Rag Doll Project

Just before 2015 drew to a close the Lichfield city festival did a call out for textile artists to submit CVs for consideration for their rag doll trail concept. I had been shortlisted to present my proposal at the end of January 2016.

Luckily my idea had been the only no sew method making it inclusive for all (including those struggling with dexterity). I had a bold concept that utilized recycled materials that would work well along side the home made dolls (sewn) that would also be on the trail.

The concept appealed to me because the theme would be recycled fabric which is something I endeavour to promote throughout my work. After the festival the dolls would be donated to refugee charities, a beautiful way to end the project. I loved that so many of these toys were hand made, by children, for children who have very little.

I live close to a recycle and play centre in Derby which provided all the fabric needed to create the dolls. I prepared for 6 or so workshops which would run during April and May. After a month’s prep I had bags of fabric cut into strips, ready to be made doll shaped!

The concept was that members of the community would make the dolls, which would then become the rag doll trail. To encourage young children to part with their newly made toys I created a ‘how to’ zine 1 so they could make their own at home (or whenever they wanted!).

The project was fun, exciting, rewarding and a big reminder why I do what I do and that I love my job. Despite the stress I can get myself into, every project I work on I am learning what does and does not work which makes me continue to improve as an artist and tutor. 2

I met many lovely people during my time in Lichfield and the surrounding area, and it is looking likely that I will be working on another project at next years festival so watch this space!

The following is the rag-doll project journey in pictures:

Every trip to Lichfield began with bags and trolleys stuffed with resources.3

Cannock chase museum, my first ‘drop in’ workshop. A Large doll made by women seeking refuge from abuse at a local centre, and a few of the many dolls created at the Cannock chase drop in session.

Following a drop in session at the Lichfield Garrick theatre, these large dolls posed in front of a very showbiz backdrop.6

Possibly my favourite location to work in was a beautifully decked out shop in Wolverhampton. A sea themed doll and beautifully designed smaller ones were created.

I had the most fun though running a workshop for a very welcoming breast cancer support group at Burntwood library. I adored the garden queen doll and small dolls that they lovingly made.

My last workshop on the last weekend of the festival. Set up in front of the hauntingly beautiful Cathedral.

Finally a chance to take a look at the rag doll trail… and I spotted one of my favourites, a mermaid!

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2016 so far

At the very beginning of the year I took part in a group exhibition, Fairy tales, myths and legends. Organised and curated by Eco-create. They are a fantastic online marketplace who source eco-friendly handmade gifts from UK artisans.
My entry ‘How does your garden grow’ won a Gold award that is a beautifully made up-cycled trophy which sits proudly above the fire place.

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As you can see from the picture I was amazed, surprised and so very happy to receive this accolade at the Exhibition preview.
Eco-create also interviewed me to find out more about my work and what I do http://www.eco-create.co.uk/find/meet-our-gold-award-winner-elizabeth-blades/
2016 brings the start of a new self-employed venture. My partner, Brendan McDowell and I are now running a day time art class aimed at home schooled children. This is following on from a successful after school art class we started just before Christmas.
I also managed to squeeze in time to work on my own art inspired by our cat Penny. She went missing for, possibly, the worst 24 hours of our lives. (Yes we are both incredibly dramatic and our imaginations ran wild as to what could of happened to her)
When she did return, I sourced inspiration from the adventure I dreamed she may have had. Going back to my roots of Illustration and for the joy of drawing intricate and detailed pictures I produced a series of images.

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I am still undecided on the title of this story, perhaps it will be called ‘the queen of lost things’.
Another exciting venture I will be working on this year is a rag-doll project.

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More details on this coming soon, so watch this space!