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:

All Doll Artists Are Art 2012 Interview: Fran Parrigan-Meehan


Fran Parrigan-Meehan’s a pattern designer, doll artist and teacher. She is an auxiliary member of ODACA and served as the auxiliary chair person for 3 years. Her work has been published in Patti Medaris Culea’s “Creative Cloth Explorations” book and in Soft Dolls and Animals, Doll Crafter, Doll Crafter and Costuming, and in Dolls magazines. She has designed and published numerous patterns and has taught at Artistic Figures In Cloth, Enchanted Doll Artists Conference, and for several doll clubs, the Boulder City, NV, library for the Las Vegas Silver Dollars Doll club, and in her studio. She has worked in the commercial clothing industry, making men’s and women’s clothing, had a doll related business in Las Vegas called Fran’s Doll Land, and now has an Etsy shop of the same name. She dyes laces, ribbons, fabrics and mohair, and designs and sells face molds and half doll molds. She designed and teaches a doll out of real rose petals. She has also exhibited a doll in an exhibit in the Lithuanian Museum and had 2 dolls exhibited in the Boulder City, NV, library.  She also recently had a doll which won Judge’s choice in the Treasures of the Gypsy challenge 2011 at the Houston Quilt Festival.  To see more of Fran’s work, visit her blog:

Fran is teaching 2 new classes at ADAA 2012!  She’s teaching the Little Fairies class, one of which is pictured above, and the Miss Prissy class.

AnLiNa Designs: Hi Fran!  Please tell me, how did you find dolls?

Fran: I always loved dolls, since I was 4 and 5 years old. My mother taught me how to cut out and sew a one piece doll on my great-grandmother’s Singer Treadle machine, which was an antique already at that time. She even taught me to make a doll house from trees, with the spaces where the roots come out making rooms and how to make furniture out of the twigs and bark. She showed me how to make stick people. And we can’t forget the paper dolls either. My grandmother used to get the McCall’s magazine, and she’d cut out the paper dolls, and we’d design our own. We’d get tissue paper and wrapping paper and design our own clothes and shoes, gluing them onto the dolls make them stay. I’ve always had dolls, ever since I was little. I collected them since I was little, and I continue to collect dolls and have made dolls ever since.


AnLiNa Designs: How did you get from there to cloth and clay dolls?

Fran: I started making clay dolls in 1995. I took classes from everyone I could find, including Earlene Maple Bromer, Lewis Goldstein, Heldegard Gunzel, Sherry Goshon, Mary-Ann Oldenburg, and many others. As far as cloth goes, I started making cloth dolls on my own, years ago, before I was ever even in the doll business. I would draw up my own patterns. I also have an art background, as I took lots of art courses in college, and everywhere else I could find them, including Jo’Ann’s.

AnLiNa Designs: What other media do you work in besides cloth and clay?

Fran: I also work with mixed media, doing collages with metals, papers, paints and bits and pieces of everything. I draw faces, fairies, people, houses and whatever interests me at the time I’m creating a collage on hard board or canvas.

AnLiNa Designs: Where do you get inspiration for your dolls?

Fran: It just comes to me. I can go out and about and look at things, and I’ll think of a doll. I look at carpets with designs, ceramic tiles, and curtains, etc. I can see faces, heads, and shapes of pieces. There’s one place I went that I saw a tall standing rabbit. I often see faces in carpets. Even in the sky, you can see bears, dragons, angels, faces, and other things. I dream a lot when I’m sleeping. I dream about dolls all the time. I keep a sketch book on my night stand and when I wake up during the night with an idea for a doll, I will write it down or sketch it. When I go to make dolls, I’ll think, when I sit down, which one should I create first? I start drawing the pattern, put the body parts together and sometimes what I create isn’t that original doll in my head, but another doll entirely.


AnLiNa Designs: Do your dolls talk to you when you are making them?

Fran: The dolls do talk to me and tell me what they want. What I do is, I have all these baskets and drawers. I’m a bits and pieces hoarder of fabrics, trims, all sorts of stuff. I don’t throw away anything, flowers, bits and pieces, sticks, metal, anything. I go through these baskets pulling out stuff and putting it up on the doll to see if it’s right. If it’s not right, then she tells me and I have to put it back and try again until I find what’s right for the doll.

AnLiNa Designs: Does the doll lead you or do you lead the doll?

