Stack O' Jacks
© 1999 Maria Pahls
Seed Pod #052
© Copyright 1998 Maria Pahls
the fence post
here is an excerpt from an article i wrote about making a doll with the g.g. granddaughter of comedy's legendary stan laurel.
a comedic endeavor
in 1984 i was found in attendance at an girls' high school in cincinnati, ohio. a second year of fundamental art filled a vacant spot in my class schedule. the curriculum was working with different media through out the school year. we were assigned to create a soft sculpture dolls from nylon hosiery and to dress it with cloth. the figures were to represent a famous person using a needle sculpted approach for the face. with out any particular person in mind i began by making a large grapefruit looking ball and frantically working the needle in and out of it trying to get something, any thing- that resembled a face! finally it started to look like a little stout man's face...i thought and thought, and some one said "oliver harty"...yes! that was who it would be...then, realizing that just oliver harty by himself wouldn't be enough, and facing the possibility that i might have to make two dolls.
a quiet younger girl in the class, who still had not decided who her famous person would be (and i can't even remember her name now)...piped up...it seems she was the g.g. granddaughter(i don't remember how many "greats" it was) of stan laurel! not as an act of friendship, rather one of desperation... i told her "that settled it" and we paired up to create the soft sculptures of two comic legends. (the coincidence of the whole thing never even crossed my mind.)
after a few weeks we came up with two rather convincing likeness-es of laurel & harty. they were dressed in felt, mine wore blue overalls and a red shirt with black shoes. i seem to remember buying him a little derby felt hat to wear. hers, i recall, was similarly dressed. the pair of dolls even made it to the display case for the parents open house nite.
now years later. looking through the old year book i am unable to find her, the grandchild of stan laurel, with whom i made what i believe to be my first "real" doll. perhaps those little dolls could have well been one of the seeds that began my love of (primitive)dolls.... funny how seemingly unimportant things and events can come full circle, resurfacing with new found significance in later years.
wish i still had that doll !
miscellaneous letters sent in by readers
a letter from frannie about a box that arrived from gloria bowlin for the trunk show!
" Well -- she's gone and done it again! Gloria Bowlin from The Crow and The Weasel -- sent more of her wonderfully primitive dolls for our "Trunk show"
-- and she sent me a gift that is my absolute most favorite! A PUDGY PIXIE!!! (I collect "fairies, because I have a story that I tell to all the children who visit Crooked Tree Hollow about the 'fairies that live in the hollow of the old crooked tree' -- they are "memory keepers" and "story tellers" -- (will write it someday) -- but want to tell more about my Pudgy Pixie! She is ever so PRIMITIVE and she is filled with 'forest treasures'. Her little poem reads: "Too big to be a fairie ... not quite a gnome. This nature-loving pixie's -- in need of a home. Said: 'living in town .. is too much to swallow.
Please send me to Frannie ...
at Crooked Tree Hollow!"
questions asked by readers, then replied upon in later issues.
patterns/creative process (issue 51)
I "collect" patterns -- must have a million of 'em! Don't often make them -- just love to have them for "inspiration". I usually only make "one-of-a-kind" dolls (sometimes there is a "similar sister" or a "couple cousins" though). I HONESTLY don't believe that I create my dolls -- I can have somewhat of a "concept" of an idea for a doll (now, how's THAT for a garbled gobbedly-gook sentence) -- but when I am nearing completion of the doll -- there comes a moment when I feel the awakening of her soul --she takes on an identity all her own. I smile and she introduces herself -- and most often she is not at all who I thought she was going to be! My dolls use my hands to make her -- but it is her heart that does the true creating. (I know all this sounds 'gushy" -- but it is exactly how I really feel).
tips & techniques
WHAT'S IT'S HEAD?
at one time the primitive pals did a doll swap called "what's it's head?". the object of the swap was to create a doll with a head made of something other than cloth, such as polymer, papier mache, dried fauna etc...
perhaps you might try your hand at making a "what's it's head?" doll....
