Monday, 17 November 2014


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Voilà! My three first dolls are finally done. They all are of different human types: 

  • a little girl (Dorothy)
  • an Afro-American lady (Chantalle)
  • a man (portrait doll of my husband).
I realised that I was ready to create an image of a beautiful young woman. I was thinking over a historical personage since I was eager to work on an old-fashioned costume. I had a character on mind which has been always very intriguing for me. It is Louise de La Vallière, the famous mistress of King Louis XIV of France, so called "the Sun King". Her life full of love and suffering is worth attention. 
Louise de La Vallière

So if you have time and a cup of hot tea, make yourself comfortable and I will tell you a story of this remarkable lady.

Louise de La Vallière was born in 1644 in Tours in an aristocratic family. She grew up as a timid and shy girl fond of nature and animals. Her main virtues were modesty and piety.

Louise in her younger years

At the age of seventeen Louise was sent to the royal court. Through the influence of a distant relative Louise was named Maid of Honour to Princess Henrietta Anne of England, who was about her own age and had just married Philippe I, Duke of Orleans, the King's brother. Henrietta was extremely attractive and her friendly relationship with King Louis XIV, her brother-in-law, caused some scandal and fed rumors of a romantic affair.

Henrietta Anne of England, Duchess of Orleans

To counter these rumours, Henrietta selected three young ladies to "set in the King's path". Seventeen-year-old Louise was among them. She had an exquisite complexion, blond hair, blue eyes, a sweet smile, a tender and modest expression on her face. One of her legs was shorter than the other, so Louise wore specially made heels.

Louise had been at Fontainebleau only two months before becoming the King's mistress. Although she was intended to divert attention from the dangerous flirtation between Louis and his sister-in-law, Louise and Louis soon fell in love. It was Louise's first serious attachment. In fact she was an innocent, religious-minded girl who initially brought neither coquetry nor self-interest to their secret relationship. She was not extravagant and was not interested in money or titles that could come from her situation; she wanted only the King's love. 
King Louis XIV of France

During her first pregnancy, Louise was removed from the Princess' service and established in a lodging in the Palais Royal, where, on 19 December 1663, she gave birth to a son, Charles. The infant was immediately taken from her and given to two faithful servants of  Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the minister of finance. The story quickly spread to Paris. The public scorn fallen upon Louise at the Christmas mass on 24 December made her run home from the church in despair.

Maria Theresa, the King's wife, was extremely venomous towards Louise during the five-year love affair, continuing even after the affair really ended, unaware that the king had taken another mistress.
Maria Theresa, the King's wife

After five years, Louise's favour was waning. She had given birth to a second son, Philippe, in 1665; but both children soon died: Charles in 1665, and Philippe in 1666. The third child, a daughter, was born on 2 October 1666. 
Louise and her children

In 1667 Louis XIV legitimised his daughter, who was named  Marie Anne de Bourbon and was given the title of Mademoiselle de Blois. Louis XIV also made Louise a duchess and gave her the estate of Vaujours. As a duchess, Louise had the right to sit on a tabouret in the presence of the queen, which was a highly prised privilege. 
Marie Anne de Bourbon, Louise's daughter

However, Louise was not impressed. She said her title seemed a kind of retirement present given to a servant who was retiring.

On 2 October of 1667 Louise gave birth to their fourth child, a son named Louis, but by this time her place in the King's affections had been usurped by Francoise-Athenais, marquise de Montespan, whom both she and the queen (both pregnant when the affair began) had thought of as a trusted friend. Under the pretence of her pregnancy, Louise was sent away to Versailles while the King and the court were at the scene of the war; however, she disobeyed the King's orders and returned, throwing herself at his feet sobbing uncontrollably. 

