Category Archives: Words

Eyes Open, Mouth Moving

Berin says that I wake up talking. I suppose that when I was single I didn’t notice this as much, or maybe at all, because there was no one there to squint at me and say “What? I just…wait a minute…still not awake…you talking…what?” from under the blankets. Once I am awake, I’m thinking and if I’m thinking, I’m talking. I can see how this can be difficult for Berin. He takes longer to fully wake up than I do. It’s usually after his first cup of coffee that he’s completely awake and able to carry on conversations that require more than a grunted one word answer. I wake up mid conversation and treat him as someone who is privy to whatever the hell is going on in my head; this is rarely, if ever the case.

I’ve actually given quite a lot of thought to the way in which I think over the years. I don’t think I’m particularly special in the way that I think. I tend to have several subroutines running at any given point. Things I need to do, tasks that I am required to complete, ideas that I’m actively playing with and others I’m purposefully ignoring, all set to musical accompaniment. As I type right now, I have the Shins song “Red Rabbits” playing in my head. The soundtrack changes around a little here and there, it’s mostly Shins right now, because that is what I’m listening to. My consciousness drifts through all the subroutines, and when I’m working on one specific task, the others take a back seat for a while, but never go away. I’m also a chronic note taker, so if a thought or idea breaks the surface concerning a project I’m not actively working on, I write down notes or directives so that I can address it at a later time.

The biggest problem I run into to getting what Berin calls axel-wrapped, i.e., overthinking things to the point of being harmful rather than beneficial to myself. As I’ve gotten older, I don’t do this as much as I used to, but it still happens. Berin can spot me headed down this road and can usually redirect me, or help me to redirect myself. Today, I’ve gotten myself all axel-wrapped over the question ‘Am I a real artist?‘ I have Mihaly Csikszentmilahyi (cheek-sent-me-high) to thank for placing this thought in my head.

I’ve been researching creativity as part of my doctoral proposal. Csikszentmilahyi has some interesting things to say on the subject, but I had dismissed using his ideas because I viewed them as very commercial/business oriented, and having less to do with how children utilise and demonstrate their own personal creativity than Lowenfeld. The thing that I was ignoring is that adult educators could be interpreting the artistic creativity of children through the lenses that Csikszentmilahyi’s Systems Model of Creativity creates, whether they are aware of it or not, which would, in my own thinking relate back directly to what Viktor Lowenfeld discourages adults from doing when looking at the artwork of children: critiquing it terms that are meant for an adult.

I have to draw pictures like this to help me organise my thoughts. I feel like I can better see all of the moving parts of a particular concept or theory when I do so.

Along with reading and researching for my doctoral proposal, I’ve been creating my own artwork and investigating my own creative processes and thinking. I’ve gotten very hung up on why I choose to create dolls. In my previous post, I stated that I do it because I like it, it makes me happy, so I will continue doing it. I am the audience, etc., etc. and so forth. What I have realised after taking Csikszentmilahyi’s Systems Model of Creativity apart and then gluing it back together with a Chronosphere overlay (borrowed from Bronfenbrenners’ Human Ecological Theory of Human Development), that I was stuck on the concept of a Gatekeeper within the Field (of Art, with a capital A) as they related to my creation of dolls. As with most things relating to me, I had to stop, look over my baggage, select the correct piece and then open it up in the middle of the street so that all passers by could get a good look at my mental and emotional underpants as I rooted through them.

The society and culture in which I grew to adulthood regard dolls as toys, objects that are meant for children. Dolls are grown out of and placed to the side when other, more adult things take precedence, like paying bills, drinking alcohol and shopping for life and car insurance. Art (with a capital A) is found in museums and proper galleries and fancy hotels and wealthy private residences. Art is painting with oil or acrylic, or sculptures made of stone or metal. Art is meant to behind protective glass, mounted on a wall, looked at, revered but never touched. Art is old and precious. People with degrees in Art choose what Art goes in these places. They are the Gatekeepers.

So at this point, in my mind (my current id driven, underpants flinging state of mind) I came to the conclusion that my dolls were not Art, they were art, original, yes and certainly unique, but not by Csikszentmilahyi’s specific definitions of creative or novel in any fashion. What I have to remember is that Csikszentmilahyi has created one possible definition of creativity, and it is by no means the only definition of creativity.

