Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The doll contest - a wooden spoon and some garbage...

I spent most of this past May touring Central Europe with a bus load of doll collectors. I had a wonderful time, made many new friends, and got to see cities that were on my list of places to go. Vienna, Krakow, Prague, and Berlin among them. I wish it wasn't over. I loved it all.

Early in the tour we were each given a wooden spoon and told to make a doll out of it. We were told to use only discarded objects (things one would throw away) and the spoon. The dolls would be presented at our last night's dinner and prizes would be given for the doll voted most creative. 

As we travelled I picked up items off the street (feathers, hair pins, bits of broken glass, a shopping bag with ribbon handles) and other, not too disgusting items out of the garbage. I saved napkins, museum brochures, paper towels and interestingly textured (unused) toilet paper. Also, coffee stir sticks of plastic and wood, empty water bottles, disposable drinking cups, and more.

For days I carried these treasures from city to city, from hotel to hotel. There was never time to make the doll but on the bus I made sketches from the ideas I got in the various doll museums we visited. I decided to make a doll that resembled an 1820's style wooden doll. I had seen several examples in the collections we viewed.

Joan, my roommate, offered suggestions. She is an art teacher and puppet maker and had disqualified herself from the contest because she felt she had an unfair advantage, and also because she didn't want to make a doll from a spoon. I listened gratefully to her ideas but I was still concentrating on my own concept.

Then one night before bed Joan threw a small shopping bag into the waste paper basket. I pounced on it and my entire concept changed. The bag was black on the outside, but had a black and white toile print on the inside. The handles were braided string and resembled hair. 

I had saved an empty water bottle for my doll body but the spoon was too tall for it. The head of the spoon stuck out of the bottle neck by several inches. I had to make the spoon shorter. How could I break end off the spoon. We had been given scotch tape, a small bottle of glue and a pair of children's scissors to help create our beauties. The kindergarten scissors were no help. I tried breaking the spoon over my knee. My poor knee suffered, but the spoon held fast. I looked around the hotel room and found nothing useful. 

In the bathroom I saw the solution. I put the end of the spoon into the drain of the sink and applied pressure. Three inches broke off the bottom of the handle. Now I was in business.

Much to my chagrin the glue would not make the shopping bag stick to the plastic water bottle. Finally I used the hotel sewing kit to gather the stiff paper for the skirt around the bottle. The rest of the dress was held on with a liberal application of scotch tape. Not pretty - hence the red shawl (a discarded napkin cut into a triangle and fringed) to cover the unsightly tape.

The spoon still wouldn't fit into its plastic body properly, so I cut off the neck of the bottle with the pre-school scissors (another great adventure) and, voila, in it went.

The doll's face is cut from a brochure from the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. This is the face of a beautiful Klimt Cleopatra, painted on one of the museum's interior arches.The earrings are cut from a hotel brochure. I used the handles from the black shopping bag to twist around into an elaborate hair style above the face. This helped disguise the fact that the head was way out of proportion to the body.

I made the bonnet from another piece of the black shopping bag. I lined it with a paper doily and glued my street feathers to the side with a crumpled piece of gold foil from a Mozart chocolate. I added the grey ribbons (handles from a street-found shopping bag) to the sides and let them hang, as I couldn't really tie them beneath the doll's chin. I used another piece of the grey ribbon from the handle to tie around the doll's waist in an effort to hide the tape. I glued a little gem to her bodice. I had found it on the sidewalk in Vienna.

I attached her bonnet with two hairpins. I had picked them up from the sidewalk - each one in a different city (Europeans use and lose a lot of hairpins). Now my lovely creation was finished.

I still had the end of the spoon sitting around as well as my bag of found items. I decided that my doll needed a doll of her own, as we were all doll collectors in this group, and we all had dolls.

I used left over pieces of the paper doily and a yellow ribbon I had found on the street for a bonnet. I wrapped the baby doll in a hotel make-up pad, and then in a piece of a yellow napkin held in place by the closure from a bag of Mozart chocolates. I glued on a cherub face from another brochure and I taped the baby doll to my lady.

Now I could finally discard the bag of junk I had carried from city to city for weeks. Yay!

I was pleased with my results, especially give the tools I had to work with. I was also pleased that I had made two dolls from the spoon. I took my doll to dinner that night to join her competition - and the competition was tough. Many of the people on the tour were doll makers with decades of experience. The entries were all delightful and all very different from one another. I didn't win the popular vote but I think I gave it the contest a good shot. I did get a participation ribbon (as did everyone else)
I got a ribbon for each doll

More inventive entries

Here are the two winning entires. The winners were chosen by secret ballet and everyone voted. I must admit that the two winners were my top picks.