Thursday, February 17, 2011

Need Inspiration for Creating Doll Characters?

This winter weather has definitely knocked the creative edge out from under many doll artists.  Halloween and Christmas seem so far away and Easter has its perks but not like the Big Two.  Somehow our brains have shriveled up and withered as has any inspiration.

Well, to stoke my fizzling imagination, I first looked back at what I had done in the past year.  One group was particularly outstanding as far as getting very positive reception from doll fans.  The PumpkinHead family had a small group of fans that asked to see more.  In order to help me to design dolls that had that special "kick" to them, I wrote a short story description which lent character, personality and warmth to the family and allowed a connection between the dolls and clients.  By adding depth to the characters, I found that more potential clients were interested in returning to ask questions about them and to "relate."

After receiving requests to write about these PumpkinHeads, I needed for them to have a story, at least one in my own mind, so that I could introduce them to the "public."  They needed more involvement in their own lives (the PumpkinHeads) and therefore, they needed extended family and neighbors to plump up their purpose in life.  In developing another family, I felt I needed to learn more about the particular area in which the PumpkinHeads lived.  The description only mentioned a field in our Virginia mountains; there was no named location.

While having lunch with my hubby in a local family restaurant in Buena Vista (pronounced Bu-na Vista), I picked up on a conversation my husband was having across the table with a BV life-long resident named Red.  Seventy-year-old plus Red was talking about growing up in BV and some of the names of places long gone by, some of the city's past residents and a lot of local color that no tourist guide handbook would ever reveal.  I went home rolling all this "color" around in my head and decided to return the next day and sit down with Red and discuss more about his life.

Well, Red is a storyteller to rival Joel Harris (Uncle Remus stories) and he was delighted to have someone new to soak up his rendition of local history.  It was one of the most fascinating and enlightening afternoons in a local cafe over a salad and tea that I have ever spent.  By the time I got home, my head was bursting with characters, stories and adventures for my entire lifetime (or at least for the lieftime of my dolls.)

I started sketching characters, doing research on gourds, scribbling down names, descriptions and a wealth of rich Virginia history that I would have never been able to capture first-hand had I not taken the time to just listen that one afternoon.  Looking at my beginning effort with the PumpkinHead family, I realized that they were a bit sterile, but now a little man with a twinkle in his eye and a gift of gab has helped to breathe life into my otherwise Plain Janes.

If you find yourself in a creative brain fog, take an afternoon and go to the local cafe for a cup of java or tea, a bowl of homemade soup, piece of pie or a bowl of salad and just listen.  You'll be surprised at what creative gifts and inspirations are waiting for you in the most unlikely places right in your own backyard ... or "thair 'bouts."  You might even walk away having a new friend.

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