Keagan was the second last custom doll for 2012. Instead of nattering on about him and all the adventures he will have, I'll just let the pictures of him speak...
I took the following picture to show some of the textures in Keagans' outfit. When I design a doll, I always ensure that a child will have many different types of natural textures to feel. Here we have very soft felted angora wool, merino wool, soft but a bit less so, linen fabric, buttons, boiled wool, the twists of the shoe cord. The blue of the shoes is fabric taken from woolen tights the that "J" (who will be living with Keagan) wore to bits when she was smaller.
Keagan will also be living as the brother to a doll I made a few years back. His hair is custom dyed and matches the other doll's hair in tone, although not in texture, as she has straight hair.
I love making boy dolls so much. They can fly and are full of beans!
I have had a lot of requests for custom dolls in the past, due to my schedule, that was not possible on a regular basis. I have made custom dolls, but generally only for local customers.
For 2012, however, I have decided to offer 4 custom dolls per month that can be shipped anywhere. If you are interested in getting a very special Olive Sparrow child to join your family, here is the link to my my Etsy Store. I have listed 11 spots:
3 spots for shipment date 1st week of February
4 spots for shipment date 1st week of April
4 spots for shipment date 1st week of May
If you don't see the size of doll you would like, please e-mail me and I will post an adjusted listing for you.
This will be really exciting...
Here a little glimpse of a custom doll that I made for a repeat customer for her daughters 5th Birthday a few days ago.
This is Tikka, a 38 cm tall Olive Sparrow Doll with traditional mohair hair. The mushroom on her bag (and on one sole of her shoes) is free-hand machine embroidered. Her sweet pants have little tiny mushrooms on it too. Her booties are the softest angora felted wool.
Wow, this is so exciting! Watch the video below to find out who is the winner of Mimi.
Our son Huxley did us the honours playing good-luck fairy.
I have sent the winner an e-mail, so that Mimi can make it on her way to her forever home.
Wow, this was fun! Thank you to everybody who participated. I am looking forward to stay in touch with those of you who agreed to let me send them the occassional e-mail with information regarding new available dolls, workshops and shows.
(if you didn't have a chance to add yourself to the mailing list, but would like to get information, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: Please add me to the Olive Sparrow subscription list.
This is the last public event before the end of the year.
If you haven't had a chance to come see me, perhaps this Sunday will work for you.
Rima and I would love to see you!
See you on Sunday! This will also be another chance for you to enter the contest to win "Mimi".
I know that my dolls are not attainable for everybody that visits and gives me such lovely words for my work - I wanted to give something back.
Here is quick image of "Mimi".
The contest will close on December 16. 2012, the day of my last show this year.
All through the fall I have quietly and not so quietly been working on a variety of Olive Sparrow Children to be offered at the fairs I was booked for and have talked about on this here blog.
Quite a number of dolls have found their forever homes. Some of them being finished the night before a fair and never even having had their picture taken. This is sad of course, however, such is the life of a doll maker.
I love selling my dolls in person, chatting to the person who is deciding who to take into their family - hearing from them about the special child that will be playing with the doll, sharing stories about the creation of the doll, discussing all manner of imaginative play - seeing a connection made. However, I always attempt to also make some dolls to be sold online - to let some of my children fly far, far into the world, to have adventures far away from here (or maybe not - but to be found by families that might not have known about the fairs, the Olive Sparrow or even waldorf inspired dolls.
So the time came last week that all the rowdy, mischievous dolls still here with me came for a sitting-pretty photo session to my studio. Most of them were absolutely amazing in how still they sat so that even under low light conditions (we took the pictures late in the day), we had perfect pictures. Some of them though, were just too full of beans to sit still enough, so I will have to take a few more select pictures tomorrow.
I have decided to let you know now, that all some of the dolls are now listed in the Olive Sparrow Etsy shop here.
Sometime tomorrow, as I have time, I will add the listings for the other dolls.
Here is a little sneak peak at the 3 outstanding dolls.