I remember my father telling me that part of his job as a Marine Corps Drill Instructor was to effectively ‘tear men down and then help to build them back up again‘. I feel as though this is what I am doing with my own personal creative process and my own beliefs about my own creativity and the artwork I create. It’s a little unnerving and scarier than I thought, but as with all change, it’s going to kind of suck for a while before it gets better.

A web of mystery, yeah…

A little over three years ago, I was standing in the hallway of a local high school, surrounded by my own artwork (mostly dolls) having a strange conversation with a potential customer, while trying to wrangle her enthusiastic, sticky-fingered daughter away from touching the handmade cloth dolls that covered my booth.

“Yeah…your dolls are really, reeealy great….” she said, “but, I’m an adult. What would I want with a doll? I mean, what would I do with it?”

Okay. Ignoring the fact that you daughter would like to have one of my dolls, you are talking to the adult to actually made the dolls that you are insinuating an adult would want nothing to do with. I know, you may think I am reading too much into what she said, but there was more said, and the body language and over all attitude that went along with her comments to me were dismissive and condescending.

In a recent post, I stated that I am the audience and that I create the artwork that I want to create, regardless of whether people want it, like it or buy it. This is still true. I can take criticism. I think the reason why I have been thinking about this particular incident is because I’m stuck on the part about why would an adult want a doll? Which to me then wraps around to the question, why do I make dolls? Why dolls?

I cannot remember a time in my life that I was not fascinated by dolls. They permeate my childhood memories. My first loves were the original Fisher-Price Little People, then Flatsie Dolls (I called them ‘Bitsies’, because they were small).

A close friend of the family had antique dolls and her mother had a larger collection and had kind of doll hospital, where she created clothing for them and made repairs to them. My mother says that once, when I was very little (maybe a little under three years old) we visited her house. I had a habit of getting very quiet when I was doing bad things, so when I couldn’t be heard, I was looked for. I was found looking (not touching, they were in cases) at all of the dolls on display. I have a fuzzy memory of the room with the cases of dolls. The dolls were amazing.

I still remember the name of my favourite doll when I was little (around age 5). Her name was Cindy (Audrey in the advert). She was a Fisher-Price doll and I adored her. She eventually got sisters Julie and Sally (Jenny and Mary respectively from advert) from the same line of dolls, and later, an older sister named Amanda.

I loved these dolls. Cindy had the coolest overalls and I still think of the fabric of Julie’s dress when I look at fabric for the doll clothing I create.

Along with dolls, I had stuffed animals. Ellie (the elephant, yes, I know, not very imaginative on the name there), Bernie the bear, Meepie the mouse.

The Fisher-Price Little People gave me a love of not only dolls, but dollhouses. During my childhood, I had several dollhouses. One made by my Grandfather Harold and one that I made myself, along with lots and lots of shoebox houses.

I loved the while Fisher-Price Little People world. I consider the Little People house to be my first doll house.

I fell in love with paper dolls when I was around 7 or 8. I loved a series called the Ginghams. I think I have written about this particular set of paper dolls before in this blog. Paper dolls are something that I associate with spending time at my Grandmother Elizabeth’s house when I was little. My Grandmother Elizabeth and Grandfather Russell lived in the same town that I grew up in. Sometimes my younger brother Kurt and I would go over for the day. There was a Kmart just a few blocks from their house. We would walk over and Grandma would get yarn (she crocheted and knitted) and Kurt and I would each get an inexpensive toy or a candy. They had a great selection of paper dolls and that’s what I usually chose. The most expensive ones were $1.50, cheap even by 1970’s pricing. I loved the Ginghams because in addition to getting the dolls and the clothing, you got a ‘room’ that could be set up like a little theatre. Grandma had coloured pencils, paper and scissors, so sometimes I would trace the clothing and make my own designs. Katie was not a popular name when I was little, so having a paper doll that had my name, spelled the same way, and she was the ‘artist’ of the group made me love them Gingham line even more.

I started to make cloth dolls I was little. The first doll that I made was called Marilyn. I made her when I was visiting my Grandmother Wilma during the summer. I had a drawer in the upstairs bedroom that had cloth, yarn, embroidery thread and some notions that I was allowed to use. She had a big square quilted sewing box that sat under her sewing machine in the dining room that I was allowed to use the contents of if I asked. There was a decorated tin box of buttons to sift through as well. I can remember sitting in front of the Zenith television and cutting out that doll. I used yellow variegated embroidery thread for the hair. I wrapped it around a book to create the wig. I added braids. I was upset that the neck wouldn’t stay up after I finished the hair. I remember choosing a tiny, pale green rickrack for the edging of the dress. It took me forever to sew down, but I loved how it looked. My own dresses and tops had similar decorative elements. I put pockets on her dress and made her a little handkerchief with an embroidered ‘M’ on it.

