At the end of June I went to the NIADA conference in Corte Madeira, California, just north of San Francisco. NIADA is the National Institute of American Doll Artists. Despite the name, many of the artist members are international, including their new president who is from New Zealand.
I found out about the organization last November and when I realized that their conference would be so close to home I decided to go. And I’m so glad I did. A local class I took last October got me started making dolls, and this conference has sparked my interest and enthusiasm once again. I took advantage of the opportunity they gave to “visiting artists” to have my dolls critiqued by an artist member. My critiquer was Connie Smith and she gave me some invaluable advice as well as encouragement. I think I returned from the conference with a clear idea of the direction I want my work to go in as well as my strengths and the areas I need to improve upon.
Before the conference various artists offered classes and I took two – one from Connie Smith and the other from Ankie Daanen.
The photo is of four stoneware heads that I made in Connie’s class. Connie makes remarkable anthropomorphic dolls with stoneware heads, hands, and feet and cloth bodies and clothing. Check out her beautiful work at her etsy shop, www.etsy.com/shop/doters.
The class was two days and Connie is a remarkable teacher. Although all of us students had some sculpture experience, none of us had worked with stoneware before. But she led us all to the completion of several pieces. The first day, everyone made the same things – a frog head and a bird head. The second day we each made whatever animals we personally chose. I made the fox first. Next I was going to make a little desert rodent but the animal just insisted on being a badger – so that’s what she became!
The first day we worked with Arctic White stoneware which fires white. The second day we worked with Cassius Baltic which fires near black. The colors are ceramic stains except for the white on the badger and fox which are Arctic White slip.
Stephanie Blythe, and artist member who lives near where we had the conference, was so kind as to fire our pieces for us, so we were able to complete the entire process before we left for home at the end of the conference.
I loved sculpting with this medium and will continue. In face, while I was still at the conference I used my down time to sculpt a tiger head and paws and a rat head and paws. I have ordered a small kiln and can’t wait for it to arrive. The question for me is how I will be coloring my pieces. I didn’t feel I had much control with the ceramic stains so I will try painting the fired pieces with acrylic and oil and see how that goes. So stay tuned, but it will be a while till there’s more news on this subject since I haven’t received my kiln yet!