Saturday, October 23, 2010

Nek Chand

I haven't posted anything here in ages, maybe I'll try to pick this up and do something with it.


Dave Fragale came over the other night to fix something for me and eat pie and catch up a little. We looked at some of the dolls I'm working on and talked about how I make them, and why, and what they're all about. I happened to have a pile of books out that I refer to often -

I'm always flipping through these, and showing them to friends and anyone I can get to sit still long enough. All of this stuff gets me excited and feeds my own ideas. So we're paging through the Nek Chand book, and we come to the photos of the soft sculpture installation I saw at Kohler a couple of years ago:

I looked again at the hands on the figures, with all the fingers stitched down, and I was transported to my mom's dining room when we were growing up. In the bottom drawer of the big dining room chest, mom kept her beautiful fabric Indian doll. I wasn't supposed to play with her, but I couldn't resist opening the drawer and pulling out that doll wrapped up in a cloth and examining everything about her, trying to figure out how she was made so I could do it myself. She was about 20" tall, dressed in a beautiful red sari, with beads and sequins and jewelry and fine embroidery. Her face was all appliqued fabric. Her hands were flat, little thumbs stitched on, four fingers indicated with lines of tiny stitches. I don't remember if she had a name, and I don't know what happened to her. I never remember actually playing with her, just sitting on the dining room floor next to the open drawer, lifting up her clothes and staring at every seam and joint, trying to puzzle the whole thing out. How could somebody take a handful of fabric scraps and stuffing and beads and turn them into this exquisite being?

The odd thing is, I've been making dolls and soft sculpture for years, and this is the first conscious memory I have of that amazing doll. Dave must have thought I was nuts, I got all excited and babbled on and on about the fingers.