I have one of my Grandmother Wilma’s thimbles in my embroidery box and a small length of the rickrack used for Marilyn’s dress.

I had an assignment during my teacher education study at university in which the instructor asked us to think about what we liked to do when we were children. What activities gave us the greatest amount of satisfaction and contentment? We were then to create a piece of artwork about those experiences. I made a doll. We presented our work to the class and the instructor and answered questions posed by them. It was the first time I had ever shown my dolls to anyone I was attending school with. I had not idea what kinds of reactions I would receive.

Every artist, no matter what their chosen medium, gets at least a little anxious when showing people what they have created. The artist is opening themselves up and showing people the most vulnerable parts of their psyche. Not knowing how it may be received is a little nerve wracking at times. Will they like it? Will they laugh? Will they think I’m weird? Or will they say nothing at all? I developed a fairly thick skin with regard to my illustration and design work. I told myself that was work for hire and while it was still an expression of my own personal creative aesthetic, I didn’t hold it so dear that I couldn’t take criticism and/or make changes that a client or boss requested.

What I am starting to figure out is that my doll work comes from a much more emotional part of my psyche and is attached to so much of the happiness of my youth that when I have a potential customer say “What would I do with a doll? I’m an adult!” as I stand there, a grown woman, who designs, creates and yes, still plays with dolls, I can’t help but feel somehow…there really isn’t a better word for it, wounded. My heart actually squeezes tight a little.

To some, a doll is seen as nothing more than a child’s toy. Something that they will eventually grow out of. Something to be put away when more grown up priorities take precedence. I know that if I wanted to be taken more seriously by other artists and by people in general, I would put away my childish dolls, pack up my fabrics, threads and stuffing and pick up a paint brush and make ‘real’ art. Art that could hang in a gallery and hang in your living room, over your couch. I wouldn’t ever have the deep, intrinsic connection to brush and canvas that I have with dolls and sewing. I am the audience. Dolls make me happy. Making dolls makes me even happier. So, I will make dolls.

Some Doubt, Some Consequence

I was introduced to XTC by a classmate of mine in art school. I remember her putting Nonsuch on the communal boombox we had in our studio. I think she had Oranges and Lemons too. I fell in love with the band quickly and soon, my music library contained every single release by the band, including the releases under the name The Dukes of Stratosphere (that I had to track down on tape from an Indianapolis used records shop). I needed to hear everything. Everything.

The song “I am the Audience” is one of my favourite XTC songs. I’ve always thought of it as a declaration of my personal creative rationale. I create for myself, first and foremost. I am the one with the idea, or the instinct, or the inclination to create a thing. I am doing this for my own amusement, therefore, I am the audience. What ever I choose to create is done so because I deem it worthy of my time, energy and thought.

As pretentious as that sounds, for me, it’s the truth. The flip side of that is, my work is unfinished until another person looks at it, and brings their own lifetime of thoughts and experiences to my artwork. Each person sees something a little different. I may be the first audience, but I will hardly be the last. My experience as the creator is so much different than that of the future audiences.

I recently watched a documentary about David Bowie and the last few years of his life. There was a snippet of an earlier interview in which he stated that he believed an artist should create the art that they want to make, and that when an artist makes their art for someone else, the artists true intent or vision is lost and the artist is not happy with the end product. The artist, the creator needs to remain true to themselves and their own individual purpose.

I know that artists and creative people need to sell their artwork to live. That art school training that I was getting at the Herron School of Art was as a graphic designer and illustrator. I always thought that it was strange that the other artistic disciplines thought of us as ‘sell outs’. I imagined that the painters and the sculptors wanted to sell their artwork and be able to support themselves by doing what they loved to do, just as the graphic designers and illustrators wanted to be creative in their chosen medium and be able to pay their bills as well. I suppose this has something to do with the rather skewed view of the artist as professional that some people have.

