Healing Dolls

A few years ago, my mother gave me her old 1970's Bernina sewing machine. I remember her trying to teach me to sew when I was a pre-teen. I was so impatient! I hated working with the bobbin and would get so frustrated. I was a horrible sewer - at least when I tried to work with a pattern.

But without a pattern or boundaries, I'm a sewing mistress of passion!

I still have the original sewing guide that came with the machine, and it has my mother's handwriting in the book, with her notes. She was about forty then....

My yearning to make dolls and puppets right now is similar to what I went through when my father died. I didn't set out to recreate him in three dimensional form, but each creation I made seemed to look like him, or have something to say to help me get to another stage of acceptance.

I remember the first time I held cremated ashes in my hand - they were of my old cat, the first one I ever owned who died at 16. When I first looked at that little box of grey dust, I had an overwhelming sadness and yearning to put all the ash specks out on a table and glue them back together again - to recreate that creature.

Perhaps that is what doll and puppet making is right now - a wish to recreate the departed.

When I arrived at my mother's home after she died, I had already planned to take all her sweaters and anything remotely tactile that reminded me of her - so that I could incorporate them into dolls and creatures. Be it her socks, sweaters, hankies, nighties, golf shirts or wash cloths - they will be merged into these creations.

No patterns, no thought about the final creation - I sit with piles of her clothes and items, and just start creating. I let what is in my hands, and heart, work together. This will be ongoing, and I will add things as I create them.


Creature One -  May 2013

"The elderly donkey stood alone, looking forward, with her quiet little sack of sadness"

When my mother was eight years old, she lost her own mother to illness. Before that they had worked on a quilt together, but it never was completed, only the blocks were done. My mother held onto those squares, always saying she should have a quilter make it into a quilt. Finally in her eighties, she did, and now I have that quilt on my couch and I relish it, and its history. I imagine how hard it was for her to lose her mother at such a young age, and how as an elder, how often she must have thought of her mother. For she too had her own sack of sadness to carry her whole life. The skirt of this creature has one of the extra quilted rings leftover from so many years ago- it is 80 years old,

Her sweet little socks that once covered her feet, sweater scrap and the face is painted clay.

Creature Two: Last Visitation -  May 2013

My mother hated funerals. Her only request was to be cremated and lay the majority of her ashes next to my father's ashes. While I was relieved there was no funeral, I also know the ritual itself is important. I also thought about how my mother's body was treated both on her death bed at the hospital, and in the crematorium.

So I decided to be with her at her passing, and care for her.

If I had been there, she would have looked at me from her bed, her last human view of me. I would say something - what? - but I would wrap her in her quilt - the quilt I now have in my home. This is an extra square from that quilt which was made by her and her mother some 80 years ago.

I see her wings forming, her yellow butterfly soul stay with her through her cremation and in the end she flies away. She is okay.