An article about my art dolls…

Ghost Talker- Sam Crow’s Art Dolls

written by  = rosajhberlandartconsultant.com

Ghost Talker- Sam Crow’s Art Dolls

Sam Crow is a contemporary UK based artist and doll maker whose spooky dolls have earned her a cult following.

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Some say we lose as much as we gain once we enter adulthood. Think about it, the imagination of childhood –all that richness, the adventure, the strange almost supernatural character of this space. It seems that something joyful exists along with a certain rawness of experience.

This is the space of the artist and doll maker Sam Crow. She is a weaver of extraordinary fairy tales, so whether your taste is for the neo-gothic or curious or just the hand crafted, you will find her creations undeniably arresting. Her world posesses a certain sorcery to it, opening chambers long hidden, in the tradition of old mysteries…a place to escape.

Crow’s dolls speak in a different language than many artist’s dolls of women. She instead focuses on that expansive realm of childhood imagination, all cleverly inflected with a magical realism, and neo-gothic sensibility. One rather thinks perhaps the dolls have popped out of an early Expressionist film, so stylished attired and made up, they are the pictures of the heroic other…

It’s a delight to interview Sam and premiere these two dolls from Sam’s second set of the Children of the Pied Piper: Vincent and Vanessa Vespertilio.

 

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Sam Crow, Vanessa, Handmade doll, 2016

There are 13 dolls in total, fabricated using a mix of textile and clay over a wire frame and clay heads. Sam notes they reflect most strongly her time in Germany as a child and the influence of the Brothers Grimm.

 

“Each story explains who they were before the piper arrived in town, what they were doing when he arrived, and hints at what they are doing now…after the piper led them away.”

 

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Vincent by Sam Crow

From The Children of the Piper (Rattenfänger) – The Story of Vincent and Vanessa Vespertilio

Time really begins to drag when you’re undead; especially if you’re a child. And making new friends is practically impossible. Any potential candidates are usually getting tucked up into bed when you’re being dragged out of yours. Sleepovers could be a solution, but apparently, no one wants to risk a sleepover at a vampire’s house.

No matter how friendly Vanessa tried to make her face, or how many invitations she sent out with little hand drawn promises not to bite guests, no one ever seemed willing to accept. She’d long since given up trying. Who needed friends anyway, they just turned into adults.

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Sam, it seems,  exists perpetually in the world of childhood imagination, telling an incredulous but rapt listener, that her ghost-like dolls reveal their stories to her once she has created their costumes. Clearly, I for one, shall never fully escape the allure of the Victorian era, and neither shall Crow’s dolls who appear stuck forever in a Dickensian era purgatory, yet can coaxed out of their solitude and quiet, through encouraging words, care and of course, and a sort of simpatico for magical things.


“As I am working on the creatures they tend to start to come alive and give me little clues about their lives–I have to keep rushing off to grab a pen to scribble them down – some are more vocal than others, and start telling me things almost immediately some stay quiet until I am working on their costumes, and others refuse to talk until I have finished them and sit down with a pen and ask them to tell me their stories.”

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Pages from Crow’s 2016 custom hand-made book The Story of Vincent and Vanessa Vespertilio

Each doll is entirely hand-made and unique, she begins the process with a template, followed by the construction of a wire skeleton, clay, or fabric and finally clay sculpted bodies. She uses wool for the hair, and hand paints each face. Sam creates the costumes from new, vintage, and repurposed fabrics. For some costumes, she achieves a sense of time-worn shabbiness over-sewing layers of cloth. The artist meticulously photographs each doll, and makes a book telling each story with photos and the creation process.

 

More Dolls waiting to be finished by Sam Crow

This process is slow and meticulous, but ultimately richly rewarding incorporating as it does all of the artist’s technical interests costume, set making, drawing, sculpting, textiles, painting, and penchant for story telling…

Each stage fulfills a different creative need, from the sketches and daydreaming at the beginning, the making of the figures and their accessories out of wire and clay and fabric, the painting of their faces and accessories, the costume making and use of various textile techniques, the set making, to the completed drawings of the finished characters and the stories they tell, at the end.”