Baby Bee 20 cm / almost 8"
Lizzy - 38 cm / 15"
Elsie 48 cm / 19"
If you have any questions about the dolls, please e-mail me.
The past 10 days have been a flurry of activities and lugging of the portable Olive Sparrow shop. I also got to meet with so many of you that have come and visited me at the fairs.
Here is a bit of a recap to share with you.
Friday and Saturday (Nov. 16 and 17) I had a large booth at the Arts and Crafts Fair of the Toronto Waldorf School in Richmond Hill. On the way there, the front wheels of our beloved, yet ancient mini-van started smoking. Taking frequent breaks to let them cool down, I was determined to make it to the fair - which I did - just. I was so lucky to have my wonderful felting buddy Jan helped me with the set-up. Car-car (don't you name your car?) stayed there overnight, while Manon of Shoe Babou gave me a ride downtown and back the next day.
Here a quick look of the booth:
This was my third year at the show and I feel blessed to have seen many of my repeat clients again. I also got to chat with many new clients.
On the Sunday after the show I took Huxley to see "the Man in red on his sled", and a visit to the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum). Since we didn't score even one candy cane, we treated ourselves to cake in their eatery that always makes me think of Switzerland (it's something about the layout, the colours and general feel). This time of the year is a challenge to my mothering role - my soul is torn between my duties on all fronts - as a mother, a creator of Olive Sparrow goods, a gardner, a housewife, an artist, the maker of all the baked cookies with gift clients with, taking care of me. Yet despite the challenges, I love the flurry of activities and even giggle at the state of the insides of our car - packed to the roof with show booth items.
Monday to Thursday this past week was spend sewing like a mad-woman at home and getting some painting done at the studio. I was able to finish up 3 more Olive Sparrow Children (they had still needed faces, hair and clothes) and sew shoes for all the larger dolls that didn't find their forever families at the TWS show.
On Friday just before 2 pm I got on the road to Guelph (about 100 km's east of Toronto). I was able to visit my pregnant friend Catherine and her family there for half an hour before heading to the Trillium Waldorf School for the Cranberry market.
It was so relaxing to set up there, as I had given myself ample time so I didn't need to stress and do my usual heart-pounding, adrenaline pumping spiel of racing to be ready for opening time. There was a piano in my vendor room and a group of children played piano and the recorder for me. As a thank you, I let them have a rock fight. You read right. This year I am selling wet-felted rocks, originally intended to be used for nature tables, play scapes and decoration. Through interaction with the kids I realized they had a hoot trowing "rocks" at each other in play. What fun - and there are still some bags of the rocks left for my next fairs. The children commented on how interesting it felt to hold these textile stones in their hands.
The booth set-up is different at each fair I attend - In Guelph, I had rented two tables, which is really what is needed to justly present all my goods. Luckily Catherine (not my pregnant friend, but a super-sweet and wonderful co-ordinator of the fair) was able to get me that much space.
Here some close-ups of each table:
Because I had some extra time before opening, here a few (pardon me for the blurriness) doll close-ups:
Alice 38 cm - available
Elsie - 38 cm - available
The Cranberry fair closed at 11pm. At 11:40 pm, my goodies where packed up and I drove back home to Toronto. After getting into bed at 1:15 am, I rose again at 4:30 am and was on the road at 5 am to arrive in Kingston (about 250 km's west of Toronto) by 8:30 am for set-up at the Mullberry Waldorf school for their Winterfair. (I did have a 15 minute nap at one of the rest-stops and arrived full of energy in perfect timing to walk my stuff up to the 3rd floor of a lovely old and large school house. The building reminded me strongly of my own primary school in Switzerland - must have had something to do with the size of the class rooms and the spacing of the stair steps.
Even though my attendance was confirmed only a week ago, I was still able to rent two table spaces. Lois and Patricia that coordinated the fair were absolutely lovely to work with.
All the people I met at the school were strangers to me, yet I was made to feel completely at home and welcome by everyone that came to look and/or purchase my goodies.
