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What brought me here today:

I’ve been wanting to write a blog post about the most recent group of dolls that I’ve been creating. Their collective name for the time being is ‘bottle dolls’. The three largest are Eugenie, Phyllis, and Sondra. I then created three additional dolls, Clarisse, Nadia, and Doreen. These three are slightly smaller dolls. Georgie, Liza, and Jane are close to completion. And I’ve decided that they too shall have a base, with a clear, plastic drink bottle as a cloche.

There have been some questions regarding my use of the clear, plastic drink bottles as cloches. One commenter felt as though the use of the plastic bottles detracted from all of the work I put into the dolls themselves. Another very kindly sent me links to businesses where I could purchase a wide variety of cloches, both plastic and glass. The suggestions offered to me regarding my choice to specifically use plastic bottles as cloches for my artwork were all taken in the spirit of kindness that they were offered.

That being said, I do want to make sure that not only I can explain my materials usage to viewers and patrons of my artwork. But also to help me make sense out of my choice other than a it-felt-right-so-I-did-it kind of way. After all, my artwork is not only my therapy, but a means for me to make money.


My use of the recycled plasic drink bottles as cloches is cheap. Free, to be exact. I’ve saved the plastic bottles that I thought would make the most interesting cloches for my artwork. The lables were removed. And the plastic cleaned inside and out. A little measuring and cutting was required to remove a small portion of the bottom of each bottle so they would sit flat on a base. It took me around half an hour to get the cloches for the three large dolls measured and cut.

I could choose to purchase newly manufactured plastic cloches. But I feel as though I’d simply be helping to create more plastics that won’t/cannot be recycled by doing so. There are jobs for people that I would also be supporting if I bought newly manufactured plastic cloches. The people who make th cloches, pack and ship them, etc. Then there are the shop owners that I would help to support as well. But that kind of seems like robbing Peter to pay Paul. Someone will have to pay for all the plastic use at some point.


My husband and I recycle. I’ve been a recycler since my early 20’s living in Indianapolis. O’Malia’s grocery store downtown had glass and metal recycling bins that were super-convenient to use. It was my father who first told me that I needed to start recycling. He was an avid recycler who kept his recycling bins neat and organized. I still remember him hollering at me because he could tell by the sound of the metal clanking together that I’d put an aluminum soda can in the steel can bin!

His interest in recycling came after he read some articles and research about modern landfills and how they do not allow the refuse (that will break-down, like paper) within them to actually biodegrade. There’s not enough air for the organisms needed to do the breaking down of the trash. My father showed me photos of core samples taken from landfills in the 70’s showing completely readable newspapers, packaging, etc.

Recycled, plastic drink bottles are everywhere. I know that some plastics are recyclable. But let’s face it, not enough of them actually are recycled. You can take a look at this information from the EPA to see how much plastic ends up in landfills in the US alone. It will take a lot more action by the government to change this. But until the corporations decide to change what they sell, and how they package it, plastic recycling will be a problem.


Explaining the meaning of using a clear, plastic drink bottle cloche is either going to make me sound like a pompous self-centered windbag. Or it may end up sounding like much ado about nothing (in particular). Either way, here we are. And I need to make some bit of sense out of it at least for myself.

I’ve talked previously about some of the dolls that have influenced my artwork as a doll maker. Liddle Kiddles were a series of dolls marketed in the US during the mid 60’s to beginning of the 70’s. I don’t know if I was given my first Liddle Kiddle dolls, or if I simply took them from my older sister. As a toddler, I had some pretty sticky fingers. But I also know that dolls were never a big deal to my sister. She may have just given them to me to get me out of her hair.

There were different series of Liddle Kiddle dolls. The one that I absolutely adored were the Kola Kiddles. Shirley Strawberry was my favourite. I’m not sure why I became so mentally and emotionally attached to these tiny dolls. The ability to adequately explain myself here 48 years later still eludes me. To me, these dolls were just the whole package. They were tiny, cute dolls that had their own little bottles (homes, displays) that kept them safe.

Art school:

When I was in art school, I remember creating a series of drawings and prints (etchings) that were bottles with corks in them. I drew bricks or a cinder blocks inside of the bottles. Granted, it wasn’t incredibly subtle, unique, or even mildly interesting imagery. But for some reason I created quite of few finished pieces utilizing some version of the bottle, brick, and cork.

I think that the reason I created these pieces was due to the fact that I was listening to Reggatta de Blanc a lot. If memory serves, it was glued in the tape deck of my car for most of a summer. This coincided with my (as yet to be diagnosed) clinical depression becoming a larger and harder to ignore component of my mental state. I was beginning to understand how my depressions cycled. And how it made my relationships with friends and family difficult. Any S.O.S. that I might manage to send, might as well be a brick in a bottle. Sending for help was a useless endeavor for me.

Hunting and gathering:

I’ve already talked about how the happiest I remember myself in the past was when I was around 6 years old or so. The world hadn’t gotten it’s hands on me yet and made me loathe myself completely. But even as I write this, the world and all the people and things in it were getting their icky little lingering finger prints all over my sense of self when I was that little girl.