 

Dolls waiting or more...Sam Crow Artist

Her own childhood as well feeds this pictorial vision, or at least her memory of this time. I would count Sam as a lucky adult, to be able to tap into this childish wellspring of endless imagination, fantasy, myth-making, and most of all youthful heroines and heroes. The story books remind me of the tales told during playtime, creative stories told as you go. One rather feels that one has fallen down the rabbit hole, so it is no surprise that the artist is enamored with the work of Lewis Carol.

Doll waiting to be dressed by Sam Crow

Sam reveals of her creatures, “they most definitely become who they want to become, and not who I want them to be. Often their personalities and stories are quite different from the creature I had in mind when I began creating them – which is why writing their story is always the final stage, coming just after making a setting for them to pose for photos in – they do love to pose for photos.”

 

The only child of a career soldier, the artist spent her childhood moving from place to place, creating an interior world for friendship and entertainment, reading, writing, and drawing. She shares that she was a very lonely child with a rich imagination that often took her to dark places including nightmares and hallucinations.

 

Sam Crow Doll

 

A period spent at a boarding school run by nuns was the beginning of Sam’s imaginative stories of the lives of people past. This school in an old manor was of course, replete with hidden passages and towers, a place for refuge for the young girl. Sam found a trunk of old photographs in one of the off-limits towers, and became a constant visitor, making up stories about the subjects in the pictures. Another forbidden room contained old clothing. What richness she found, in the school where one was not allowed to bring toys or keepsakes along. She notes she never took a thing, afraid of the vengeance of ghosts.

 

Sam Crow Doll

 

RB: How did you begin making doll sculptures?

SC: I studied theatre design at university, and we had to make tiny little figures to inhabit our model box theatre sets-mine were created from paper and clay – and I think creating them was probably my favorite part of the whole process. I made my first art doll in 2012 – Katia and her Puppet – she was a complete serendipitous experiment – at the time I was working with textiles, creating my ‘drawings with stitches’ pieces –freehand machine embroidered drawings on fabric, and I had a pile of canvas off cuts on my studio table that caught my attention –I found myself sewing them all together to form the beginning of a little figure.

 

Sam Crow Katia and her Puppet

 

RB: This was a transitional point for you?

SC: Once I realized what I was making, I created a wire skeleton and padded it out with wadding and continued sewing the patchwork skin on to this skeleton. My little figure needed a face, so I made a head of clay, painted the face, and added a wig from wool scraps. I made her a dress out of the fabric offcuts from the textile piece I was working on at the time.

I decided to make the little figure a tiny stringed puppet. As I was working on her, she began to come alive and took on a personality –she actually became quite vocal – so I gathered up everything she had told me whilst we were working and wrote a little story to go with her!

At the time, I had no idea that there was such a thing as art dolls, and I wondered how on earth to categorize her. She sat in the window of my next textile exhibition and to my surprise drew a lot of attention.

Little Red Riding Hood Sam Crow Doll

 

RB: And today you work in a similar way?

 

SC: The dolls are all one of a kind and unique, much like us larger people. I don’t make any molds from them, or use any in their making – it is an organic process. They all end up looking different and having different quirks and idiosyncrasies.

Some of the faces are crooked, none are perfect, but I like this, as it is rare to find a perfectly symmetrical face in us larger beings too, and this adds personality, and makes them more alive for me.

Sam Crow Waiting Dolls

 

RB: Do you make the dolls in groups or series?

 

SC: I tend to make the dolls in batches, so that I am working on a few at the same time during each different process that goes into their making. After my first doll Katia and her puppet, I made my first collection of about 11 dolls. These all had a clay body and wooden limbs sometimes covered in clay, with wooden bead and string joints, and fully clay heads, and stood with the aid of doll stands.

