As a kid, dolls were not my thing. Ever. My only memory of playing with Barbies was with my older two sisters and there was much with the scissors (we cut off all their hair) and the markers (we gave them full tribal tattoos) and secret stealth attacks on our brother's G.I. Joe.
There were two giant antique dolls that belonged to my sisters that sat on our dressers-- I think they came from my grandmother and were certainly not the kind of thing you would ever play with though I do admit to lifting their voluminous skirts on occasion to check out the layers and layers of petticoats-- I think I just wanted to know that there were legs in there somewhere.
I am still not drawn to dolls in anyway and yet-- yet!--as you may remember, a couple of months ago, I traveled to England to take a class with Julie Arkell that was called "paper-mache" but hello, it's dolls, people.
What draws me so strongly to Julie's work? I don't know-- some combination of the spirit she pours into her darling creatures, the way she hand sews their little clothes, the way she knits or crochets their wee hats--- yes, I know what you are thinking-- dolls! But, there's something more to it, I think.
Anyway, as I was headed there knowing the content of the course-- we would be making something with paper mache-- I had no idea what I would be making. None. I assumed I would be making little people with big heads or some such, but that's not what happened.
A few days ago, a box arrived with my art supplies and the creatures I made in class (much easier to ship everything back and putting it on the slow boat to China definitely helped reduce the expense)-- as I pulled these two out I had to laugh.
Bunny shamans--- seriously? Give me a wide open source of materials and that's what I make?
It started out with this girl here. The hoodie thing was the first thing I made.
(note the blanket stitch!! whoo-- be advised, that will likely be the last bit of hand stitching you will see as I prevailed a bit too much on the glue gun, I'm afraid). Somehow it took off from there and lo and behold, I had some kind of nordic boho chick on my hands.
Then I went off to create other things and late one night I was working on this giant bunny creature, loving up the mocassin booties I was making and the tiny details such as his fringed wrist when a classmate walked by and said, "oh, they go together."
It seems hard to believe now that I was surprised by the idea or that I was completely blind to the elements they had in common-- but I was. I was so deep into the process of each of them I didn't see the the connection til then-- and then! It made me laugh.
They are on a journey--- a rather snowy adventure, it seems-- I mean why else would he be carrying a rolled up blanket and twigs for a fire on his back? There's much to ponder, of course-- not just their destination, or how they hooked up and if they speak the same language.
They now sit on a shelf in my room where they make me laugh every. damn. time. I pass by.
Silly. Pure silliness. Forget serious art making or deep meaning. Forget anything except when I look at them I remember totally the feeling of what it was like to be in that art studio with the busy energy of creative people around me-- each of us making our wild creatures, each of us caught up in the sheer joy of making something because we could, because it was fun. I remember how soft the air was and how much I loved the light on the grass in the morning. I remember how different the pace of the day was with leisurely tea breaks and a stop at the pub before dinner.
These two figures hold all that for me and so much more.
And that's what it is all about, I think. That feeling is what I hope each of us has during a squam retreat-- among the many other good things that happen-- but mostly that feeling of being transported to a place and time where play, simple play in and of itself for no other purpose than to lift our spirits.
Bunny shamans, I mean c'mon-- seriously?
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