Working on my Words Journal


I managed to get in the studio this evening to start working inside the Words journal.  I had an idea last night and wanted to try it out on the title page.  I wanted the effect of water colors but using my fluid acrylics in Quin Gold and Dioxazine Purple.  I started out with a water wash over the title page, then applied a very watery application of the Quin gold.  I ended up with a very nice yellow wash.  I wanted the purple to drip up into the yellow, so turned the journal around and worked upside down.  I applied more water and then a very drippy wash of the purple, loading up more paint in some spots to get it to really run into the yellow.  I wanted the fractal like spreading that you get when you work with really wet, dilute colors.  After it dried, I went over it with some texture tools (cardboard) and stamps and copper.  While I had the purple and copper paint on my palette, I dry brushed the hinges, first with purple and then with copper.  I will probably go over them a few more times to eliminate the white. 


In the next pass at the title page, I used Quin Violet to make the spiral and the “Words” title.  I pulled out one of my calligraphy pens and the india ink to make the stem-like lines and then added the words we are using for inspiration.  I messed up a few of them when the nib was loaded with too much ink, so I’ll go back in and fix that later.  The last step of the evening was to gesso the next two pages so they will be ready for me to work in them tomorrow.



All Dolls Are Art 2013 Faculty Interview: Fran Parrigan-Meehan

Fran Parrigan-Meehan is teaching Victoria Vanderbilt, a 3-day cloth doll class at All Dolls Are Art 2013.  This class is all about constructing a doll with Style!  Fran is a wonderful and giving teacher!  She and I spoke about how she arrived at this point in her sculpting adventure.


By way of introduction, Fran Parrigan-Meehan is a talented and award winning sculptor and educator. Fran has had work featured in Patti Medaris-Culea’s book, “Creative Cloth Explorations”, and in magazines such as Soft Dolls & Animals, Doll Crafter, Art Doll Quarterly and various online articles. She has taught at All Dolls Are Art, Artistic Figures in Cloth, Enchanted Doll Artists Conference, and online at Doll Street. She has a background in the clothing industry and is a self-taught sculptor. In addition to teaching, Fran produces and sells patterns of her dolls in various online stores and hand-dyes lace, ribbons, seam-binding and mohair. Fran has exhibited her work in the Lithuanian Museum in Lithuania, the Boulder City Library in Nevada, the Desert Quilters Show in Henderson, Nevada, the Doll and Bear Show in California, the Hoffman Challenge 2005 travelling exhibit and in Celebration of the Doll at the International Quilt Festival in Houston, TX.

AnLiNa Designs: Hi Fran, How did you discover sculpture and doll-making?

Fran: Creating dolls have been a part of my life since I was a little girl.  My Mama taught me how to make one piece dolls out of cloth when I was 4 years old.  She showed me how to draw a one piece pattern, cut, sew and stuff the doll body.  She even showed me how to embroidery the face features on the doll and how to make hair out of fabric and threads.   I have taken online classes and doll classes at doll conferences.

AnLiNa Designs: What media do you like to work with and why?

Fran: If I have to choose one media that is my favorite, it would be a toss-up between clay and cloth.  I love working in lots of different media.  I can manipulate cloth and clay the way I want it to work on a doll.  I can sit for hours working and manipulating cloth and/or clay.

AnLiNa Designs: Have you made the transition to full-time artist?  Are you selling your work anywhere?

Fran: I made the transition to a full time artist  years ago.  I sell my work at craft shows (indoor and outdoor shows), my Etsy shop (, conferences, Ebay and I sell my patterns to several online Doll shops. 

AnLiNa Designs: When you start a new project, how do you start? 

Fran: I start working on whatever it is that comes out of my mind at the time.  I pull out the materials, etc., that I need and begin the doll or project creating process.  Most of the time I will do a sketch of whatever my new project is. 

AnLiNa Designs: Where do you get your inspiration from? 

Fran: Everywhere!  Let me explain that. Most of the time my inspiration comes right out of my head, my thoughts, my dreams, shows and everyday life.  I keep a pad and pencil on my night stand. When I wake up with a thought for a doll, journal or whatever wakes me, I sketch it and write about it.   That way I don’t forget the details.

