Thursday, August 25, 2011

Summertime...and the living is easy!

Come we to the summer, 
to the summer we will come,
For the woods are full of bluebells and the 
hedges full of bloom,
And the crow is on the oak a-building of 
her nest,
And love is burning diamonds in my true lover’s breast;  She sits beneath the whitethorn a-plaiting of her hair,  And I will to my true lover with a fond request repair;  I will look upon her face, I will in her beauty rest,  And lay my aching weariness upon her lovely breast.
From Summer by John Clare 1865

….Summer, to me, is a time when we least think of fashion.  We are content to be casual with ourselves, and this can even filter over to our attitude about our dolls.  We languish in a state of ennui; playing with our kids, running with our pets, or even barbequing with the hubster.  We just don’t have the energy or the time to “play” ‘round the clock – we have to have a reprise even from the wonderful joy our doll and doll fashion collecting brings - and summer is it!

But soon the lazy days of summer will be over, and cool crisp air will return leaving us scurrying for a new fashion and a new coat for ourselves, perhaps – but for sure for our dollies!  At that time we will be especially happy that everyone didn’t approach summer as we did.  We’ll be happy for those who worked diligently to bring us their new Fall lines. 

It will be then that I’ll look to CDS for some new doll fashions, and I hope you will, too.  And one shop you won’t want to overlook is Sweet Creations.  Its shop owner, Connie Casteel, makes wonderful offerings for all kinds of dolls.  Residing on Main Street, her shop is one of the first that opened there – and I’m so glad it did.  Check out my recent interview for more information about this very nice and interesting lady.

Blogmeister: Who are you? In other words - tell us a little bit about the real person behind your business name?

Connie:  I have been the wife for almost 41 years to a most wonderful man.  I am also the mother of two beautiful daughters, and a grandmother to four darling grandchildren!  But I still feel very young at heart, anyway!

I worked 25 years at a single company after my husband left military service and we finally settled in one place.  I left that employment at the end of 2004, and am quite content to stay at home and sew!

Sewing and reading have been at the top of my ‘hobbies list’ as long as I can remember.  Little did I know that one day my sewing skills could turn into a ‘tiny’ business!

Blogmeister: How and when did you discover your love for creating fashion art in the doll world?

Connie:  In 2000 my oldest daughter suggested I sew a few Barbie clothes and sell them on eBay.  eBay was something I had never heard of, but she assured me I would have no trouble selling my work.  I began with Barbie fashions, and was pleasantly surprised to find my work so well received!  I mean, sure I knew I put my heart into it, but how could they tell from a picture?? I was also surprised to find that the majority of people were not buying the fashions for children, but for themselves!  Who knew there were so many doll collectors in the world!

Blogmeister: Did you begin creating for yourself then transition to creating fashion art offered for sale?

Connie:  Yes, I did.  The desire to learn had always been there below the surface as I watched my mom and both grandmas sew as I was growing up. I had a very strict (thank you Mrs. Harden!) Home Ec teacher when I was in Junior High who helped further pique my interest in sewing because she insisted on doing things correctly and without shortcuts. I also had a great Home Ec teacher in High School.   Between the five of them – relatives and teachers - I learned to make clothing for myself, and sometimes my little sister was treated to an outfit….if she wasn’t annoying me ;o)

When my girls were younger I sewed for them and their dolls, as well as sewing for myself and my husband.  When they outgrew dolls, I sewed mainly for the girls, including their wedding dresses and all of their female attendant’s ensembles..

Blogmeister: Was anything or anyone a significant influence on your work initially?

Connie:  I would credit my daughter, Jenny, for giving me direction in styles and fabrics in the beginning and for several years until her own motherly duties took up more of her time.  My husband also contributed with his knack at selecting and/or critiquing fabric selections.  Jenny was also very insistent about my photos being just so, and my skills improved quickly!  

Then along came Gene Marshall, a gift from my daugher, and my attention was immediately focused on sewing for grown-up dolls!  The rest is history.

Blogmeister: Today where do you find inspiration for your projects?

