Stefania Morgante in conversation with Ankie Daanen and Marlaine Verhelst (interview from the CDAA Newsletter, March 2008).
We understand that dollmaking is not generally known in Europe as Art. And yet, within the new Dutch and Belgium Institute of Doll Artists Association there is an enormous amount of talent in just those two small countries.
S.M. Do you see it this way from your experience?
M.V. There are not many new young doll artists. Dollmaking around the world seems to get most interest from middle-aged women.
A.D. Good thing that when there is a great show such ad the Art Doll Show in Sevres, near Paris (2006) and the Dutch and Belgian Institute of Doll Artists (DABIDA-2007) there is a lot of interest from the public.
S.M. What is a doll for you?
M.V. Because a doll is a reflection of a human being, a good doll should be able to touch your soul. And what I try to achieve is to bring a smile with my dolls and to tell a little story.
A.D. I work hard in trying to create a dream world... to create pieces that people enjoy looking at and pieces they want to have as their own.
S.M. Why dolls? How did this passion develop?
M.V. I like it that so many techniques are involved:sculpting, painting, sewing, embellishing, and of course collecting materials. I love collecting stuff and visiting stores and flea markets. On top of everything It's so much fun. Dollmaking also allows me to travel and meet people all over the world.
A.D. Even as a child I was always searching for an outlet to express my artistic abilities, and much of childhood I spent seated beside my mother's sewing machine waiting for leftover scraps of fabric. My mother made children's clothes, and I copied her on the floor creating ballroom dresses for my Barbie dolls.
My dream was to follow a professional artistic career ad a ballet dancer, opera singer or designer. But when the time came to choose a profession, my parents did not share the opinion of going to an art school, as at that time they thought it did not garantee a living. Instead, I went to an educational academy and became a teacher.
After 5 years of teaching, I began searching for an avenue in which to direct my creative energy, and my love for music made me go to the conservatory to study musc. I became a music teacher. About this time I visited an exhibition of doll makers and it was overwhelming! I went back three times. It was at that point that I was sure my mission was to become a dollmaker and so I did! That was 20 years ago.
I started taking a few classes from well-know dollmakers, but soon I began to teach myself. I did not want to copy dolls from others. I wanted to have my own style. In every new collection of my dolls I try to grow.
Approximately 5 years ago, after 15 years of sculpting dolls from stoneclay, I started to work with porcelain. I love the charm of the smooth skin you get from porcelain and, of course, the longer life cycle of the doll. After a while you develop your own techniques and processes. After finishing the basic model I create the molds, and after the doll comes out of the mold, I sculpt the doll again. This multi-layered process means that every doll I create has something unique.
My grea love for fabric, laces and trims and all my inspiration, imagination and fantasy, which is always available, goes into costuming the doll.
S.M. Do you remember how and when your passion for dollmaking transformed into a career?
M.V. It is soooo long ago. I think ir started when a fried opened a little shop with handmade gifts. Two friends of the owner of this shop had little galleries. One step leads another. I had the advantage that tere was nobody in Holland making dols at that time.
A.D. I sold my first doll at age 10. I pulled a balloon over a play ball and glued a face on it... and from wire I made a body and dressed it. I could sell two dolls for 1 Euro each. For a 10 year old, a lot of money in those days! When my father and I had put the dolls in the trunk of the car we went to bring the dolls. BUT, it was over 30 degrees and when we got out of the car to get the dolls out of the trunk to deliver them... the balloons were melted!!! I now have galleries and collectors around the world. I am a happy dollmaker!
S.M. Tell us about the 'Dutch Touch' Theatre workshop
M.V. Ankie and I have already started preparations for this workshop, covering stryro-foam eggs with Darwi clay as base for the heads, cutting and sewing the basic doll costumes and designing the wooden parts for the theatres that a carpenter will make. The materials will be shippend to Canada in advance.
The workshop is for all the levels. For Ankie and me It is the first time that we will be teaching together in Canada. I was teaching before in Ottawa a couple of years ago. We are looking forward to meeting old friends and to make new friends.
A.D. Together with my collegue Marlaine, we teach two or three times a year an International class.The Master class goes by the name: 'The Dutch Touch' and is designed to teach international students some of the creative and unconventional techniques that Dutch dollmakers are renowned for. The classes are taught in, an outside the Netherlands. For the next year Salt Lake city and Tucson in the USA are on the list.
For the moment I'm working to fulfil one of my dreams. My husband and I have built a new house in Spain, with an atelier and a guesthouse. It's situated near the sea, in a beautiful wine-valley.
There I like to teach dollmaking during the beautiful season periods, as Spring and the early Summertime. The students learn how to make dolls, in combination with the good things Spain has to offer. But that's next year.
S.M. Is business good for dollmakers in Europe?
M.V. The market for doll art is not very good in Europe nowadays.
A.D. It's so nice to get inspired by doll artists all over the world.
S.M. What advice for developing artists?
M.V. Practise, practise, practise.
Try to learn as much as you can from doll artists you admire by looking at their work, buying their books, CD, videos, or taking lessons. It will be important at some point to find a personal and unique style. Start a cuttings map for inspiration with pictures from facial and body parts, hair style and make up, facial expressions, colour combinations, poses, fashion styles etc.
A.D. Practise and develop your own style!
Marlaine Verhelst http://marlaineverhelst.com/
Ankie Daanen http://www.ankie-doll-art.com/
3 weeks ago