Fran: The doll leads me. I sometimes try to lead the doll and it doesn’t work. I keep picking up bits and pieces and I love manipulating fabrics on the doll and dressing them. If she doesn’t like it, I keep changing bits until the doll is the way she wants to be. I could say I guess that the doll controls me. I try to control it sometimes, and I end up have to take the doll apart and start again. I’ve even taken faces off of dolls because they didn’t work. I have a lot of doll parts lying around!

AnLiNa Designs: I haven’t taken faces off of dolls, but I have a lot of spare heads when the head I created for the doll in process didn’t work on the doll. All of these heads are sitting on the shelf behind my sewing machine, waiting for a body.

Fran: I’ve even painted over faces before!

AnLiNa Designs: Do you know what dolls you want to make next?

Fran: I have some in mind that I’m going to make next. I always write down what dolls I want to create. One I really want to do is a long-legged, long-armed, long body doll, a silly doll. I don’t know that she will come out first, because there’s a little boy that wants to come out really badly. He’s from the Victorian era, with his little knickers and his hat playing with the barrel rim with a stick like they played with in the Victorian days. He’s been wanting to be born for quite a few years. I have his pattern drawn out and he’s ready to be put together. I don’t make too many boy dolls.


AnLiNa Designs: What do you like most about teaching?

Fran: The thing I like about teaching is watching new students work and completing their doll and making it their own. When I teach, I tell my students, “it’s my pattern, but you make the doll your own. I’ll take you through the steps, but when you are finished, it’s not my doll, it’s yours!”. A lot of students will tell me that they are taking my class to make my doll, and I respond “No! It’s my pattern, but I’m teaching you how I do things and you take them and make the doll your own. I can learn things from you”. This last time, at AFIC, I had two students that had never made a doll and they were so thrilled! They did fantastic dolls! I was so proud! All of my students made great dolls!

AnLiNa Designs: What advice would you give to aspiring doll artists?

Fran: I’d tell them not to be afraid. I’ve heard a lot of people say I can’t. There’s no such word “I can’t”. My daddy would always tell my brothers and I “You can’t? THERE’S NO SUCH WORD! YOU CAN DO ANYTHING YOU SET YOUR MIND TO!” Very wise man, my daddy was!

I would tell them to go for it, keep making dolls, don’t be afraid of what anyone says. Don’t listen to negative stuff. Anything you do in life, to get good, you have to keep making it and keep doing it over and over. You’ll see, you’ll get better and better at everything you do. A lot of people are scared taking classes, thinking they have to do exactly what the teacher does. I’m there to teach and guide you, but you, as the student, are there to learn to make how to make the doll and the techniques.

All Dolls Are Art 2012: World of Magic Classes

We have a fabulous line-up of classes again this year.  I’m so excited about what we have to offer!  We’ve expanded our offerings by 1 class track, meaning more fun for you!  Here’s a look at the classes on offer at ADAA 2012.

First up, a BRAND NEW class by Arley Berryhill!  Arley’s dolls have been featured in numerous publications and he’s a past winner of the Hoffman challenge and Treasures of the Gypsy Challenge.  He’s teaching Madame Zola, Fortune Teller.


Next up is Annie Hesse, the founder of M, M, and M.  She brings us Ping, Glinda the Good Witch’s Familiar.  Annie’s a Goddess of the doll world and we are so lucky to have her on the faculty this year!


Marilynn Huston, one of the original ADAA faculty joins us again, to teach this adorable doll, the Pop-Up Puppet.  He can be made as so many different things, an elf, a snowman, a santa, whatever your imagination can come up with.


I am so pleased to have Angela Jarecki joining us this year to teach one of her cloth over clay dolls, Reluctance.  Angela is a member and this year’s president of the Texas Association of Original Doll Artists, as well as being a gifted teacher.


Fran Parrigan-Meehan, my roomie from last year and the ADAA room mom, is teaching two classes for us this year: Fairies and Miss Prissy.



Lisa Renner, another of the inaugural ADAA faculty, is back with teaching 2 classes.  The first, Pod Heads, has been featured in Art Doll Quarterly.  The other is a brand new class, Abstractly Yours.



Last, but definitely not least, we have Christine Shively, with two brand-new classes!  She is teaching Mistress of Magic, a wonderfully attired witch, and Fabulous Hats and Faces, for more techniques to make your dolls look like a million $!



Registration is now open.  For more information on the event and classes, visit the ADAA Website.  ADAA 2012: World of Magic is going to be so much fun!  I hope you will consider joining us.