Of all the dolls I've made, this is the first time someone has allowed me to write publicly about how it feels to make these dolls. The first feeling is one of pressure followed by fear I may fail. It takes me a good week to get my head around the project.
The first step is the easiest, sew the body size. Now, I never use a pattern, never. The dolls body size for arms, legs, torso and head are not cut from a pattern. When the person tells me what they want, I visualize it and then draw the doll on the material that will best fit the creation. She's the size requested but she is cut from her own cloth, not a pattern.
After sewing all the parts (and a few back up parts) I begin working on the facial features. This step gives me the most anxiety and the most emotional satisfaction. For me, the artist, it's all about the expression on the doll's face and the expression in her eyes. Some have said that my dolls eyes look like the doll itself is an old soul. I hope that's a good thing because as I begin to paint the entire doll, features, flesh tone from head to toe, I don't feel as if I'm painting a doll. Things change quickly from doll making to having to deal with my own trauma issues as a child and adult.
I NEVER use the doll as a pin cushion. I NEVER hold the doll by the hair or have her in positions that are troubling. I start to see the doll as a child that will be adopted by someone who needs to love it, and will. Ah, my issues come up really strong in having respect for the creation. I'm making something that hopefully will aide someone in their recovery process.
What's interesting is that this very doll I'm making is one of the one's I've had the most emotional response to. I know why. I know more about the child she is. I know about the personality of the doll because the care giver shared it with me. This meant when I went shopping for clothes, I could match things according to what that personality type would want. I was thrilled beyond belief when the caregiver liked the outfit. The only way I got it right was because I knew a little bit about the little girl I'm making. That makes my heart smile so deeply.
Being able to this child doll forward in some tangible form has been a privilege. I have photos of every single doll that has been made here but more than half do not show on the gallery. It has been wonderful making them and I look forward to doing it again.
I have to tell some of my secrets though. It does not take 4 weeks to put doll parts together. It takes 4 weeks for me to
- Calm myself down. I've put myself out there and risked displeasure for my work. Part of me says I can't do this. Scores of dolls, an album full, but I still feel vulnerable.
- I have to get an idea in my head of what the caregiver is looking for.
- I need time to work through my own emotional issues that come up when making a child doll.
- This biggest issue is that I have to work around physical limitations. Numbness in my hands, days with high pain levels and fatigue. There are doctors to go to, stuff like that. I have a minor surgery soon. Medical stuff has to be given a lot of room.
- I have to work around my own dissociative disorder, trauma experiences and therapy.
- And I have to accept that the doll I've taken such care for, will travel to her new home, leaving mine.
There's always an emotional connection. With every doll I've made, there has been a period of time when I've been knocked off my feet, laying in bed thinking "I can't do this". Every doll. There are occasional nightmares. There is anxiety that I didn't do a good enough job, anxiety that I can't complete her on time, anxiety that she's leaving. I have anxiety attacks and moments of regret that I agreed to do it in the first place. Why? Because it isn't just a doll.
During the last week, despite a bit of sadness that she's leaving, I really start to fuss over her. I'm straightening this, pressing out that, making sure the earrings match and everything is together. I really start to dote over the doll and that's when the sadness leaves and I realize that this little baby was created for the purpose of love. What a sobering thought for someone who didn't feel it in a safe way.
I admit as well, that my child personalities end up telling me when I'm on the right path with the doll. When I start getting giggles and child personalities popping out while making the doll then I know I'm on the right track. They love this, too.
I'm in the final stages of making a doll for someone. I need to add her long black hair and verify a few final touches. My time with her is quickly coming to a close. Feelings of loss turn to inspiration and hope. I hope she will make a positive impact, and touch her caregiver in thousands of ways. She most certainly has touched mine.
I love this. I love what I do.