experimenting with dolls : meet mr. socks

Sometimes it’s hard to shift out of production work and into true experimenting – really letting go  of outcome.  Production work is predictable – there is a definite beginning and end and the repetition and familiarity can be kind of comforting.  I love to play and experiment, I love the adventure of something new but it takes effort, patience and practice to be able to get my head in that place when I need to.  Part of it is the anxiety of all that isn’t done – it interferes with the meandering quality of experimenting.  The anxious part of my mind protest the gentle open ended nature of the experimenting.

My sketchbook practice helps – I try to spend my sketchbook time in that place – sometimes I get there and sometimes I don’t but it is always good practice to try – especially in a very unideal moment.  I gain more skill all the time at quieting the call of pressing tasks and worries that will absolutely always be there – the perfect moment for experimenting will not ever appear.

A lot of my experimenting lately is around dolls and figures – preparing for my workshop at Squam this September.  I want to bring a few things that demonstrate different techniques – like building from the inside out.  I began without much of a plan – I had a vague idea of maybe trying to make something similar to an odd figure I like that appeared in last week’s sketchbook.

sketchbook 8/3

I started playing and trying things, building a little shape by winding batting over a simple wire form and then stitching fabric on top.  I love the spontaneity of this method – one thought builds on another and interesting things happen.

doll armature

By the time the shape was halfway covered I had shifted direction – the little shape had it’s own idea what it wanted to be and mr. socks began to appear.  He is not what I planned on at all – I think my tiny rag doll brain crept in – but I was happy to meet him.


mr. socks

Hello Mr. Socks!

mr. socks

And his posterior.  I’ve also been making lots of tiny rag dolls and seedpods while working on sewing patterns for each ( at least one of those patterns will be out next week) and I put a couple  tiny rag dolls and seedpods in the shop today.

hand stitched seedpods

miss petunia

miss lavender



  1. Love Mr. Socks. Glad he came out to play. He looks like our cat Socksie.

  2. Oh, the seed pods! Oh, the tiny dolls! Oh, Mr Socks!
    Stunning – as always.

  3. Mr. Socks is adorable! Please tell us that you’ll eventually sell a pattern to make him!

  4. My gosh, you are so talented. Your work is amazing! I want to make Mr. Socks. He is adorable.

  5. Oh Mister Socks, you are a handsome fellow….there’s an elderly black and white cat which lives round the corner, we call him Mister Moustache as he has a white marking on his face that looks all the world like a moustache complete with curled tips….he really saunters along and your little figure reminds me of him so much x

  6. Love Mr. Socks! And I appreciate you sharing your creative process. I would be starting with a pattern and getting the same somewhat predictable results – so fun to see how you just stitch little bits on and something totally different than you had in mind appears! I’m not in sewing mode – with this heat, I’m not feeling very creative and the Olympics may be playing a part 🙂 but I did buy your pattern for the little animals and as soon as the weather gets a bit cooler, that’s on my mind! And I need to step out with courage and attempt to make my own coptic art journal…I’ve been wanting to for a long time but fear is holding me back. Okay, time to do it! You inspire me each week – Thank you!!

  7. “Part of it is the anxiety of all that isn’t done” – how true this is! Thank you for putting into words all of the things that I cannot…

  8. Love Mr. Socks! I look forward to seeing your creations in each post!

  9. Liz Van Buren

    Hello Mr. Socks indeed! Love him. And all you do. And please don’t ever stop putting your daily artwork up for us to view. It provides endless inspiration for me. Just wanted to let you know how much I love that. Thanks, Ann!

  10. Jaimie Sander

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and processes ! I am not a sewer,but I do love stuffed sculptures like yours! The seed pods,mushrooms and owls are my favorites,but the fox and this cute little cat are amazing! I look forward to your emails!

    • Hi Kathy – You can join the mailing list to be notified when I have new owls and other things in the shop – there will be new owls in September.

  11. Thank you so much for the helpful sharing about the difficulty of switching from things that need to be accomplished to freeform meandering where the real seed thing of creativity is happening. I love your work!

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