 

Front View of Sam Cox Moving Sculpture Professor Mercurio Mann and his extraordinary Ambulating Auditarium contraption

 

RB: And you also have made moving dolls such as Professor Mercurio Mann and his extraordinary Ambulating Auditorium contraption?

 

SC: Yes, these are inspired enchanting Victorian style clockwork toys that clap or play that have always enthralled and terrified me! As well, my grandfather made moving wooden sculptures driven by wind.

 

View of Sam Cox Moving Sculpture Professor Mercurio Mann and his extraordinary Ambulating Auditarium contraption

 

SC: Professor Mercurio Mann is a one-man band. I made his instruments too and they move about and bang with the pull of strings or the winding of handles, which can be seen in video.

 

 

Sam Crow Dolls in Black

Christmas exhibition 2012

exhibition poster 2012Thank you everyone who popped in to have a look, or to peer through the window at the music mann and take photos! an enormous thank you to everyone who took a little – or large! – creation away with them – i hope they continue to make you grin! Hopefully the art dolls and Professor Mercurio have settled into their new homes!

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blog and sculp the bug catcher in the window with his ink drawing ( drawing sold)

blog and sculp3 the dancer art doll and the Professor (sold)in window

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blog and sculp7 alice, the bride, the wreath and large stitch picture all sold

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stitch2 textile pieces – bottom left sold ink stitch3 steampunk ink drawing sold and the cityscape ink drawing

stitch8 stitch5 crafty corner did really well!

stitch9  lots of the brooches, bags, gloves, scarves, cuffs and jewellry soldstitch10 stitch11 stitch12 stitch21 thank you again!

I will be updating etsy (Ruby Trinket) very soon with some of the jewellry and some new necklaces [ brooches, pictures and art dolls!

Keep calm and make something!

Just finished the latest ink drawing….Keep calm and make something!

the frame size is 40.5 x 28.5 inches

working on another stitch picture…and the bug catcher still

Whilst waiting for the frame for ‘sometimes’ and to appease the sewing urges whilst i am working away on the bug catcher sculpture…i have begun another stitch picture…lots to do still, but here’s a quick preview of both…

i amworking on  his head at the moment – but i don’t want to ruin the surprise by showing it yet! Lots and lots to do !!!!!!!!!!! But he’s getting there and is complaining that i should hurry up and start painting him because he has a mission to complete! So i better carry on….

I have finally finished the music man!

Pop over to the sculpture category and take a look!
Here is a short wobbly video of the Auditarium banging, clanking, tinkling and creaking….

 

more work on the music man…

here are some more pictures of the work i have been doing on the music man mixed media sculpture…

the legs are on the big drum…

the hat is now attached so it raises when the string is pulled…

making the wheels …
attaching wheels to the legs…
making the drum sticks for the back drum…
attaching the sticks so the alternate hitting the drum…
side views
leather funnel
adding the bells and chimes that ring when the wheels turn…

nearly finished…just have to paint some of the bits i have added …paint the base etc etc etc…!!!!!!
working on the trumpet
just have to make the mouth piece!
and finally actually working on the little girl’s push along horse
I better hurry and finish it for her before she looses her patience!
will update with more pics soon!

Working on the Hunter art dolls accessories

I have been busy making the tiny weapons for the hunter art doll…

the arrows – drying the paint!

The bow (- wire, fabric= lace, leather, thread, beads, paint ) and arrows ( wood, clay, lace, thread, paint, text )
a close up of the writing on one of the arrows – each arrow has a different quote

the finished sword and dagger hilts… and the box of antique pen nibs I will use to make the blades.
the finished swords.

a picture showing her wearing the sword and dagger
both the sword and dagger can be taken out of their holders.
the finished bow, arrows and holder for the arrows

