The Ballet, my Muse

Emili and the Little Ballerina in white (needle felted)

 I love to make dolls and puppets more than anything else, so it makes sense that the ballet, my muse has inspired me to make needle felted ballerina dolls. Before I started to make the white ballerina doll, I watched the video: Etoiles, Dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet  by Nils Tavernier. It was interesting to listen to the thoughts of the young ballerinas, these dancers were living their dreams and their lives were only about ballet. They spoke in terms of their passions needing to be fulfilled, it was like they were addicted to their craft. I wondered how many people are able to experience something so overwhelming and meaningful in their lives. The ballet dancers spoke of a very ego-centric life and of the loneliness that went with it.

Needle felted Little Ballerina in white

 The dancers in the video were nimble, twisty and bendy in ways that I can only dream of being; these virtues attributed to the many flexible joints that I gave the Little Ballerina in white.  

needle felted doll parts/joints

 The many joints gives the doll the ability to move like a ballerina. If you hold her by the waist and jostle her, it looks like she’s dancing! 

The ballerina dances

To say “it’s my life (ballet), nothing else matters” , as one of the dancers stated in the video, is a profound statement. It makes me wonder about the line between throwing yourself into your work and the point where your work becomes you. It makes me think about how an artist, who is a parent juggles their priorities and how much self control one needs to have not cross the line of artistic passion, so as not to be consumed by it.

Needle felted Little Pink Ballerina, satin and tulle ballerina outfit

 The little pink ballerina has more movable joints than the little white ballerina (elbows and knees) which makes her more suitable as a marionette.

Needle felted V doll ballerina

The simplest of the ballerina dolls, I call this little ballerina a “V” doll because of her shape. The legs of this needle felted doll are indicated, but not made and attached separately like the arms. There are only three shapes needed to make this doll (circle, long oval, V) and four pieces (head, 2 arms, body). The tutu is made from a piece of gathered felt. This doll is a Waldorf inspired toy, made from the natural material, wool and felt.

face detail

Inspired by Beauty and Elegance

tutu on a rainy day

Writers and artists talk about creative blocks, a loss of inspiration and a lack of ideas from which to create. I usually have so many ideas that I never have time to explore all of them, but I always look for inspiration. One theme that I’ve seen appear repeatedly over the years in my work is ballet, I’m inspired by the beauty, elegance, colors, music, costumes and backdrops of this dance. Here is one of the videos about sewing ballet costumes that I love! Recreating a tutu\’s splendor

Elli's ballet recital

I’ve never taken a ballet lesson in my life, but my mother did make me take tap dancing lessons when I was a kid because I was so clumsy! I hated taking those tap dancing lessons and they didn’t work because I’m still really clumsy! My girls, on the other hand have loved ballet; Lili started wearing a pink tutu at two and half years old and refused to take it off for about three years.

first ballet class

Due to my girls’ love of ballet, I was inspired to make  tutus and ballerina costumes in my store. I knew that many little girls shared a love for this beautiful form of expression; tutus, ballet outfits, ballerina dolls, ballet bags and pretty ballerina crowns were some of the most popular items that I made and sold in my store. I researched how to sew a “real” tutu because I wanted to make a tutu that stood up and bounced when danced in. A “real ballerina tutu” uses several layers of tulle; not all of the tulle is the same, the bottom layers are stiff, the top layers are light and fluffy. The gathered layers of tulle are sewn to the waist band in different directions  (some layers are sewn upside down) to give the tutu a lift.

classic tutu

Mothers swooned over the the ballerina costumes and tutus hanging in the store and their the little girls pleaded to try them on. Outfitted in the finest pink tutus, the little girls flitted across the floor on tippy-toe to the mirror, where they started to twirl around in circles.  I always loved to watch this happen, when a child transformed into the character of the costume they were wearing; I think it’s one of the magical moments of childhood! To add to the wonderment, I created a little bag that looked just like the ballerina outfits. The instructions and pattern for this bag can be found in my book: Sew Magical for Kids.

Ballet Bag
The ballet bag looks just like the ballerina outfit!

To be continued…