Interview by MacPherson Arts & Crafts
1. Where are you from and where do you live now?
My twin sister and I were born in Hampton Court (opposite the Palace!) Not an easy birth for my Mum, I was upside down, destined to be the eldest until my sister kicked me out of the way and was born first. We lived together for 18 years until going in different directions with our husbands. My husband, John and I have lived in Scotland, Isle of Wight, Reading, Saudi Arabia and France, eventually ending up in Lydden, a little village not far from the white cliffs of Dover.
2. Have you always been interested in dolls?
Yes, Helen and I ADORED dolls from as far back as I can remember. Unfortunately, my Mum did not and we were doll deprived really for many years. The first dolls we had were Pedigree ones, Penny and Pauline, the first pedigree with rooted hair, not a baby doll though. The next one was a teenage dress up doll called Tressy with hair that grows. Both met sticky ends, my Penny was punked back in the 70’s by one of my daughters which involved a severe haircut and pink felt tip and poor Tressy’s hair grew too much and fell out after falling into the hands of my fascinated younger brother. We were both desperate for a BABY doll and never had one of our own really. When we first started school there were two beautiful life-size baby dolls there in the toy section, one dressed in pink and the other in blue. Helen and I would grab these babies every day and WISH so hard they were ours. My love and desperation for full size baby dolls started then and has developed into the most wonderful, creative and fulfilling career I could have wished for.
3. When did you first become interested in sculpting?
Sculpting was a natural progression really, once I started on my doll making career. I firstly started in cloth with sculpted under faces and limbs, developing my Shell Cloth range. John and I had a wonderful time back in the 1990’s developing the Artist market. Our first doll show was in the United States where we continued to attend the New York Toy Fair and several others for many years with the cloth and porcelain shell range.
4. How did you first encounter reborn dolls?
After a while the Doll Artist market began to fade a little and a whole new area opened up, vinyl kits and reborning. Because of my ability to sculpt, it seemed the natural thing to do and after a year or two of polymer clay sculpting, John and I decided to start a new company, The Cradle, sculpting and producing our own kits.
5. Have you sculpted dolls from the time you started sculpting, or did you start off with something else?
Sculpting has always been a part of my doll making career from the 1980’s, originally in grey clay and now polymer clay. I am self taught and there have been many disasters along the way, it is the only way to learn really. There is no right or wrong way to sculpt, everyone develops their own techniques and it is important to do so. By developing your own way, you achieve your own ‘look’ which becomes apparent in most Artist’s work.
6. How long have you been sculpting?
7. What medium do you use to sculpt your babies with?
8. What inspires & motivates you to sculpt?
I find baby sculpting fascinating. The younger the baby the harder it is to sculpt, for me anyway. The intricacies of baby folds and creases are not easy to sculpt. The older and ‘firmer’ the age of a sculpt, the less creases and folds there are to recreate. I love watching a real, life-size baby develop in front of me. I am sculpting full babies now and after sculpting separate heads, limbs and bodies for many years, it is truly wonderful to sculpt a fully jointed up baby. Sculpting is an on- going process. You can never call yourself an expert, there is always something else to master and learn. The progression never stops. I am as excited to move on to the next sculpt as I have always been, wanting to try something a little different, alter a technique, try something new. I am never fully happy with a completed sculpt either, knowing I can always do better the next time. Frustrating and annoying maybe, but the only way to learn and progress.
9. Do you sculpt full time & do you have other hobbies?
Creating babies is my hobby, my career, my life. Every second of the day, apart from the necessities of housework and looking after a family, I devote to my babies, from the sculpting to their clothing. I love to crochet and knit too and have always made my artist doll clothes.
10. Do you only sculpt for kit production or do you do custom ~ portrait orders too?
I used to do portrait work. Not an easy thing to do. I still do use photographs as guides if I want a certain look. I also work for a big doll production company and have sculpted for them for many years. They will give me a brief and references and I create to order. I do love the freedom to create my own work though.
11. When did your first kit come out and what was the baby's name?
Oh goodness, I have sculpted so many over the years it is difficult to remember the very first one. I believe it was Andi Asleep, closely followed by Krista and then Bonnie. They are still selling today which is so rewarding for me. I think Andi Asleep, being my first, has always been my favourite though!
12. How many kits have you produced to date?
I have lost count really. I did do some kits for other companies before starting The Cradle. I will forward a list of the kits from The Cradle separately.
13. Do you have a list of names of all of your kits you have produced as we would love to have an archive directory for your sculpts?
14. Which baby of yours has been your all time favorite and why?
15. Do you plan to continue sculpting babies for kits?
I don’t think I will ever give up sculpting, I love it too much. Now I am developing the full life size baby sculpt, that will fascinate me for many more years to come.
16. How do you feel about the reborn doll industry? What excites you and what upsets you?
The reborn industry is a tricky one. It has developed so quickly and is such a large market. I think reborning is a wonderful creative outlet for many people and there are so many SUPERB reborners out there. There are also many that do not enhance the reborn market at all. There are artists out there who love their work and it shows. There are others out there throwing out very rough work just for financial reasons and it shows. A true reborner loves doing what they do with a passion far beyond any monies to be made. They put their hearts and souls into their babies and it just shines through. Unfortunately the reborn market has become muddied by the money grabbers, cheats and fakers. It is so sad, not only for the Artist who lose their markets to cheap and nasty copies of their work but for the reborners themselves who will never produce the best babies, starting with an inferior product. I find this all very upsetting and have had much of my own work copied by these cheats and fakers. I so hope this does not cause the Artist to lose their livelihoods. We can all work towards stopping this side of the market but it will take a huge effort by all of us to keep the integrity of the reborn world intact.
17. How do you feel about the progression of the art of reborning over the past 10 years?
Reborning is a wonderful art and hopefully will be around for many years to come. Reborning has brought doll art and creativity to many and is a wonderful, rewarding and exciting hobby as well as a career. Reborning has been instrumental in developing affordable doll art for many along with all the therapeutic qualities reborn babies can give both their owners and creators.
18. Do you think that this industry has a long term future or do you think its just a fad that will blow over?
Oh I so hope the reborn market continues. If the Artist can afford to keep going in spite of being undermined by the cheats and fakers, I am sure there are many years to come. If we allow these fakes to continue and eventually swamp the market, I fear the poor quality of work produced will be reflected in the lack of sales and the market could collapse.
19.What are your plans and hopes for the future?
I cannot imagine a life without creativity. The passion I still have will never leave me. Every day I wake up, loving my life and what I do. Every second of every day is filled with experimenting, learning, developing a new technique. Every day is filled with achievement, sometimes disappointment but always with an excitement that I will learn something new and create something even better. I still strive for the PERFECT baby. The one that is in my head. The one I wanted as a child. One day I will hold that baby in my hands and who knows, I may stop then. Somehow though, I hope that day never comes, the excitement of achieving that perfect goal is my life and I want it to continue forever.
20. Do you have something new in the works?