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.

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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 (http://www.etsy.com/shop/Fransdollland), 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.

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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:  http://mydollland.blogspot.com.