When I started doll making this time around (it was a bit of an obsession when I was a little girl), the only thing I was sure of was that I didn’t want to make overly ‘pretty’ dolls or anything too realistic, like the Reborn baby dolls. Bizarrely, I find the very ‘perfect’ dolls rather more unsettling than the deliberately gothic, horror or more arty dolls. So, whilst I wanted to create something a bit edgy, I didn’t really have much idea of how they would pan out.
I did know that I wanted them to be jointed and to feel like puppets when you held them. I had a Pelham Puppet when I was small (a gypsy, I think she was called Mitzy) and I always loved the sort of floppiness of her compared to a rigid doll. I can’t find a picture of her, but This is Gretel, I think, from the same series.
Needless to say, I kept taking the strings off to turn her into a doll instead of a puppet, and then my mother would put them back on again. I looked up some info on making ball jointed dolls, but these again all looked too perfect for me, so I decided I would use jewellery techniques and make them with simple loops for the joints. This, I am delighted to report, works perfectly well and as a result the dolls can sit on a shelf with their knees bent and their legs dangling over the edge. If you hold them, they flop, just what I wanted.
Once I started sculpting them (a completely new art form for me having never even considered doing anything quite so messy before), I was really pleased (and a bit surprised) to see how differently they each evolved. They each seem to take on a character and attitude as I make them, and there is never much room for indecision about what they should be wearing or what colour their hair or make up should be. It’s very Zen.
I make them in threes, because of the drying process in the sculpting. Making a layer on a head, then letting it dry and moving on to the same layer on the next head, etc allows me to keep busy rather than having to go and do something else, and also means that I don’t run out of steam or get too interested in a film or something instead of carrying on until they are done.
I call them Trippet Dolls because, in a drink-fuelled brainstorming session with the Painter one evening, he suggested that we call them Triffid Dolls, (a) because they are made in threes and (b) in honour of one of my favourite authors, John Wyndham. The Painter’s suggestion made me remember that in Day of the Triffids there is a passage about how the killer plants came to be named, and a list of all the possible suggestions that were considered by the media. Amongst these (and I think as the last one) was Trippets. So thank you Mr Wyndham – and the Painter, obviously.