AnLiNaDesigns: What are your favorite materials to work with?

Fran: Cottons, tulle, velvets, silks, fancy fabrics, papers, clay, paperclay, paverpol, wire and more.  I really do love all these and more. 

AnLiNa Designs: Who is your favorite artist and why?

Fran: I have several but Sherry Goshon is at the top of my list.  She taught me a lot over the years when I first got a computer and got online and found her while surfing the internet.  She was the first doll teacher from whom I took a class (at Doll U) and from there we became good friends. She taught at our doll club several times and stayed with me.  We sat up all night playing and making dolls in my studio. She’s very knowledgeable and shared and showed me lots of sculpting techniques, etc.  I’ve known Sherry since the early 1990’s.  Her husband Jeff makes my press molds and half resin dolls for me.  I send him my sculpted doll faces and he makes resin molds for me.  I also send him my sculpted half doll and he pours them in resin and makes my resin half dolls.

AnLiNa Designs: Is there a famous work of art (visual, performance or musical) that you want to interpret in a doll? 

Fran: Yes,  I have several but there is one that I have had in my mind for a few years.  She is inspired by a painting I bought in Santa Fe called “Spider Lily”.  It is by Saint Vincent Diaries and has an inscription on the back “Spider Lily, the Patron Saint of all creeping things”.  It’s time for her to be created. 

AnLiNaDesigns: What do you think makes a retreat a valuable experience to participate in, both as a teacher and as a student? 

Fran: As a teacher: I love sharing all of my knowledge & techniques, etc of doll making to students when I’m teaching them to make a doll.  I make the doll right along with them so they can see step by step how I make my doll.  If they have a different way of doing something I tell them to go for it.  It’s their doll not mine, I’m the teacher here to guide and teach them how to make my doll.  I as a teacher can also learn from my students.  I love to share my knowledge & techniques with my students and love having them share their knowledge & techniques with me.   After all we all keep learning from each other.  There’s so much more students can learn from attending  a retreat of any kind.  They meet new friends, learn lots of new techniques, sell their creations in the sales room.  Retreats are the best for creating and making friends.


AnLiNa Designs: Describe a day in your class room and your favorite part of teaching. 

Fran: Watching the students work and complete their doll and make the doll their own makes me happy.  When I teach, I tell my students they are here making my doll from my pattern but they are making their doll.  I take my students through the class process step by step. I explain and work right along with my students to show them each step of making the doll as they create their doll.  I love for my students to ask questions so they (we) can work out any problem they are having in class. I encourage my students to ask me for help if needed and they do.  We also have lots of fun while in class.  My students usually finish their doll and if not, it’s almost finished.  I don’t want my students getting uptight because they are having problems.  Anything pertaining to making the doll can be solved in class.   That is what teaching is all about.   My favorite part of teaching is showing and helping my students create and finish their doll.  And seeing how happy they are with their finished doll or almost finished doll. 

AnLiNa Designs:  Thanks so much Fran!

To see more of Fran’s work, visit her blog:

Progress on Sirona


I had a very productive day.  I got my floors cleaned by lunch time and after lunch, I sat down to work on Sirona.  I got her bodice gathered and stitched down.  I, then, designed the corset and constructed it.  There will be beads or trim or both around the neckline of the bodice and the edges of the corset.  I also got her sleeves made and used up almost all of the remaining lace from the packet I had. 



I got my stuff packed up for my weekend play date and then sat down to draw Sirona’s face.  Unfortunately, this represents the one step back part of today’s program.  I don’t like her face or head at all.  I tried something different with this head.  I sewed it on the bias, to give it a bit of breadth.  Unfortunately, it didn’t work the way I wanted and I didn’t see that until I got the face on.


Her nose is too big, her eyes too high on her face and I hate the mouth that I drew.  I was going for joyous and ended up with solemn-ish, going on bored.

So, if I can get up early enough tomorrow, I’m going to sew another head to take with me.

Angels and Goddesses


I hope everyone (who celebrates it) had a wonderful Christmas.  It was cold and windy here after our first rainfall in a long time.  I have not accomplished nearly what I intended for my time off.  I spent some time cleaning and organizing the studio.  Above is the antique wash stand I got, with my growing collection of antique spools and spindles full of ribbons and trims.


