubbly Toast Man”.  I have struggled for months to complete the piece and she ended up pushed way to the back of the Shelf of Doom where all my Epic Fail pieces reside.

But I found her a few days ago when searching for something else.  And her original intent spoke to me.  So I have finished her, the dream she was is no longer lost!  There are several mythic symbols at work in her.  She is part frog.  Frogs are creatures of transformation, beginning life as an egg, passing through a time where they dwell below the water, only to slowly change into a creature comfortable on land and under the water’s surface.  Most transformation in our own lives happens this way.  It begins as eggs in the unconscious, hatches and swims there developing into ideas and action until newly formed changes break the surface of our conscious minds.  She is also in a crouching position, ready to take that transformation and spring into action with it.

But the question others who have seen her in progress have asked is why she has her tiny wings.  Frogs don’t tend to fly.  Wings are a symbol of transcendence.  Much of the transformation that is needed in our lives can be painful.  We resist it in fear, drown in uncertainty, worry that things will not work out.  Aurantiaca has tiny wings to give her a little extra oomph to endure transformation with as much grace as can be expected and make it into actual transcendence.

Aurantiaca holds a softly glowing orb of lost hopes.  Dreams we packed away to get a job, live our notional lives, things we thought were unneeded.  We convince ourselves we can be OK and live without quite a bit.  But without our passions and dreams we begin to be dissatisfied with life.  We may know something is missing but we can’t say just what it is.  I have a relationship.  A career.  A house.  1.7 kids.  A cat.  Why am I not happy?

My lost hope was my art.  I thought it was a childish obsession, something adults had to put on a shelf to work, save, buy a house.  You can return to it when you retire I thought.  When life became robotic and I fell into despair, there she was holding up these shiny things to me.  Telling me I may of forgotten them, but she did not.  She watched over them for me, keeping them safe until I was ready to take them back and use them to change my life.  This is not always easy work for her.  Swimming through our losses and subconscious muck to find the bright lights we buried next to the bad is exhausting and painful.

As I slog through another period of lost causes, I hope she will surface again, in my deepest darkness.  Holding a tiny light I forgot I buried down there under all that dark junk.

Categories: Completed Dolls, Myths for Everyday Life | 3 Comments

Saying goodbye


One of my best friends is leaving for her new home today. Daphne here is probably my favorite piece to date. She means friendship to me because the driftwood she is sculpted over was sent to me by the lovely Kim Filio, another sculptor who helped me a lot when I first started. She was sculpted in 2006 when I had just begun selling my work in earnest. Before then I was excited to sculpt to learn new skills, but when my work sold for pennies or did not sell at all I was crushed, could not sculpt for weeks on end. Then I got this wonderful magical box full of wood, dried fungus, a very scary bug, and bits and bobs from Kim. I think she knew I was wallowing in the Swamps of Self Pity. I pulled out that fantastic piece of wood and my box of brass leaves and started working. Daphne took me 80 hours to create. I barely slept. The need to create finally broke through all my impotent whining. It wasn’t until I decided to sell her last year at Spoutwood Farm May Day Fairie Festival that I really pulled into focus the lesson she taught me, and I tried to teach others in my little Chataqua talk. To bloom where you are planted, to re-ground in what is really important in artwork, not what is fashionable or what sells. To turn away from ego and embrace that creating should be joyful, and an authentic expression of who you are. Having finally drilled the lesson through my admittedly thick skull, she notified me she is ready to go teach others their lessons. She does this today. Her new person found her at the last show I did and has made the final payment. But I think she will be keeping a close eye on me as she will be living very near to my day job! So with some joy and a bit of sadness she is no longer in the place on her shelf she has sat since November of 06 when she was finally completed.


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One of my firsts

In preparing last minute and at breakneck speed. Why do things needing to be done just appear when you think you have it together? But I digress. Somewhere in my polymer clay induced haze I thought what fun it would be to bring along one of my very first figures for inspiration to my students to keep at it. With enough passion and a light heart, you do get technically better.

At first I pulled her out from her dark abode at the very back of my most inaccessible shelf. I looked at her and thought, gah, what a horrid little thing and why is she reading Dr. Seuss? Do mermaids read Dr. Seuss? Ok maybe 1fish, 2 fish, red fish, blue fish. But as I look at her I like her again, I recall how excited I was to make her. I had just got my Katherine Dewey book. Creating Life-like Figures in Polymer Clay in my semi-educated opinion is the BEST figure sculpting book out there. I was obsessively poring over it and making my tools. I modified the leg part to make a tail thinking myself all sorts of clever. I was jazzed. I raced home to work at it every night and changed into my art clothes in a whirlwind. If I was awake and not at work, I was wrist deep in clay.

Looking at her again I clearly see I was not technically proficient at all, but I was deliriously happy to be doing it. I still am for the most part. Brit here is a reminder to me and I hope to any beginners out there. Take joy in the learning and creating, being self-critical or focusing entirely on sales will make this work oppressive drudgery.

I still don’t know why she is readind Dr. Seuss.

Categories: Completed Dolls, Harebrained Schemes and Useless Information | Leave a comment

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