Amy Felske

Amy makes soft sculptured dolls…I’ve always wondered how you add the soul to a doll…look at these pictures and I think you’ll agree that Amy knows the secret.  When we were jurying classes back in February, Amy’s mermaids jumped off the TV screen and before we all had a chance to say “yes”, committee members were arguing about when her class should be scheduled so that they would be able to attend…she was shoo-in.

I have always considered myself an artist.  I did not pursue art as a major in college – plant pathology and entomology  were deemed more marketable by my practical parents, but that never stopped me from taking as many classes in the arts as possible and trying out many different media on my own.  I  began doll making  out of necessity. My family moved to Budapest when my daughters were 2 and 4 years old. My youngest daughter was born there shortly after we moved .  When we moved there the country was just coming out of communism and there were no dolls.  The few dolls that could be found in the stores were knock-off  barbies.  I sewed Waldorf baby dolls for each of my daughters using clothes the girls had grown out of and old t-shirts. This was the beginning. 

As my girls started reading books and watching movies about mermaids, I sewed them mermaids. When they became interested in dragons, I sewed dragons.  My early attempts were often less than works of art, but always well loved. As time went on, my creations became more elaborate.  I explored patterns made by fantastic designers; I made up patterns of my own.  I combined materials and techniques from many media with more traditional fiber arts.  When my youngest daughter was around 16 years old, I had to admit that I was no longer  sewing dolls for my children, but had found a niche for my own artistic expression and began to call myself a dollmaker.   

I would mostly choose jewel tones if life was a box of paints  but I would have to qualify that by saying  that sometimes earth tones take a close second depending upon my mood, and that green is my favorite color  most of the time.  The problem with choosing is that there are times when other colorways call to be explored.  Generally, something sparks inspiration –a sketch asks to be sewn, a special skein of handspun yarn needs to be an elf’s hair, or some fabric calls out to be a dragon or mermaid and  the project takes on a life of its own and the colors follow the inspiring  piece.

My first attempts to be creative began at a very early age.  I grew up in a village on the water and behind my parents house was a small woods . I built troll houses in the woods, spent hours exploring tide pools and building fanciful castles from driftwood and found objects.  I have always been drawing , but also took up ceramics, silversmithing  and stained glass. I started sewing and needlework rather young but I didn’t really explore dollmaking until much later.

If I could choose any mode of transportation that could be imagined, I would really like to fly on a dragon.  If I must actually choose a real mode of transport, I would go by sailboat.  I grew up sailing on the Long Island Sound , and truly believe as Frog said in The Wind in the Willows, “There is really nothing so wonderful as messing about in boats. “

Narrowing down my favorite art related books to just one favorite is not a possibility. I have to say Patty Maderis Culea’s  book, the Art of Dollmaking, is wonderful . The great part about this book ( and the rest in her series) is she presents patterns  with clear instructions but then gave a bunch of doll artists free reign to make up the dolls and put pictures of their creations in her book.  It gives you such a wonderful insight into how different artists can bring their own unique perspective to a project.

I do not make a living from my art.  I started selling my dolls when I began to realize they could not all live in my house.  I have found that the process of creating each piece is what drives me artistically, not possessing the final product. I cannot begin to cover the time I put into each piece when they sell and  I have often said  that selling my work is a way to support my habit.  I pour any profits beyond materials into taking classes and learning new techniques.

Creative Mood Atmosphere? One of the great things about dollmaking is that after an initial amount of machine sewing, most of the project can be completed anywhere.  I take my art on the road and can work just about anywhere. 

Time?  I wish that I could increase the amount of time in the day so that I could have enough time to do  all the things I want to do. I would like to find the time to teach more.

I have two studios. I divide life between Montreal, Quebec and Irasburg , Vermont.  In  Montreal, my studio space is the basement of a 120 year old house.  Most of my supplies are stored down there, and my big sewing machine live there too.  I do most of my actual work in the dining room .  In Irasburg, I have a studio in the loft of our barn – again, mostly storing up there and I work in our cabin or outside if the weather cooperates. I wouldn’t say my studio situation is perfect, but it works for me and fits in my life.  I would like to build a gypsy caravan for my studio, but that will have to wait.

Any time, any one…who would you spend time with?  I would really like to take a dollmaking class with Akira Blount.  She is a phenomenal artist.  She gives classes but I have never been able to take one of them

I laugh at myself all the time.  I make dolls – of course I laugh at myself. 

I always have a bunch of projects going at one time.  Generally, I’ll have two or three large pieces going at one time in different stages of completion  and 10 to 12 small dolls going.


4 thoughts on “Amy Felske

  1. Amy,

    Beautiful! Nice to see your work! Not sure how practical plant pathology and entomology actually are, but you were an awesome science teacher back in the day at Candlewood Junior High!


  2. I used to make Irish soft sculptures then switched to painting ( watercolour and acrylic) Years later I have felt blocked in my painting and somewhat sad about it. Your wonderful work was introduced to me by a friend in Montreal on a card entitled INCIPIENT MADNESS. I am excited by the idea of returning to some form of soft sculpture. Thanks!

    Mary McMillan
    Nova Scotia

  3. She makes soft sculptured dolls
    She’s got her life on track
    We don’t have to worry now ’cause
    She’s got that arty spirit back and
    She makes soft sculptured dolls!

    Hi Amy… this clip reminded me of your art. Best wishes!

  4. Hi Amy I just wanted to say Hi and that I have enjoyed reading about you.
    You certainly are talented and you really make me think of my good friend Meta Strick. I do hope that you two get a chance to meet someday.
    Judy Comings we met at my sister’s shop Stuff and Things this past weekend.

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