But even while I was in the midst of the not-so-fun-stuff, I still had these little precious pieces of who I was before everything changed. You know, the parts of yourself that you don’t share with anyone. They’re yours and yours alone. And the insanely weird thing is that those precious pieces and their happiness exhisted within the same exact space as the not-so-great-stuff. Which doesn’t seem at all possible. How can a good and bad thing exist within the same space with in my memory? It doesn’t make one part better or worse either. They simply coexist.

My creation of the Bottle Dolls is my attempt to make sense of how the good and bad within my own life can have occurred at the same time. Perhaps I reached out to find something that would be a means to keep my head above the water? That’s a large job for a set of such tiny little dolls to accomplish.


It should be noted that these Bottle Dolls are a long way from being finished. I’ve been working on the text that will accompany each of the dolls. And how I plan to finish the cloches as well as the bases as well. In fact, when I’m finished with this blog post I need to place a wool felt order so I can keep working on them.

So, now what?

I know that my small efforts to be more knowledgible about the tools, materials, and supplies that I use in the creation of my artwork will not make the tiniest dent in this world-wide plastics problem. I’m also completely aware that my artwork, in the long run, isn’t of vast importance in any way that visual art can be important. I know how completely and utterly insignificant I am. However, my artwork allows me the ability to generate a modest income, while keeping me mentally healthy, all without making my carbon footprint larger. This makes me able to sleep a little better at night.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday.

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Day of the Dead

What brought me here today:

I’ve made mention in recent posts, of Day of the Dead. Part of the reason I’d be writing about it is due to my creating skull pins that reference this celebration. While I lived in New Mexico, seeing decorated skulls and skeletons was not an uncommon thing. Even when it was not October or November, these motifs could be found around town. As an art teacher, I had several different lesson plans that I delighted in teaching during the month leading up to the November 1st and 2nd celebration.

I was confident that placing some Day of the Dead adjacent artwork in my online shop would result in some solid sales for me. This is not what happened. I’ve sold two, and given away one. For the life of me, I could not understand why the pins aren’t selling better. I mean, come on! They’re super cute! Everyone wants a skull with their name on it! Right?

Okay. Back up a bit:

When I moved to New Mexico in my middle 20’s I felt as though I was either moving to the moon, or another country entirely. New Mexico’s a fascinating place that’s easy to fall in love with. As I’ve grown older, I’ve noticed that I tend to place myself into new living situations in which I’m the newbie, or in the minority in some manner. I was sucked-in by the vibrant cultures that were so new to me. It was an amazing experience to have as a young person.

New Mexico was the right place for me to be at that time in my life. There was so much to learn and explore just in the arts. Artistic traditions from Mexico were just too vibrant to ignore. The use of colour was something that was an arrow straight into my creative heart. For me, what Sesame Street and 1970’s Fisher-Price toys started as it related to my personal colour sense, the artisans of Mexico sewed up neatly into a complete package.

Traditional artwork:

The influence of colour that Mexican artists and artisans have had on my art creation is not the only thing I admired. There’s an element of creating something beautiful out of something that’s not so beautiful. The use of recycled and upcycled materials speaks to the ingenuity and creativity of the artisans. It’s the “What do I have?” and “What can I make out if it?” mindset that I utilise myself.

Carton board and newspaper is made into dolls and paper mache sculpture. Including amazing masks and intricate nativity scenes. Tin and aluminum cans are turned into laterns, frames, and intricate ornaments. One of my favourite types of metal work is the folding nativity scenes.

Oxacan animal carvings are also an artform that has influenced me greatly. Again, the use of colour! The imaginative designs of each of the creatures! And then to find out that it’s a fairly recent artform as well. Wow. There are so many artists and pieces of art to discover. Go here and have some fun looking through the different artists and their artwork.


There’s so much more artists and types of artwork to discover in New Mexico. After writing that, I feel as though I need to make a distinction between Mexican and New Mexican art. You can’t just lump them together. They’re definitely related to one another. But there are distinct differences as well.

For instance,

Day of the Dead:

I need to acknowedge that I’m a white woman here. I cannot hope to adequtely explain the deeply held beliefs of the the peoples who have celebrated Day of the Dead in some form or another for centuries. At best, I see myself as a person who has a genuine interest and reverence for the celebration, culture, and the peoples to whom this celebration belongs.

You can understand why I don’t want to “white-splain” this celebration. When I feel as though I’m not knowledgable enough to adequately explain something to the readers of my blog, I add links. Wikipedia is something I use as a ‘jumping off point’ for subjects I may not know a lot about. Lateral reading is always needed before any real understand can be done concerning any subject. Then, trips to the libary and seeking out people who are part of the culture/are people who celebrate the Day of the Dead.

So, if you would like to start here at Wikipedia, it’s got some interesting information on how different Central and South American cultures celebrate Day of the Dead. If you’re interested in something that is more child-centered, with an activity, try here. There are also some cool websites like this one. This short video is also very good. It was created for a PBS affiliate.