here are a few that come to mind:
DRIED MATERIALS: when properly sealed dried items such as nuts, poppy seed pods and other pods, pomegranates, lemons, and miniature gourds make interesting heads. walnuts are fun, they are all "wrinkled" and the nut forms a natural facial shape including a little "nose". nutmegs are a little smaller and would be interesting stood on end or used long ways. black walnut trees drop many immature husk-on "baby" nuts that dry to a nice black color and also make a preformed head complete with what resembles a nose. buckeyes too would be interesting doll heads. i like to dry all natural materials thoroughly, then freeze for a few months to prevent critters from showing up, also use a spray sealer when the face is complete.
the poppy is a favorite for angels, due to the built on "halo". also worth a try -milk weed pods(there are several types-these would look like a moon head), even lotus (more of a triangular shape with lots of small holes in the top). pine cones and rose hips are also a possibility.
several of you have mentioned using chickpea /garbanzos to make tiny dolls.
these days you can purchase many types and sizes of lemons, oranges, pomegranates even pineapples! painted with a face or left plain these are perfect for those mis-shapen heads we like to call primitive. the pomegranates even come in several sizes these days,the smaller are known as "star" poms. gloria bowlin of the crow & the weasel has a pomegranate peg angel pattern and another called snowseed this snow man has a painted dried orange for a head. pomegranates are even used as a base to papier mache over.
yes, mama said not to play with your vegetables,but i say "go on ahead!" . i guess a gourd is a member of the squash family and there are tons of possibilities here- you can bring those mini decorative ones right home from the store and dry them in a cool dry area of your home. they will mold some so don't be alarmed unless they start to wrinkle up and become squishy. the stem/neck of the gourd can be a nose,tucked under a hat or made into a hat or act as the doll's neck. they are easily wood burned, painted and stained. other freeze dried veggies that are available include artichokes.
what fun to make a head of any sort from this goopy stuff! brings back memories for sure. you can use a styrofoam or wood base to get you started or build your own from playdough or polymer to begin building your head. it also works great over the top of fabric. this stuff when dry is paintable and has a nice texture. sonja of hickety pickety suggests painting your item with white glue before applying papier mache to it.
ATTACHING THE HEAD TO THE BODY:
my recommendation would be to drill a small hole where the neck would be and insert a dowel rod that would be inserted into the body this could be secured with thread by gathering at the neck. with gourds,using the stem side as a neck is a good idea,in this case i would drill a small hole that goes thru the neck to pass the needle thru. for the papier mache,i would suggest that you attach a dowel if you are covering a wooden or styrofoam ball before adding papier mache or just mache over cloth body where the head is already attached.
sealing the head:
by far one of the most important steps. using a clear matte spray or shellac the head should be coated one or two times to protect it. the papier mache could be sealed with acrylic paint.
once you make a "what's it's head" you may never look at the super market the same way again! these are just a few ideas to get you started ~ and the hardware store would be a great place to look too! marcie of shack in the back has a doll called scarecrow that has a watering can for his head!
WHO'S It ???
1. any of various spinning toys. 2. a carousel or merry-go-round. 3. something that continuously whirls. (source: american heritage dictionary)
seed pod note: i thought maybe they were used in the same way as a weather vane to show the wind's direction, or maybe to scare off vermin or birds from the garden... but i am finding out that they were and are mainly for decoration.
generally a whirly gig has one or more windmill type propellers to catch the wind. in turn the propeller powers the action of the whirly gig. many times these were wood carvings or metal cut outs of people performing tasks such as laundry or sawing wood. ~ or the propellers powered an animal such as a chicken pecking. the range of items, media and movements of the whirly gigs were widely varied.
Fried Green Tomatoes
a few years ago i had the chance to visit with dan dipalo and jerry harris at their last studio in cincinnati. they have since relocated to a farm setting in indiana...still, i would like to share with you about my visit.
when first i saw their home at the end of a cul-de-sac, it blended well with the restored and neatly kept houses in the neighborhood -but upon stepping inside, i could see that this was no typical place. barely able to keep my mouth from falling open at all of the wonderful decorating and folk art before me - i met two of the kindest (letting me come over on a sunday!) and creative folks that just made me feel welcome.
we had a chance to visit and talk and see the house and attic-studio, plus took a brief stroll out back to the garden and wood shop area. the home was warm and comfy with rustic and folk art touches everywhere. old quilts, wonderful bald rag dolls, pieces made by dan & jerry and other folk artists everywhere! also lots of fantastic critters that live there, chickens, ducks, dogs, and a great big black cat...
