Doll Farm

Breeding characters and critters everyday

I started creating dolls after my husband and I moved to Europe. During my travels on trains, planes and automobiles, sewing turned out to be a great activity to help pass time.
 
From all these trips, and in a fairly short period of time, I found that I had accumulated a very nice collection of little dolls. So I took them door-to-door to various retailers in Antwerp to see whether they would be interested to sell them, but my big break was when I was asked to be part of a group show at Pure Sang--a Belgian public relations firm. During the event, I received such positive feedback that I knew I had to continue creating these dolls. 
 
In the beginning, my interest was in painting and illustrating, and while attending Virginia Commonwealth University I studied fine arts. After I graduated with a BA in fine arts, I was too restless to paint, and that led me to experiment with sewing, playing around with different fabrics, and creating these little characters all by hand, which were mainly just for fun and gifts for friends and family.
 
The fact I could bring them to life was ideal because this was something I always wanted to do with painting and illustrations, but make them three-dimensional either in clay, shadow-box, or fabric. And what I found was that fabric was the most fun, rewarding and flexible to work with. Essentially, I can take my sewing everywhere I travel. In addition, I can make the dolls quickly and sell them just as fast. Unlike painting which takes a lot of time, and which I find exhausting. 
 
There are so many different things that catch my eye -- that are muses --  and it's all across the board. For instance, a funny hairdo I may have seen at the supermarket that day, or an article in an interior design magazine. Fashion is a great source of inspiration; the weather; painters and old advertising illustrations inspire me. Sometimes while driving I'll hear a song, and a character will pop into my head and BAM! I have to run home and start sketching it out.
 
In literature, for example, I've always thought that Alice in Wonderland was a great story, and it so has many different messages. All the characters individually have something profound to share about the human condition. Naturally, I had to make fun of it and add my own twist to it. For instance, the queen obviously has bi-polar issues, and Alice will just drink and eat just about anything you put in front of her. The Card Man is out vandalizing the roses, and Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum are as creepy as ever, so I just turned it up a couple of notches. 
 
My process is fairly simple: From the moment I wake up until I go to bed at night, I spend the entire day sewing. I make every single plush doll by hand—no machine is involved in their construction, and since my training is in illustration, for every doll I make, each one comes with its own hand-drawn one-of-a-kind tag. I love the entire everything about the creation of these dolls, down to the last bits of fabric, buttons, and string. I adore finding all the little pieces that come together to make each doll so unique.  The most rewarding aspect is dreaming up the different characters and having them all come to life. 
 
I've been asked if Alexander Girard's dolls influenced me and as much as I admire them I can't honestly say that they have. If there was one source that motivated me from the very beginning and continues to inspire me today it would have to be the film La Planète Sauvage  (Fantastic Planet in English), an animated 1973 science fiction film directed by René Laloux . It was one of my favorite movies when I was a kid  The soundtrack, the freaky creatures, the costumes made quite an impression on me, it's this flick that's echoed throughout my dolls. 
 
I have a broad customer base because I make so many different kinds of characters. My Marie Antoinette dolls are quite popular among both men and women. In fact, I probably have just as many men collectors as I do women, if not more! They are all different, from varied backgrounds and interests.
 
At the end of the day, I love the idea of making beautiful things out of objects that would have otherwise been discarded, as well as the idea of supporting small crafters that make all the material by hand for the buttons I use to all the other handmade embellishments. It's a good feeling to support them, and I'm having loads of fun along the way!
 
To learn more about Doll Farm and see more of Heather's quirky and funny dolls, visit www.thedollfarm.com and http://thedollfarm.blogspot.com/
 
 
 
 
 
 

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