Members of the Collective

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Introducing... #7

It's the time of year when we invite a few American artists to join us in our upload. This year we've added an element of surprise. Can you guess who our seventh guest vendor is?

My name is Melissa and I came to the art of doll making, in many ways, through children.  While my formal school education is in Studio Art, after graduating I became intrigued by Montessori Education.  Up until just two years ago I have lived life as a teacher, a Head of School, and a Montessori preschool owner!  During these years, I was also blessed to have married my partner for life, Rob, travelled extensively, and given birth to two amazing little girls.
Initially I was drawn to dolls in general, and waldorf-inspired specifically, as playmates for my own girls.  Natural materials and handmade energy have always been a passion of mine (ever since throwing my first clay pot in high school!).  My childhood was spent on a large farm surrounded by only family, animals, and trees...lots and lots of trees.  I had long sought out natural handmade toys, clothing and products for my family.  When my girls' eyes landed on their first natural doll I was delighted!

A few years after that first doll (and many more lovelies along the way!) I closed my preschool to be home with my children while they were still young.  A magical thing occurred!  I had time…lots and lots of time.  Time to breathe, time to play, time to let my imagination and thoughts wander.  Creative pursuits suddenly seemed quite possible!  My grandmother had spent many afternoon hours teaching me to knit as a child, and my hands once again began moving.  And then IT happened; I began seeing so much in my girls' every movement and expression.  It feels as if it happened overnight, but, here I am, two years later and making love-filled joys for you and your children.
I am a creator by nature; my hands and heart are always happiest when moving and molding. After becoming a stay at home parent, I decided to follow that path to happiness. My degree is in studio arts and I always felt as if somehow I would find my way back. Dolls fulfill a number of my focuses within the art world; I am most inspired by sculpture, and, in particular, the movement of shapes through sculpture. I am also most inspired by natural materials such as clay and textiles. It really is a perfect match!
I chose my name because my oldest daughter has a nickname for being by far and away, the slowest eater on the planet and my youngest, has a nickname for her appearance. Their movements, personalities, dimensions, proportions all inspire my dolls on a daily basis.
After closing my preschool to stay home with the girls, the relief in our family was absolutely palpable. Everyone was more relaxed and able to spend time together doing the things we loved. Both my husband and I were adamant that we did not want that to change. However, I still felt as if I needed an outlet for my own creative process and some space for personal growth. Owning a doll making shop was a wonderful way for me to continue to be there physically and emotionally for my family, as well as take some time personally to explore. My studio is in our home and I am able to find bits of time to continue that exploration!
I think my least favorite thing is also my favorite. I find it difficult to draw boundaries between my home life and my work. It feels as if the work never stops; I always have knitting going or piles of wool around!

I am a fitness advocate in my off time and enjoying kickboxing at least three times per week and weight lifting when I can fit it in. Fitness is a key to my well-being just as my family and my creative process is. My family enjoys swimming and biking outdoors during the summer months and skiing when the temperature drops (as it does often here in Wisconsin). My husband is Swedish and we also love to visit family there and in Bulgaria; travel has been a huge part of my relationship with hubby!
While I do subscribe to the belief that there are only so many ways to sculpt with wool and fabric, I do think there are so many makers who have made their own unique work out of these materials. I enjoy simpler faces on my dolls. I really like the focus to be on the long lanky limbs and floppiness of the arms and legs in relation to the torso. My kids are 8 years old and 4 years and at this point, they are both all arms and legs! Watching them throughout the day is the inspiration for the impressionistic feel of my work.

What is your favourite thing about the USA? About being American? Good question! I have travelled quite a bit and have seen many things about other countries that I love and also some that I don’t like. I think the same can be said about the US. I enjoy many privileges for having been born in this country, but the same cannot be said for everyone. Living abroad has made me face the good, the bad, and the ugly things that America has said, done, and portrayed worldwide. This kind of thinking has made it more difficult to be absolutely proud to be an American.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Introducing... #4

It's the time of year when we invite a few American artists to join us in our upload. This year we've added an element of surprise. Can you guess who our fourth guest vendor is?
After having my first baby in 2010, I picked up new interests in the form of sewing, knitting, quilting and crocheting in order to make things for my baby. Then at the end of 2013, I discovered the world of handcrafted dolls through a knitting book by Brandy Fortune called "Just Like Me Knits." It was through this book that I discovered the amazing Fabiola Perez of Fig&Me, who would be a pivotal inspiration that launched me. Just like any other thing in life that catches my interest, I like to dive into and try it out for myself. So, I made my daughter her first doll using a kit by Joy Chambers. And the rest is history. I opened in April of 2014. Handcrafted dolls became a means by which I was able to combine all the things I love...fabric, paper, yarn, photography and writing all into one craft that would conglomerate and produce the soulful doll. Now I am hopelessly smitten.

