Noreen Crone-Findlay,
Soul Mate Dolls:
Dollmaking as a Healing Art

(Krause, 2000)

On one of the art lists I'm on, there's been a lot of stir over this book. How it helped people break through some creative blocks. How it made them want to play with dolls. How it was great for any artist, not just a dollmaker.

So, never being one to buck the crowd, I had to have it.

I picked it up through and anxiously awaited its arrival. I've always received good advice from my friends on-list, and I didn't think this would be any different. Boy, was I wrong.

I appreciate this book on some kind of an intellectual level. There's projects enough to take a good year of creative puttering time. Projects like the Pah Shaw Soul Mate Doll, the Yes! and No! Soul Mate Dolls, and the Millenium Soul Mate Doll, along with roughly forty other project dolls. And it's not only dolls -- there's also little "props" for the dolls, some knitting projects and weaving projects. If a person was to do all of the projects listed, they would easily have a thousand hours worth of entertainment for the roughly $22 they spent.

I also like how it's separated into chapters, with "types" of dolls scattered across those chapters, rather than, say, all the cloth dolls in one section, all the paper dolls in another. Instead, it's separated into types of healing, which, for a book that's subtitled Dollmaking as a Healing Art, is probably a standard thing. The author reminds the reader/artist that each of these "patterns" is a guideline, too -- your own healing will take a different course, and that's fine. Not many pattern books encourage deviation from the printed page.

My favorite section, though, is the section on dolls and journals -- two things that I might not have put together if it hadn't have been for this book. So, it's not all bad. However, there are problems.

First and most annoyingly, some of the pictures look like a 10-year-old took them with a digital camera set to web resolution. They're not out of focus enough to be dreamy or ethereal, they're just not sharp. Kind of like the camera was moved during shooting, but only a centimeter or two. It's enough to give you a headache. (And reminds me of those shirts that were popular a few years ago where there was some saying on the front about seeing double and it was just fuzzy-focused.)

Second, and more of a matter of judgment and preference, some of the projects in this book were just plain cute. I'm not talking cute-good, I'm talking cute-and-fuzzy-bunnies cute. If you are marketing a book to housewives with country decor and a penchant for Debbie Nunn, that's one thing. But if you're trying to market to serious artists, cute had better not be the first thing that springs to mind when they see your finished project (if they can make it out from the blurry pictures you provide). A few of the projects -- the painted recovery soul mate doll, for instance -- skirt the line of being Not Cute(tm), but little gnomes and cat benches are kind of over the top.

Third and last, and only a small annoyance, is that many, if not most, of the ideas given are for the basic flat soul mate doll, and variations of it. I understand that this is the least intimidating for new artists -- a paper doll is way less threatening than, say, a soft-sculpture one. But when the author's main focus of the book is healing and creative interpretation, using the same method over and over to create something that's sometimes only slightly different makes me want to hurl the book across the room. If I wanted all paper dolls, I'd go out and buy a book on creating paper dolls.

Overall, I think if you're a beginning dollmaker, or a creative person who a) doesn't mind cute and b) needs a creative boost, I'd think this book would be just fine. If you're an advanced paper artist, it's going to be too basic for you, and you'll be easily frustrated. Try checking it out from the library first, or email me and I'll sell you my copy. Cheap.

[ by Elizabeth Badurina ]
Rambles: 21 July 2001

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