As promised in my earlier post, I wanted to show you the 20 cm Olive Sparrow Child that I will be giving away in a contest I am holding at all my shows this season. I know that my dolls are not attainable for everybody that visits and gives me such lovely words for my work - I wanted to give something back.
Here is quick image of "Mimi".
The contest will close on December 16. 2012, the day of my last show this year.
If you would like to put your name into the draw for a chance to win her, visit me at one of the shows I will be doing over the next two weeks and fill out a ballot:
November 30 (Friday 6 pm - 9 pm ) - Westdale Children's School - Hamilton
December 2 (Sunday 10 am - 4 pm) - Waldorf Academy (formerly Allan Howard Waldorf School) - Toronto
December 8 (Saturday 11 am - 3 pm) - London Waldorf School - London
December 16 (Sunday noon - 5 pm) - Rima and Friends - Wise Daughters Craft Market - Toronto (Junction)
Off to bed for me - I am planning on sewing more doll clothes and hopefully finish a couple more dolls until Friday.
At a Mayfair last year a little girl about 2 years old came by and insisted on holding one of my little dollies. She didn't want to let it go.
This was my inspiration of producing a number of small (20 and 25 cm) dolls for little hands.
These dolls feature very simple clothes, no small details and are perfect for smaller hands. They do have little hats which can be put aside until the child is a bit older.
To meet the little dollies, come visit me tomorrow and Saturday at TWS in Richmond Hill.
The busy Christmas market season is starting on Friday. This year I will be participating in six fairs in and around Toronto.
There will be new/additional items for each different fair. However, especially the Olive Sparrow Children are sold on a first come, first served basis. So if you would like to see the largest selection of dolls, I hope to see you this Friday/Saturday.
I am very excited about new doll clothes, childrens fairy tote bags, large felted flowers perfect for the nature table, and other good handmade goods all with the Olive Sparrow touch.
Special Event for my market visitors:
Participate to win a 20cm Olive Sparrow Doll
(for details, visit me at any of the shows or
visit me at all shows to increase your chance to win).
November 16/17, 2012 (Friday/Saturday) - Toronto Waldorf School, Richmond Hill
November 23 (Friday evening) - Cranberry Market - Guelph
November 24 (Saturday) - Mulberry Waldorf School - Kingston
November 30 (Friday evening) - Westdale Children's School - Hamilton
(see attached details)
December 2 (Sunday) - Waldorf Academy (formerly Allan Howard Waldorf School) - Toronto
December 8 (Saturday) - London Waldorf School - London
December 16 (Sunday) - Rima and Friends - Wise Daughters Craft Market - Toronto (Junction)
(details to follow)
Saturday, November 24, 2012:
Mulberry Waldorfschool in Kingston
If you have any questions, leave me a comment or send me an e-mail.
It takes a lot of time, trial and error to arrive at an Olive Sparrow Child whose body shape and proportions are visually right to my eyes. When I made my first dolls I used some of my old patterns from years past (as in patterns from the 80's) and traditional Waldorf doll patterns found in the standard instruction books. Although I have sewn and created for more years than I'd like to admit publicly, I was somehow of the opinion that the dolls had to be "just so" and who was I to think I could alter something as established and well documented in Waldorf Doll-making circles.
Over time, and through viewing many other doll-makers' creations, I decided that I wished to have a doll that was visually pleasing to my own sense of proportion.
I prefer a doll that has:
Last year I re-designed the bodies for the 44/48 cm and 52/55 cm dolls and am very happy how they turned out. The 35cm doll has always been a favourite though. The smaller, yet still substantial size is ideal for children of 2 years and up, especially if they have shorter hair and simpler clothes. The pattern I have used in the past had many endearing features, yet was at times very frustrating to sew. Hence planning a new body pattern has been on my to-do list all year.
