Needle Felted Wool Dolls and Other Sculptural Works of Fiber Art

My soft sculptured character dolls were inspired by real people that I have either known personally or simply noticed from afar. They are not meant to be exact replicas but are instead altered egos of "familiar others".

Sunday, November 29, 2009

'The Moonshiner' Update...

May 23, 2010 - Finally I have put the finishing touches to my  "Moonshiner" doll. He is now sporting a brand new felted hat and is having a long awaited smoke. Also I lucked out in finding a willow chair that is just his size. My little "Popcorn" is just pleased as punch (moonshine punch that is) to finally have all the comforts of home - including a miniature jug o'shine sitting by his side. It's ironic that the little wooden trunk is prison art and made by some poor soul who wound up exactly where the real Popcorn Sutton did not want to be - so much so that he took his own life to avoid going there.

Original Post...
This is "The Moonshiner"  but my friends call him "Popcorn" because he was inspired by the late great, the last one of his breed, the Appalachian moonshiner Marvin "Popcorn" Sutton.
My "Popcorn" is about 10 inches tall and made entirely of 100% wool fiber using needle and wet felting techniques.
I found his rocking chair at a local flea market. The real "Popcorn" preferred a handmade willow chair - difficult to find in doll sizes.
My "Moonshiner" is content to while away the hours in his wooden rocker and dream of days gone by and things that were and things that might have been.
I will likely add a couple more things to this mountain guy's attire...a Fedora hat for his head and a cigarette for his hand...and maybe, just maybe, a Mason jar full of moonshine to sit by his side. The real Popcorn Sutton apparently chain smoked for I’ve yet to see a photo or video of him without a lit cigarette either clutched between the thumb and middle finger of his right hand or dangling from his lips when his hands were otherwise occupied. His hat and smoke were his secondary icons...the number one being the ‘shine he made.
The Moonshiner is Doll #3 in the Familiar Others Series.

Ezekiel - Coonhunter, Mountain Man, Ole' Hippy

'Ezekiel' is doll #4 and was inspired by an old friend of mine...a mountain man and coonhunter who is often mistaken for Willie Nelson by tourists frequenting the local  quick market just off Interstate 40 in Westel, Tennessee.
The original 'Zeke' always wears either a black cowboy hat or a Redman ball cap and is quite an interesting and complex character. He has spent most of his life in the East Tennessee woods hunting raccoon and gathering wild herbs like ginseng. He has extensive knowledge of trees, plants, and animals, yet has only a rudimentary formal education.
In his younger days Zeke drank enough Budweiser to float Donald Trump's yacht. But beer was not his friend, often leading him into violent fits of rage. I've heard that he no longer drinks and lives a much calmer life now in his 70's - still coonhunting, still gathering herbs, still popular with the tourists.
I have just purchased wool to felt a black hat for him. He says it is high time seeing as he just has to have a hat. He has also been pestering me for a female companion so I am currently working on "Lily", a fiesty redhead who should suit him very well. Look for new photos, hopefully in the near future.

Then Came Oliver

Who is this familiar other?

'Oliver Ego' is Doll #2 in my Familiar Others series.
Can you guess who he was inspired by?

Here are your clues:
  • The Wizards beat up on the Bulls in a late winter game.
  • Number 44 witnessed the contest, received a souvenir and really, really liked it.
  • Both characters are famous for their wide toothy grin.
  • My Oliver is a look-alike, an alter ego if you will, rather than an exact double of his original inspiration.
  Added April 3, 2010 - Look for answer below.

The fitting...
Oliver Ego came into being at my kitchen table. His self is entirely needle felted from 100 percent wool fiber. I wet felted merino wool into fabric for his clothing; then designed, cut and sewed the pieces together using wool thread.

'Henry' Was My First

The Old Sailor Henry was my first real needle felted soft sculpture doll and is #1 in my Familiar Others Series.
Henry was inspired by an incident that happened at my very first job, car-hopping at Archie's Drive-In Restaurant in Rockwood, Tennessee, during the 1960s. I was working there during my fourteenth Christmas eve and it was bitter cold, snowing and the wind was howling like a banshee. I was a little runt then and the wind cut threw me like a knife. But I kept right on running from car to car, order to order. We were famous for our cheeseburgers, fries and milkshakes (my favorite was strawberry) and last minute Christmas shoppers and travelers were pouring in by the carload. I didn't mind though, I needed the tips to help pay for a portable stereo my mom had let me buy on her dime - my first debt and my first financial responsibility - it was a valuable lesson that has served me well over the years.
Anyway, near closing time a car load of homeward bound sailor boys pulled into the parking lot hankering for hot chocolate and burgers. They were super nice, polite, very cute and totally sympathetic to this teenager who was freezing her skinny little legs off - we wore skirts back then, not slacks. I'm sure my cheeks were rosey red, my nose would have easily lit the way for Santa had Rudolph not been available, and my ears hurt like heck. One of the sailors - the cutest one I might add - took pity on my coverless head and offered me his sailor hat...for keeps! I was thrillled and treasured it for many years thereafter. I think of those sailors every Christmas eve, especially the cute one who gave me his head covering on that bitter cold night. I wonder where and how he is...who knows, maybe he is an Old Sailor Henry with long hippie hair and a cute little grin.
My Henry doll is very proud that his uniform still fits....well, actually it is a little snug around the middle making the pants fall a little short but that's okay, he still looks very cute to me.

Henry looked especially cute before clothing. Almost wish I had left him bare.