- I‘ve been working on Alice in Wonderland dolls off and on for over 6 months. There is so much work to be done on one of these felted pieces, I needle-felt till I’m burned out, then I stop for a few weeks, then I continue till I finish. I felt to a point that I’m overwhelmed with the piece because I think about it and work on it constantly, till I get to a point that I can’t go on. At the point that my interest wanes, I take the doll home, I put the doll on my kitchen table and I look at the doll for a week or so. In the week that I stare at the doll on my table every day, new realizations come to me. I’m able to see what’s wrong with the piece, what needs to be changed, what will make it better…Maybe if I worked on one doll at a time, it wouldn’t take me so long to finish, BUT when I start a project, I have so much energy for it that I can’t do just one design, I start two or three pieces at a time. I really need to focus my energies or I can start multiple projects and not finish any of them.
My goal for this project, something that I felt would bring this group of dolls to a new level in my work, was the abiltiy to convey expression on the dolls’ faces. In previous felting projects, my doll faces were pretty, but not expressive.
The characters in Alice in Wonderland, especially the Queen of Hearts are so expressive that I didn’t feel the dolls would be successful if they didn’t convey the feelings of the characters in the book by Lewis Carroll, original illustrations by John Tenniel. I took Emili, my most expressive daughter and I asked her to “act out” specific feelings. I took photos of the “feelings” she acted out and I used these photos as the base for the expressions of the doll faces. The secret of the crazed anger of the Queen of Hearts, the slightly inquisative, amused look of Alice, the clearly pissed off look of the Flamingo and the bulgy eyed enthusiasm of the Rabbit are all in the eyes.
Normally, I needle-felt the eyes or use doll eyes or beads. None of these methods could convey the feelings that I was looking for, so I had to make the eyes of each doll. I took beads shaped like eyes (fresh water pearls were the right color, shape and size for the Queen and Alice.) I put them in the heads of the dolls, marked where the pupils and irises should be for the expressions, then I painted each eye with acrylic paint and sealed it with semi gloss varnish. The eyes of the flamigo are small, round pearls with pupils painted on them. I couldn’t find beads or pearls suitable for the rabbit’s eyes, so I made balls of paper clay to fit into the head, painted them with acrylic paint and sealed them with semi-gloss varnish. I made Alice’s clothing just like that of the book, but the Queen’s dress is an original design. I made the patterns of the dress to reflect card designs, but in an origianal way.
I thought about sketching out designs for the dress, then making my favorite design, but I ended up designing the dress as I made it. I am now attached to each of these dolls and even though I want to sell them, it will be hard for me to do so. Someone recently bought my Marie Antoinette puppet and they had to talk me into selling her. She offered to pay the price that I asked, she did not try to bargain with me, it wasn’t the money, it’s just that I had a relationship with the doll. I told myself, o.k., fine, sell her, I’ll just make another one, a better one next time. After the woman walked out the door with my Marie Antoinette puppet, I felt like crying, I was really upset. I’m past that now, but how will I ever part with Alice and the Flamingo, my favorite of the Wonderland dolls? Now that the dolls are finished, I’m thinking of costume designs. I made Emili a Renaissance collar and crown similar to the Queen’s for our photo shoot. The small details of this project took just as long as the felting process. These classic characters abound with beautiful, creative and fun designs for many projects; I’ve fallen to sleep many nights contemplating Alice in Wonderland designs. Stay tuned for more Alice and Wonderland dolls……