In a strange twist of fate, she ended her relationship with the King in the same way in which she started: used initially as a decoy for Louis and Henrietta, Louise now became a decoy for her own successor, as Louis made her share the Marquise de Montespan's apartments at the Tuileries to prevent the legal manœuvres of the Marquis de Montespan (who wanted to get his wife back) and to keep the court from gossipping. Mme de Montespan demanded that Louise assist her with her toilette, and Louise did so without complaint. Whenever the king wished to travel with his real mistress, Athénaïs, he made both Louise and Athénaïs sit in the same carriage with the queen. Since Athénaïs was married, it meant that both the king and she were committing adultery, a mortal sin. Louise had refused a smokescreen marriage for this very reason. 
Marquise de Montespan

Mlle de La Vallière was the godmother of Athénaïs' and Louis XIV's first daughter, who was given the first name Louise. Louise hated being the decoy for Athénaïs and begged and wept often to be allowed to join a convent. She took to wearing a hair shirt, and the strain of being forced to live with her former lover and his current mistress caused her to lose weight and become increasingly haggard.

In 1674 Louise was finally permitted to enter the Carmelite convent under the name of Sister Louise of Mercy.

At the convent Louise was forbidden to wear the shoes that allowed her to walk without a limp. "When I shall be suffering at the convent", Louise replied, "I shall only have to remember what they made me suffer here, and all the pain shall seem light to me." The day she left, she threw herself at the feet of the Queen, begging forgiveness: "My crimes were public, my repentance must be public, too."
Sister Louise of Mercy

She took the final vows a year later, accepting the black veil from the queen herself, who kissed and blessed her. The queen already had a habit of spending brief sojourns at the convent for spiritual consolation and repose. Interestingly, later in life, Mme de Montespan went to Louise for advice on living a pious life. Louise forgave her, and counselled her on the mysteries of divine grace.

In 1683 Louise's son Louis died at the age of 16 after being involved in the court scandal and sent to exile in Flandres.  His father, the King of France, did not shed a tear. His mother, still obsessed with the sin of her relationship with the King, said upon hearing of her son's death: "I ought to weep for his birth far more than for his death".

Louise died in 1710. The Duchy of La Valliere went to her daughter Marie Anne as did the fortune she had acquired during her life as Louis's mistress.

Louis XIV of France never visited her at the convent...

P.S. Louise De La Valliere is famous not only for being the King's mistress but for her artistic, literary and philosophical interests. During her years at the convent she focused in particular on virtue theory. 

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And of course, a few photos of the doll I made having inspired by Louise de LaVallière's personality:

Friday, 7 November 2014


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Two of my dolls had already been in progress when I realised that I want to start the third one. And I was absolutely sure who it should be. No doubt!  It will be my husband portrait doll. 

From the very first lesson I was fascinated by the idea to create a portrait doll. In my thoughts I was often sculpturing any random face that attracted my attention in the street or better in the bus or metro. A stranger is sitting in front of you and you have enough time to scrutinise any of his or her features, facial muscles and wrinkles... Such imaginary modelling seemed rather easy. Just take the clay and start kneading it and shape the desired character. At that moment I didn't comprehend how difficult it was!

Why did I pick my husband's image for a portrait doll? The answer is very simple. There were two main reasons for this. First, his face is very interesting for modelling, so called "sculptural" type of face. And second, this is a model which is always available! Invite him to make himself comfortable on the sofa (which he is so eager to do), and he is at your disposal for as many hours as you need. 

It didn't take me long to realise how insidious turned the apparent simplicity of the task. The features which were so dear and familiar to me refused to merge into clay. I always thought that I can recognise this face blindly just touching it and I believed that my finger memory will easily transform my tactile feelings into sculpture. Nothing of that kind!

I had been torturing my clay piece for the whole week. Thanks to my husband, he didn't mind numerous time-consuming posing sessions. Most of the time he was happily lying on the sofa, reading a newspaper or watching TV. From time to time he was checking my work and making some critical remarks, like: "My eyes are much bigger!" or "This wrinkle is not so deep!" This was another revelation for me: every person subconsciously wants to look younger and better than he is. And the artist must do this without loosing the portrait resemblance.

Finally the sculptured head was ready and approved by my husband. I sewed the clothes - a miniature copy of those he wears in his life: jeans, a shirt with a vest and a linen scull-cap. I gave him an umbrella, and his beloved Louis Vuitton handbag, and the newspaper he likes to read. 

Of course, the doll is also called Grigory like its prototype. It has been exhibited at several fairs and now it is peacefully standing on the cupboard. It gives us joy and pleasure! 

