Doll Stories

Neta Amir flirts with the dark side of doll-making

Dollmakers are as complex as the dolls they've designed and--like their fabric alter-egos--each designer has an interesting story of how they came into being. Israeli-born Neta Amir grew up in a small kibbutz, a socialistic agricultural collective. Early on, she knew she wanted to escape this lifestyle for a more creative one.
During her teenage years, Amir left for Tel-Aviv and went on to attend an art high school. Although the art classes left an impression, Amir felt that she should pursue a profession that was more practical and decided to study fashion design at the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, which she admits, "Was an awful experience." 
After graduation, Amir went on to do fashion design, but was still at loose ends at what she wanted to do with her life. After she quit her fashion job, she started to play around with doll-making, while she looked for another job in the fashion industry. However, as she made more and more dolls, she realized that she was hooked and doll-making became her full-time job.
The transition from fashion designer to doll-maker was fun since she never really liked fashion design, and doll-making was a craft that always intrigued her. Amir says, "I like the process of creating things from scratch with my own hands, and I love the craftsmanship. When I worked as a fashion designer, I really missed this part of the creative process. I didn't like having someone else producing my designs, and I didn't like to spend all day drawing clothes on the computer."
In creating her dolls, Amir doesn't have a set routine. Sometimes she has an image in her mind, but this is rare. For the most part, as she plays with fabrics and other materials, shapes and raw characters emerge. At that point, she'll start determining the doll's facial features, clothes, and accessories. 
During the design process, the selection of materials used in each character is a top priority. Amir enjoys working with fabrics that are recycled such as old bedding, clothing, and socks. Amir notes that it's the wear-and-tear of these fabrics that add another dimension to her work – and some vestigial essence of previous owners. "In some way they, too, tell another chapter in the stories I interweave."
These stories are part of installations where the dolls are a part of a space that Amir forms. In other words, during and after the process of creating the dolls, she makes up situations and installations where the dolls play a role. "I am curious about creating an environment where my dolls live or where they came from. For some of my dolls, I create a background with furniture and other items that tell more about them." Examples of these installations can be seen her all white miniature living room made from white cotton socks and her sitting and knitting crocheted lady.
Apart from the installations, Amir is known for her quirky and colorful characters such as Mr. Big Creature. Crocheted from the fabric scraps, yarn and the remains of a sewing workshop, Mr. Big Creature is one tall dude, standing at  11.2" tall; including his tail, he is 14" long and approximately 10" wide.
Lady Creature, The female counterpart to Mr. Big Creature, is made from a unique combination of materials and techniques; her body, hands, and tail are made out of recycled old socks. Her removable sweater, also made out of old socks, sports tiny studded pockets. The crocheted collar is embellished with small piece of a vintage lace ribbon – which is also used for her headband. This ribbon is at least 70 years old, and once belonged to Amir's grandmother. 
A fan of using any found fabric, Amir created a series of critters by wrapping strips of fabric on top of each other, apart from the facial features, no sewing is required. There is no stuffing at all, since the shapes were created by the wrapping, resulting in funny round animals resembling a mutant kitty-dogs. 
It comes as no surprise that Amir's surroundings provide the materials and the influence in her work. She lives in a diverse neighborhood in the south of Tel-Aviv, bordering an industrial and residential area. And like other artists, everything she sees provides a story that she can include within her stories. 
While oddball characters seem to be the norm in Amir's collection, she also has a dark and gothic side as seen in her new project, The Girl and the Raven. She took inspiration from the back of her apartment complex, where there is an empty lot between three old buildings that are falling apart. Amir notes that in spite of its dilapidated state several activities occur: ravens fly overhead, stray cats wander,  members of rock band hang out.  For her, this site exudes some sort of mystery and she explains that The Girl and the Raven is the most serious of her work in which she's both taking a departure from earlier techniques and experimenting with new ones. She is trying, as she puts it, "to walk on a different path than the one I used to walk on."
To view Amir's quirky and dark creatures, visit


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