 Starting a shop was a way by which I can "run a business" doing something that I love and still be able to stay home with my young children. So far, I have learned so much, not only on the creative side, but on the on-line business side and it is thrilling to constantly be learning something new.
It is the name of an amazing species of mushroom, the sarcocypha coccinea....a not so uncommon, incredibly beautiful red mushroom. I have always had a fascination with the fungus kingdom, just as I obsess over clouds. Perhaps it is because these things are less commonly noticed by most people but their functions play such a paramount role in nature. So, that's all...I just love mushrooms and this one stands out to me more than others because of it's scarlet color.

I enjoy the connections I make with people from all over the world. It is truly amazing to be a part of such a global community. I guess I can't say that there is anything I don't enjoy. My business is so small right now that I don't face some challenges that some shop owners might face such as having to deal with their designs being copyright infringed upon or having to deal with big financial concerns.
Prior to motherhood and crafting, I was a mechanical engineer for a number of years, a math and physics teacher for some time and a crime data analyst for a university police department for a short time. When I had my first baby I closed the door to all those things and dived into full time work as a mother. More than anything else in life right now, I am a mother to two sweet toddlers, one aged 2 and one aged 4. I am also an avid and frequent rock climber and I mountaineer in modest amounts. Once a year I leave my children at home with my husband and for several days I take some time away to summit a big mountain with my girlfriends.

I make the smallest Waldorf style dolls out there that have very fine detail in their clothing and in their facial structure. When I first discovered the art of handcrafted dolls I saw many dollmakers making dolls of the Waldorf style but no one made 6" Waldorf style dolls...with much detail, that is. If they were small dolls, they most likely did not have facial features or facial structures and their bodies were often simple and not detailed like the bigger dolls. More recently I have seen some of the long time dollmakers making smaller dolls, but most still do not produce much detail in the smaller dolls. I don't believe that it's because they are not able or that they don't have the skills (they certainly do...very amazing skills indeed). I just think that no one wants to invest the time in making a small doll with that much detail because the financial benefits are not as gainly as the bigger dolls yet the smaller dolls take just as much, if not more time to create. But, for me, I love detail and I love making small things. So, I don't mind spending the time to craft a detailed small doll that would not necessarily yield as much of a financial benefit as the bigger dolls.
What inspires me are two things; 1. if they are not custom dolls and just dolls that I create myself, they are certainly inspired by the people, memories, things in my personal life that have had very deep meaning for, they are very very personal. 2. if they are custom dolls, they are certainly inspired by things, people, memories that are of great meaning to the people I do the customs for. So, regardless, of whether they are custom or not, each of my dolls has a deep and meaningful connection in some way to either myself or the person I am making the doll. I cannot make a doll without a personal story that inspires the doll to come to life. And as such, this makes it so that all of the creations I've made are vastly unique and different from each two are ever remotely the same.
And this month's favourite question - What is your favourite thing about the US...
FREEDOM, opportunity, equality. I am a US citizen. But, I was not born here. I was born in Asia in a poverty and war-stricken country. I was also a Peace Corps volunteer and lived in Africa for over 2 years. I have traveled extensively and mostly in undeveloped worlds such as India, Nepal, Tibet China, Mexico, Thailand, Vietnam, Bhutan, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya. I know from these experiences that there is no other place like America, where people have choices such as who they get to marry, expressing their political points of view without being oppressed or threatened, a chance a jobs. I am grateful every day for the life I have here in the US and as an American.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Introducing... #3

It's the time of year when we invite a few American artists to join us in our upload. This year we've added an element of surprise. Can you guess who our third guest vendor is?

I have been sewing since I was a small girl. I found this was a skill I could use to be able to work at home and be with my children. Waldorf dolls were one step in a long line of sewing businesses that I've had. I sold my dolls at our local Farmer's Market for years before I began selling them online. I also made other toys, clothes and quilts and home goods. While I have morphed though many incarnations of my business name, it came to be from a dream I had. I was standing on the porch of my shop and I could see the sign. This was 10 years ago.

My favourite part of having a shop is still just being able to make what I love and send it off. Being part of the handmade community is exactly where I imagined myself being when I was a child. I always knew I would be a maker. My least favourite part is the photography and shipping. That's work.  

