Maria is an amazing doll artist (Marias Nature Toys) and also the design director for Ciao Bimba. She is a kindred spirit; talking to her about dolls, our lifestyles and the joy dolls bring, filled up my heart and also my confidence.
Maria lives in Bulgaria with her family and agreed to come to the UK to run a workshop. I follow her on Instagram and read that it was going to be in Ramsgate – about an hour and a quarters drive from my home – and knew I had to be there!
The Design Trust, who I work with to develop Polly had a Dolly, recommends that we consider our role models as a way to understand what our values are. Meeting Maria really gave me clarity on what I want my life to look like in the future, and opened the door to lots of new ideas.
So far my dollmaking has been self-taught; hours of practice, making a million mistakes, experimenting with new techniques and focussed determination. It was a massive boost to my confidence to learn that this is also how Maria has developed her skills and became a master of dollmaking.
There were many tips and tricks that Maria shared with us – and continues to share through a private facebook group. Some of these I have already started using on my dolls… subtle differences that make them ever better. I have more that I want to use. These need me to design a new doll of my own and that will require a new CE test.
The main thing I went to learn – needle felted sculpted faces – I need to experiment with more – and to develop my own style. This really excites me and I have so much to learn. After Maria shared her sketch book with us, I have bought myself a new one – with the intention being to capture faces that inspire me. I think this in turn will help me understand the delicate balance of facial features and how to manipulate the wool when I am shaping doll heads.
If you ever get an opportunity to go on a workshop with Maria, jump at the chance. Her gentle teaching style, calm approach and kind nature filled the room with warmth. In our class of seven the abilities ranged from true beginners who had never made a doll, to dollmakers who sell their dolls professionally (including myself and Joanna Flaifil from Posy’s People). We all completed our doll kits in the two days!
As a side note can I also add that Joanna is also one of my role models – in addition to her gorgeous dolls – she is so wonderfully kind, family focussed and a fantastic collaborator – check our her page Led by the Wild if you are local to Kent!
Although I will never stop making dolls for playtimes I am considering a new branch in my business, art dolls I suppose they would be called. Dolls for grown ups and doll lovers rather than for play. I would only make a couple of these a year and they would be very special. What do you think?