Sausage and bones:

Now that you maybe know a thing or two more about Day of the Dead than before, let me tell you about my semester of student teaching at the high school level. Okay, maybe not the whole story. Perhaps just one thing. There was a student. He was a sophomore or junior (15 to 17-ish years old). This kid was ridiculously talented. I was in awe of some of the cartoons he’d just scribble off nonchalantly. His general attidude was in the crapper most of the time. He was a typical teenage boy in that regard.

One day, he drew this incredibly detailed pen drawing of skeletons on bicycles. The amount of depth that he acheived was insane. All along the winding hills the skeletons cycled on bikes. The path was lined with sharp, pointy sicks onto which large cartoonish sausages were skewered. The depth and detail drew me in. I remember asking him about the piece, and he blew me off. Oh, yeah. The kid detested me too.

Not long after seeing his drawing, I created my first skeleton doll. It was pretty simple. I used felt. The body was black. I appliqued the white bones onto the arms, legs, and head. The dress was bright red felt edged in burgundy, with appliqued sausages all the way around the bottom edge of the dress. I put a red bow on the top of her head. She also had little matching red panteloons, edged with burgundy felt. This doll wasn’t named.

Additional work:

This first skeleton doll was inspired by the cranky teenaged student who hated my breathing guts. Additional skeleton dolls took on more reference to the Day of the Dead types of skeletons I came into contact with. I honestly don’t know how many of these larger dolls (at least 40 cm; 18-20 in.) I created over the years. Some were gifted. There were times in which I was paid for them as well.

These larger dolls took so much time to create. I’m not sure that I would be up to doing this kind of work again today. Right now, the remaining 30 cm (12 inch) Day of the Dead inspired skeleton doll  have in my online shop is as large as I want to create dolls anymore. I like how intimate this size of doll is.

Back to the skull pins:

What I didn’t realize when I created the Day of the Dead inspired customisable skull pins is that not everyone is familiar with the Day of the Dead. Not everyone lookng at the items for sale in my shop are going to want a skull pin with their name embroidered on it. Hindsight would also make me think that not everyone wants to wear a giant name badge when out in crowds of strangers either.

For me, a Day of the Dead skull with my name on it is a beautiful reminder of how I’m part of earth. I have a life to live, and someday that life will come to an end. Just like everything and everyone who has come before me. And for everyone who will come after me. This is the only life that I have. So I’d better not waste it either. Soon enough, there won’t be any proof I ever lived besides maybe a few bones.

I don’t view this as scary, or macabre either. Death is just part of life. The very end part of life. It doesn’t always seem just or fair. Especially for those whom we love who have died too soon, or in pain. It’s an equalizer among humans though. No matter how rich, or beautiful, or smart you are. You’re going to die just like everyone else will some day. So yeah. A skull made of sugar and icing, with my name on it seems appropriate. At least to me.

So now what?

I hope that you enjoy some of the links that I provided above. And that they can prove useful in understanding the Day of the Dead a little better. As for me, I have a lot of work to do yet today. My fingers are itchy to start sewing.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday.

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Personal Artistic Efficacy Part: 1

What brought me here today:

The artwork that I’m currently creating around the theme of dolls is not what I intended to do when entered art school. My current creative output seems to have very little to do with any of the subjects I studied. Art related or not. Long time readers of my blog know that the doll as subject matter is intertwined with my childhood that developed into a livelong love for dolls in all shapes and forms.

I recently overheard a conversation that made me ask myself questions about my own art education. What has my formal education in art has had on my current production of creative work? Has the time spent teaching art had any kind of impact on my artwork? These things have an influence on my artwork. But how much? And to what degree? Is the transferable knowledge be understood by those who view my artwork?

Graphic design:

When I was accepted to Herron in the early 90’s, it was small art school. It had about half of the students it has today. And a different location. I knew when I enrolled that I intended to study visual communications, i.e., graphic design. My intention after graduation was to work as a graphic designer. I progressed through the four-year program and felt as though I was a competent graphic designer upon graduation.

I had some jobs as a graphic designer. There was also a lot of freelance as a graphic designer. To be honest, I made steadier pay as a clerical temp. That’s what I would do while still doing freelance here when it came along.

Bad fit:

I may have been a competent graphic designer, but I was not emotionally well-suited for the career. Not in any way, shape, or form. I’m was too attidudinal with many of the coworkers that I needed to work with in advertising and graphic design. It was demeaning to me to have some manager with no art experience tell me that my work was bad. Then there were the clients who I never could please with my work. It was a horrible job fit for me all the way around.

What serves me now:

I enjoyed the hell out of my design courses at Herron. Even though at the time, I may have been less than pleased with my course work, myself or my artistic out-put. I worked very hard in my courses, and learned a great deal about design and typography.

To me, the evidence of an education in graphic design is so obvious in my artwork. But there are still some people who are surprised about this. I’m not sure if it’s the seeming incompatabily of graphic design work and my personal artwork? I apply the same design principles to my artwork that I did to any of my graphic design projects. After all, the elements an principles of art and design aren’t different for 2 and 3 dimentional artwork.

