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Member Spotlight: Jennifer Tobicoe

Welcome to Art Dolls Only's Member SPOTLIGHT! ADO shares an article focusing on it's members on the 5th, 10th, 15th, 20th, 25th and 30th of each month! (February's 30th installment will share on the 28th)

Today's Member Spotlight is Jennifer Tobicoe from Sassy Pack Rat Studios. Jennifer lives "about 25 miles southeast of Chicago, Illinois."

• How did you get your start in doll making?
I was a Graphic Designer in a former career and previously had a personalized stationary business. One day I had the idea that some of my printed designs would be cute as plush characters and was focused ondoing that before my interest in art dolls became stronger.  I made my first doll from my own pattern in December of 2009. Until that point I was making small felt things like ornaments for Christmas. In the
early days of my doll making I still considered my creations to be plush characters, mostly because I use felt and I had never seen any art dolls made from felt only plushies and they were very simple. I didn’t start to mostly make actual dolls/soft sculpture pieces exculsivly until 2011. I keep going back and forth on whether I’m an art doll artist or a soft sculpture artist. I’m probably a little of both.

• Share a little about your first doll. 

My first doll was a tribute to Doctor Who ( a long running British Sci-fi show ) specifically to the actor David Tennent who was leaving the show. It’s a doll of his character. I had no idea what I was doing or even how it would come out, I only had the idea and passion to do it. I was pretty pleased at the result and my doll making journey began.

• How has your practice change over time?
I went from making simple plushies to more detailed plushies to simple dolls to more detailed dolls. Forsome reason I stared making really large dolls as I worked out my technique and style. Now I’ve reduced the dolls to a more comfortable size. I also use more fabric in my designs and have learned and am still learning about clothes construction. I’m also using embroidery techniques and beading for added details.
I started out hand sewing all my dolls but I’m now using a sewing machine for more of the tedious sewing so I can move the process along a little faster.

• What is your primary medium?
I love to work in felt. I use a recycled product made from water bottles. It’s a better felt than the kind you see incraft stores, softer and I can buy it by the yard. I do not use wool felt because I am severely allergic to it. It’s kind of a pain because I love the soft range of colors you can get in wool felt and at times I feel limited. But luckily new colors are coming out all the time in the felt I use.

• Do you have a favorite doll that you have made? 

My favorite doll so far has to be my Frank and Elsa Topsy Turvy Doll I made for the Art Doll Quarterly Challenge. It was a huge challenge to figure out how to do it the way I envisioned it. I think it’s my favorite because I love old monster movies and it was so fun to make. I was so thrilled to have it accepted for publication in ADQ.

• What is the most difficult aspect in your process, (anatomy/costuming/doing the bloody
hair) and how you manage it?
I suppose every aspect is hard for me. At least it doesn’t always come easy. I don’t really have a certain style of doll I make. Each piece is unique and it’s own creation. Every doll or sculpture starts out with it’s own individual designed pattern that I may have to make 2 or 3 times before it’s right. Clothing is always a nightmare for me. I’m not very confident when I make clothing but I’m slowly getting better at it. I recently bought a really good sewing machine which is helping me  be more confident in making clothes. Nothing upsets me more than hand sewing something that doesn’t fit right or won’t work. Using the machine lets me find this out so much faster and wastes less time. Hair is another issue. I sort of developed my own way of doing hair but I’m not entirely happy with it and I’d love to learn other techniques.

• What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
The best advice was keep learning and doing and trying new things. Don’t worry about what everyone is doing, make what you do the best it can be.

• What research do you do before you create?
I do a crazy amount of research before I start a doll. Google is my friend and also Pinterest. I look up historical facts, photographs, paintings, movies, books, color combinations, even if other artists have made something similar to what I’m thinking of. I do all of this to ensure my work is an original design and to make the best piece I can.

• What does your work area look like?

 My main work area isn’t pretty but it works for me. It’s basically a dining table base with a door on top. To to right is 2 plastic pull out drawer units that hold all my felt. My computer desk is directly behind that table next to a large wire storage unit that holds all my fabric and trims, etc.

• What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a new doll series. It’s a pattern that will lend itself to being made quickly and still be my style. It’s something I developed so I can create lots of stock for craft shows ( which I hope to do this year ) and to worry and stress less about the pattern and have more time to work on details.

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