Wednesday, September 15, 2010

onwards and upwards

It's been ten days post quake and finally the nervous system, blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety levels have subsided. There is still the odd aftershock felt, as other fault lines readjust to new pockets of pressure. Some are big enough to act as a cautious reminder, a fearsome phasing out, but many of them pass undetected, unless like some you are hooked up to GeoNet or hanging off some iphone quake app.

We have moved out of our marae style sleeping arrangement in the lounge room and are back in our bedrooms. The kids have 100 year old brick fire places in theirs which was cause of concern, but by and large life in our wee corner seems back on track. The safe area of our house has been decluttered, the car is at the panel beaters, the buckets of broken crockery await the inspection of the insurance man and nicknacks have been blue tacked back in place.

There is however, a lot of red tape around town and with it an airy feeling that things in the inner city won't be the same for quite some time. Many of the buildings destined for a date with the wrecking ball are still standing, and others are gone like gaps in a gaping mouth where teeth used to be.

Hopefully there will be sufficient debate and discussion to ensure Christchurch is rebuilt right, with thoughtful design that is pleasing to the people of the city. The last thing we need, is to live with quick fix plasticky knocks ups reminiscent of say... Blenheim ...sorry Blenheim!

Anyway, part of what aided and soothed my senses was the doll making classes I have been attending for the last few weeks.
Isn't she a welcomed distraction!
The dolls are in the tradition of the warldorf steiner dolls. Though I am told by our guru doll maker Mayjan, this tradition of hand made cloth dolls goes as far back as the ancient Egyptians.

Marjan (from Spindlewood...the coolest kids toy shop in town) has been making dolls like these for the last 20 years. She has a great eye for bringing out the character of each doll and magically deft hands.

The dolls are made entirely from natural materials: wool and cotton which stimulates the sensory motor skills and feels human and warm to the touch. I held a life sized new born doll Mayjan had been working on and I found myself trying to wind the baby over my shoulder and feeling rather clucky!

Mayjan is also responsible for rekindling my passion for hand stitching (specifically the almost invisible 'his and her' stitch) and for teaching us to forgo knots in favour of anchoring.

I was inspired, rather romantically to commit to hand sewing throughout (even when machine sewing was optional). I am also going to hand stitch her some clothes, just for the pleasure and satisfaction inherent with sitting quietly and stitching away (those machines really are noisy).

I recall Mayjan saying that "every stitch is a loving thought" and when you have the time, it really feels that way. Given that this doll is going to be gifted to my wee lady for her 2nd birthday, it felt right to be 'slow sewing' along the same principles as the 'slow food' movements etc. I could become Amish right now.

The doll should ideally resemble the child they are intended for, as to inspire imitation of the future parent and so each child can easily see within the doll, a reflection of themselves.
For this reason, I went with unruly hair, blue eyes and a big pumpkin shaped face. That's our Nina!
Making the head for our doll was a lengthy and challenging process. The contours of the head are surprisingly, skeletally accurate. Hanks of carded sheep's wool are tightly wound into a ball and wrapped in cheesecloth. That alone took a couple of hours and our hands were sore from squeezing and massaging the living begeevers out of our heads to firm them up. We used a heavy duty linen thread to create the eye line, the contour of the chin, and the back of the neck, anchoring the thread where the ears would be then sewing a cotton sleeve as a skin over the skull.
pinning the skin to the crown
back of the head
Triangular positioning of subtle eyes and mouth.
The faces are intentionally pared back so the child can impart onto the doll what it wishes. Less facial features leaves the child free to imagine a wider range of emotions.
loved those 4 inch needles!
a part Maori doll and a pale blondie
I feel very fortunate to have crafted alongside such an awesome and gorgeous bunch of like minded women. All of us are housewives and mothers so it was great to share quake stories and soothe our frazzled selves through the classes. There was much laughter, cups of tea, sweet treats and baking too. Thank you lovely ladies and much gratitude to the wonderful Mayjan.
If you are interested in attending Mayjans doll making classes you can contact her via Spindlewood.
I will leave you with one more shot of the dolly... who incidentally, in less than completed form (ie the body in two parts, limbs not fully stuffed but face finished) was scooped up and saved as if she was another one of my children, amidst the quake and the smashed array of preserves and soya sauce! Thankfully she too came out unscathed.... oh and see that belly button.... shucks!