Today, my sense of colour, shape, and rhythm are used in the same manner that I used them as a graphic designer. I don’t question myself when working with these tools of art and design when creating my personal artwork. Nor did I question myself much about them when I was working as a graphic designer.


I took as many illustration courses as I could while at Herron. And while I think I was a competent graphic designer, I was in no way talented enough to become a working illustrator in the real world. The work I created in my illustration courses was timid and lackluster. Perhaps in with much more time and practice I might have gotten better. I just don’t think my heart was truly in it, if you know what I mean.

Bad fit?

I don’t like being told what to create. There is something inside me that just completely rebels against it. Again, I think with a lot of time and practice I could have been an okay illustrator. But I don’t think I ever would have been content as a professional illustrator. Or perhaps, I would never have been very good at illustrating other people’s thoughts and ideas.

What serves me now:

Those illustration courses introduced me to a wide variety of artisic media that could be utilized for illustration. Although I do remember absolutely detesting the work I had to do in one introductory illystration course in which I had to use Berol Prismacolor markers. The smelled awful! They were also pricey. And I could never get them to do what I wanted them to do either.

I learned a lot about how to use different drawing media, and how to use different media together in the same illustration. My illustration courses also taught me the importance of research for my creative work. One of the supplies I was required to have was a library card. Finding visual reference was expected of us.

In both my illustration and graphic design courses, we were expected to do a lot of preliminary sketches in preparation for our final work. Yeah. I learned to do a lot of sketches during my time in these courses. One strange lessons I took away was that my best ideas were usually in the first five sketches.


I began taking printmaking at the beginning of my junior year I think. The first course I signed up for was Lithography I. Printmaking seemed to dovetail nicely into my graphic design major. It was the head of the graphic design department who recommended I take the course. This was one of two memorable interactions with him. Huh. Come to think of it, he and I didn’t have a lot of interaction period.

Printmaking fulfilled a natural inclination for me; making multiples of things. After my first lithography course, I went on to take etching and woodcut courses as well. Part of me felt like there was the possibility of becoming an illustrator using printmaking as my medium of choice. However, attempts at bridging the two while I was still in school fell soundly flat.

Not bad at all:

Fine art printmaking was the first area of artistic study and practice since my freshman year core curriculum courses. It was in these courses that I began exploring creative expressions that I couldn’t utilize within my graphic design and illustration courses. In my printmaking courses, I was making personal art that I was actually happy with. It was fabulous and messy and sometimes slightly dangerous. I still have a scar on my right hand from a chemical burn.

What serves me now?

If you’ve seen my artwork, you know I am constantly creating new pieces. The dolls I create can be similar, but they’re never exactly the same. It always seems like in each successive doll, I change something. Each change is an attempt to get closer to what I want to say creatively.

Study and practice in printmaking and illustration allow me to see the entirety of the piece of artwork that I’m creating. And how that piece fits into the larger body of my creative output. I change something a little. Create a piece of art. Then assess it. And make more adjustments before creating the next piece. All with the hopes that the body of work I’m creating fits together and tells the story that I want it to tell. If that is at all possible.

There’s always more:

My natural talkative nature has made the blog post that I wanted to post today exceedingly large. I’ve decided to divide it in half and publish Part 2 on 19 October 2021. I’m aware that not everyone who reads my blog posts wants or needs to sit down and read a gigantic blog post!

There is still much more to this particular subject for me to write about. My creative life doesn’t seem to travel in a straight line. And this may seem confusing to some people. While there may be a few things that I would change regarding my past. My education and experiences with the arts and creating art is not one of them.

My current artwork is a combination of myself as child and the artistic media ancy gained through years of artistic practice.

So what now?

Back to work! I’ve almost completed five imp dolls that I want to have in my online shop in the next few days. The boots for the dolls were finished this morning. And I have some additional details to add to each doll. Oh. And then I started the clothing for two additional imp dolls. Because I couldn’t resist trying out just one more tiny alteration to the embroidery and applique on their dresses.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday.

PS: There is something going-on with the spell check that I’m using for my blog. There may be some spelling errors that I didn’t catch. I’m a rotten speller. Sorry for the inconvenience.

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Creative Boredom

What brought me here today:

I recently watched an episode of Bill Making Stuff on YouTube that I thought was very well done. In my opinion, all of his videos are well done and funny. Plus I learn something new in almost every video he produces. But this video dealt with what to do when you have no idea what to create. Everything that Bill suggests in his video are the things that I do if I feel creatively bored with my artwork. There are a few things that I do a little differently. Those differences are just a matter of personal tastes though.

I’m extremely fortunate in not having creative blocks, or running out of ideas. What I want to create always seems to exceed my time to create it. There are times in which I find myself mired in the ‘creative blahs’. I attribute this to creative boredom concerning ideas and techniques mostly. Sometimes I just plow through it and keep working. While other times I just want to stop working entirely. This gets me into a weird grey area of knowing when and where to just sisu myself through a piece or project I’m working on.

