During the last year I’ve heard and read quite a lot about people who suffer in isolation — but also, sometimes, of people who have found new creative outlets. My friend Marjolijne in Eemnes in the Netherlands has started making dolls. Here’s a little interview with her!
Hi Marjolijne! You showed me a photo of a doll you made. What is this kind of doll called?
These are Waldorf puppets. In the Netherlands we also call them zonnekindpoppen, which means sunchild puppets. Their origin is the anthroposophical movement. But I make them just because they’re beautiful.
What kind of dolls did you have when you grew up?
When I was growing up, I used to have the plastic dolls. Some had a fluffy belly, but most of them were all plastic. I loved playing with them, but I also liked my stuffed animals a lot, because they were more soft.
Is this kind popular in the Netherlands?
In certain groups it’s popular, mainly in the anthroposophical movement.
How did you come up with the idea of making your first doll?
A friend of mine in Germany was very enthusiastic about a doll she bought. It was the same kind that I make now. I just loved the way she was talking about it and the pictures I saw. The women from whom she bought her doll also publish the patterns for making the dolls and the clothes. First I followed a course in making puppets. This helped me to get a better clue of how to make the head look good. Then I bought a book with patters for all different kinds and sizes of dolls, and then I also bought the patterns from Germany — they are available in English.
Where did you find the pattern and materials?
Mariengold is really the best pattern you can get. If you want a pattern for free, there is a website in Dutch. I bought the materials in handicraft shops specialized in what you need for making dolls. I know that Mariengold is also selling the materials, but I found a local shop near my house. The good thing is that if you don’t have a sewing machine, you can order pre-sewn parts from Mariengold so that you can do the rest by hand.
How much time do you spend making a doll? Many hours a day or stretched out over a longer period?
If I really push myself, I can make a doll in a weekend. But normally I make one during one week. When I did the course it took me four lessons of two hours and some time at home. But then comes the moment when you also want to make clothes for your puppet, and that takes some time as well.
Do you usually have a plan for the doll’s looks and stick to it, or have you changed your plans or improvised?
I follow the pattern, but sometimes I add ears and sometimes I don’t. Before you start, you have to choose the colour of the skin, and then hair and eye colours that look good with the skin.
Is there anything in the process that you find particularly satisfying?
The moment you can see really the face starting to be a “human being” — it’s so nice to see that when you add the eyes and mouth, the puppet starts to come alive. I also love the moment when you can start dressing your puppet. For me, that’s the nicest part.
Was there anything that was surprisingly tricky?
Making the eyes look really good and similar to each other. I really would recommend to practice this beforehand on a leftover piece of fabric.
For whom you make the dolls?
I made some of the dolls for myself, but I also made one each for my niece and my nephew and one for a friend who became grandmother. But I really have to decide in the beginning that this one is for giving a way — otherwise I get too attached to it, and it becomes really hard to give it away.
What do you think that practical, creative work can mean during this time of self-isolation, unpredictability and frequent not-so-good news?
I think that creating something beautiful is always helpful. It gives a feeling of satisfaction, and it’s a nice way to spend your time when there are not so many other things you can do. It also makes you focus on something else. I can’t think too much when I’m creative.
What would you say to someone who is thinking of trying to make something he/she has never tried before?
Go for it! Use a good pattern and materials — that’s always helpful. But also: don’t be disappointed when the first thing you make is not completely as you were hoping it to be. Give yourself time to learn and grow in the process.
What’s your next project?
For the moment I don’t have any, but I hope I’ll find something to do rather soon. Maybe I hear of a child that would love to have a doll, and then I can make it for him or her.
Thank you, dear Marjolijne!