Category Archives: Dolls

Vibrations

A Short Tale of Transformation

I was taking a selfie to illustrate the kind of snarky talk siblings sometimes share. Moments earlier I put on the pants that my sister says ‘make me look like white trash’. Then I donned a shirt the same color as the one that inspired her to say recently, “We’ve gotta get you out of dirt colors.” As I dressed, there was nasty self satisfaction and full authorship of my own oppositional nature.

I continued this unpleasantness (really) by taking a picture to illustrate the outfit. And something happened. A halo of sparkles appeared in the background around a recently finished felt critter. Just look at those sparkles! They’re inexplicable, though given the mirrors, windows, and other reflective surfaces nearby, probably not miraculous. Nevertheless, the sight of them did something to me. They changed my mind. Isn’t that a little miraculous, the effortless shift from brute rehash to wonder at the nature of light?

I was reminded of a podcast about a researcher from MIT who was able to record his voice with high powered video off of a BAG of POTATO chips. No surprise (but total surprise) — it’s all about vibrations. (And by the way, all you have to do is google “MIT” and “potato chips” and you’ll find the story — which is another kind of miracle, one made no less spectacular by our taking such things for granted these days).

Using a blurry picture of Miss Mousy and the app PRIMSA, I fooled around to get a sense of her vibrations.She’s rather divine, don’t you think? She’s going to the ballet! She wears a tulle skirt in solidarity with the dancers, revealing an attitude of celebratory participation. You won’t find a hint of bitter defeat about our Miss Mousy, even though at one time she wanted to be a ballerina herself. More than anything in the world, in fact.Look at her polka dot pocketbook! Her anticipatory smile!

Look at her long legs — all the better for being unnaturalistic and sourced from New Hampshire woods.

So yeah, I’m wearing unflattering  jeans and a shirt my sister might condemn in irrational terms, but how comfortable I am! It’s a day I’ve claimed for myself! I’ve cracked one puzzle and another awaits. And do you want to hear the big decision of the day: what shall I make for lunch? Homemade mushroom soup or chicken salad with pecans, shallots, and dried cranberries?

Thank you for the cheer alert, Miss Mousy! What a sweet reminder! She’d never preach, but if she did, she might say something like: focus on polka dots and stripes, my friend — they make you smile.

Critters listening to the news



It was in the 20’s when I walked Finn this morning. I went back for my hat. I’m tired of the cold. And, I’m just tired. Slept ten hours last night and could barely get out of bed. Not feeling great.

These critters cheer me though. Some are waiting for collaboration for wooden legs (the windowsill crowd). Some are just waiting for me (chicken in the studio). The most recent one (at bottom) is raggier than usual and might signal a trend.

Is she a dog? Is she a mouse? Believe it or not, for a while, she looked like an elk. Whatever she is, have no fear — her hearing is sharp! She’s been catching the news and how could she not, pinned to a board 15 feet from the TV screen? I like to imagine this morning that she is cocking her ear to Adam Schiff. Maybe she’s whispering, “Did you say ‘not circumstantial’? Did I hear you say ‘direct’ — as in direct evidence of collusion?”

If her little legs weren’t indigo dyed strips of loosely hanging vintage organza, she might do a little happy dance.

A crowd gathering on the mantel

These creations have a way of taking over. Are they gifts? One or two. Do I plan to sell them any time soon? Nah. Never mind — they demand to be made.

I machine stitched that pink and white kitty head and soft mauve body (below). She’s going to be a gift for the girl I babysit one day a week. I love that her ears are different colors and that her face has that triangle of pink. Soft, old wools help. I was hoping she would wear that pink satin skirt (to the right), but she has other ideas. More sporty.


Today we went to a Big Box store primarily to buy nuts for baking (yes! Christmas IS happening) and (somehow) managed to buy $450 worth of other stuff while we were at it (not counting booze).

A case of wine and bourbon fell out of the hatchback and landed on my foot in the parking lot. Incredibly, five bottles survived the crash and luckily, one of them was the bourbon. Ironically, fifty dollars worth of wine met the pavement while I was making sure they hadn’t overcharged us $16 on a package of meat (still agog at the $500 total. I mean, seriously — batteries, men’s shirts, and frozen shrimp notwithstanding).

Last weekend, we gathered with K’s cousins. It was a surprise birthday party for two 60 year olds. Yes, it’s come to this — gag gifts for extra hair and bad joints, jokes about Medicare, and actually wanting to be in bed by nine. Here’s C with H. She moved to the West Coast at the end of the summer and C is moving there at month’s end.

Everything will be LESS this year. Less cookies. Less shopping. I may not even bring in the nutcracker collection this year. Fortunately I gave up card writing more than ten years ago.

This doll no longer looks quite so forlorn. I added more hair, closed up the sides of her head, hemmed her cowl. She’s being shaped and auditioned on a bottle, with a chop stick for stability. I am considering keeping the bottle, instead of creating a cloth body with gravel at bottom for ballast the way I usually do. These are not kids’ toys, after all.

These two felt doggies (below) are whispering behind the curtain. I’d love to know what they’re so giddy about.


I gave the Red Bell Pup to my sister on Wednesday. Her cat may think it’s for her.

Tomorrow, we get our tree. “Less” will govern there as well. We have high ceilings and have typically had gorgeous 8-9 footers gracing our living room. Not this year. I’m thinking small — not table top small, but maybe six feet, max. It’s not just that I continue to feel done in, anxious, and lost. It’s that LESS truly feels like enough.