Put a finger on it:

It’s hard sometimes to know I’m in the creative blahs until I’m up to my rear-end in them. Sometimes it’s just a creeping suspicion that something just doesn’t feel right to me while I’m working. This can mean that the work I’m creating isn’t going the way that I thought that it would. There are other times that challenges keep getting in the way while working. I may be missing a material or tool that would make the entire process easier.

There can be times in which I just want to push the unfinished artwork off my desk and start something completely new. I rarely, if ever, do that. I hate wasting supplies and materials. The finished piece may not be what I would consider acceptable, but there may be important lessons to learn in the completing of the piece. These lessons can be applied to future artwork. And it makes me feel just a tiny bit better when completing sub-standard artwork.

Moving forward:

Okay. Now that I know I’m being creatively jammed by a severe case of creative boredom (blahs), or incorrect materials, or my own poor planning, I can do something abou it. Assess the situation. Can I even keep working on the piece? Is it a total and complete lost cause? Perhaps I can set it aside until I can lay hands on the correct supplies or tools?

It’s also important to remember that my own emotions can affect how I create my artwork. I don’t mean that I’m being adversely emotionally affected by working on a piece of artwork. Most of the time, my mind is wandering all over the place while I’m working on a piece. Sometimes my mind stumbles around and stirs up thoughts and emotions that cause me useless agita. In those cases, I just need to let it pass. Then I can get back to work.

During the past nine days or so, I’ve had a head cold. It was super-annoying. And it prevented me from working as much as I wanted to. Working myself to a nub while sick isn’t doing myself any favours. I gave in and took naps and tried to take it easy so I could heal up and get better. Forcing myself to work on a piece while coughing and sneezing isn’t good for anyone.

It’s not that:

If I’ve gotten through all of the above and am still at a loss as to why I’m just not wanting to work on a piece of artwork, then I need to try some other remedies for the creative blahs. As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, Bill from Bill Making Stuff had some good suggestions in his video.


I keep a sketchbooks and notebooks. The sketchbooks are for the ideas I want to create. The notebooks are for how I plan and design installations of my artwork. As well as useful information regarding materials and supplies. When I feel as though my artwork is getting stale, I just start drawing shapes. Then move on to forms. And then the forms are combined to create something new. I more or less just let my mind take me where ever it thinks looks interesting.

More often than not, new ideas start banging around in my head. They get me curious and excited about new ideas. Sometimes I combine older ideas with newer ideas to create something completely new to me. I use different media in the sketchbooks too. Watercolor paints, markers, chalks, crayons, etc. Whatever I have on hand. And most importantly, whatever excites my imagination.


I’ve talked before about my ‘art midden’. There are times in which I’m tripping over my recycled materials and supplies. If I’m creatively bored, cleaning and organizing my materials, tools, and supplies can spark enthusiasm for me. When I’m cleaning and organizing, I’m taking inventory of what I have to create artwork with. I try hard to have a neat and organized workspace. But no matter how much I try, it gets messy and cluttered.

Along with the cleaning and organizing, I sometimes change-up my work space so that I can use it more efficiently. I’m currently still getting used to this new studio work space. A few weeks ago, I did do some shifting around of some tools, supplies, and materials that I use on a daily basis. This did help me a great deal. It also made me decide that I do need some very specific shelves for my work space. Now I just need to find them!

Daily journal:

When the creative blahs are firmly entrenched, I just need to work on something that won’t take-up a lot of bandwidth. Organizing the upcoming month in my daily work journal can be just what I need. I’m still working on something that will benefit me. While at the same time not stressing my brain out too much.

My daily journal is an important tool in my business-building machine. Because of this, I use it in conjunction with the sea of post-it notes I have on the wall in front of my desk. Giving myself some time to work within my daily journal and on my larger business plans can also spark some creative interest for me. Especially since I have specific places to add now ideas for projects and pieces of art.


Sometimes nothing seems to work. I’ve cleaned and organized my supplies, materials, and studio space. My daily journal has been worked in. There are three new ideas that I’ve added to the giveaways section of my Patreon plan. Heck, I’ve even tried just pushing through it, and just kept on working on a piece. Nothing has worked.

This is when you have to get away from your work space and go elsewhere. This could mean taking a walk, running some errands, or doing a different activity. Sometimes that distance can be in reading a book, or meditating. I’m not particularly good at meditating, but I do try on occasion. Mostly connected to yoga and relaxation techniques.

Other creative outlets:

If I feel as though I’m creatively bored with working on physical artwork, I sometimes just switch-up the art that I’m creating. There is always work that I could be doing for the Go Marielle stories that I create. This ranges from taking pictures, to writing stories, to organizing the files. I’m working on a house plan for Marielle and her friends at present.

Another creative outlet is my twice weekly blog posts. I can always brainstorm and plan topics that I want to write about. In fact, this blog post today has been just that. Me exploring a different creative outlet in the hopes that I can pry myself out of my creative blahs. And look! At the end of this, I have something creative to show for it!

