Hello New York Doll Collectors. I wanted to continue with a second and final interview on New York artist, Nancy Wiley. In this final part of the interview, she shares what goes into her work, and how she starts her doll projects. Not to spoil it, it’s the face, she begins with.
In addition, she speaks a little on what she wants to communicate on doll artistry. Particularly to those who have preconceived notions about dolls. She speaks to the preconceptions, by trying to build an understanding, through her work, that there are dolls of art, other than our lovable raggedy ann dolls. And yes they are collectibles, but dolls are special in that they can be made to express all things in life. Her work on the classic of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, is testament to that.
Before we get to her interview, I wanted to touch more on her doll art work. In our last article, we did talk about her doll artistry, playing the role of illustration in a new edition of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland. In the article, I mentioned the impressionistic quality and brush work she uses when creating her doll art work. What makes this unique, is that the use of shadows and lights, a technique used mostly by artists who distinguish themselves on canvas, Wiley adapts the same style to her dolls. In this article, I wanted share with you more on her style, and her approach to doll artistry. That in her work, she creates doll art with a dreamy imagery to it. One of the doll artist pieces I want to focus on is Wiley’s White Swan.
White Swan, is a very delicate ballerina, made from paperclay. Which is what Wiley uses as her medium. The doll is dressed in a vintage looking dance costume. The vintage quality of the costume, gives the doll a nice antiqued look. It just seems to stand out like a treasure. But what is most fascinating about this work, is the skin tone; The way in which, Wiley worked the tone; applying the technique, of using shadows, lights and darks in different places. The beginning of darks and lights, are not seen, as well as where it ends. It’s blended, which creates that wonderful dreamy imagery. It can almost be imagined that her skin reflects what ever objects were around her. Take a closer look.
This conceptual imagery of a dreamy type quality to Wiley’s work, seems to bring doll artistry to a whole different level. Let’s hear a little more on Nancy Wiley thoughts on her doll artwork.
EA: What thoughts go through your mind when you start to work on your creations?
NW: For me, the face is the most important aspect of the piece. Even if you have a great concept and flawless execution, if the face is wrong, the whole thing won’t work. So, that is the first task–sculpting a face that I like that shows some kind of quality that will be important for the whole piece to work.
EA: What do you demand of yourself, when you create?
NW: The question I ask myself is “How do I make this work”? I usually have an idea in my head and it is always an adventure to see if I can make it work in three dimensions. But also the hardest question is “Is it finished?”–deciding that is always difficult. I guess when I can no longer add or subtract anything that will improve it, I am done.
EA: What do you find the most challenging as a doll artist?
NW: The most difficult thing as a doll artist is communicating about this art form. I need to have visuals to help explain, because people have vivid preconceptions of what a doll is to them. So if I just say “I make dolls” that could mean anything from Raggedy Ann to Barbie or anything else people associate with the word “doll”. However, I haven’t come up with a better term. Sometimes I will say “doll sculptures”–I don’t know if that is really any better.
EA: What is the most important thing you would like to say to doll collectors who view your work?
NW: I would like collectors to know that I am dedicated to my work and that I always try to create something surprising about each piece. I also like to think most works have a subtext, that if you keep the piece for a while, the more layers of meaning you will notice.
EA: Do you have a doll collection, exclusive of your own doll creations? If so, what kinds of dolls do you collect.
NW: I have a very eclectic collection. I prize my brother William Wiley’s dolls that I still have. Also, I like old, folk art type dolls, more primitive looking made of wood or cloth. And also I collect friend’s dolls.
EA: Nancy thank you so much for spending time with us.
NW: Thank you.
Visit Nancy Wiley’s website and discover the world she has created with her extraordinary dolls.
This article is brought to you by Elizabeth de Almeida, a doll artist of Lizjul Doll Designings, touchable and bendable cloth doll art. Elizabeth is also a musician, and Doll Collector Examiner for atombash.com, exploring doll collecting in the New York Area. Visit on us on Facebook: Lizjul Doll and Lizjul Music.