the thing that impressed me the most was how much of them selves jerry and dan put into the art they create. many, if not all, of their works have wonderful stories. my favorite was an angel who had a small child standing within her arms. the child has a large rusted tin heart almost as big as she. the angel's arms wrap around the child and touch the heart, almost sheltering it.. dan said "the angel is protecting her heart". simply took my breath away! there were others too, funny, even ornery, stories that made me laugh out loud.
fantastic dolls are not the only thing these talented craftsmen create, but also wonderful miniature log cabins (for their own enjoyment), whirlygigs, tin stuff and framed samplers.
pp: tell us about how the business started:
fgt: "jerry and i began collaborating in a garden in cincinnati. the garden was an effort of love, patience and trust. we became aware of our individual and combined talents. jerry is the practical -engineering -builder and i am the make this happen -move-it - one-inch-to- the -left- eyeball. we needed birdhouses in this garden. we made a few and we sold one. we made some more. then me made people and these people became angels. at first they were people we knew or know and then they became themselves. jerry, who knows every thing, had been a quilter and showed me how to sew. i had never touched a needle before. i still don't have any idea of what i'm doing. jerry made wings for these weird people and the fun has never stopped.
pp: tell us about the things you make:
fgt: "we make angels, we probably have over 200 designs. we make garlands,window treatment,sculpture,whirligigs, frames,framed stitchings,and a lot of other stuff. our work is whimsical and odd. we make up stories about people we see and about ourselves and translate them into our work. i wish we had time to make everything in our heads! sometimes the creation is effortless and great, other times not. the hardest part of our designs is their simplicity."
pp: would you consider your work to be primitive or something other?
fgt: "we are told our work is primitive. i suppose it is important to label it,but we would rather not".
pp: do you have a favorite item that you have created?
fgt: "our favorite designs are our 'girls'. we make sister angels. two girls on one wing:stuck together for eternity. one is talking, the other silent,smiling. our 'three friends angel' is another favorite. these three girls are my sisters. one is gossiping, she has a beehive hairdo. the middle one is talking and kind of pudgy, and the third is just hanging out (my baby sister). they are all on one wing. our recent project was 'angel housings'. we make a row house, a duplex and a single home. angels are in the windows.
pp: what inspires you?
fgt: "we are inspired by life."
pp: final comments on primitive & yourselves & business...
fgt: "we have always been making art. i went to the cleveland institute of art:the eyeball, and jerry is a bio medical engineer, the builder. we have been selling our things since the garden in 1996. we change just enough to keep it interesting. i still can't sew. jerry still tries to make it happen...we still like what we are doing. i started making paintings or illustrations of our angels. i like doing this.
'for us primitive is a necessity. anything made from materials at hand, from a thought or feeling busting to get out,because you HAD to make it. we think it is raw emotion or need, love, humor, kindness, laughter, giving."
FRIED GREEN TOMATOES
fried green tomatoes
7215 oxford pike
brookville indiana 47012
no brochure at this time
osage county quilt factory
po box 490
overbrook, ks 66524-0490
what's its head pattern sources:
the crow & the weasel
the shack in the back:
send SASE and $3
11750 msw 90th ave
tigard oregon 97223
books of interest
STORIES OF LITTLE GIRLS AND THEIR DOLLS
by WILLIAM C. CARROLL
Kent Brown, Publisher
Boyds Mills Press
815 Church Street
Honesdale, PA 18431
web sites of members & other sites of interest
Americana Smorgasbord gallery
check this page at the above site to see a whirligig
Wee Willie Winkie rins through the toun,
Upstairs and dounstairs, in his nicht-goun,
Tirlin' at the window, cryin' at the lock,
"Are the weans in their bed? for it 's nou ten o'clock."
William Miller (1810-1872): Willie Winkie.
G52-040 "Libby Star and Sam"
a pattern by
Rosemary Rabbit Pattery Co.
as made by Twila Flohr
for Americana Doll Swap
G52-060 "Black Cats"
Pattern #82 by Sonja Sandell
of Hickety Pickety
G52-050 "Mother Liberty"
Original Doll by
Pattye Kent ("Poo")
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