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday!

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Specifically to Sell

What brought me here today:

Most of the artwork that I’ve been creating over the past few weeks seems to be centered on a holiday theme: Halloween. I’ve not created much artwork with this specific theme. Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) is a much more common theme in my artwork. Some of the very first dolls that I created were influenced by this amazing celebration. A good example of this influence is currently available in my online shop, Cielo.

Day of the Dead became a favourite celebration of mine while I was living in New Mexico. It’s a beautiful mixture of Central American indigenous culture and religion, parts of Catholicism, as well as Spanish cultural influences. In Albuquerque, there were parades and public gatherings. The National Hispanic Cultural Center was a wealth of information and education for me as well. You can check out there website here.

Skull pins:

A few days ago, I created a simple pattern for a sugar skull pin and made a few trial run pieces. I have a metric tonne of pin backs from a delivery blunder a month or so ago. Creating sugar skull pins would use up at least a few of those pin backs. I purchaced some felt specifically for the creation of these sugar skull pins the day before creating the pattern. I spent about $14 (11.85 Euros) on all the materials at Michaels.

Once I figured out the most expedient way of cutting the felt. And what created the dimensional effects I liked, cutting them out went quickly. Adding the embroidery work to the skulls is akin to working on a very tiny needlework sampler. The pin backs are easy to attach to the back of the pin, along with the backing felt.  I can create quite a few of these pins per working day.

I also thought that it would be cute to add names across the forehead as well. This takes a little more concentration, as names can get long and complicated. These pins aren’t incredibly large. The pins measure about 2 x 2.5 inches (6.5 x 5.5 cm). The addition of names to the forehead would be in line with the sugar skulls that are given to people during Day of the Dead.

What’s the plan?

These skull pins are being created specifically to sell in my online shop. There’s no doubt that I’ll wear one of these pins myself. Just like there’s no doubt that some of the dolls I make I keep for myself. For me, there is a very distinct difference in these skull pins and some of the other pieces of artwork I create and then place for sale.

I sell my dolls, but rarely do I specifically set out at the beginning of a doll and think “YEP! This doll is going to be for sale!” It’s more creatively organic than that. There is an intrinsic need/want to create a doll. So I make the doll. It’s after the doll is completed that I make the decision as to whether or not it will be offered for sale. The three headed green witch doll with big boots will not be making an appearance in my online shop.

These skull pins were concieved of as items that would be specifically offered for sale. The materials were were purchased specifically for the creation of these pins. And the materials purchased, as well as the personal labour required to make them, have aided me in deciding on the pricepoint in which they will be sold.

Crappy custom experience:

I had an incredibly horrible custom order experience about twelve or so years ago. The client was from out of town, so the majority of our communications were by phone and email. I made sure that she okay’d every single choice I made for her doll. It was important for me to have her sign-off on every single design aspect of the doll.

When the day for pick-up arrived, she rejected the doll. She told me that it wasn’t anything like she wanted. Then she pointed to a doll that I had made for another client and said, “I want one exactly like that one!” So, I started all over again and created a doll for her that was as close to exact as I could get to another doll that I had created. Oh. And she needed it in like a week for some reason.

There was $300 dollars on the table. I was a poor artist and art teacher. So I made the replica doll and got my money. The doll that she rejected had crippled my hands because of the amount of embroidery work on it’s face and limbs, as well as clothing. The amount of work I had put into it far exceeded the price we had agreed on. Now I was stuck with it, and no buyer. I gave it away to a friend because I couldn’t stand having it in my presence.

Custom order pond:

A friend of mine suggested that I look into creating custom orders as a means of obtaining more sales. After the aforementioned custom order incident, I haven’t attempted any further custom orders. The whole series of events affected me so negatively that even the thought of offering a custom order made me sick to my stomach.

The skull pins offer me a chance to dip my toe back into the greater pond of custom orders without becoming overwhelmed. The only part of the skull pin to be customised is the name/wording across the forehead and the colour of embroidery thread the customer wishes to be used. A cutomer wants their initials “HPL” stitched on the forehead in red thread. No problem. Another customer wants “LOVE!” stitched in purple? Again, no problem.

What’s the difference?

Well, for one, I’m in no way emotionally invested in the finished piece of artwork. The second reason is that even though I’m offering a customisable piece of artwork, it’s limited. The space in which the customisation takes place is small. Most of the creative parts of the artwork have already been completed. Basically, the customer is picking a ‘blank’ and having me add in a few stitches.

So, now what?

As always, I can get back to work. I had originally thought that I would have enough pieces ready to add to my shop today. Tuesday the 14th of September seems like a much more attainable date to have these items in my online shop. I also suspect that Junia, Lenore, and Elena will also be added to the shop on the same day. Bat wings, black cats, pumpkins and all!

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday,

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Past, Present, and Future

What brought me here today:

Creative block is something that I’ve never seem to fall victim to. The ideas that I have always seem to exceed my ability to create them. Most of the time, what that really means is that it takes me a long time to create the larger, sculptural paper mache pieces. While I’m working on a given piece, I still get ideas and create sketches of specific pieces I would like to create in the future.

