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 Susie McMahon. Her work is truly amazing!
My name is Susie McMahon and I am an artist residing in Tasmania, the island state of Australia. I love it here - it is very conducive to a creative lifestyle and the number of artists per capita in the population is quite high. Being an isolated island can mean I am somewhat cut off from other artists with similar interests, but the Internet has been a real godsend!
As I have been a doll-maker for may years (well over forty!) I have experimented with many and varied techniques and materials, especially in the early days when there was little information about and I was something of an oddity. I have settled on a number of techniques I am very happy and comfortable with - I love working with cloth and I like to make heads from air-dry clay with a cloth overlay which is then painted. This technique gives me a great deal of freedom to paint and to exploit texture. I make fairly traditionally styled dolls (these are my "bread and butter" as they sell readily)
I also make pieces that are more sculptural in nature though almost always with a strong figurative element. These works are often very "mixed media" and I will use whatever I need to in order to realize my vision.
.....and I make pieces which fall into a category somewhere between "doll" and "sculpture" - art dolls for the want of a better term.
My inspiration is mostly from within - I have a rich inner life! But I am open to influence from the environment around me and many of my pieces have a fairly overt message about environmental issues. I love looking at other artists' work in all areas, work from artists from the past, I listen to music and I read avidly. This all feeds into how I view the world and therefore into my work, which is an indivisible part of who I am.
I can't say I can actually pinpoint a time when I "decided" to make a doll - I have always manipulated available materials into figurative forms from when I was very small, so there was never an actual decision - it has just been a fairly natural progression.
Surprisingly, the most difficult aspect of dollmaking can be solving what can only be termed engineering problems - working out how things work, connections, marrying disparate materials etc. Most often I solve these problems in my head at night before I ever touch materials!
The best piece of advice I can offer to new doll-maker is to persevere......you can't expect to be an expert in five minutes. It actually takes quite a long time to acquire the skills (and there are many) to be a successful doll-maker. I would also advise anyone starting out to try and find their own unique style - don't just imitate. This will also take some time, but it eventually happens quite naturally. Take classes and learn as much technical stuff as you can from people who have made all the mistakes before you!
The best piece of advice I was given was at a general business course I did some years ago when I decided to take the plunge as full-time artist. That advice was simply: "Get in their faces". In other words make your presence felt. How easy is that these days with the Internet making it easy! Blogs, FB, specialist groups are all good places to network, learn and sell.
My workplace is a large, purpose built studio that my husband built (for both of us - he's writer and photographer among other things) about 19 years ago. Sometimes it is relatively ordered like this:
.....but more often, it looks a bit like this!
(Yeah, I know....looks like a bomb hit!)
Here are some of my links:
I can also be found on Pinterest, Flickr, sites like MAIDA and Cloth and Clay Dolls