The Clapping Song
Momma told me
I was goody
she would buy me
Auntie told her
kissed a soldier
she won't buy me
Cloth dolls move easily and they are soft. They can be hugged. They
are a lot like people, even if they are caricatures.
When I was smaller my mother used to read Raggedy Ann stories to
me. The most fascinating part was that, when the people were away,
the dolls would stop being still and 'come to life' . They would have
lives of their own; doing things and having adventures. This idea
was carried forth in movies like Toy Story.
In my mind, this became a sort of template for what dolls do when
people aren't around. As time went on I made cloth dolls, mostly for
younger relatives. Then, I was making the kind of pretty, cute dolls
popular at the time. I found patterns for them in magazines like McCall's
Needlework & Crafts. My approach to doll making has changed over
time. I still make a fair number of Raggedy Anns but now but I also
make the occasional politically-incorrect but dearly-beloved Golliwogs,
as well as designs from contemporary doll artists.
Raggedy Ann is an important culture icon. She represents an innocent
time when dreams were real. Such dreams tell us things about ourselves,
about our childhood and about our world. They are a kind of shorthand
for larger ideas. Raggedy Ann has readily identifiable characteristics:
red hair, usually curly, black shoe button eyes, a red-triangle nose
and a smiling mouth with a little red center. She wears bloomers with
a calico dress and a white apron. The heart embroidered on her chest
refers back to the original Raggedy's candy heart..
Later on, it became important to me to make dolls that were different.
Dolls made from my own patterns or from the other original doll-makers
selling patterns that were not in the common mold. These dolls were
different.They had character, and were not for children. Some call
them 'art dolls' but that seems a bit fanciful to me. I guess they
are dolls for adults.
I don't think an artist chooses an art form or a musician chooses
his instrument. The art form or instrument chooses the artist or musician,
and dolls chose me. Friends have asked me "Why dolls? You're
talented. You could do anything", meaning I could do something
more acceptable or commercial. The implication is I was wasting my
time on cloth dolls. It's not a waste. My small universe, my apartment,
has every surface covered by cloth dolls. There are dolls of various
kinds, various shapes, long-haired, short-haired, smiling, frowning,
wide-eyed, sleepy-eyed. They all have personalities. Each in its own
way makes a statement.
Dolls develop as you craft them. You start out with one concept and
it morphs into another one. I don't know why I make cloth dolls. I
do know that I have to.
When I get an idea for a cloth doll a whole little world opens up
and the creature I'm making starts to talk to me, to tell me what
kind of hair she wants, and what colour clothing in what design and
how her face should be. The act of creation becomes a two-way street.
A good friend of mine was a photographer and he agreed to take photos
of all my dolls. You know what? He photographed them as if the were
inanimate objects. He should have posed them as if they were alive
because, in my mind, they were and are.
I have a cloth doll site on the web located at http://www.soniabrock.ca/dolls/