Connie:  Everywhere!  I unconsciously keep an eye out, and realize that when I am looking at someone or something, I find myself saying (to myself or anyone in the area), ‘Oh! That would be cute as….’ or  ‘Oh! Wouldn’t that make a nice…...’.  It may be a style, a color, the way a fabric feels or drapes, or just my imagination running away with me. ;o)  I tend to see the outfit before I actually see who is wearing it, and have little sketches and notes of fashions I would like to create everywhere.  Now if I could just find enough time to do them all!

The internet is also a fantastic resource for information, not only for current styles and artists, but for researching past years and specific eras.

Blogmeister: For people who would like to create their own fashion art, would you have any words of inspiration or advice?

Connie:  Find what you do best, then do it!  I know, easier said than done, but it can be very frustrating to pull yourself in too many directions at once.  You have to be willing to put yourself into your work, stick with it and master what you do best.  Be vigilante in the details.  After that, branching out is easier and will be less frustrating.  It will show in your work and you will create little masterpieces that will make you proud!

I also think we are harder on ourselves than any other critic, so don’t be too hard on yourself as you learn.  Remain open to hearing the opinion of others.  Their opinion doesn’t have to become your opinion, but someone may make a very interesting point that will help you in another endeavor along the way.

Blogmeister: Lastly, what's up for you right now?

Connie:  My main focus has been on ball jointed dolls (BJDs) for the past couple of years, but I get commission requests for many of the other dolls who model for me and sew for them regularly as well.  As long as I can sew, I am happy!

Last year I got my first Kaye Wiggs doll, an 18” BJD portraying an age of about 9-12 years old.  Shortly after I saw a Fairyland Little Fee Leah, and fell in love with her, so she moved to my house.  She is a 10.5” BJD, who was soon followed by another tiny 11” BJD named Millie, also by Kaye Wiggs.  I have really enjoyed creating young fashions for these girls, which is quite a change from those grown-up fashions.  I believe it reminds me of when my girls were young! :o)

See, she has something for just about everyone! 

But if you’re not quite ready to give up on summer, a good way to rev up your inner fashion diva, is to laze around the pool with a good book.  If your heart belongs to fictition, perhaps you’ll enjoy:

Fashion Babylon by Imogen Edwards Jones =  Follow a fictional London-based designer over a six month period. It opens the day after their runway show, and closes the day of their next show, six months later. The enticing thing about this book is that the author claims that everything is true eve though the designer is fictionalized, stating that "only the names have been changed to protect the guilty". This book explains every little detail that goes into producing a collection, and it's a fun and fascinating read. You'll learn about the mark-ups at stores, the process of hiring models for the show, what it takes to get a good review, and a lot more!

And for the history buff, may I suggest:

The End of Fashion by Teri Agins- Take a look at fashion from a business perspective, exploring all aspects of the industry including manufacturing, retailing, licensing, and image making, through this well-researched book.  It explains the beginning and the "end" of Paris couture houses, as well as the rivalry behind the runway, Giorgio Armani's success with Hollywood, and much more. Agins examines the fundamental changes in the fashion industry, and "how marketing changed the clothing business forever". If you’re interested in learning more about how fashion came to be what it is today NEEDS to pick up a copy of this book pronto!

And now I return you to your summer ponderings, but I’ll be back in September with some awesome fashions!  I “hear” some of the artists are working on something called Beautiful Villains………..ah, now doesn’t that seem intriguing!?!  See you soon!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Poetry and beauty combine for a win - Congrats TERRY BARNER!

Ah, how do I love thee…let me count the ways!  Some of us at Couture Doll Shop had fun this summer counting the ways we love to dress our dolls for romantic interludes.   

And so did our viewers, according to the nice comments you included when you voted for the winner of our Romance Challenge. 

  Thanks so much – and thanks to Fashion Doll Quarterly for including our contest in their magazine!  And thanks to Angelic Dreamz for providing the prize!

 Lots played, but there could be only one winner!  This prize was claimed by the talented Terry Barner!!  Hopefully we’ll get his full profile soon.   

For now, I’ll just say for those of you who have missed his work, you are in for a treat.  Just saunter on over to our Designer Drive  where you will find his repaints and fashions in his shop – Off The Wall by Terrkat.  He’s a genuinely nice guy who will welcome your visit!  Congratulations Terry!!! 

