Friday, January 7, 2011

Interview with Doll Artist Karen Kline

Karen Kline with her fashion dolls 2010
For Karen Kline, making a doll is a creative act that brings much joy to her life. Once a fashion model and then a window dresser in Chicago, her days presently involve much less glamourous duties like assisting her husband in his Florida-based marine business. But, in making a doll, she is transported into another world, one where fairies and fashion rule.

Karen writes the blog Kaerie Fairie where she presents her dolls to the world before putting them for sale in her Etsy shop. Having previously created a line of fairy dolls, she recently was inspired by my blog post about the Coco Chanel dolls to begin a new line of fashion dolls. It was her gift of a doll that inspired me to learn more about this talented doll artist.

Ingrid: To begin with, what shall I call you? Karen, Karey, or Kaerie Faerie?
Karen: I answer to all of them. When I was a teenager, I was called Twigs, because I was so painfully thin. Later when I started modeling, I got the nickname Karey. And several years ago, a good friend started calling me Kaerie Faerie in her e-mails. I loved all my nick-names so I used them all when I started my shop and blog.

Ingrid: Why are you drawn to fairies?
Karen: My love of faeries began when I was a child. My Mother, who had once been a ballerina, told stories of faeries dancing in the garden and hiding in my bedroom.  I started taking ballet at the age of four, and ballet and faeries became my whole world. As a little girl, I was mesmerized by the graceful ballerinas and imagined they had wings.

Ingrid: What is your earliest memory involving dolls? 
Karen: My Mother and Grandmother made dolls. Mother made a collection of Alice in Wonderland dolls, and pocket dolls that fit in my jumper pockets, all the dolls were made from fabric, with hand sewn faces.

Ingrid: When did you begin making dolls?
Karen: As a very young child, my Mother and I would make dolls together, creating dolls and sewing little doll outfits, which gave me all the basics of sewing.

Ingrid: What do you enjoy about the process of doll making?
Karen: I love what I call the treasure hunt, choosing fabrics or dying or painting my own for designing the clothing and all the creative embellishments.

Ingrid: Describe the process of making a doll from conception to completion.   
Karen: Making a doll starts with a idea, usually something I see. I get ideas from everything. Sometimes I draw a cartoon of  what I want to create other times I just draw a pattern of a doll. The clothing concept starts after the doll is made and ready to be dressed, many times the cartoon I've drawn and the doll don't look anything alike. I free-form design on a body and all my patterns for clothing are cut around the dolls body. Just like my Couture Dressmaking skills are all cut on a dress-form.

Ingrid: What is the biggest challenge or obstacle that you encounter in making a doll?
Karen: It is difficult to get the perfect body shape because I try to make a shapely female body without a lot of seams.

Ingrid: What inspired you to make the Chanel inspired doll? 
Karen: It was your blog, and the department store window picture. When I was in my twenties, I worked as a window dresser for Marshall Fields in Chicago. Dolls like those are window props and you would probably never be able to get one. I enjoy copying fashion I see, it is a challenge and these dolls were fun to make and easy. And I thought it would be sweet to share a doll with you, since you wrote that adorable blog post.

Ingrid: Can you describe a memorable incident or person that you met during your career as a model? 
Karen: I modeled in the late 60's and 1970's I worked lots of trade shows and catalog, but many young designers started in the warehouses in Chicago. I worked as a fitting model, in show-rooms, salons, private shows and ladies luncheons.  I met Halston, and several others that went on to become enormous fashion icons. Walking in something new and creative was always so exciting!      

Ingrid: What is the most memorable dress/outfit you ever wore as a model? 
Karen: It was a peach colored silk chiffon crystal studded gown, designed by Zaharoff. It floated like a fairy dress, it was very naked, I wore it on the beach for a shoot.

Ingrid: Who are your favourite fashion designers? 
Karen: Of the French designers Chanel, YSL, and Dior are my favorite. Of the US designers, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors offer beautifully made clothing.  

Ingrid: I know that you sometimes make clothes for your dolls from your own wardrobe discards. Do you ever cringe when cutting up an old favourite? 
Karen: No, because I'm giving it new life, and I only cut up what I can't wear anymore.

Ingrid: What is your favourite doll that you have made? Or is the last doll you made, always your favourite?
Karen:  I have two soft faeries I made years ago that I never put them away. They live where I can see them and they are called secrets because they sit whispering to each other.

Ingrid: Are you ever sad to box up a favourite doll for a new owner? 
Karen: No, I love to share. I always say goodbye have a safe trip.

Ingrid: What is the last book you read? 
Karen: I read a lot of vintage fashion books, I just finished Patou, Meredith Etherington-Smith. I'm crazy for the French fashion of 1920's.

Ingrid: How do you define success? 
Karen: It is about the art work.  I have not been bored from making dolls. I feel like I have finally found my artistic niche and selling is just the icing on the cake.

To see more of Karen's dolls, visit her blog Kaerie Faerie or her Etsy shop.