Two sisters, two coasts, one blog

Creative Hangover


I’ve caught a serious case of the blahs. After weeks of furious work, I’ve made it through the first round of spring markets, and have a little time to breathe. Instead of feeling relaxed though, I’m feeling a little anxious and frankly, a little depressed. Maybe it’s a sort of creative hangover: I’ve used up all my energy and enthusiasm making racks of skirts, dresses and blouses and now I’m left without any reserves. I remember that a few posts ago my sweet sister was having a bad week, and took the time to catalog the things that were making her happy as an antidote. I think mine will be to spend the afternoon doing a little pointless creating.

A few years ago K’s mom and I were trolling the Alameda Point antiques fair, and found an old dolly, who I immediately fell in love with. She’s pretty battered and dirty but she has a great little sideways smile and tomboy attitude with her short hair and striped pants. I’ve had her sitting on my bookshelf ever since, awaiting a moment when I might have the time to fix her up. Last year I wanted to make a gift for a friend’s daughter, so took dolly down from her shelf and drafted a half-scale pattern.

Original dolly and my half-scale version

Today I pull out that pattern, and an accidentally shrunken woolen undershirt that I have had tucked away, imagining it would make a good doll. Side note: you may be thinking “good god, she kept an old shirt, on the off-chance she’d actually use it one day??? That’s mad!” and indeed you would be right. I long to be the kind of person who would never consider doing such a thing, a person like my long-suffering husband, but alas I have a weakness in this department. If I can picture what an object might become, I hang onto it, for years. Terrible.

This weakness is an inherited one, passed down from my mother. Sorting through her studio after her death I found baskets filled with antique lace, buttons, bits of string, feathers, shells, driftwood, boxes of beads, two incomplete sets of wood carving tools, broken jewelry.

She also collected dolls, restoring the oldest ones, making some of her own. Her taste ran to the unusual, and she had toys and figurines from many cultures clustered together, some fun, some creepy, some beautiful. Sometimes I think growing up with my mom was like growing up in Pippi Longstocking’s house, with the cabinet of many tiny drawers, each filled with a strange or wonderful item.

During my last stay with her I noticed a tiny pair of Indian dolls, husband and wife, joined together by a thread. They had lovely little faces, with three dimensional noses and fingers, like my flea market dolly. Working with the knit fabric I’m pleased to find though harder to stuff well, it’s easily sculpted so I’m able to form facial features.

Head & limbs, tuffed and ready to sew together

For the last few weeks K has taken to making dinner on Sunday, and today he’s made a trip to the Farmer’s Market for ribs and veges to grill. We chat while I stuff the doll and he tends the meat. Stella chews on things and scares the robin who has made her nest next to our deck and is trying to feed her babies. As dusk falls, we tuck in. The tomatoes and strawberries are full of flavor, the asparagus the fattest and juiciest I’ve tasted.

Afterwards I head back to my studio, now covered in doll detritus. Putting her together takes some time and fussing, and I’m not quite up to the delicate task of embroidering eyes at this now late hour, so I skip to the hair and clothes, the best part anyway in my opinion.

A little more time consuming than a bloody mary (and possibly not as relaxing) it’s true, but fun none the less!

9 Responses to “Creative Hangover”

  1. Sandra

    You are fabulous! I think of doll making as a serious spiritual undertaking…much like birthing. I am interested to see her once completed and gifted with eyes from her mama!

  2. modaspia

    hearing anything about life with judith is fascinating. besides being your mom she sounds like just about the coolest person you could meet. what a combo.
    G loves the doll you made her a few years ago by the way. poor thing has some other dress on now and the dress you made is on another doll. she switches them around. sometimes i redress her dolls because – it’s fun!
    the sculpted doll is incredible! i know that’s not that easy .. hope your friend’s daughter found it comforting, i remember the story behind that gift..
    creative hangover – great name for a band 🙂

  3. Jacquelyn Marie

    Love your dolls and your creativity even while exhausted! And you so remind me of my most special friend and your most special mother.

  4. spongey stef

    o gosh!!! I LOVE ur wee girl!! &U r a grrl after me own scrap savin heart!!! my pippi drawers are so absolutely stuffed, that a coupla dayz ago i actually had 2HIRE one of my children 2 sort thru um. the question of that day being “UH mom………how small is TOOOO small?” (for a scrap that could maybe possibly be used 4 a wee hat or scarf 4 a ha’penny doolly???)my answer of course was “nevah 2 small!!” much 2 my daughters dismay!!
    MADNESS perhaps… but when one-a those lil’ guys is complete and in the hands of some small cherub… who’s old cast off woolen-onesie was put to good use & given new life……well! thats some repurposing satisfaction

    keep on stitchin sistah! xxoo steffy

  5. Justine

    Yezzz girlz. there ain’t no shame in savin. I have a closet filled with flattened cereal boxes that are sure to be beautiful hand made books, photo albums or perhaps a house? they may sit there for years, but use them I will! I am always in awe of the creative brilliant womyn that fill my life and seem to make silk purses out of sows ears. Oami, your doll is perfect. I bet you felt better by the end of the day.
    love you to peaces!

  6. ruchapowers

    a) the is never any such thing as “pointless creating”. 2) You are sooo right about growing up in Pippi Longstocking’s house!! All those little treasures…
    III) i suffer from the same malady of saving stuff for crafting too and p.s I LOVE the hair on your dolly…it reminds me of mine 🙂

  7. Norman Ross Powers

    The stuffed doll you made as an antidote for making too much stuff is really charming and her hair totally IS West Twin’s. It seemed as if that dose of “the hair of the dog” may have done the job of busting up your blues. I really hope so. By the way, the dinner your mate fixed looks just excellent. The pix could have come from a high-end foodie magazine. Props to a creative duo!

  8. Norman Ross Powers

    Hi darling, Your writing is beautiful… what an antidote to the blues… You can’t help saving by two… your mama was AND your papa is a saver-personified. I don’t know how we manage because, as you will see, EVERYTHING may come in handy SOME day (so he says) xoxo MM

  9. frances Newcross

    Hi Oami! I remember the dolly you rescued with slightly embarassed delight in your eyes. I never figured her as a pattern, but perfect repurposing! I liked the fabric you chose. She looks snuggly and cuddlesome. Tell Kirk his Sunday dinner looks wonderful. It’s such a treat to be cooked for, especially while you fight the blues in totally creative way! Love to you both.


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