Thursday, 5 April 2012

Doll Maker, Natasha Morgan

Ive always liked dolls. As a lover of history and fashion you can learn so much from looking at dolls throughout the ages.Ive visited many exhibitions, blown away at the attention to detail that used to go into a mere play thing and assumed the craftsmanship which used to go into constructing dolls was a lost art. How wrong I was.
Victorian Asylum Doll
I stumbled upon the very talented doll maker Natasha Morgan whilst on etsy looking for something completely unrelated. Her dolls immediately caught my attention, as a big Tim Burton fan they owed more than a little to Edward Sissorhands and the movie Coraline, they are creepy and beautiful and just totally different to anything Ive seen before. Ive since got to know Natasha a little as she is one of my blog sponsors and her influences and ideas are very intriguing. I love her ideas so much I asked her to contribute to my Bee Inspired series. So grab a cup of tea and prepare to enter the magical world of this slightly eccentric and incredibly talented doll maker.
Miss Jane Bennett
Natasha Morgan On Dolls
As a child I had many different dolls and loved them all dearly. I still have the very first two dolls bought for me by my Grandfather sitting on an old trunk in my bedroom; kindly watching over me as I sleep each night. Every doll has a character and a soul of their very own. Holding stories ready for those of us that want to hear them.
Little Red Riding Hood
Living in the beautiful South Wales Valley’s, I've always being fascinated with the everyday history that surrounds me here at home.I decided that I'd like to share the stories of  little known women from the past that I had read about, and those that gather in my imagination when making my dolls.
Little Red Riding Hood
So now I make dolls that combine everything that I love - a doll that helps me tell the stories of the women that most of history has forgotten or hidden away (and one or two that are more well-known), those that call and shout inside my mind, and those that feature brightly in my favourite fictions. Bringing a tiny piece of them back to life. Dolls that let me explore in minute detail the clothes they wore and how they were made. The ways in which these women spent their time, and the hardships they had to endure.
Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy
They led lives so different from us in so many ways, and in many ways lives so similar. As women do now the women of the past suffered for fashion; where they wore tightly laced body altering corsets, we have high stiletto heels, where they used poisons such as arsenic to improve their completion, we spend a fortune on creams and serums trying to improve our own. 
The dancer from the Tin soldier
I’ve chosen to construct my dolls in a very simple way.Most are sculpted with paper clay over a wooden base, giving each doll a unique face and expression. I’ve kept the body, limbs, hands and feet very simple in shape to echo the stunning dolls made in the past that can now be seen in museums around the world. And I use the clothing to build the body shape and character of the doll, just as was done back then by real women.
Natasha workshop
I often get asked why I give my sculpted doll such big staring round eyes, (something that a lot of people find odd or even creepy) and it’s something that’s quite difficult to explain.Without the wonderful women in my life who first taught, and then encouraged, me to sew I wouldn’t be able to make the dolls that I see in my imagination at all. My patient kind Grandmother with her one short finger who taught me to thread a needle and sew a button or hem, my lovely mother who let me rummage through her sewing box until I knotted up all her threads, and my beautiful little Godmother who still admires my skills and pretends not to see when my seams are wonky and always saves me the scraps of pretty fabric from her own projects -  all had one thing in common when I was little: Big collections of old buttons. 
The Princess and the pea
I have very fond memories of being allowed to look through these jars, boxes and tins, sitting on the floor and sorting them into size or colour, and sometimes being able to keep one for myself that had caught my eye. I now have my own big box of buttons and buried among all the others are still one or two that I know are treasures from my childhood and inherited from these very special women. What could be more perfect to use as an element of my dolls than beautiful, discovered, found, vintage, or salvaged buttons.
Terry's Grandmother
Each of my sculpted dolls is dressed in exactly the same way that the women who inspired them would have been. I take care to research the correct clothing, re-creating each piece with the right garments. Apart from the few pure fantasy dolls I make, my dolls have outfits in layers, starting with the underwear and working my way through each part, so most of them will wear a combination of bloomers, shifts, corsets, chemisettes, bustles, hoops, pads, petticoats or stomachers under the outfit that you finally see when the doll is finished. 
Victorian Asylum Doll
Even though you can’t see these layers you can feel them, and I add them to ensure that I get the correct shape to the final outfit and to add something special to each one. Just like those museum piece dolls, I make my dolls to be as close a representation as possible to the women they are meant to portray. 
Miss Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy
Like an old portrait porcelain doll made in a little girls image, wearing the same outfit, and using the girls actual hair. Or an ancient cabinet doll dressed in the same fine fabrics as her owner. Made with the love and attention to detail we most often associate with the past right here in the UK. 
For more interviews with inspiring artists, crafters, writers, bakers and performers check out my Bee Inspired page.
And as a special treat to all my blog readers  Laura's Little Bakery are offering a free cup of tea with every cake purchased when you quote "Betty Bee's Blog" at checkout. This offer runs until the 10th of April 2012 so if you are in Liverpool go and say hi.

Laura's Little Bakery is located inside Stocktons, opposite the BBC at 42 Hanover St, Liverpool, L1 3DN. Phone +44(0)7505557145

This weeks giveaway is the delicious "The Little Paris Kitchen" cookbook by Rachel Khoo
To enter:
  • Join this blog if you haven't already
  • Spread the good word about this giveaway on Twitter, FB, your blog, or whatever choice of social media you prefer
  • Leave a comment on Monday's post.
The winner will be chosen via random number generator on Monday the 9th April 2012

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