Q. How did you get started in doll-making?
A. After stepping back from historical costuming, I found that I missed the creative process in designing a garment, the headpiece, the gathering on the fabrics, trims, and embellishments. I was at the International Quilt Show and came across an exhibit called "In Celebration of the Doll." The pieces were incredible and I was completely enchanted. Come to find out a member of the doll club that curated the exhibit was a friend of Leanne's mother. She took me to a meeting and I haven't looked back since!
Q. What is the biggest influence on your art?
A. My biggest influence is the art of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. I am absolutely fascinated by the subject matter of their paintings, their attention to the folds in the fabrics, the use of color. They never cease to inspire!
Q. Did art play a role in your childhood? (Were you exposed to artists, did you enjoy making art)
A. Growing up in rural West Virginia, I played in the woods every day. I was a creative child and was always making something. Usually it was dolls out of twigs, leaves and twine that I would take to the natural spring on the hill behind our house. It was a magical spot, covered in moss and tiny white woodland violets. I was absolutely convinced that the fairies from my storybooks lived there! My mother was a huge influence. She was an amazing seamstress and taught me to sew at an early age. She was also an immense lover of the arts so we spent many hours in museums, at the opera... Combine that with a father who was in the menswear business and had fabric samples laying around it seems I was destined for a love affair with textiles!
Q. Who is your favorite artist?
A. Ack. My favorite artist? You have to allow me two. One classic and one contemporary. John William Waterhouse, the Pre-Raphaelite master, and Thomas Canty, a contemporary sci-fi/fantasy painter are the gods of my idolatry! I am blessed to own several original Thomas Canty pencil sketches and one of his watercolors. They are an inspiration every single day!
Q. How does art impact your life?
A. I truly believe art impacts all of us to varying degrees. It simply manifests differently in each person. For me, it's my sanity, my soul. My art keeps me going even through the darkest periods. It has saved me more than once.
Q. What advice would you give to your younger self?
A. Create as often as you can in whatever form it takes! My darkest days came when I wasn't creating. As soon as I allowed the spirit of creativity back in, the light returned. You can't live very long in complete darkness.
Q. What gives you the most joy?
A. Travel. Seeing new places, experiencing new cultures, visiting museums and dusty old antique stores all combine to bring me the joy that fuels my creativity.
Q. What is the process to make a doll?
A. My dolls start with a sketch. I carry a sketchbook with me all the time. You never know where inspiration will strike! Once designed, I begin with a length of fabric, generally
quilter's cotton. The pieces are stitched, turned, and stuffed. The features are needle sculpted and painted with inks, watercolors, and pastels. I generally start costuming at the bottom, feet first! It continues from there and while my dolls can resemble the sketch to some degree or another, there are other times when they take a complete left turn, becoming something completely different than what I first envisioned. I strive to make each doll a unique creation.
All of the above images are copyright Cat Woody and shared here with permission.
Try it Yourself
Make a fairy doll with Huong Harmon.
You will need:
floral wire or pipe cleaners
needle and thread
glue gun and glue
3 colors of embroidery thread (that matches the bead and the tulle and one for hair)
tiny trims and flowers
Use a glue gun with adult supervision. The metal tip gets very hot.
You can curl the embroidery floss by wetting it and wrapping it around a thin stick. Let it dry completely or blow-dry and cool, then carefully unwrap.
You can make the fairy wings by shaping wire, wrapping the wire with embroidery floss, and gluing tulle to it. You can also buy tiny fairy wings at most craft stores.