As I'm now getting ready for this years shows, the time is now. Two weeks ago I was rolling heads, as I often slightly adjust my patterns to fit the heads. They are my starting point for proportion and sizing of the body. Last week I spent two days playing with skin fabric, pencils and wool stuffing.
These are some of the samples I arrived at.
Two different arms, two different legs. I like my babes to be on the plumper side, as I feel they are more child-like. I also do like larger feet. My heads on the other hand are smaller rather than larger. Once a doll has their hair added, the head automatically becomes bigger.
I made one doll with the left-most pattern, but after it was finished, decided that I prefer my older arm pattern. It is important though to not just draw and imagine the dolls as I would like them to be, but to actually sew and stuff sample limbs. Holding these samples in my hands and working with how the fabric behaves when it is being stuffed leads me to the right shape.
If you look at the right-most hand, you can see that the hand is smaller, longer with a less defined thumb. This was caused by aligning the pattern differently on the skin fabric. Since the skin fabric is a knit, that will affect the direction of the stretch when the limb is stuffed.
The first of the new 40cm (aka the 35cm that grew larger) doll is now almost finished. In the morning I will embroider the face and get the hair ready. Hopefully I'll get a chance to take some pictures to show you.
The shows I did a couple of weekends ago went well. It was lovely to meet so many new people and exhibit my work. I "hired' our son to be my helper for the day on Sunday. He was amazing! I still remember when I was pregnant that I just thought that our son would come along to the shows, play quietly behind the tent, get used to the life of doing shows and start helping with little things. As I told him the day of the show, he was not that kind of a child when he was younger. Whereas I have seen the children of others be the perfect assistants and quiet companions, my son was always too active (although I did have him along at an art exhibition when he was a mere 6 weeks old and that was a wonderful experience). Now, at eight, he can help me unload the car, set-up the tent, watch the booth for a few minutes, and also, especially at a Waldorf fair, go about doing activities that he likes to do and enjoy him self too.
Here are a few pictures of my show tent to share with you that come from far and away.
Welcome to the lair of the Olive Sparrow (give me a shout-out in the comments if you spot the little birdy - he always travels with me).
Fairy tote bags - sized just perfectly for children to use as their lunch bag, a carry-all to take ballet slippers to class, a toybag to bring just a few precious things along on an outing or for momma to use as a small handbag.
Playsilks - look soon in my etsy store for an update in colours and sizes.
Hats and pants for three sizes of dolls. I love seeing all the clothes laid out like this and ready to be combined with tops to every doll-mommas own tastes and desires.
Dresses, tunics and skirts. I am already excited and inspired for the new clothes ideas in my mind.
The doll table - with Olive Sparrow Children (11 in all, although one was hiding in this picture) - the plan is that early next week the dolls and I will go on a photo outing - there are a few lovely places I have in mind to take photographs. All in preparation to have them listed within the next 2 weeks. They are all very excited to find their future families. In this picture you can also see wet-felted flowers, hand-dyed dress-up crowns both for children and their dolls, as well as Floppy dolls, nature-table fairies and Mother Earth (from the previous post).
Shows are a wonderful way to share my work and to inspire moms that make their own dolls for their children. I also enjoy setting up the displays and seeing the expressions in the face of children when they respond to a doll. It's always a tad sad too though, to see how some of the parents really love to get the doll for their child, yet simply can't afford it. That is also why I offer doll-making workshops. I had planned to hold one this coming weekend, but it seems that after the summer vacation will be a better time for it - summer is to be outside and enjoy the weather and time with our families - I love the coming of September and the return back to hand-work and preparing for the holiday markets.
PS: If you would like to receive advance notice of the dolls becoming available for sale, please send me a message to: email@example.com and I will add you to my early bird list.
Time has slipped by me again - time that was busy with a trip to Montreal to deliver artwork to my agent, purchase paper for my art and seeing friends. I also dropped by Loyalist College where I will be teaching a 4-day wet-felting class in July to meet the lovely Heather Cockerline who I have been working with.