My life consists mainly of crafting. On the rare occasions that I put that aside I can be found in my community. I live in a very small community. That one where everyone knows everyone. You can park once and do all your errands while also catching up with friends and neighbours. I am also a wife and mother. My children are grown and out on there own and my husband is a merchant mariner and away from home 10 months out of the year. So it is just me and Louie (Boston Terrier) at home full time.  

Morning motivates me. I am at my best in the early hours of the day. I feel like i can do anything and do it fast during this time. Also the treadmill at the gym. I get the best ideas there.

My favourite thing about the USA is .......oh I'm on the fence there. I have been here for almost 53 years and I can't tell you what my favourite thing is. When I was a child I used to say that I wanted to be a foreigner. My mom would reply that I WAS a foreigner to some people. I don't really have a favourite thing. I am happy to be here though. As for being an American, my father taught me that whether you live at the tip of South America or the top of Canada you are an American. I was an adult when I learned that the world saw only people in the US as Americans. That is pretty selfish of us if you ask me.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Introducing... #2

It's the time of year when we invite a few American artists to join us in our upload. This year we've added an element of surprise. Can you guess who our second guest vendor is?

My involvement in the fiber arts has evolved over many decades. My mom taught me how to knit in my teens, and I designed and knit colorful bulky sweaters all through my school years. After a 15 year break during which I was very busy with career and children, I resumed knitting with crazy passion, until one day I picked up a skein of handspun yarn in my local yarn shop. My universe shifted. I had never felt such texture, nor seen such delightful color play. I was hooked. A few months later while shyly watching a spinner at our state fiber festival I decided to take spinning lessons. As my spinning techniques evolved I started washing and dyeing raw fiber in order to better control the quality and color of my finished work. Now I love to start with raw wool and create a piece, whether woven or knitted, made completely from my own hands.

I started spinning so much yarn and I could not use it all! I was in a spinning group which met at our (now closed) local yarn shop. The owner generously offered to sell my yarns there with no commission- she told me they brought people into the store and could be combined with yarns she sold for projects. She was instrumental giving me the confidence boost I needed to open a shop on Etsy. I had never run a business so it was all new, but Etsy made it easy. My shop name was an inspiration combining my love of color and yarn.

I love being able to help people reach their crafting dreams while using my creations! Working with a dollmaker on custom yarn or wool for a doll, seeing my yarn become someone's beautiful sweater gives me such satisfaction! A completely unexpected reward from having my online business is all the wonderful friends I’ve made through working with talented artists and crafters. I have learned so much from how these artists use fiber and yarn. It has really opened up my world. My only dislike is not having enough time for it!

I am a paediatrician working in a wonderful practice, and I feel I derive a lot of energy from being around children all day! My husband and I live in New Jersey and we have 2 children- one a high school senior and the other in college. We also have 5 sweet cats adopted from shelters.

I decided early on that I would practice my fiber art from the heart and use only the best materials I could find. Since fiber art is my passion I never want it to become routine and stale. So I make what I am inspired to make, with love and pleasure, using high quality ingredients, one at a time.

I am motivated by an artist's desire to create beauty, and inspired by many routine events in daily life. The colors on a child's sneakers or a delivery truck. Beautiful wool on the sheep. Once I opened my eyes to color inspiration I found it really is everywhere!

My favorite thing about the US is the National Park System and all the beautiful places preserved. Our family did a lot of camping all across the country in these parks!

My favorite thing about being American... especially with our 239th birthday coming up... is our potential to be a caring and generous people to those who need help all over the world.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Introducing... #6

  • It's the time of year when we invite a few American artists to join us in our upload. This year we've added an element of surprise. Can you guess who our sixth guest vendor is?
  • I started crocheting about 10 years ago because I had a job where I had a lot of time on my hands. A few years later I taught myself to knit, and since then I've written patterns and knit up a storm. Last summer I tried dyeing yarn for fun, and I was impressed with how well it turned out. A friend of mine suggested I do it professionally, and I took the leap. This spring my sister and mom joined the team, and we are a family owned and operated yarn company.

  • It was easy picking a shop name, since we love being from Milwaukee. A little blue collar, but lots of color and fun.
    My least favorite thing about owning a shop is doing the taxes. Yuck! Its a lot more complicated than personal taxes.
    When I'm not crafting I spend time with my husband and 3 kids. Our oldest is autistic, so owning my own business enables me to set my own schedule and give the kids the attention they need.
    I also love to read, write, and my guilty pleasure is physics documentaries. I can't get enough of them!

