Artist Amy Felske talks about finding her craft...
I grew up in a village on the Long Island Sound. Behind our house was a small woods where I built troll houses. I spent hours exploring tide pools and building fanciful castles from driftwood, using found objects to create tiny imaginary worlds on the seashore. I have always enjoyed drawing, especially pen and ink drawings. I also learned ceramics, silversmithing and stained glass. My sewing and needlework began with my mother but I didn’t really explore dollmaking until much later.
Though I have always considered myself an artist. I did not pursue art as a major in college. I studied plant pathology and entomology, but that never stopped me from taking as many classes in the arts as possible and experimenting with many different media on my own. I began doll making out of necessity. We moved to Budapest when my daughters were 2 and 4 years old. My youngest daughter was born there shortly after we arrived. When we moved there the country had just emerged from communism and there were no dolls. The few dolls that could be found in the stores were knock-off barbies that did not satisfy us. I sewed Waldorf baby dolls for each of my daughters using clothes the girls had out grown and old t-shirts. This was the beginning spark.
Later as my girls started reading books and watching movies about mermaids, I sewed them mermaids. When they became interested in dragons, I sewed dragons. My early dolls were often less than works of art, but always well loved. Over time, my creations have become more elaborate. I explore patterns made by fantastic designers; I make up patterns of my own. I combine materials and techniques from many media with more traditional fiber arts. When my youngest daughter was around 16 years old, I had to admit that I was no longer sewing dolls for my children, but had found a niche for my own artistic expression and as a dollmaker.
For me the process of dollmaking is very much like storytelling. As the creation takes form, its story evolves and the doll’s personality begins to direct the way the piece takes shape. Searching for the right materials for each piece is a wonderful treasure hunt. A few years after we found our home in Irasburg, I was lucky to discover and join Mountain Fiber Folk, fiber cooperative in Montgomery, VT. Since then I have been using our luscious Vermont-grown wool, llama, alpaca and mohair fibers in my dolls, from wet felted wool for cloaks to hand-dyed hand-spun troll hair. I love to incorporate vintage fabrics, lace and buttons into my work; glass and stone beads add shine and texture to dragon’s hides; fine silk adorns woodland elves; and frayed denim clothes garden gnomes. I combine all of these wonderful materials in my dolls to create fantasy worlds.