Dolls, Fibre Scultpures and Costumes

Archive for the ‘Art dolls’ Category

Focus on Fibre Art Show

The show is on now in the Enterprise Square gallery on Jasper (in Edmonton).

My doll won first prize in its category!

Vrouw Holle – Or – When housework Controlled the Weather

When I was a child in the Netherlands, I had a snow globe with a woman shaking a pillow to make it snow. This was Vrouw Holle. When she swept the floor she created the dunes that blocked the sea, when she washed, it rained. When it stormed she rode with the Wild Hunt gathering unwary souls. She ruled her own underworld. Strong women who cleaned “messes” and created change are part of my heritage. This piece is dedicated to my mother (Johanna Breijer 1930 – 2015) who spent decades working for women behind the scenes in Alberta politics.

An original design, cloth sculpture, completed February 2016.

Size: Total height 49cm (figure 41cm), Width 31 cm, Depth 17cm

Materials: Skin; 100% cotton, Dress; unknown fibre, Cape; silk, Hair; tea dyed mohair, Polyester Stuffing, Wire armature, Base & broom; wood, Glass beads, found objects, jewelry bits, assorted paints.

Vrouw Holle

Vrouw Holle Front view


Back view

Vrouw Holle

Vrouw Holle

Moving forward – slowly

Slowly because there will be renovations.  We are getting a grant from the city to help with some basic “get up to code”  and insulation things.  So sometime soon the house will turn into a disaster zone as all the electrical work will be mostly redone and maybe the plumbing and the insulation in the attic.

We had hoped for the windows facing the north side too but there have been too many ” Oh ….um ……… Why did they do that this way?” “What were they thinking off?” “How much of this wall/ceiling can we take down?” “Ooooh now that is interesting….” each of which costs lots of money.  The electrical will HAVE to be done because the grant people sent an inspector to determine how safe it is……

I have to have 2 quotes for everything – which means calling and leaving message and calling some more.  We now have the plumbing covered.  One quote for the heating/air condioning, one for the insulation, one for windows, one for the electrical is in the works.  The rest are all still in the message holding pattern.

If we can’t do the window in the front then my studio moves into my bedroom and my bedroom into that room.  That way I sleep in the cold room and can work in the warmest room. Light isn’t everything and power here is very expensive.

On the good side my  doll “Vrouw Holle” was accepted into the “Focus on Fibre” show!!!!

Vrouw Holle

Vrouw Holle

I am very thankful for this!  This doll with its deadline was what helped me break the “Ice Wall” around my art.  In order to meet the deadline I had to focus on my art work, to find the tools, the fabric, the patterns.  I had to develop a way to work, I had to show up at the desk and focus.  To have her accepted into the show was the final kick to get me back.  The next few pieces are already in my head and as soon as the renos are done I will buckle down, make art, open an Etsy store and do the work.

I am also in the process of designing a knitting pattern for a pair of lace fingerless gloves.  More on that when it is finished because writing out and graphing lace patterns when one is somewhat dyslexic is tricky!

Rendezvous Gloves

Rendezvous Gloves


Photo Adventure

I worked hard on my entry for the Focus on Fibre  call for entries.  I managed to finish it for the early bird entry. Then came the whole “Fun with Cameras”!

The photos required have to be un edited which meant good lighting and good shots.  Something that is not my forte.  However my sister has taken workshops on photography and video.

Take one:  Everything set up, grey fabric ironed and pinned to the wall, sun bouncing off the other wall and white board.  My camera.  The over all shots are not bad.  Close ups are fuzzy no matter which settings we try.

Take two:  My sisters camera.  Dead in the water.

Take Three: My mothers old camera.  Light is fading and tripod breaks and camera just sort of limply hangs sideways on it unless propped up somehow.  Pictures not bad but resolution too low for the guidelines.  Light goes.