  • One special thing that sets our product apart from the rest of the pack is that we find inspiration for our yarns in our everyday lives. Places we have travelled, people we have met, things our kids enjoy, etc. We have a motto that "it can never be too vibrant". I'd rather be known as the yarn company that embraces and plays with colors than plays it safe.

  • Personally, I'm inspired to support my family. Brew City Yarns has really taken off in the past year, and we've invested a lot of time and money into it. It'd be fabulous to have a return equal to the efforts we've put into the company!

  • My favorite thing about the U.S.A. is that we have such a wonderful tradition of free speech. No matter what you believe in, you can express your opinion on matters without fear.
  • My favorite thing about being an American is the wonderful opportunities that I've been given in life. I was raised in a military family, and spent my entire childhood on the road. It was so exciting to see different parts of the country and world. Its also been a huge influence on my work, the travelling that I was able to experience.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Introducing... #5

t's the time of year when we invite a few American artists to join us in our upload. This year we've added an element of surprise. Can you guess who our fifth guest vendor is?
After searching for boy dolls for my son and nephew I stumbled upon Waldorf dolls and fell in love. I researched making them online and ordered enough supplies to make dolls for all of the boys I know.

I started to get a lot of requests from acquaintances for dolls and thought I would try selling, without the kind words, support and encouragement of my first few customers I don't think I would have kept going. A few months later my dolls started turning into animals. The little boys in my life literally were animals. My son and nephew were most often birds and likewise the first Napling animal was an owl.

When I'm not making dolls, I call myself a painter first. My art studio is packed up for the time being but I hope to get back to painting full time once my youngest is in school.

I am inspired by all of the amazing Dollmakers who have the courage to put their work out in the public eye and keep developing their craft to be even greater. I feel lucky to be part of Doll World, all of the encouragement and kind words I get from people who appreciate my work motivate me to work harder and keep going. I would say my boys motivate me, but they want to keep all of the dolls that I make and if I worked for them today I would be making a real life air conditioned just like Tony Spark Ironman suit and a Sloth that wraps around your waist like a belt.

What is your favourite thing about the USA and being American?
I have to admit I love french fries. I like that change feels possible, the freedom that we are granted truly gives me and I believe many other American's the hope and ambition to make our Country a greater place. Being an American means to me that we will fight to change the wrongs that have happened in the past to make our country a better place for everyone who lives here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Introducing... #1

Today's interview is going to be a little different. You see it's the time of year when we invite a few American artists to join us in our upload. But, this year we've added an element of surprise. Can you guess who our first guest vendor is?

I learned to sew at an early age and always loved the arts. I had made dolls for my sister and myself when I was young but truly entered the craft when my daughter was born. I researched all things natural because I wanted to raise my daughter in a healthy way and came across Waldorf dolls and became hooked.

People began asking for my dolls and on a whim I started selling. Now that I look back I was pretty naïve about doll making as a business. But I absolutely love it and will never give it up.

With Italian in the family blood and a honeymoon in Italy, I fell in love with all things Italian so I chose to name my shop after the Italian words for the principles by which my dolls are made...Play and Love.

My favourite part of owning a shop is creating a personality and designing everything around that. My least favourite part is showing off about my work but that is a necessary part of any successful business so I do it.

When I'm not working in my shop, I'm a mom, a wife, a preschool director/teacher, and a dreamer. The dreamer in me is going on 24-7 behind the scenes always imaging dolls, clothes, stories, pictures to paint, you name it. It's a wonder I ever get any doll work done.

What sets me apart from similar artists is my schooling and background in the arts and I've always been drawn to fashion design, sculpture, texture and colour so I feel these are what have infiltrated into my doll making the most. I love the beauty of contrast in textures and colours, I love the mix of modern and romantic, and simple yet bold and I try to use these in the design my dolls and clothes.

I'm motivated and inspired by art, the act of creating, making something for someone else to enjoy. Literature and literary ideas inspire me greatly too. 

While we obviously couldn't ask this talented lady her favourite thing about Canada, we did the next best thing and asked her, her favourite thing about the States. She says, "I love the vastness of the United States, the blend of cultures, the variety of landscapes. "

"America is a young nation compared to Europe, Asia and Africa. And like all things young, there is the adventure of discovery, of learning, of growing into maturity and truth and learning from mistakes. This is what I value most about being American. We may make mistakes along the way but so has everyone else, but it's the journey that matters, what you learn, and what you become. I try to make the best of my journey."

Can you guess who this amazing lady is?