On inspiration, making stuff and labours of love

Su Leslie, choirboy doll. Polymer clay, wire, fabric, paint. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

Choirboy doll. Polymer clay, wire, fabric, paint. Su Leslie, 2016. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

Needing more physical projects in my largely online world, I’ve been pootling around making various things, indulging my enthusiasm for anything artistic or craft-based

The messenger bag I talked about a couple of weeks ago (here), worked well on its maiden trip to Wellington last weekend, and I’ve finally got around to photographing one of the dolls I made as a result of a workshop with my friend, artist Claire Delaney.

I love the doll-making process. Not only does it involve different techniques and processes (clay-sculpting, armature-making, fabric construction); it’s also wonderfully iterative. At each stage I’m surprised by something and often have to change direction in the project to accommodate what has evolved (especially at the clay-sculpting stage).

The boy-child claims I’ve used him as inspiration for my choirboy doll — but I can’t imagine what he means. Hehe.

The boy-child with a box of hand-painted eggs, ready for the annual Easter Egg roll on Mt Victoria, Devonport, NZ. Image: Su Leslie

The boy-child at 8; with a box of hand-painted eggs ready for our annual Easter Egg rolling. Angelic face, but a choirboy??? Image: Su Leslie, 2006

The boy-child, aged 11. Image: Su Leslie, 2009.

Well, maybe the hair? The boy-child at 11. Image, Su Leslie, 2009.

Claire is a talented artist, and a very good teacher. She began making dolls as an aid to illustrating the children’s book she has written and published.Β  Little Wing is a lovely story, beautifully illustrated. It is letterpress printed and hand-bound — a true labour of love.

Find out more about Claire’s art.

The making of Little Wing

36 thoughts on “On inspiration, making stuff and labours of love

    • Thank you Janet. Photography is a recent passion; I was one of those little kids always surrounded by construction paper and glue, madly making things — and I haven’t changed really. πŸ™‚


      • When I was growing up, I drew, played piano and clarinet, wrote, and took not very good photos. I chose piano over clarinet for going on with but have no piano now and no room for one, don’t draw, but still write and am much better at photography. πŸ™‚ I used to make Japanese-style cards from handmade paper, but have let that slide. I’d like to get it going again.

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        • I think when we are allowed to develop our creativity in childhood, it never leaves us — just finds new outlets. I’d love to see your cards. I have seen some beautiful paper art and I guess it is something that doesn’t take up a lot of space. Did you make the papers as well? I had a go at paper-making once, but never managed to get nice thin sheets. It tended just to look like lumpy papier mache. πŸ™‚


  1. I’ll confess that as soon as I saw the doll, I thought of the boy-child. But as a mother of two redheaded boys, it’s probably only to be expected my brain would automatically go there. πŸ˜€ I think the doll is absolutely marvellous and you’re amazingly clever. πŸ™‚

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    • Thank you so much Heather. The hair was such fun to make, though it is a bit brittle so I’ve created that thing absolutely hated by all children — a doll you can’t play with! πŸ™‚


  2. Aww – I’ve been so hoping to see one of your polymer clay works! πŸ™‚ And how very, very beautiful this doll is, Su! I just love the combination of different materials to make it all work. It’s a true masterpiece! πŸ˜€ I really need to see more!!! πŸ™‚ xxxxx

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