Thursday, 6 November 2014


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The idea of my second doll came to me unexpectedly. I was buying the necessary materials for my first doll Dorothy and while selecting the clay my eye fell upon a chocolate brown pack of "Living Doll" clay. The colour was amazing - bright and rich hue of delicious Swiss chocolate bar. The shop assistant explained to me that this clay was used for the black Afro-American dolls. I felt an amazing thrill as the numerous vivid Afro-American images flashed in my mind - one by one - jazz musicians, black movie stars, fashion models, street dancers and of course... soul singers! 

That tiny piece of brown clay turned a true revelation for me!  At that very moment I literally saw the doll I wanted to make: a sad and tired blues singer diva. Big melancholy eyes, long lashes, heavy eyelids with silver shadows, plump lips and sharp cheekbones. I heard her harsh and deep voice singing a dramatic blues song somewhere in a New Orleans music bar... Sparkling silver electric rays shine through the heavy and smoky air and light up her sad face.  The people are applauding her but she remains indifferent, she is too exhausted by the fans' annoying admiration, men's ambiguous compliments and her own solitude...

I grabbed a pack of brown clay and started sculpturing the head as soon as I got home. Of course, the task turned much more difficult than I expected: the character face with big eyes and wide nostrils was slipping through my fingers... It took me three days to catch the features and the expression I was striving for. 
My blues diva is wearing a long lilac silk dress with violet lace cuffs. The front slit shows us her slim legs in high-heels silver shoes. Silver leather and lilac silk match the lady's dark skin perfectly. She has long hanging earrings and a long necklace; two rings are sparkling on her fingers: one with a diamond and the other - with an amethyst. 

I called my diva Chantalle.  She is holding a microphone in her hands and is singing a sad blues song. Listen to her and enjoy the melancholy melody and the singer's deep sensual voice. 

Y’en a qui élèvent des gosses au fond d’un H.L.M.
Y’en a qui roulent leurs bosses du Brésil en Ukraine
Y’en a qui font la noce du côté d’Angoulême
Et y'en a même qui militent dans la rue avec tracts et banderoles
Et y’en a qui en peuvent plus de jouer les sex-symbols
Y’en a qui vendent l’amour au fond de leur bagnole

Mademoiselle chante le blues
Soyez pas trop jalouses
Mademoiselle boit du rouge
Mademoiselle chante le blues

Y’en a huit heures par jour qui tapent sur des machines
Y’en a qui font la cour, masculine, féminine
Y’en a qui lèchent les bottes comme on lèche des vitrines
Et y’en a même qui font du cinéma, qu’on appelle Marilyne
Mais Marilyne Dubois sera jamais Norma Jean
Faut pas croire que le talent, c’est tout ce qu’on s’imagine

Mademoiselle chante le blues
Soyez pas trop jalouses
Mademoiselle boit du rouge
Mademoiselle chante le blues

Elle a du gospel dans la voix et elle y croit

Y’en a qui se font bonne sœur, avocat, pharmacienne
Y’en a qui ont tout dit quand elles ont dit je t’aime
Y’en a qui sont vieilles filles du côté d’Angoulême
Y’en a même qui jouent femmes libérées
Petit joint et gardénal, qui mélangent vie en rose et image d’Épinal
Qui veulent se faire du bien sans jamais se faire du mal

Mademoiselle chante le blues
Soyez pas trop jalouses
Mademoiselle boit du rouge
Mademoiselle chante le blues

Thursday, 30 October 2014


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Hello, my dear friends! Now I would like to present you all my dolls I made for the past three years. I will show them to you one by one in chronological order. And of course I will start my story with the very first one!
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Here I was... Sitting in the classroom and listening to our doll making teacher... She was telling us about the wonderful world of dolly creatures. Before we came to the first class, we had been told to think over the image of our first doll we were going to create. It didn't take me a second - it looked like my cherished image was lying somewhere deep in my mind ready to pop out when called up. It is little DOROTHY from "The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz". 
The fairy tale translated into Russian by Alexander Volkov was one my favourite in my childhood.  
I adored them all: the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, the Cowardly Lion, the trustworthy black dog Toto... And the girl - little brave Dorothy - was my hero!  She was sweet and simple, sprightly and energetic. She lived in the present and didn't trouble herself with much anxiety and worry about the future. This is exactly the character I wanted to be all my life. 

