Words to the wise.
Every now and then, less often than you all think, I receive a wonderful email letting me know how my work has impacted or inspired the sender. I always marvel at this because I am not fully aware of who exactly reads my blog or follows my doll making adventuring. Of course I know there are people out there who read regularly, who buy my dolls, who comment on my photos or posts on facebook. But these emails or letters are much more intimate and they always get me by surprise.
Many of the emails I receive on a weekly basis have to do with questions in regards to wether I sell the patterns to make my dolls (I do not), where or how can people buy my dolls, or specific questions in regards to doll making. I try to answer as promptly as I can, but there is only one person in this household who answers such emails, and cleans, washes and folds laundry, feeds children, walks and tends a four-month-old puppy, and makes dolls for a living. So, a few of those emails go unanswered for quite some time, while others catch me with a few leisure minutes and I readily answer to the best of my abilities.
As much as I try to answer technical questions, I am not a teacher of this art and I really struggle to give appropriate answers or straight direction. I have steadily re-directed some of you to the tutoring services of my colleague Juliane Stritmatter, who has taught doll making for years and actually provides this kind of service to the neophyte dollmaker. I hope one day to become more knowledgeable, and assured on my own two feet, to be able to answer your questions and/or teach doll making. For now, I will keep sending you the way of Ms Fröken Skicklig, in the hopes that her tutelage and know-how wealth can guide you to safe harbour.
Now, another part of these emails I receive, has to do with admiration. And let me be really honest, this is the part that not only makes me giggle but that I struggle with personally. I am very simple person, of course I have pride in what I do, but I do not think highly of me in such regard. Perhaps this is due to the fact that I have surrounded myself with people who have been doing this for many years before me, who are extremely talented, and also are very smart and witty.
I love my work, and I adore my dolls. To me, they represent a very big part of what is good in the world: handcrafts, nature, imagination, ingenuity, a sincere effort to lead a life based on the work of our hands, and on and on and on. I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to do what I do, and to be able to provide my family with some sort of steady income, earned with hard work and a good disposition. I do not lie when I say I am excited to the core when I get to work on a new doll, when I can’t sleep at night because I am dreaming a doll. These are not lies. It is all true.
When I hear that other people are inspired by what I create, by the dolls I bring forth from the depths of my imagination, by the way I photograph them, or the stories I write about them, by my process or the work flow I fasten, well...it’s not that it’s hard to understand, it is just hard to process. I feel like I am going through some sort of rite, and I am quite unprepared. Like I left the bag with the worry beads at home and I now wont get to pass the exam.
A little of this lassitude has to do with the fact that I am personally inspired by many things, many creators, bloggers, photographers, makers. I have a constant stream of inspiration coming into my work in the way of children’s books, fabrics, yarns, colours in nature, photographs, stories, dishes, etc. And to know, by reading these emails, how my work has touched and inspired others to create, to become doll makers, to attempt earning a living or supplying their loved ones with hand made toys, to put it midly: it is very humbling. I go from feeling like I am creating in a little bubble, in the safe haven of my studio, to having a glimpse outside and seeing that what I do in the quiet hours of my day has an impact on someone else’s life. That my photographs, and my stories and most especially my dolls, help people turn a corner, become makers, knitters, enablers of hand made. That reading my blog entices them to try their hands at making something: a doll, a bonnet, a felted tart, a little dress. All of a sudden my motto becomes a reality: I am nurturing imaginative play.
Lest you feel like I misled you, I want you to know that doll making is not easy, by any stretch of the imagination. It is a simple craft, yes. But it can also be very complicated and it requires many skills to bring it to fruition. Selling handmade dolls has got to be one of the hardest things to do. Not just because they become little people, with feelings and personality, and sometimes you become attached to them, but because you need to create a world for them to live in, and you have to create that world entirely by yourself, with photographs and words and feelings, and all those have to come from you because if you take them from somewhere else the link is broken. It takes so much from you, that somedays you are positively exhausted. Not just from making the dolls, but from living in this, their world.
And that is just the creative side. You have the actual manufacturing part, that can be frustrating and deafening. Then the marketing aspect, which is big and takes so much of your time in this online world. The business side, with its bookkeeping and accounting and fun listing/selling processes. The customer service, which is one of the most important aspects. I could go on, but I don’t want to sound like it is this one big drag. It is not, at least not for me, because I love what I do. Given the chance I dont think I would choose anything else: no fancy chef job for me, or top managerial position, no knitting as a hobby, not even leader of the United Nations sounds enticing. But give me fabrics, a sewing machine, wool, a pencil and paper and I will sketch a doll and work, get angry, get happy, elated at the results, knitting until the wee hours of the night, and I will hastily do it all over again.
If you have been inspired by my work, thank you for allowing it to fill you. Thank you for letting me know. For following my work. For buying my dolls and bringing them into your home. If you have started to create dolls and feel deep inside that this is what you want to do every spare minute of your time, then you are in very good company. Welcome!.
**all photos were taken on Sep. 2011 in the northern shore of Lake Superior. Who is craving the Fall? Not me!.