Take Four:  next morning.  Grey fabric washed to remove stain – where the hell did that come from.  Try white fabric to see if more light helps with various cameras.  Still no good closeups and most of the pictures are at an angle due to the jury rigged tripod.

Take Five: Video camera.  Might work if we can find the thing that reads a 3.5 inch floppy.

Take Six:  Grey fabric back up because I suddenly remembered that my tablet also takes pictures.  I shoot a few and they look good.  I email them to my self to get them to my computer because I can’t figure out how else to do this.

They look great.  I do edit them to cut out some edges and to make her stand straight.

All through this we were assisted by the cat and dog.  The cat hiding under the little table covered with fabric so he could attack the dog as she walked by.

Vrouw Holle

Vrouw Holle

More details to follow.

Back in the Closet?

A lot has happened since I last posted.  Holidays in Jasper with my daughter, and six weeks in Whitehorse with my oldest daughter.  I needed that time to try and find myself back somewhat. It has been harder then I expected. Almost 4 years of intense care giving  has left my mind in a rut where it wants to keep me ready to jump up and do everyone’s bidding.  That means not working on my art work because it will get interrupted.  My mind thinks I still need to “thread water” marking time.

My father decided that he wanted to live in a seniors residence with other people of his age so he moved out in August and deeded the house to my sister.  So when I returned from Whitehorse we renovated and redecorated.  We removed the formerly white carpet (what was my mother thinking off!?!), painted, and put down new flooring.  I now have my own bedroom and we moved the studio upstairs.

work space

work space


Sewing area


Cutting space and inspiration wall

What you are not seeing is the wonderful big north facing window.  The very very cold big north facing window, in the coldest room in the house, in Edmonton where it regularly gets down to -25c as a high for the day.

Now my new bedroom is in the centre of the house in a nice warm room.  It is the former study and it has two very big closets, one that was used for the computer with a desk built in so it could be locked away when my parents were gone.  So for the third time I reorganized my studio space.  I emptied the boxes of my yarn to under the very cold window (more insulation), I sorted and shredded a lot of person papers and cleared a space in my closet.

View from the bed

View from the bed

work space in the closet

work space in the closet

Note the space for the cat.  There was another space on the other side but he preferred to be where the lamp was. The body parts are part of a project for the fibre arts group  call for submissions.

So for the first time since 1979 I am back in the closet – until spring.  I am looking forward to spring.

Four horns, a Penis and a little Bang

I have been working on the Pan / Green Man doll the last 2 weeks.  I was reading the latest Wild Fibre magazine and they had a photo of these 4 horned black sheep that just enchanted me so now he has 4 horns.   Oh and a penis because he is a fertility god after all.  He has the first layer of hair on also.  The background is kind of messy because I got fed up not being able to get into my studio and dragged it all upstairs and I have been working at the kitchen table.  This means more interruptions, including my father making jokes about it…..  But at least I am getting something done.


Four horns

Four horns





And that little bang?

Someone dropped this strange tube with electrical wires coming out of it behind the garage that the guy who does the lawn took one look at and called the police, who called the bomb squad.  So we had a bomb scare in the alley!

We were told to get into the basement – umm no we can’t do that because mom can’t walk – so we had to stay at the front of the house while they blew it up.  The whole thing took from 7am to 10:30 am when there was a sound of a garbage can being dropped.  Apparently this was “oil field debris” that someone dropped off behind the garage along with one table leg and an empty bottle.  And I thought life was a little boring and humdrum.




Oh my!

Just after I got back from Nova Scotia I got an email from Harcourt House reminding me about a call for submissions for their members show.  Not giving me time to think about it and back out, my sister pushed me to enter.  It was a good thing she went with me because the whole street was torn up and we had to park several blocks away, I would probably have turned around and gone home but she helped carry the dolls.

They chose “Spell for Abundance” for the show.  It is their 25th anniversary show  on from June 13th to July 5th.  It is also part of “The Works“, a city wide arts festival.  The opening reception and open house for Harcourt is on June 20th.  Which means I have to go and  try  to not hold up the wall of the gallery, the walls will hold themselves up quite well without my help.