That all being said, there is a part of me that is hesitant to begin creating larger, more complex pieces of artwork in my new studio space. Putting a finger on exactly what is making me hesitate has been a difficult process. Even using the term ‘hesitant’ somehow feels incorrect. For those who follow me on Instagram, you know that I’ve created twelve tiny doll brooches in my new studio space. It would appear that I’ve solved my own problem, right?

The past:

This may sound strange, especially for people who may not be creators or artists, but the artwork I made in Finland belongs in a different place. It’s linked to a former version of myself that is in the past. A lot of money was spent to ship my artwork from Finland to the US. This was done for a few different reasons. Chief among them being that I need to have artwork to show in displays and galleries.

The body of work that I brought with me represents a lot of creative and emotional learning for me. I discovered a lot more about myself than I thought possible while creating the artwork. If for that reason alone I made sure to keep the artwork, it would have been worth the money spent on shipping.

All that being said, that artwork, and the ways in which I created it belong in my past. My extremely recent past. But my past nonetheless.

Between now and when:

The teenie doll brooches that I created were started in Finland. The doll bodies, arms, and legs were sewn together at the desk that looked out onto Myllyjarvi lake. I felt no hesitation in sewing on each dolls hair, or in giving them names. I used some of the felt that I brought with me to create the brooch bases. New embroidery floss was used to add the decorative elements to the brooches and the doll dresses.

The brooches that I created were planned previous to the move to the US. I knew that I wanted to create some tiny doll brooches in the near future, so I got the tiny dolls started before leaving Finland. It was nice to have something to physically work on after almost three weeks of no art creation.

There was no hesitation in creating because I had already done the lion’s share of the designing and planning prior to moving into a new studio work space. It may sound strange, but in my mind, the artwork was already completed. I could go on and create something new.

Be here now:

I suppose that I could blame some of my hesitancy to begin constructing a large, sculptural paper mache piece on the fact that I’m still missing some important materials and supplies. No newspaper as of yet. And I still have not found a glue that I feel is strong enough. There are also a few orders for felt that I need to make. I need a large cutting mat as well.

It seems like I’m attempting to make excuses for not jumping right back into creating large, sculptural, paper mache pieces. Doesn’t it? I think in part I am. There’s another part of me that is processing the new environment I’m living in. Pulling out elements that I find interesting and stashing them away in my sketchbook. There is something creatively coalescing in my mind. I just can’t quite see it yet.

The future is now:

Acknowledging the fact that I still wish I was in Finland and not in the US has helped me a great deal. Now that I know this, I can start moving forward. That might sound strange, but it works for me. There’s nothing I can do right now to be back in Finland. I am right here, right now. And it will do me no good to winge and whine about where I wish I was.

For me, the act of creating artwork in a place tethers me to it. The influence of my immediate environment makes itself present in my finished artwork. I can’t help it. For me to sit down and continue creating exactly the same artwork that Finland inspired in me would feel incredibly wrong to me. Any artwork I make in this new space will have Delaware as an influence.


While talking to my husband, he mentioned that he was still having problems getting into a flow state while working. I’ve written about flow state quite  few times in the past. It’s one of those things occurrences that can be hard to describe. Suffice it to say, that to be able to get into a flow state while working, one of the key requirements is that I feel mentally and emotionally comfortable. I need to feel safe.

My new workspace is still new to me. I’m not done figuring out how I will operate within the space. What tools go where. How my supplies and materials will be stored. And, even things like, I’m not looking out a large window onto trees and a lake. These things have a lot to do with disrupting my creative flow state. This is where my sense of hesitancy springs from.

The more settled I get within my new workspace, the easier a time I will have getting into a creative flow state. This is just going to take some time. In the meantime, I will continue working on smaller pieces. Smaller dolls. And see where it all takes me.

So, now what?

I have several smaller dolls that I want to design and create. These pieces go in a direction that didn’t quite feel right to me until I arrived in the US. I’m going to start work on them in the next week. There are also other irons I have in the fire right now that I can begin fleshing out as well. Like I said, I’m never at a loss for creative ideas, so I count myself incredibly lucky.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday.

Mason Jennings, Be Here Now; Boneclouds (2006)

I also know that Be Here Now (1971) is a book by Ram Dass, about yoga, meditation, and spiritualism. I have never read the book.

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Shop Open!

Open shop!

This is just a short post announcing that my online shop is once again open! There are presently a limited items currently available for purchase. I’m still making decisions regarding what items will be returning to the shop, and which items will be permanently removed.

Currently, I am only able to ship purchased items domestically within the United States. During the next week, I will be adding more shipping options so that I may ship internationally again as soon as possible!

All of the downloadable patterns I have listed are available for purchase from my shop. You can look through the online patterns here.

