Andrews woman’s art creations live in myth, magic
Small glossy eyes followed people as they filtered into the Andrews Public Library for the quarterly art reception Friday.
With life-like faces and poses, Dianne Gardner’s handcrafted dolls tapped into people’s curiosity, daring them to take a closer look.
“You can do a palm reading on some of these dolls,” local artist Tom Vogler said.
From fairies and fanciful animals, to Little Red Riding Hood and Snow White’s evil queen, Gardner manifested beloved fairytales in the form of dolls.
When her kids moved out of the house more than 30 years ago, Gardner said she started collecting antique dolls. After looking at handmade dolls in magazines, she thought to herself, “Well, I could do that.”
Gardner said it took her 20 years of experimenting with different techniques and types of clay to establish her individual doll-making style. Before forming her dolls, she draws up a face or finds inspiration from an illustration in a fantasy book.
Once she finishes the design, Gardner takes wire and tinfoil as the base of the dolls, then adds special clay to bring the dolls to life. In many cases, she uses Tibetan lambswool for the hair and blown glass spheres for the eyes.
She adds the final touches to her dolls with hand-sewn clothing.
Finishing just in time for the upcoming Silver Arts competition, Gardner showcased her newest creation, “The Enchanted Fairy Tree.” Standing taller than a child, the tree is composed of a homemade clay concoction involving toilet paper, Elmer’s Glue and a joint compound.
Fairies hang from the limbs of the human-faced tree, as if the tree provides a comfortable home in the forest. At the base of the trees lies a door, which will soon have a dwarf standing next to it.
Gardner said one of the many joys that comes along with creating fanciful art is witnessing the captivated expressions from children who view it. When she initially showed her fairy tree to others, a little kid instantly ran up to the sculpture and tried to open the miniature door.
“My favorite thing is seeing the kid’s excitement,” she said. “It’s a very small talent, but it’s one that I’m thankful for.”
While making the tree, Gardner said she noticed how the handmade clay looked like the texture of dragon wings. For her next project, she plans to create a giant dragon with a girl riding on its back.
Working at her own pace, she makes around eight dolls a year. The pieces can take anywhere from six to two weeks to complete.
When crafting her dolls, Gardner said she experiences a roller-coaster of emotions. If she’s not working on dolls, she finds herself bored.
“It’s an obsession and a love-hate relationship,” she said.
Gardner’s collection of fairytale dolls will remain on display in the library for three months. The public is free to purchase any of her artwork, and 25 percent of the proceeds will go toward the library to help with its renovations and scholarship fund.