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Member Spotlight: Sandie Nowell of Fairy Wings and Mermaid Tails

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 Sandie Nowell, from Fairy Wings and Mermaid Tails. Sandie is from Bend, Oregan. Here's what she has to say about her life as a doll maker:

"I have been a doll artist for over twenty years. I used to do it as a full time job. I owned a shop in Bandon by the Sea, Oregon with two other friends. We opened in 1992. The shop had a whimsical Victorian flair and we carried all of our own creations.  I also took my dolls to shows and festivals in California and Oregon. Along with this I sold wholesale to various gift shops throughout the USA as well as Hawaii & Australia.  In 2001 I moved to the Big Island of Hawaii and opened a studio & shop in Hawi and also took my dolls to art shows at the Kona Village Resort. We moved back to the mainland in 2006 to Bend, Oregon where I took a job as an activities director at a retirement community. Now I make dolls part time and show them in my Etsy shop and on my website."

What kind of Art Dolls do you create?

I create whimsical OOAK art dolls that are created with fabric and assorted embellishmets. My specialty is fairies and mermaids and their purpose is to enchant and delight their owners. I love what I do, and it is truly one of my passions. There is always a new creation just trying to get out of my head and into the world.  The name of my business is Fairy Wings and Mermaid Tales.


What is your primary medium?

I love making cloth dolls. I think it is because most of my creativity comes from drawing the face and embellishing the doll. After I get the dratted body made, then my creative mind takes over. I use a lot of flowers, beads, shells, ribbons and glitz. My very favorite is vintage materials. Below are two dolls  that I created using vintage clothing. The first one is Cozette, created from a vintage gown. I have also used the rhinestones that were the straps along with a vintage brooch as her head piece. The other picture is Robin Rose. Her outfit is created from a vintage bed jacket that I inhierited from my family along with Austrian crystals and assorted florals.

Sometimes the entire doll is created around a special treasure that I have found. Once I created a trio of dolls around a box of faux truffles that I found.  They were named Divinity, Coco, and Bordeoux.  Divinity is show below.

Where did you learn to make dolls?

I started my doll making career by making Christmas ornaments. In the beginning I was self taught, and started by taking over a business that my mom had creating Christmas ornaments for a Christmas shop in Carmel, California that only carried handmade ornaments. My very first mermaids were created for that  shop.  he little mermaids that I make now are a very upgraded version of those first little creatures. At first I traced all of the faces for my ornaments, but the orders got to be so big that I didn't have time, so I was forced to learn how to draw the faces. I have come a long was from the days that I dipped a pencil eraser into black paint and stamped it on the face. Making the face is one of my very favorite things to do. I learned to just go for it when I purchased a book called "Making Faces" by Elinor Peace Bailey. Later on, I took classes from doll artist Barbara Willis and learned so so much from her. I attribute the success of my doll making to her teachings, and the books that I have studied by Susanna Oroyan. I have also learned techniques from books by Patty Medrias Culea. I am still learning. I am currently researching new ways to create fairy wings.

Share a little about your first doll.

My very first doll was a Raggedy Andy. I made them for my sons when they were little. I also made Raggedy Anns for all my neices. The very first doll that I ever sold was made of nylon stockings... She was chubby, needle sculpted and was a Christmas angel. These were, of course, a far cry from an art doll, but in them I could express my love for dolls. I feel very blessed that God chose to let me go on to creating the art dolls that I now so love to make. 

Do you have a favorite doll that you have made?

I have had a lot of dolls that were hard to part with, the first being Cherie La Rose, my very first sprite that I sold in my shop in Bandon. Since I didn't still have a picture of her, shown above is the one that I loved so much I just couldn't sell her. I did list her for a time, but took her off and she sits on a shelf in my living room. Her name is Chloe. Her body is created from a pattern that I got while taking a class from Barbara Willis. Her gown is fashioned from a vintage gown that was given to me by a dear friend on the Oregon coast. It was her great aunt's, which makes it from some time probably in the early 1920's. I made her pantaloons from the underskirt, a very fragile chiffon, and the skirt and bodice with the fabulous lace that was the outer part of the gown.  Her head piece is a vintage shell earcuff and a vintage shell earring is pinned at her waist. She has a ring and a toe ring that are made from tiny shell flowers from the cuff. I had the gown for quite a while before she came into being. I finally created her when I was living in Hawaii, which is where I found the vintage shell jewelry.

Where does your inspiration come from?

I am inspired by the world around me through imagination.When I am creating a mermaid I imagine myself swimming in the sea, hunting for treasure chests full of jewels, crowns and pearls that I would use to enhance my beauty. On the other hand, when I spend time in fairyland, I am in the woods, a hidden thicket or garden, looking for some lost trinket or flower that fits my whimsey... I believe that I am a treasure hunter in my heart since I love hunting for special treasures and many times create the doll around them. When I was a little girl, my sister and I started playing with fairies in my grandma's flower garden, making them flower petal boats to float down the river that I created using grandma's garden hose. In the real world I am also inspired by art deco artist Alphonse Mucha and the beautiful women that he painted. They always seemed to be totally embellished with all kinds of treasures and flowers. When I first started making dolls I purchased all of his books and still refer to them when I am creating.

What is your favorite supply to work with?

In the pictures above are a spider fairy, a vineyard fairy and a fairy bride. I have used a variety of my favorite type of supplies...fantasy film, hand made paper, lichen from the woods, ostrich feathers, vintage lace, vintage jewels, vintage veiling and more...all treasures that I sought out for each particular doll.  It is what I love the most about doll making...that one special trinket that will make the doll special.

What memorable responses have you had to your work?

I think it is when people start collecting my dolls, but one of the most gratifying was when my customers would recognize my dolls by the style and face. I still have people find me on Etsy because they saw my dolls in a shop, were in my shop or had started collecting them and just found me again. It warms my heart when my dolls make someone happy and that is when I feel the most blessed.

What are you currently working on?

Right now I am working on embellishing and finishing up several small mermaids and fairy mermaids that I have made bodies and heads for. As soon as those are finished, I will begin on two dolls that have been dying to get out of my head and into the world...Lady Bug Lady Bug, a fairy of course, and Queen Bee. Lady Bug Lady Bug will be created all around a vintage Lady Bug pin and the Queen Bee was inspired by a cloisionne Bee that I have had for years that traveled to Hawaii and back and has just been waiting for the Queen Bee to come to life.

Where can our fans find you on line?

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