New items:

I’m slowly getting my new studio organized so that I can begin creating all the new artwork I’ve been wanting to start. The new items will begin appearing in the shop in the next few weeks. To see what I’m working on, make sure that you’re following me on Instagram @Katie_Kinsman_Artist and on Twitter @KatieKinsmanArt.

If you have any questions, please contact me here!

Thank you for visiting my website!


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What Did I do with My Artwork?

What brought me here today?

The largest and most difficult task for me during the move was what do to with all of my artwork, supplies and materials. I had little difficulty going through my clothing and personal items, weeding out what I would keep and what I would donate. At one point, very early in the entire process, I burst into tears at the thought of having to leave all of my artwork behind. Or worse, having to just throw it away because there was no way anyone would buy it. (Yeah. I am completely aware of how weird that sounds.)

Long story somewhat shorter, five boxes of my artwork were shipped from Jyväskylä, Finland to our new apartment in Delaware. The shipping charges were…(insert eye-rolling and a lot of sighing here) more expensive than I had planned for. But I needed to have them for my future small business plans.

(Edit: All five boxes arrived in Delaware about a week and a half after we did. I honestly thought that it would be closer to a month before they would get here. The packages are in my studio right now. Waiting to be opened!)

Let’s start with the crying:

I surprised myself by how incredibly emotional I became at the thought of not being able to keep the vast majority of my large paper mâché pieces of artwork. My life if constructed around the creation of art. The thought of being without that artwork made me  feel mentally and physically incomplete. Realistically, it felt like a hard punch or two to the gut.

Yes. I’m attached to my artwork. As well I should be. Art is a huge portion of my personal and professional identity. The rest of my possessions don’t mean that much to me. All but a few are replaceable. I had no emotional attachment to them. I hadn’t created them. My winter coat, dress shoes, hairdryer and iron were just objects that I could, in time, replace.

So yeah. I cried. Then decided that I needed to figure out how in the hell I would get my artwork across an ocean in one piece.

Procrastination or…?

Then what I thought was procrastination hit me square in the face. I organized all of my art tools, materials and supplies. What was going to come with me was quickly and easily chosen. I put together donations for several people and art educational groups from the gargantuan remainder of my tools, materials and supplies. While I worked, I kept looking at my large paper mâché pieces and wishing that I they would somehow magically pack themselves into boxes.

I procrastinated about packing my artwork for a few week. I actually did not pack my artwork until about two days before we left Jyväskylä. My poor husband didn’t want to push too hard to make me pack the artwork either. He sensed that there was something else going on, even when I didn’t totally realize it myself. Yet.

‘In one piece’ was the problem:

The thing that was stopping me from packing up my large paper mâché pieces was the fact that I had to break them to get them into their shipping containers. I know I’ve made jokes about piling-up my artwork and lighting it all on fire when I’m frustrated or angry. But the thought of actually doing that makes me cringe. I’m very firmly a creator, and not a destroyer.

Most of my larger paper mâché pieces were designed to come apart, at least partially. This was helpful, but didn’t solve all of the problems of getting my artwork to fit within the containers I purchased. I had to break most of the pins holding on arms and legs. And I ended-up pulling the heads off of other pieces. Some pieces had smaller components that had to be carefully broken-off too.

The whole experience just suuuucked. I did not like having to purposefully break my artwork. It felt so incredibly wrong. While packing the pieces, I kind of turned on ‘auto-pilot’. I didn’t allow myself to think too much about what I was doing. Otherwise, I might have started crying. And that wouldn’t have been helpful in the slightest.

Repair work:

I use wooden dowels and bamboo skewers to attach movable arms and legs to the large, paper mâché pieces. I can repair the damage that I inflicted on my artwork over time. Several large pieces, including Pink Paddle Doll , Shirley, Agnes, and Kiddo had have parts intentionally broken-off of their surfaces so that they could be packed for shipping.

Kiddo and Pink Paddle, and several pieces that were already under construction were packed in my suitcases along with my clothing and other personal items. My husband and I didn’t want to have to pay un-godly high baggage fees, so we were extremely careful in what we packed in our luggage. My large work almost all paper mâché which is lightweight. The trade-off is that the pieces did get bashed around a little bit.

Repairing my artwork won’t be incredibly fun, but I like it better than the alternative of not having them at all. My husband thought that the repair work would be a good way to get settled into my new studio space. Working on something familiar will be comforting to me. And a good way to christen the new work space.

Now what?

As of the time that I’m writing this blog post, we are waiting on our furniture. Remember earlier, when I said that I wasn’t too attached to things like a winter coat or a pair of heels? Well the same goes for the furniture we had. Almost every stick of furniture we had in Finland was from Ikea. Including my desk, shelves, chair and lamp. I’m getting a smaller desk. And I don’t need any shelves. I am upgrading my desk chair though. But all of that is for another post.

Once I have a functioning workspace, I will begin to repair my broken artwork. I have several pieces that once repaired, will go right back up on the wall. I also have several small dolls that are waiting to be finished as well. Hopefully I can get back to more of a normal creative work-flow by the end of the month of July.

Thank you for reading, and I will see you again next Friday.