Monday, March 29, 2010

The Masks We Wear---Jdemilo

The Masks We Wear
24 inches high

porcelain head, hand dyed and batik silk, commercially dyed cotton, driftwood, tulle, and various beads, yarn, embroidery threads.

Does this qualify as an art quilt?  Please refer to Kathleen Loomis's blog "Art with  Needle" before answering.  If your answer is still "no", I did gather some sea foam and seaweed (ribbons, yarn, and tulle) to stitch an ocean quilt for the mermaid.  You can count that as my March Art Quilt.
 First I am going to tell you a bit about the process I used to make the doll.  Unlike some of the other artists here, my designs are mostly in my head and not recorded in a journal (I am envious of them and hope to get better at recording).  Second,  I will tell you the statement I hope my mermaid is making.  I do hope you will look at her and think a while about it before reading my intent.

I was excited to see this month's picture.  I had Nellie's pattern for Spirit Dolls and have been wanting to make one for some time.  When I saw the doll heads I decided that now was the time.  I first ordered the doll head from Etsy.  Before I could start the body I had to have the head for proportions.  While waiting I  made a trip down to Maine's coast to find a perfect piece of driftwood for her seat and started to batik scales on the silk for her tail..  When the head arrived, I figured the proportions of the mermaid at 8 heads high and enlarged Nellie's pattern to that size.  My first mermaid was beautiful but a plus size mermaid. Since that was not the statement I wanted to make, I slimmed the pattern and tried again. I mostly followed Nellie's directions for construction with a few changes.  Primarily I put a seam up the back of the tail to insert a dowel to support the head and to anchor the doll to the driftwood.

When I first saw the doll heads in the March Challenge Picture I immediately thought of the masks that we all wear.  We are all so much more glorious that we and society allows us to show.  While this is a female, I think that society tells men  how to feel and think and what to do just as much as it does women.  Sometimes those masks fit and sometimes they don't. Sometimes we are eager to put them on and sometimes we fight to escape them.  Here is my mermaid with her mask.  It really is beautiful in an accepted way isn't it, but it is not really her.  It is not such a good fit for her and, indeed, is chained in place.  The mask is broken with her undisciplined, unruly, shining hair springing free. Did the mask break being forced on her or is she trying to break free from it?  Perhaps it is a compromise between who she is and what is expected of her--she'll accept  the mask if she can let some of herself show.

Here are a few closer pictures including a picture of the leftover silk.  I will use the silk to make eight ATCs with beads and fibers used for the mermaid.  If you are interested in trading, let me know.


  1. WOW!! Judith, this is awesome and fantastic. And yes, it does qualify for art! It's your quilt and your rules. I love the piece you made and the story behind it. Oh, and all my art is in my head, not journaled, so you are not alone. Keep on keeping on!

  2. Very inspired! Your mermaid is beautiful.

    As for making an assessment of the "art part", it would need to be finished before I could do it. I could read your stated intent into the piece after I read all of your post.

  3. PS: Even though I read your post a number of times I missed that she's presently a free-standing sculpture. It would be great if there were pictures taken at various angles. If I were to see her in person, I would be walking around her to appreciate every angle and all the beautiful details. I think she qualifies as an "art doll".

  4. I don't think art quilt is the right label and I wouldn't be hung up on that either as the viewer or the maker.

    Your explanation along with viewing the piece would be sufficient to explain your concept.

    That is some outside the box thinking and a good stretch. Is there some way to get her "standing" so that she can be viewed as a sculpture? I think the presentation is really important to understanding the piece.

  5. Your art doll is such a statement to women worldwide. I agree it would be interesting to see her from all angles.....or attached to an ocean quilt to better fit the category of quilt.

    I enjoyed reading the thought you put into this piece. I especially found the broken mask thought provoking.

  6. Define "standing." She is self supporting with a dowel rod that runs from her head down to the piece of driftwood where she sits. I was originally going to have her stand but then thought, "Mermaids don't have feet they have tails; they don't stand." So then I attached her to the driftwood in a sitting position. Her rod is attached to the porcelain head at the top and to the driftwood underneath her tail.

    I can and will take some additional pictures so you can see her from other angles. Do you want them posted here or at

  7. I like the mermaid idea especially since you live on the coast so it is personal to you. You have a clever concept of making one of the dolls come alive with all the pressures of our modern life. Very interesting!

    I certainly think you could develop a whole vignette for her with a little quilt and some other accessories to finish out the story.

  8. What a wonderful interpretation of the theme. She's really amazing. I love everything about her-especially the seaweed effect on the dress and her wild hair coming out from under the disguise or mask. Very cool. I'd love to see more of her world surrounding her. It has endless possibilities

  9. I love your design concept and in terms of if it's an art quilt... it is "oeuvre d'art" (a work of art.)! The batik piece is luscious and your attention to detail is wonderful. I'm going to be thinking about 'her mask...chained in place' for a while. Nice piece.

  10. wow- a really out of the box interpretation of the photo! The fabric you used, the mask, the driftwood- it all works together. I'd have also liked different angle shots, but can certainly tell you thought through this design. I especially like the wild hair and the seaweed effect.

  11. she is wonderful! I would put her in the art doll catagory though, the definition of quilt is that it is a 'sandwich of layers'. I really love her seaweed and the mask is quite an interesting idea. I too would love to see more 3 d shots.

  12. An art doll rather than an art quilt I'd say. That silk batik is glorious, and it's clear to me she's sitting on the driftwood (great idea by the way). Very creative, Judith.

  13. She is lovely from every angle. Thank you for posting the additional photos on your Artist Page. I'm glad my spirit doll pattern served as a foundation for you to implement your vision.


Thanks for stopping by and commenting!