I actually finished this angel (Arley Berryhill’s “Harold” pattern) up a couple of weeks before Christmas, but since it was a present for my SIL, I couldn’t post pictures.   I worked on this over Thanksgiving and my nephew, Colin helped me with it. He sewed the gathering stitches for the sleeves.


Even though I really hate working with pink, this angel turned out very nicely.


I am also working on a new pattern.  The doll is called Sirona, which is a Celtic goddess of spring.  I got her body put together this last weekend.


Her face has been sculpted, but not drawn or colored yet.  I’m waiting until I get her costume finished so I can match colors. 


This doll idea started with a piece of lace, which isn’t where I normally get ideas for dolls.  It’s the piece hanging off the side of the basket on the right.  My friend, Fran, dyed it and I just love it!  I started pulling fabric from my closet to match to it.  The basket is what I arrived at for her costume.


I got her bloomers done night before last and her skirt started yesterday and the beading finished up this afternoon.


I made panniers for her.  She’s going to be a very elegant goddess.


And I finished up the evening, by starting her bodice.


More to come tomorrow!

Flowers Finished, What’s Next?


I got the last two flowers attached to the Life and Death quilt this evening and I started playing around with what comes next.  I’ve tried a bunch of things.  I want to use some beads, but didn’t like any of the ones I pulled out, so I’m going to let tat sit until tomorrow.



I have some small felted wool balls pinned on to the painted rick rack at the moment.  I’m not sure If I like them or not.  I feel like the top, above the fountain, still needs something, but everything I tried would require I take off the top binding strip – so I’m going to postpone that decision as well.


I stitched the extra moss on the bottom left edge and, looking at the quilt hanging from my bookcase, I can see that I need to stitch the grass higher up as all of it is flopping over towards the floor.


Thanks to Mary Anne’s comment on my last post, I’m going to research bugs and insects other than butterflies.  I still want a spider web, but am not sure how to do it yet.  I think I’m going to print several copies of the picture and trying drawing the web in to see if I can get a shape, size and orientation I like.

This is designing on the fly.  I’ve posted about this in the past, but I’ll mention again that I have two approaches to my work.  In one approach, I know exactly what I want to do, how I want the piece to look, and I execute to that plan.  I may or may not draw it out before hand.  My Stretching Art and Tradition piece from 3 years ago is an example of this approach.  I drew out exactly how I wanted this piece to look in my journal and watercolored it.  I then picked out fabric from my stash, painted the tree rings and drew the trees.  It doesn’t look exactly like my drawing, but it is so close that you can clearly see the relationship between the finished piece and the starting point.


This quilt is the poster child for the second approach.  I may have a couple of vague ideas for the piece.  In this case, I knew I was working with the skull and the bird and most likely the fountain.  I didn’t know anything else and haven’t had a plan that I’m working from.  You could almost say this is a technique piece, because I had specific things I wanted to use in it, like the fabric paper, except that those elements came through the spontaneous (or not on some days) process of creating.  It’s come along quickly, but has been a series of fits and starts.  I got the background done, wasn’t happy with the flatness and the sharp vertical lines.  I added some stamped leaves, that stimulated an idea for yarn fabric leaves and fabric paper leaves.  I made the yarn fabric leaves, painted the fabric paper and decided that layers, lots of layers were needed.  And, you get the idea.

The important part of the process is not to stop.  I used to hit roadblocks and get stumped and frustrated and would stop.  The best forward motion almost always occurs after I’ve hit a roadblock.  I’ve decided it’s because I’m at my  most creative when I have a problem to solve.  I’m certainly more engaged.  When I know how it’s going to look and how to construct it, it’s boring for me.  A deadline certainly helps – but it’s also discipline.  Discipline forces me into the studio, forces me to keep looking for the element that’s going to solve the problem.  It took me a lot of years and frustration to get to this point.  I suspect it will be many more before I can say I’ve learned the lessons well, but it’s at times like these where I’m so excited and amazed.  Those feelings are what keep me coming back.