Back at home I have been busy felting flowers and creating dolls for the two Mayfair Festivals I will be attending this coming weekend: Westdale Children's School in Hamilton on Saturday May 26th from 11am - 3 pm, and Halton Waldorf School on Sunday May 27th from noon - 4pm.
These fairies, star children and Mother Earth will be available at the shows (if you have your heart set on them, I recommend you come and visit me in Hamilton, or send me an e-mail before the show). They are 6" and 8" tall.
I am also working on a new group of Olive Sparrow Children that I will keep under wraps until the show. (A girl has to have some secrets.. giggle)... There are a couple of large 52 cm dolls as well as smaller ones available.
Other Olive Sparrow goods - playsilks, crowns and doll clothes will also be available.
Aa dear client requested if I could possibly make a small baby doll in a sling for her daughter's birthday. Although the deadline was very tight, timing worked out wonderful to create this little as of yet unnamed baby.
She is about 9.5" or 25 cm tall.
Wearing teeny-tiny diapers that close with little snaps.
Wearing her itty-bitty hat.
Smilling and waiting for her pickup at the studio.
My client and I discussed that they baby should be somewhat unisex in appearance, so that her daughter could pretend to either have a baby-girls or a baby-boy. I think that was successful, as both my husband and my son couldn't right out say which gender the baby is.
While working on the baby, I also started another small doll. I just picked out the colours for her clothes and hope to work on her later today - now, I'm going to let Huxley create some bean bags on the sewing machine - a first for us and we're both very excited.
Each doll is made up of the following materials.
Skin: 100% cotton (Swiss-made to Öko-Tex-Standard 100)
Stuffing 100% “green-processed” wool batt from Canada
Hair: 100% Wool, or a Mohair/Wool Blend
Clothing: 100% natural fibres (linen, cotton, silk)
Shoes: Recycled felted wool sweaters, or pure leather
Face: 100% cotton Embroidery Thread
Each doll is created individually by artist Monika Aebischer, the proprietor of The Olive Sparrow. She sources and uses only the highest quality materials in her creations – swiss-made skin fabric, Canadian green processed wool stuffing, wool/mohair for the dolls hair (often hand-dyed by her). Hair for the Olive Sparrow Children is made by crocheting a cap that is sewn to the head, allowing for replacement should it ever become necessary (although most children will object to this, as it changes their doll dramatically). For the wispy hair, a special german mohair is used and a labour-intense technique, for the loose longer hair each strand of wool is individually knotted into the crocheted cap. This is the prime technique for doll-wig creation.
Doll clothing is made from up-cycled vintage and clothing fabrics, in either pure linen, cotton or silk. Up-cycled fabric is wonderful for doll clothes, as the cloth has been washed soft, gentle and free of textile manufacturing products. Monika also felts used woolen sweaters to use for doll shoes and clothing. She knits the doll’s hats out of prime quality knitting wool. Each seam on the doll’s body is sewn twice to allow your child to fiercely love their Olive Sparrow Child. Clothing is sewn with finished seams and some are fully reversible.
You might be wondering where the dolls are. I have been talking about new ones in the works, yet no pictures and no status reports on this here blog. Last week was the school March break (we spend 3 days in bed with the flu, then had some fun - pix to come), the week before I finally got the studio in order and actually did some work on the newest dolls. Here a bit of background.
Last fall, I spent a focussed time of almost 3 months working exclusively on The Olive Sparrow items. My painting practice was put on hold, so that I could focus on the dolls and doll clothes. Not completely though. In the background I spent time restructuring and renovating my studio. For those of you new to visiting here, I am also a professional painter (Monika Aebischer, and the other slightly forgotten blog). I have maintained my professional artist studio going on 18 years. It is a lovely space in downtown Toronto with a gorgeous 3rd story view into the west. My dolls on the other hand have been created in my downstairs studio here at home. I have not been able to do textile work at the painting studio for the past 6 years, because of the resin that I work with on my artwork - resin is a magnet for even the smallest fiber floating gently in the air.
