Why make dolls?


I started making dolls in the mid ’80’s.  My previous experience was pen or paint on paper, no sculpting at all.  It was a difficult transition from 2D to 3D.  My first doll’s faces looked flat and sort of gingerbread boyish...freaky.  I felt pretty discouraged sometimes!  But, I was instantly smitten with doll making.  There’s just something about looking at your creation and having it look back at you!

A doll’s unblinking gaze can be totally enigmatic or waaaaaay creepy...depends on the eye of the beholder.  Either way you look at it, dolls can be mesmerizing.  I’ve always found inset realistic eyes to be especially engaging.  I make the tiny eyeballs for all my dolls so they have that eye contact thing going on.  I hope when you look into the eyes of my dolls, they truly seem to be looking back at you.  I hope you find the effect captivating.  I wish to draw you in... not creep you out!

I sometimes incorporate a fixed position doll into a composition.   I call these works my “storytellers”.  I hope to inspire you to explore and interpret the story I’ve written within the sculpture.  The best part is, their stories have no ending, I leave that for you, to continue the narrative from your own heart and mind.  I hope you sit back, relax and enjoy your mind trip.

Now a posable doll is a whole other animal, they are literally a hands on art form.  When I make a doll,  I can get totally immersed as I work with fabrics,  beads and a beautiful face and form.  But when I’ve completed a doll, she’s not art...not yet.  To elevate her from mere objet d’art to higher art, she can’t just sit on a shelf, she needs to be brought to life.  Again, this is where you come in.  Now pick her up...no she won’t break...cradle her in your hands.  As you feel her weight and contemplate her tiny face and form,  you might begin to feel an empathy for her, maybe even a twinge of tenderness...well you’ve crossed the line...you have now entered, “The Interactive Art Zone” and my doll lives!!  With a little help from your imagination anyway.  On behalf of my dolls, I’d like to say, thanks!   

I’m hopelessly devoted to the wonderful world of dolls.  I enjoy all dolls, not just mine, not just art dolls, they all delight me.  For me, dolls are a substantiation of our human nature and experiences, the good, the bad, and the weird.  I see a reflection of  the human spirit in their immobile faces and I can’t resist being drawn in by their magic spell.    

I hope my dolls lighten your heart.  Maybe, someday I’ll feel inclined to express my dark side...but for now, I’m keeping it light and playful.  I try to give strength to the compassionate and sympathetic side of my own nature and this is what I wish to share through my dolls.

my first girl...sorta flat faced..right?  but she’s my baby and i love her anyway.

getting better...her face has more dimension.  but why did i make her neck so short??

This is my version of  “The Snow Queen”.  I was going for esoteric beauty, but i got...Cruella Deville’s older sister?!  Oh well! 

  ©  2012 Joanne Callander

i’m glad you can’t see how i strung and jointed my first dolls...it’s pretty funky ...but somehow it gives them an endearing floppiness...

below are four examples of my earliest work from 1985 to ’88.  all are polymer, the three little girls are 5 1/2 inches tall,  the lady on the right is about 12 inches.