Since 2006, Carisa Swenson has been creating art dolls which have been exhibited in numerous galleries from New York City to Los Angeles, as well as published in Spectrum 17. She currently resides in New York.
W3D: Can you describe your working process from start to finish?
Generally, I start right in with sculpting the head, hands and feet of the doll; only once finished with sculpting and painting the head and limbs do I begin creating the armature. The armature consists of aluminum wire, with quilt batting wrapped around the wire to fill out the form. A layer of foss shape is then sewn on, which when heated (using a heat gun), provides greater stability and keeps all the batting in place. Usually at this point I have a pretty good idea as to what clothing the doll will be wearing, and swatches of fabric are cut out and pinned to the doll to get a sense of whether the colors and patterns will work or not. Once the clothing is finished, details are added, such as buttons, whiskers or hair.
W3D: What are the tools do you typically use in a piece?
Fingers, small paintbrushes, dental tools, needles.
Whenever I need to fill the creative well, I head to the woods. It doesn't matter how long I escape for- it can be an hour long walk, or a day-long hike; any time spent away form the city and surrounded by trees helps to refresh and inspire. Wandering around museums, or used bookstores also helps. If none of those options are available, I'll settle for an hour or two of video games.
Many of my dolls are looking for good homes and are up for sale at galleries in Los Angeles, most notably Cactus Gallery and The Hive Gallery, as well as Dollirium Art Doll Emporium in Canada. Dolls which return to me from shows are carefully packed up in boxes and kept in safe places within our home. Ideally, the dolls would be on display, but I just haven’t found the perfect cabinet yet!