Intentional and unintentional crucifixes

This one’s intentional. Hand pieced. Seams tacked open. Only frustration? That red, white and blue fabric (which happens to be from Africa) melts under an iron. Almost ruined the piece twice.

Went to BC library this morning again where I photographed another intentional cross. This is the church that K and I were married in (not by a priest). I see crosses everywhere. 
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I was thinking about Michael Brown when I took the shot of the telephone pole yesterday (the anniversary of his death). It’s not the first time I’ve viewed the black men being slaughtered in American streets as sacrifices.

These are not casual deaths. These are not unintentional deaths.
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african-christ-deemallonIs it possible that if Michael Brown or Trayvon Martin could look down on our streets and read BLM twitter feeds and watch the various federal investigations and reports about police practices coming out (Ferguson’s earlier in the year, Baltimore’s today), they might actually think that their sacrifices were not in vain?

The recurring discovery of crosses in my quilts stems partially and almost accidentally from a tendency to design in thirds. But not exclusively. It also arises out of an enduring resonance with Catholic symbols. It turns out that the rejection of Catholic culture, rites, texts, and even the Savior himself, has not meant a wholesale rejection of its symbols. This confuses me a little but maybe there’s some sort of internal logic there, even if only as evidence of genetic memory.

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That’s me on the left on the day of my First Communion. Nana is probably pinching me. Or maybe she has just scared the shit out of me by announcing that the bees that were floating in and out of the tulips behind us would go right down my throat if I ate any more grape jelly. (This from a woman who said the Rosary at least twice a day and attended Mass every morning in Queens, NY. Imagine what she might have said or done without all that praying). Look at my sister, being such a good girl for the camera. Gawd.IMG_1405

Keeper of the nest

Last fall, I found this nest on the lawn of The Royall House and Slave Quarters, in Medford, Mass., after spending a night in the quarters as part of The Slave Dwelling Project (blogged about here). How could I NOT pick it up? And how could I not feel a little ambivalent about picking it up? It spoke to me of fragile lodgings and displaced homes. The act of scooping it up as “mine”, referenced ownership, improper and otherwise.birdnest-deemallon But I took it. And housed it with care.

Last week, this bird doll and the nest and a reading of “The Logbooks – Connecticut’s Slave Ships and Human Memory” by Anne Farrow all came together. (I am almost done with the book and sooo wish I had heard Farrow speak recently at The Royall House. She authored another book called: “Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery“). It felt proper to include some cloth that I dyed under Donna Hardy’s tutelage in South Carolina as part of The Sea Island Indigo Workshop (blogged about here and around there).  Afterall, the indigo we used had provenance to the time of slavery, and the land itself had been worked by the enslaved. I marked 25 places in the hem, so that I could stitch blood-red beads — with each one standing for a decade of slavery. I poked around my studio and found some rusty bits, too.
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IMG_1842To keep the nest visible, I selected a wide-mouthed jar for the base. (The white cloth was rejected).
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IMG_1869A certain somebody, who likes all of my cloth projects, seems to have an especial fondness for this one. He stole it off the table and chewed it down in the dirty back yard twice, and stole it from the living room coffee table once, and managed to eat three or four of the silk beads during yet another unattended moment (silly me! — I have more, beads that is, and well, also, unfortunately, moments of not paying attention). The doll will get made. Finn seems dedicated to calling HER ownership into question as well!
IMG_9446The next post will feature some content from “The Logbooks” and some ideas about dealing with this particular ambivalence.

loveability and usefulness

die-worn-deemallonAmong the things I can count as accomplishments this week: cleaning ten years worth of broken plates and pottery. In the mix, I found this worn die. I will admit that I love this small object. And it makes no sense. Does it have to?
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I picked out my favorite bits. I don’t know how to mix up grout or cement or how to rim these shards with metal so as to turn them into jewelry.
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I can thank them for reminding me that being loveable is not the same as being useful.

These shards showed me something else (this goes to the nature of clutter):  sometimes the acts of touching and sorting through a pile of things that have not been touched or sorted in years brings satisfaction. This is really true. And it’s really true even when it is done without the aim of making things neater or producing something.
ragdoll-handmade-deemallonI continue to make figures. Mice, girls, cats, rats, and boys. As soon as I finish here I will put together a pair of felt ice skates using paper clips as blades, because one of the boy mice has requested a pair. Doesn’t even have arms yet, but wants to go skating! He has no patience with parties or worse, girls getting ready for parties. Like Ms. Shoelace Hair, above. I knit the front of her bodice (on like, size 0 needles!) and machine embroidered her face. If she weren’t so shy, she might show a little more excitement, but make no mistake — she is one excited party-goer! I wonder who her present is for!

Turning into November

Time went a little wonky this week. K was in India. I spent a lot of time alone. Sleep, not so great. And, Faulkner’s been taking me on a slow ride in “Light in August”.
IMG_1143Mostly I enjoyed the solitude, the expanses of quiet. And today, with snow and the time change, It is officially another season. A season were ARE MEANT to be more quiet.

One friend sends an email saying she is putting the “NO” in November. Another announces a retreat from social media. In another email, I read: let’s leave the space empty. This is the time of year to pull inward. It helps to be clear.

Even though Halloween is so last week, I have to report that its mood drew me to the studio bin labeled, “body parts”. A few beings ‘fell out of my hands’ (as Mo might say). They gave me sparks of pleasure and in a very real way, kept me company. Those of you on FB have already seen ‘the Plaid Boys’… but here are a few more shots. ‘Argyle Girls’ to come! And a few of my seasonal felt mice.
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