Spell for abundance

Spell for abundance


My Little Helper

I got into my studio to work this weekend again and my little helper was there to Purr along with me.


sophie asking for a muffin

As I work it sits on a little pillowcase of black satin,  and watches me.  In this case it was watching the muffin I also had.  Every once in a while it would reach out and put one claw in my arm to remind me that she/he loves muffins.

It is called Sophie.  When we got it we were told it was a female, and I never did really check, but I did think it had odd looking genitals…..  Then dimwit here ate a thread with a beading needle attached and the vet informed us that Sophia was really Sophocles.  But as a result the pronouns are a bit awkward because for 9 months it was a she and my mind refuses to do  the gender change.

This cat has totally changed how I work.  Before I was a messy crafter who left stuff all over the place but a few months after the beading needle incident, it found some pretty metallic thread to eat and after 40 stitches in its belly I realized I had to do things differently.  I need to use boxes which close tightly and smoothly because this darling can open them otherwise, and they have to stay closed if they just so happen to “fall” off the desk!  And things that “fall” get chewed up by the dog.  Between the two of them I am sooo tidy now!

I use a big Ferro-Rocher chocolate box as a work space when I am beading because I can close it up without having to put everything away. And all threads get tidied up and put away – immediately.

Sophie also insures I take breaks.  When we lived in Montreal, they got fed at 5 pm when I started supper, here I make supper at 4 but when they arrived they were still on Montreal time and they never adapted to Edmonton time, so now they eat at 3pm.  So at 2 pm it starts bugging me for food.  First it purrs, then it starts giving loving little rubs with its head.  I tell you it is really hard to sew when  cat keeps bumping your hands, the needle goes all over the place, including into me.  As  a result they get fed at 2:30 when I work in my studio.

I did get the sculpting of the chest and arms finished.  Here is Pan with his legs pinned on because this is supposed to be a blog about dolls, not cats.  On Sunday I worked on his right leg, finishing the shaping.

Pan with legs

Pan with legs

One Year

I have been in Edmonton one year this month. One year. So far not much has gone as I expected it to, neither the renovations, the “work”, nor me. The thing that most surprises me is how much trouble I am having dealing with the combination of chaos and rigid order. I am not getting much done because I want to kick at the order and tame the and control the chaos. Neither is possible so why rail at it? Part of me doesn’t want to start anything because I am going to get interrupted anyway, so why bother. And then I get frustrated because I see myself frittering away time and opportunity when the interruptions don’t happen.
I do have the studio and get some time in it on my sisters good days. I have been working on the Pan doll. Here is the WIP so far.

Pan Body parts

Pan Body parts

Pan Torso

Pan Torso


Getting the torso sculpted was a challenge.  I searched for my photos and couldn’t find them at first.  Then I looked for some gay male magazines but they aren’t anywhere I shop.  Lots of naked women but no boys.  Most of my photos were from free Montreal add magazines promoting the bars and restaurants.  They don’t seem to have an here.  All I can find free is seniors and job placement handouts.  I finally found a gay travel magazine that had a  swimsuit segment – yeah abs!  Then I found all my resource materials back.  I know, I could have gone on line, I did that once.  I really don’t want to do that again.



It has been a while since I posted. A long, dark, cold while. I Should have posted, I Should have journalled, I should have exercised, I should have done more baking, I should have worked on my art more, I should be able to tune out the TVs and audio books, I should be more patient, I should be nicer…… I hate SHOULD.

I spent a lot of my life using anger and a kind of bravado to get where I wanted to be. It is very efficient use of energy, it even got me on the front page of the Edmonton Sun. It is the kind of energy you can use to organize protests, to break through barriers, to climb “Mountains”. It feels clean and righteous. But it doesn’t work for dealing with the situation I am in right now and it doesn’t work for health issues and most off all it doesn’t work for the “Should”s. When I hear Should I get angry and dig in my heels, which doesn’t help.