Splitting my work up between home and the rented studio has felt wrong for some time. I love my studio and like to spend time there. Last summer this all overwhelmed me and I fell into a dark hole. A hole that didn't let me see any sunshine and made me question my artwork, my dolls, my life - not fun. One day (one of many) where I sat in my studio, with hands paralized by darkness, I looked around and was struck by an idea - if I build a wall to seperate off the resin area, I can do different work again at the studio. Reinvigorated, I set myself to organizing the task - simple I thought and quick - not so... Together with the help of my amazing superintendent in the building, supplies brought there with the help of my husband and son, and most of all time and gentleness towards myself, I started the process in August 2011. The beginning of this year I worked on a painting comission, then I set 3 weeks aside to get it all done! I even painted the floor white, and the whole space is a new inspiration. (I'll show some pix in a bit).
Two weeks ago, I brought some of my dolls in progress there and each day spent a few hours working on the babes. Here is another type of inside look that shows how I weight out the stuffing for each doll limb. I have developed a chart for each pattern so that I remember the weight for each part. I find that important, so that every time I stuff a limb, it will be the same - quality control.
The head and wig-base for a 44cm doll, hand stuffing, inner arm, outer arm. Legs with the feet done and the inner leg and outer leg stuffing.
Lots of weighing out to be done for each doll. (There is another babe in the background)
One foot stuffed, the beautiful eco-wool for the other foot ready. I am always amazed at how much wool will fit into a dolls to make it solidly stuffed.
When I stuff the limbs, I create an inner core that I needlefelt very solidly, then wrap it with a loftier outer layer. It all is inserted into the limbs with help of a "funnel" as I call it. If a doll isn't stuffed very solidly, it will easily misshape over time. Especially when a child sleeps with a doll and possibly ends up laying on top of it. Hence compacting the wool as much as possible at the outset means that the wool doesn't really have any place to compact into. Also wool naturally felts together through rubbing, so why not start that process before putting lofty fiber into a limb. I tried many different ways to stuffing a doll and this process has become the one most logical for me.
Finding a rhythm in the creation of my various endeavors is a challenge, one often thwarted by life getting in the way (grrr). But I have been gifted with various ways to express myself and to create not one type of work, but many. Often when I make something "just for fun" and "just as a little gift" - one or more of the dear ones in my life comment "you could sell that". But not everything I make is meant to become a commercial enterprise. Rather on the other hand. I have decided that I am very selective of what I will offer to the world for purchase - my paintings, wet-felted and The Olive Sparrow goods. There is also teaching in my future - dolls and wet-felting, in my studio and as a traveling instructor (more to come about this).
I finally am ready to let Suzy and Baby Jo go into the world. I listed them in my Etsy store today:
Blogged about here.
On other news, I am working on a series of five new Olive Sparrow Children. They will be in the following sizes: one at 54 cm, one at 44cm, two at 35 cm and one at 31 cm. I will post details as I move along.
January has been a recuperating and re-grouping month for me. I worked on a painting commission at the studio, finished another painting that I had to re-do, (thanks to a product that was sold to me as a professional art product, but didn't behave as such), did a lot of work on Huxley's knitted bed spread, submitted a course outline to Loyalist College for a wet-felting course I'm scheduled to teach in the summer and mostly went to bed at a reasonable time every night. The downstairs studio is all cleaned up, the pantry and the fridge have been completely cleaned out and re-organized. Now I'm working on my desk and next up will be the chest freezer downstairs. I have crochet all the doll caps for the dolls I'm working on, so from here on their becoming will be swift. I always find it amazing how at a certain point the babes almost create themselves.
I also picked up quite a selection of wonderful fabrics and clothes to be made into doll clothes.
Today Astrid was sent of to her new family in Rochester - she was one of my favourite babes that I created before the holidays and I had her sit with me for a while before I was ready to list her on Etsy. Now I am so happy that she has been adopted and can't wait to hear how her trip was.
Okay, before it is too late, I am going downstairs to get the new babes further along their journey.