And, while you are over at Couture Doll Shop, be sure to peek in and see what new things other shops may have to offer.  Some of the Romance entries may be available for purchase, but you might also find something nice for dollie’s next date night!  

Speaking of romance...

When you see the work of others that you're attracted to, do you instantly fall in love?  Well, sometimes I do!  And with the ease of the internet, I seem to find more and more artists I'm infatuated with!! 

But I'm happy that I really do not actually want to "be" those artists, nor do I feel I want to create their type of work.  Rather, it just gives me hope that with enough practice, planning, and perfecting that I too will someday become an artist someone else will fall in love with!!!

However, if you find yourself in a state of depression over your work when you spot talent, you need to snap out of it, Matilda!!  The most common reason people compulsively accept the paths of others is because they don't have enough confidence in themselves, and this is tragic.  This lack of confidence can keep your talent and character under a barrel unless you take steps to pull them out from under there NOW! 

You'll never find yourself wanting to be in someone else's Jimmy Choos once you fully understand that you are your own person.  And to be satisfied in our game, we need to "own" our own style and direction.  Hang a sign over your sewing table that says: "I shall not covet the work of others" and stop playing the field.  Look within, and you will find your way.  Sketch, make patterns, or do anything necessary to get your groove back on - but stay off the cruise control of the internet for inspecting talent until you have a firm handle on your own!

Then, when you again allow yourself to view other people's work you should see and appreciate it, but then go on with no regrets about your own work!  Artists need to see themselves as trendsetters, and when they possess their own uniqueness, they thrive. 

And speaking of unique, this artist always listens to the beat of her individual drum.  Continuing with our series of Meet the Shop Owners, this time we are featuring Pauline Lyngard.  Pauline’s shop resides on Main Street, and is called BW Designs….read on:
Blogmeister: Who are you? In other words - tell us a little bit about the real person behind your business name?

Pauline: I live in a beautiful seaside village on the West coast of Canada, in a tiny cottage called “Redthorne” with my husband, four Italian Greyhounds and one geriatric Lilac Point Siamese cat. 

By day, I am a senior payroll technician for the BC Ambulance Service. I am involved in a weekly Toastmasters Group and volunteer my time and talent for a local Greyhound rescue and adoption group.

Blogmeister: How and when did you discover your love for creating fashion art in the doll world?

Pauline: I started years ago on EBay by selling my childhood dolls and “met” many wonderful doll collectors. I started to notice and research the doll designers and decided that since I am a fabric artist, I would be able to create my own visions for the dolls that I had…then I started to buy dolls instead of sell!

Blogmeister: Did you begin creating for yourself then transition to creating fashion art offered for sale?

Pauline: My mother taught me to sew as a child so I could make my own doll clothes. Later as a teenager, I made my own clothes and bought vintage fashions to remake them to be “my Style”. It is only “fitting” (groan, pun intended) that I have gone back to designing for dolls and rarely sew for myself.

Blogmeister: Was anything or anyone a significant influence on your work initially?

Pauline: I researched the doll designers selling on EBay and noticed that many of the fabulous clothes were from Canadian designers. I really admire people like Karen Kolkman, Diana and Janet of LaBoutique, Brenda of Matisse and Angie Romanowski of BCCAN Designs. My style is so different than theirs but it encouraged me to sharpen my skills to make a more professional appearance.

Blogmeister: Today where do you find inspiration for your projects? 

Pauline: I love the internet for doing searches! You can find a picture of any period, style or era at the entry of a few words!

Blogmeister: For people who would like to create their own fashion art, would you have any words of inspiration or advice?

Pauline: Be true to your own style and focus on one type of doll until you establish clientele, then expand your inventory.
(I wish someone had told me this when I started!!!)

Blogmeister: Lastly, what's up for you right now?

Pauline: I’ve fallen in love with Sybarites! I find them very inspirational to design clothing and they are SO beautiful to photograph. Just looking at a Sybarite makes me happy. My design focus right now is on lingerie and accessories.

And so ends this blog, and another delightful visit with one of our shop owners!  Couture Doll Shop is, indeed, a pleasant place to sell and buy dolls and doll items.  Join us any time, and feel free to email your questions and/or inquiries about products or having a shop of your own!