Ink, Paint, Stitch Exhibition 2011


The Ink, Paint, Stitch Exhibition – August 2011 – Creative Quarter, Folkstone, Kent – part of their triennual fringe exhibitions….Jereme and I had a great time again exhibiting in the Creative Quarter and meeting new people and friends from our previous exhibition. Thankyou everyone who visited, bought, helped and supported…Poppy, my parents ( and their friends who were gently! encourged to buy artworks ), Josie and Roger, Theresa ( great to see you again! thankyou for your purchases and all the encouragement), Shane ( great to finially meet you properly – hope the camper van adventure was blissfully quirky – huge smile to you, thanks for being a friendly face! ), and Charlotte Watkinson ( who has bought several of my pieces in the past, but whom i had never met before…)thankyou for visiting and taking away Hook – it was really great to finially meet you! And to little Ruby who has a wonderful name and loves grizzly bears – a big smile – and everyone else …..thankyou!
setting up!

Our initial venue … in Tontine street …

I included the Ruby Trinket necklaces…which were a huge success and very popular, especially the pendants which displayed my latest ink art.

also made some necklaces of Jereme’s work…

Poppy exhibited her photos…which people were very impressed with…she sold all three!

she also made hair slides called poppies especially for the exhibition, which almost all sold!

some of Jereme’s artwork from the exhibition

our next venue in The Old High Street, Creative Quarter, Folkstone…you can just make out my dad being busy helping us set up during our mad dash from the first venue to the better situated one in the Old High Street …it only took a few hours to take everything down and set it all back up again….exhausting! Sorry to everyone who walked all the way up Tontine Street looking for us…we moved after two days when a better exhibtion space became available in a more preferable situation…I hope the redirections worked and you found us! If not i – apologize profusely!!!!
Another fun exhibition – thankyou all!

And now….a gallery of the pictues….Minerva, pen and ink
Eiza, pen and ink
Spinning Alice, pen an ink
Alicia Doolittle, pen and ink
Ruby, pen and ink – sold
Angel, acrylic paint – sold
The Power of Words, pen and ink and collage, SOLD
Once Upon A Time…, pen and ink, SOLD
Alicia and Bear, pen and ink
Time…pen and ink, SOLD
Blush, pen and ink and red pencil -sold
Who says I can’t fly, pen and ink
Ruby Tuesday, pen and ink and red pencil, SOLD
Patience, pen and ink
Falling Alice, pen and ink – sold
Alice and Rabbit – a portrait of Poppy – pen and ink, SOLD
A Modern Day Alice, pen and ink – sold
Hook, pen and ink illustration, SOLD
The Darling Children, pen and ink illustration from Peter Pan
the Bug Catcher, pen and ink illustration
the Ticket Collector, pen and ink illustration – sold
Amelia, watercolour and acrylic
A longing for wings, watercolour and acrylics
Duo, watercolour
Reunited, drawing with stitches on fabric
Lovely Curves, drawing with stitches on fabric with beadwork – sold
Blue Pyjamas, drawing with stitches on fabric

Sunglasses, drawing with stitches on fabric
a framed collection of three limited edition prints – who says i can’t fly, alicia doolittle and swing, pen and ink, SOLD
Eat Cake, drawing with stitches on fabric with bead work, on box canvas, SOLD
Captivated, drawing with stitches on fabric with bead work on box canvas, SOLD
Lots of Limited edition prints of all my art work in various sizes…lots sold, but still have more available!
Diary Room, drawing with stitches on fabric on box canvas, SOLD

All the pen and ink pictures can be seen in better detail in my ink art collection…click on ink art at the top of the page!

If you wish to buy any of the artworks contact me and i will let you know how i can get them to you. I will be slowly adding everything to my Ruby Trinket shop on etsy ( click on the link – sorry about the delay if not a lot up yet, so much to catch up on), including all the jewellry, some new bags i am busy creating and the new drawing with stitches i am working on – some from the ink art drawings.
Thanks for looking, big smile to all!

captivated

machine and handsewn textiles with handsewn beadwork stretched over a 20 inch by 20 inch frame.
SOLD

captivated


drawing with stitches on textiles…it is stretched on a deep edge canvas frame……20 inches by 20 inches.

Captivated   20 inches by 20 inches, SOLD.