All Dolls Are Art 2013 Artist Interview: Peggy Wilson


Peggy Wilson is a sculptor and designer from Canada who creates characters.  I say this with the utmost admiration.  Having had the privilege of taking a class from Peggy, I can attest to her ability to convey very complicated techniques to a wide variety of skill levels.  She is also a lovely person who I feel very privileged to know.  Peggy is teaching a 3-day class “Pernickety, the Supercilious Elf”.  I’ll let Peggy introduce herself. 

Peggy:  My introduction into doll-making in 2000 came at the urging of a close friend.  "You have to join our group!  I know you will LOVE it!"  Well, I was more than a little skeptical, imagining Raggedy Anne and Andy.  As lovely as they are they are not my style!  The first workshop offered by All Dolled Up, Ottawa was a Lynne Butcher gumnut elf.  Definitely my style!  And, being clueless but never lacking in imagination, when asked to make a set of witches a few weeks later and not finding any patterns in the sewing catalogues, I designed my own. They turned out very well and that was the beginning of my design ‘career’!

Over time I have designed many ‘odd’ fellows and gals, taught both specific dolls and techniques, including several design classes, in Canada, the U.S. and Australia as well as on line. I have belonged to the Canadian Doll Artists Association (I was on the board of directors for several years), in addition to our 50+ member All Dolled Up, Ottawa doll club. 

I have been honored to receive quite a few first place awards within the CDAA as well as internationally.  One of my favorite creations, "The Mother In Law" was awarded Best In Show at the Enchanted Doll Artist Conference in Albuquerque New Mexico.


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

Peggy:  My preferred media is cloth.  I love taking a (virtually) 2 dimensional object and give it life, indeed character and emotion, by sewing, stuffing and needle sculpting!

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

Peggy:  Doll making may not be a totally full time occupation but I do teach internationally and have sold a number of my creations. Some of my figures reside across Canada, the U.S., Mexico, Indonesia, Japan, and Australia.


AnLiNa Designs:  Where do you get your inspiration from?

Peggy:  My new work is the result of an idea; a word, an image, an emotion.  I have always had an active imagination and it got me into some trouble as a child!  Once an idea pops into my head a full blown story is often not long to follow and after that the figure forces itself upon me!

AnLiNa Designs:  What are your favorite materials to work with?

Peggy: I typically use either Doe (deer) Suede®  or Craft velour ®, both being very slightly stretchy without being overly so.  They allow me to create the expressions that I enjoy.


AnLiNa Designs:  Who is your favorite artist and why?

Peggy:  I do not know!

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

Peggy:  When my children were small, a friend took them to the dress rehearsal of the Alberta Ballet’s ‘The Firebird’.  My daughter, who was 2 at the time, was both fascinated by and terrified of ‘Kostchei’, the evil character in the story also known as "the deathless".   The costume for this character was truly remarkable!  Rather than the typical  black and white ‘skeleton’ style normally used to reflect his persona the Alberta Ballet’s version was shades of grey.  Something I find much more frightening!  I plan to recreate this feeling sometime in the future!


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

Peggy:  I love the opportunity to explore ideas and techniques!  As a student I have experienced some inspired teaching that, hopefully, I am able to pass on to my students as well.  I love the interaction between all participants, both in and out of class and viewing each person’s interpretation of the classes and or techniques being introduced.

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

Peggy:  My wish for all participants in any of my classes is to learn some of my techniques in order to utilize them, when appropriate, in future works.  I go out of my way to ensure that each student gets as much out of each class as possible.  I include a ‘Cloth Doll Making Primer" with all pre-class work as well as inviting dialogue prior to the class and during the homework stage.  Indeed I often offer a ‘free’ homework session the evening prior to the class to help everyone to start on the same page.  This can be in a class room set aside for the purpose or indeed in my room in the hotel as has happened many times. 


I often come equipped with extra ‘body parts’ just in case there is a problem with the students materials.

The class will begin with needle sculpting one of the two heads each student has been asked to bring to class.  Because I sculpt expression and emotion into my faces this can take longer than a simple ‘pretty’ face.  The students will learn the effects if directional sculpting as well as stuffing as you go.  After this we will progress to creating the armature and stuffing the body, arms and legs.  I usually leave the ‘face painting’ until the beginning of day 2, when students are fresh!

Through the day students are encouraged to ask questions – the "what if" that I love so much as well as "Could you show me that again?".

My favorite part of any class, aside from the "Ah Ha!" moment when a technique works for the first time is the reveal at the end when everyone shows their own individual interpretation of the figure we have been working on!  As I have said, I love experimentation and I hope that each of my students will have gained the expertise and feel the freedom to play about with expression, posture and costuming to create their own individual.


AnLiNa Designs:  Peggy, thanks so much for taking the time for this interview!  Happy Holidays!

Peggy:  Thank you!