Mandy Broome of Fiddlestix Studios makes antique inspired creations with charm and a dash of whimsy. Here is the story of Mandy's Artist Journey.
How long have you been making dolls? Did you make another kind of art first? How long have you been selling them?
I have been making dolls since 2002. I have been selling them since 2002 as well, locally then, but mostly online for almost three years now.
How did you begin selling your work? What was the first doll you made with the intention to sell like? What prompted you to make that doll?
I began selling my work by friends prompting me to do so. Someone that had seen my papier-mache characters invited me to do a local show, then a local gift shop asked me to put them in their shop. Then,a couple years later, I decided to take the plunge and sell online. The first doll I made with intention to sell was a Pumpkin Man. He didn't sell, and now I'm so glad I still have him!
My love of antique dolls and Vintage Halloween items led me to make my first dolls from papier mache. From there, I was absolutely hooked and in love with dollmaking!
Describe your creative process - do you make detailed plans before you create the doll? What do you use for inspiration - antique photos, your own sketches, etc? Does the doll end up looking exactly as you planned or does it change and develop during the process?
YES! I am so forgetful lately that when I think of things for my dolls I always write them straight down in my sketch book! When ideas come to mind, I draw the doll,what I want the clothing to look like,I draw any accessories or extras as well~I make little notes all around the doll, because if I don't, it's amazing the little details that I forget!
Inspiration comes from my favorite magazines, antique doll books and vintage Halloween images especially. I love looking at old pictures the best,and making something new with my own style from them!
Oh goodness, the doll almost always changes! I just said something about this the other day! It's amazing how once a doll starts coming to life, it starts telling you what it wants, and how it can turn out so different than planned, but in a good way.You have to just go with it! If you fight it, the doll will give you fits, and become very uncooperative!
What is your favorite doll that you've made and why is it your favorite? (picture please)
I have two, I can't pick! One is a tiny Izannah Walker style doll in a shadow box that I regretted selling ALL the time. She's my favorite because she just gives me that really good dollie feeling when I look at her, I can't explain it.
It's funny how I'd think about that simple little dollie all the time and think "that's the only doll I've sold that I'd really like to have back". Low and behold one day you emailed me Dixie, asking if I'd seen where the buyer was putting her back up for sale over a year later, and I got her back! If it hadn't been for you telling me, I honestly would have never known she was back up for sale!
The other is a very involved piece of a witch taking Santa trick~or~treating on the back of a crow! It's also a favorite because I'm very proud of the time and effort that went into the piece.
How has your work changed since you began doll making? How do you see it changing in the future?
Oh my goodness, my work has changed so much! As I wrote earlier, my work started out heavily inspired by antique dolls and vintage Halloween. I worked strictly in papier mache. Then,as I started selling online, after a while I gravitated towards Primitives, because my work just wasn't selling very well, and I'm impatient, and Primitives semed to be what everyone was buying, so I decided to give them a try. At the time they sold better and got more attention the dolls that I loved making, so for a time I changed my style and just created what I thought would sell the best, because of the need for my dolls to help contribute financially to my family. I never was truly happy with my work though, and I was always thinking about how badly I wanted to create in my own personal style, and finally, the first of this year, a kind of resolution I suppose, was to go back to my love of sculpting, and begin refining my own signature style, which is where I'm at now.
I definitely see my working changing in the future, hopefully evolving into the work that when people see it, they know that it's my work.
Where do you create your dolls?
At the moment, I create my dolls from my large farm table that my husband made from old barn wood that he planed down that's at least 150 years old.
I have a large set-up of my supplies and sewing machine in our bedroom. My goal is to turn our outbuilding that he also made from old barnwood, into my studio.
Were you a doll person as a child? Do you remember making any dolls as a child? What was your favorite doll as a child?
YES! I was definitely a doll person as a child! One of the major contributers to my love of dolls,all things miniature and old & little curiosities was definitely my Great~Grandfather.
I am so blessed to have had him in my life. He was a dollhouse maker, and he made them fully furnished! He made every little thing you could think of to go in them. He stayed in his workshop constantly making tiny piano's,grandfather clocks, picture frames, tables,chairs - you name it! He had little display cabinets filled to the brim with arrowheads, butterflies, Luna Moths, fossils, crystals, civil war relics - you name it! What Heaven it was!
My name came from there, too. I spent alot of time at their house, especially in the summer, and you'd always hear my Great~Grandmother scoffing "Fiddlestix!", so when I needed to decide on a name for my business, I guess it was only natural that something that reminded me of that time in my life would be it!
I don't really remember making any dolls as a child, but I had (once again)two definite favorites - my little Joan Walsh Anglund dolls that my mom would let me pick out from time to time from the Hallmark storel Oh, what excitement!!! And my Xavier Roberts adoption doll - one of the real one's from back when he first started. I got to visit Babyland General, where he set up a whole dollie wonderland with his dolls. You talk about Heaven for a little girl! It was amazing walking through that little house!
What were your play interests as a child?
Dolls, books and my dollhouse made by my Great~Grandfather were my main interests as a child.
If you own any antique dolls, what drew you to purchase those particular dolls?
I have a decent collection of antique dolls.The old papier~mache's are my favorite. I can't reall tell you what draws me to them, other than my heart absolutely sings when I look at them!
Is there anything you'd like to share about your making antique inspired dolls that we haven't covered?
If you love making antique dolls,buying books and surfing the web and studying pictures is one of the best things you can do for inspiration and teaching.
What keeps you engaged in the doll creating process?
What keeps me engaged is just my absolute love for what I do. I think I'd be lost without all my art supplies and fabrics! Whenever I find that I'm a little mentally burnt out with dollmaking, I just take a week off, and I usually can't wait to get back!
Who are your favorite doll makers (living or not)?
I adore Izannah Walker, largely because I feel she was not only a dollmaker, but a pioneer for women's rights and independence as well. She was an amazing woman!
Favorite quote or quotes?
"Have I gone Mad?" asks the Hatter.
"I'm afraid so, entirely bonkers .But let me tell you a secret, all the best people are," said Alice.
My sentiments exactly, Alice!
What is your favorite website to visit for inspiration?
My has been The Carmel Doll Shop, for years!
Greg Broome, Mandy's husband, carves wonderful wooden dolls which Mandy dresses. Be sure to visit Mandy's blog, as well as the The Dollmakers Workshop, where Mandy and Greg sell their creations.