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

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Goggins the ticket collector

Goggins is currently sat grinning away  awaiting flight at Fresh and Easy on the old high st, folkestone, kent, england. You can go and see him whilst enjoying some tasty delicacies … he is for sale via Daryl or Philipe at Fresh and Easy.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Fresh-Easy-Folkestone/170102336383652

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Frida Kahlo and Goggins the ticket collector

November / December 2013

I will be exhibiting at the Cursley and Bond Art Gallery, 68 the Old High Street, The Creative Quarter, Folkestone, Kent, England during November and December…pop in to see Frida and Goggins the ticket collector…

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Photo: Don't forget our forthcoming late night shopping events...

https://www.facebook.com/Cursley.Bond

 

 

 

Darkness Descends Exhibition

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I will be exhibiting Goggins, Mr. Felix Messori and the Morrigan…see below post…

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Come see…big smile x

I am working on a commission for Jo and Jen…

I am busy working on a commissioned art doll for Jo from Jo Letchford Mosaics, the Old High Street, Folkestone ( wonderful mosaics…go see! www.joletchfordmosaics.co.uk  )– for her daughter Jen, and two new art dolls

they are now finished…so keep moving down the page to see them … All three are now SOLD

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here they are from almost the beginning after I had made the faces etc…coming to life…

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077 075  working on her clothes…she will have a skirt!!!!073

001 002004005c she is finished…and as I went on, she told me her story which I will write down, but as I worked, and she came more and more to life, she was very vocal about  what her clothes needed to look like… for example I wondered why she insisted on the little cross/ dagger hanging against her chest, which had to be visible and the leather high collar that encased her neck, and the leather armor around vulnerable pulse points…then i realised…she is a vampire hunter… and her needs became clear…

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e her crow f hidden hand-held stakes

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an assortment of stakes for her crossbow..silver, wooden, wood with silver ….

j and a very serious looking whip with silver chains h

k and a travel bag with all her other necessary vampire hunting equipment…the bag closes and opens.

l and contains removable items…bible, hand held stakes, a wooden mallet, a wooden cross, a silver cross and  holy water in bottles 159 a2 a1 m

200All three come with their own story in a little book, and a certificate of authenticity…these ones are Clara’s, the vampire hunter.

bready for the fight…bringing death to the undead!

t  Then I turned my attention to this little lady who was equally vocal  …she is the Morrigan from celtic myth

nop and when she saw her friends amor she insisted on her own, but in a very different style, with crow claw-like fierce boots, leather, chains, metal chest and back plates…

qrsu her crow vw

y she has a feathered shoulder piece, a crow skull head-piece, and a bone stick / baton  through her hair…

zz2z3z4z5z9z6z7 she is all done and ready for the battle fields!

And …  the boy…

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Mr. Messori, Felix to his friends!

I made the fabric for his jacket and topper from cotton, feathers, leather, various pieces of chain and links, ribbon, suede and lots and lots of stitching!

jlmHis motto written on black card , tucked into the ribbon trim on his hat and a close up of his crow…one of his symbols / incarnations even… and the two sides of his face grim / sad …

and happy  n

o His book – the ars moriendi…leather bound wih tiny little copies of pages of one of the real ones from the library of congress…and a close up of the fabric I made for his skinny fits…p

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Finially! Keep checking in and I will add their stories- I am cluching a biro and scribbling as I type this!

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Finished Frida, Goggins the ticket collector and little Birdie!

Finially finished them…

Goggins…

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and frida…

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Frida’s box measures 43cm/17 inch tall x 27 cm/ 10.5 inch wide and  24cm/ 9.5 inch deep. It is either free standing or can be hung on the wall.

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and is signed on the back!

and Little Birdie…in her wire bird cage…

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Birdie’s cage can either remain free standing or be hung from the hoop at the top… the cage is approx. 38 cm / 15 inches tall.  Birdie can come out of the cage if you wish to free her! as she is only tied to her swing…

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253She is made from clay over a wire frame, as is the bird in her hand. Her cage and swing are made from wire, beads and ribbon.  Her outfit is handsewn with handsewn beadwork and her feathery tail is made from fabric and beads. She is a one of a kind art doll and is not made for children due to small parts and wire!

Poor little Birdie, so forlorn, she forever gazes upwards longing to grow wings and fly…

busy working on two new sculptural pieces….

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001I have been busy working away on two new pieces…a Frida Kahlo and the ticket collector…still lots to do, but here is how they are going…

015 the back piece is a hand embroidered cross stitch portrait of Frida with a gold thread crochet frame….Frida and her deer are ready to be painted, wigged and costumed. I am busy hand embroidering two side panels…

003 …for the box base, which i have painted in acrylic like clouds. Her right hand is in a wierd postion because she will be holding something!

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I have painted her, made her hair and clothes and painted her friend…still to make her boots, jewellry and flowers for her hair…

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still got lots to do! Keep checking back here as I will update scrolling down.

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She’s finished! Just have to work on the box now… the white ribbon has a Frida Quote ” Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly.” Her red boots have embroidered flowers on the toes and little bells tied with blue ribbon.

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She has a palette with acrylic paint on and a little paint brush… little earrings in the shape of hands…

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054060061she has bunting along the sides…now I need to work on the box which has perspex sides, front and roof, with embroidered panels on the lower haves of the two sides…

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I have now finished the box…and added the hand embroidered side panels…

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and a little title sign at the top…

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She is now all finished!!! the box has three clear sides and a clear perspex roof to allow lots of light!

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the ticket collector is ( like the bug catcher ) another piece inspired by one of my ink drawings…

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…he still needs lots of work…

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…his face is ready to paint and he is waiting patiently for me to make his hat and goggles!

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His legs are ready for painting…but i am busy making his boots as I write this… his ticket machine is finished! It whirs andclicks in a lovely clockwork manner when the handle is pushed up and down…

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…which spins the tickets inside…

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and when the button is pushed, the red stop sign moves in and reveals a green go sign.

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His gloved hands ….

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…are now attatched and ready to paint…then he needs his jacket…and of course, his wings, which will open and close!

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I have painted his face and trousers, finished making his boots…

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035Finished his boots and knee pads….

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and his elbow pads….and jacket…

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the straps are part of the harness I’m making for his wings…finishing gloves next…

He keeps urging me to hurry and finish as he has work to do, tickets to check, flying between the floating buses in the world he belongs..I’m doing my best! Check back soon to see how it is going!

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I have finished his  gloves, and added his ticket machine…he is pulling out a ticket with one hand, the other hand is holding onto one of the steering handles, which also has a compass on it,

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I have made his goggles, and the bottle of air sickness tablets he carries with him…and his hat…

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His extras…goggles, air sickness tablets, maps and leather bound journal…

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which tuck into the space between his backpack and himself!

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I have also finished his wings…which open…

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his base is all finished and signed.

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close up of his machine!

Just got to write his story now…..

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