I chose to be here. I knew it would be hard and a challenge. I am not the touchy feely nursey type person, in fact in school I scored rock bottom on those attributes in the guidance tests. This endless winter has me feeling trapped and struggling. Mom has gotten worse and a couple of times I have hurt myself lifting her or dealing with a wheelchair and snowy side walks, the car has had problems – all little things but they have really gotten under my skin.

I was lucky however, someone on one of the health forums had an issue with her treatment and I tried to help and as I was typing I realized just how much I was answering my own issues. I need to find a way to let these issues flow free. Morning journalling was one way but it is not working. Mom keeps calling for me every time I set a pen to paper, the private time I had early in the morning is gone unless I re-arrange my morning and that is hard to do. Getting up earlier is not the answer, I need sleep.

What is helping is that my sister is giving me a few hours after lunch to escape down stairs to the studio. At first it was hard to switch gears but now I put on my music and meditate for 15 minutes before trying to throw my self into the creating.

Once upon a time I learned to ride a horse (mostly because it looked like my daughter was having such a fun time and I thought in a moment of total craziness it was a mother/daughter thing we could do together) It was going ok (not great) when due to a bizarre combination of circumstances I was thrown of the spooked horse and it was several weeks before I could get back on to it. This was when I learned that you can’t ride a horse by conquering your fear, because it knows and it laughs at you. The only way to really ride a horse is to learn to let go of your fear, anger and anything else that gets between you and riding that horse. You would think I would remember that. It took many tries in bitter November and December weather before I figured it out.

So I have to figure out how to ride this “horse” so I can let go of the SHOULD and just DO it.

Studio Finally

My Christmas present – my studio is finally ready for use.  It is not finished totally but my side is working now. I have even had some time to start using it!!

New studio

New studio

It is a converted kitchen that has been used as a workshop when the house was renovated so we installed a new floor and shelving. The room has actually been finished for a few months but we needed to fill the space so we could finish the furnace / storage room.

I had bought some fabric last January and it has been sitting and waiting for me to decide what to do with it.  This time as soon as I picked it up it told me it wanted to be Pan playing the flute.

So far I sewn the legs in dark green and the torso in light green.  Next will be the arms.  Getting all the angles right, reversed and inside out is a challenge for someone who is dyslexic!





It feels so exciting to be working again.  Before this I was crushing my ideas down.  I stopped journalling because all I was writing was whining about how I couldn’t follow through on my ideas, which made me really depressed.  Now it is like someone turned on the lights.  All my creative ideas are flowing.  My cup is once again half full, not half empty.



There were a few painful moments as I had to learn to use the new sewing machine.  I whined and moaned until I finally figured it out – I actually had to READ THE MANUAL!  Me, read a sewing machine manual!  I still feel awkward, I have to think about every move.  I miss my old Bernina but really we don’t need a fifth sewing machine here and it was getting fussy.  I have had it since 1975.  I bought it with one of my first real pay checks, it was worth 6 months of rent.

The sewing machine is in my bedroom because the desk is easier to work on then the high counters.

Sewing machine

Sewing machine









Remember the post about Blooming Here ?  Well it feels more like freezing into place lately then blooming.  We have had snow on the ground since the beginning of November, and it is cold, it was -25c when I walked the dog this morning and that didn’t include the wind chill.  When Santa comes tonight he had better have his heated long under wear on!  And to think winter has only just begun.

Lilac outside my bedroom

Lilac outside my bedroom

This is the view from the sewing area.  A lovely white lilac bush and a foot of snow.  I keep telling myself it will be so nice in spring when it blooms.

Tomorrow is Christmas and we have respite care so I am going to spend 2 hours of guilt free play time in my studio!  Once it is all cut and sewn I can bring it up stairs and work on stuffing and sculpting.