I am not having to, at this point in my life, sell my artwork to in order to pay my bills. I have done this in the past, and it’s one of the reasons I’m not a working graphic designer or illustrator anymore. I’m not good at having people tell me how to create or why to create. The longer I did it, the more mental and emotional damage ate away at my insides. As much as I love graphic design and illustration, I’m just not well suited psychologically to do it professionally, and that’s okay. I’m happier teaching art and making my own art. It’s much better fit for me.

Last week, I sold four dolls. I had not intended to sell any of the dolls that I have recently been creating. I don’t feel like I have the mental or physical bandwidth to devote time to such an endeavour. I’m making the dolls that I want to make, they way that I want to make them, in the time that I want to make them. “Yeah, but you just said you sold four dolls!” Yes. I sold four dolls. The buyer is someone who has purchased dolls of mine in the past. She didn’t make me feel like I was under a deadline. She didn’t make any demands about colours or styles of clothing. She saw four dolls that she liked, asked me the price plus shipping and then bought them. I made enough money to buy some more materials and tools so that I can make more dolls. There’s a nice symmetry to it. Make a dolls. Someone likes it. Someone buys it. I take the money and get more things to make more dolls.


Long Time, No Post

Hello! It’s been quite a while since I have written and posted anything here on my website, Berin has been handling the lions share of the maintenance of the site for more than two years. I’ve only contributed to the podcasts that we do and read the occasional comment now and again. The main reason for this is because my life, well, really, my academic life, has been taking precedence. Blogging and making art have been riding in the way back of my mental Vista Cruiser station wagon and it’s only come to my attention that doing this might not have been the best thing for me. So, after some thought, I’ve decided to start posting again.

One of the catalysts for this change was some reflective writing (a personal journal) that I began keeping a few months ago. I started it after a discussion with a mentor at the University about what creativity is and why I feel it’s important to have arts courses in public schools (sometimes the last bastion of creativity for some children in school). Before I can hope to understand why instruction within the public schools needs to encourage creativity in student learning, I need to better understand my own creative processes.

In addition to journaling about my own creative processes, I’ve also been creating new dolls. Again, in an effort to better understand how and why I choose to create, and in some instances, not to create. It’s been…interesting. It’s good to have a needle back in my hands and I’ve been having fun creating new doll designs and working with new materials. I’ve had to get used to not having a JoAnn Fabrics, with it’s plethora of inexpensive fabrics and supplies to go to when I need materials, supplies or tools. Necessity being the mother of invention, I’ve had to come up with new ways or working as well as buying supplies on a shoe string budget. I hope to use my blog to document the changes that have taken place in how I work as an artist, as a complement to my written journal.

There will be some small changes here and there with the website, and the podcast will continue to be posted here every Monday. Hopefully, I can get back into the swing of posting quickly!

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Katie In Finland: Digital Literacy Part 2

In this episode, Katie and Berin talk about digital literacy, critical thinking and research skills, and tool use in education.

Download MP3 | Stream on YouTube

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Katie In Finland: Digital Literacy Part 1

In this episode, Katie and Berin talk about digital literacy, critical thinking and research skills, and tool use in education.

Download MP3 | Stream on YouTube

Ask Questions

You can submit questions and comments through the contact page.


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Katie In Finland: A Trip to Kuopio


In this episode, Katie and Berin discuss visiting a city they’d never heard of before, seeing a wooly mammoth, and eating pulled pork pancakes with Moomin.

Download MP3| Stream On YouTube

Show Notes

Ask Questions

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Katie In Finland: A Year in Finland Part 1


In this episode, Katie and Berin discuss what it’s been like living abroad for a year, how it’s changed their perspectives, and whether they want to continue living in a foreign country or not.


Ask Questions

In our next episode we’ll be talking about summertime in Finland, and how it differs from our experiences in various parts of the United States. You can submit questions and comments through the contact page.


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Katie In Finland: Fast Food in Finland

In this episode, Katie and Berin discuss fast food in Finland, including strange pizza toppings, kebab, and ubiquitous buffets.

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Show Notes

  • Hesburger, Finland’s hamburger chain
  • Kotipizza, Finland’s pizza and kebab chain
  • Burger King‘s controversial return to Finland
  • Varieties of majoneesi (mayonnaise) at Hesburger and Kotipizza, including paprika, chile, chipotle, curry, caesar, and garlic.

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Nick Jaina “These Fair Hands”

The theme music for our upcoming podcast is “These Fair Hands” by Portland musician Nick Jaina.


“These Fair Hands” by Nick Jaina is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 International License.
Based on a work at Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

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