While preparing for the classes I made some sketches of how my Dorothy should look like. 
I wanted to represent her at that very moment when a whirling cyclone took her farm house up into the sky and swept it towards the Emerald City. 
I imagined how she was sitting on the doorstep hugging her small back dog Toto and pointing out at the beautiful land showing up at the horizon. "Look, Toto, look where we are flying!" - she kept saying. Of course such composition was not easy to accomplish because I had to make Toto and the house as well. But I decided to act like my beloved Dorothy - first I will make the doll and then I will take care of the others.  No worry.  Everything comes in its due turn. 

I started sculpturing Dorothy's face at the class and then continued my work at home. I made an inevitable mistake which all beginners do - the face turned out very elderly.  It looked like a granny's face, not that of a small cute girl. The face was rather interesting and vivid, but absolutely old. I must admit that I lost my heart at that point and decided to change the character I was working on. It is awful, isn't it?  I told myself: "Since it looks like a granny, let it be a granny doll, but the second doll will be my Dorothy". 

I came to the next class with this decision in mind and shared my cowardly plan with the teacher. The teacher was very wise. "No, my dear! You should never do that!  You shouldn't  betray your character just because of the poor sculpturing.  Remember the doll making rule: IT IS YOU WHO MAKES THE DOLL BECAUSE YOU ARE THE ARTIST.  THE DOLL SHOULD NOT DECIDE WHAT CHARACTER IT WANTS TO BE. IT'S UP TO YOU TO DECIDE AND STICK TO YOUR DECISION". 

She took my work and manipulated with her stick over Dorothy's clay head. She showed me how easily I can correct my sculpturing mistakes. In five minutes the elderly face's right side changed to a girl's one. "Now please do the same with the left side of the face, my dear" - the master said. "I am sure you will make a perfect little girl". After I had worked on the face for an hour I finally saw a smiling funny baby face looking at me. Of course it wasn't perfect, but no doubt it was a girl! A small sweet girl!  

Now looking back at that episode I feel so grateful to my teacher for that important lesson. I am following her advice in every doll I make. I pick up the image I want to create and work on it until the desired character begins looking at me. 

My first doll was successfully finished a month later. I made Toto from the same clay and glued some black sheep's fur to it.

While making a house wall with the door I was assisted by my husband - he made the wooden frame which I covered by cardboard and then painted it. 
DOROTHY doll has been exhibited at several dolls fairs. But I don't sell it since it is my talisman. It brings me luck. For me this little girl is a vivid example of how easily the obstacles can be overcome if you are brave, open-hearted, honest and simple.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014


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It's my pleasure being with you again, my dear friends! We are just two steps away from the finale of the story.

Last time when we met the Viola Player doll, he got the new hair and turned into a very handsome artistic personage.

The doll fair-exhibition began the next day after the hair cutting and styling. The theme of my doll exposition was "Masks and Masked Doll Characters".  The portrait doll of Mr.Yury Bashmet didn't fit the theme at all. But I was so eager and impatient to show Maestro's new look to the world that I brought him to the fair and simply put the doll on the table before me.  

By the way, I forgot to mention that Mr.Bashmet celebrated his 60th jubilee in January 2013. The celebration was widely covered in the mass media and Maestro attracted a lot of attention at that time.  That was another reason why I wanted to exhibit my Viola Player doll at the March 2013 fair when Yury Bashmet's name was still on everyone's lips.

For three days Mr.Bashmet has been sitting on the Viennese chair holding his feminine-shaped viola and smiling cunningly at the fair guests. Needless to say that he had greater success than my masked dolls. What flattered me a lot is that people especially praised his hands. I was happy! 

On the fair last day when I was busy sewing something at the back of my exhibition cubicle I suddenly heard a voice saying over my head: "Oh, God, luckily you didn't sell him yet!" I raised my eyes and saw a young man pointing to the Viola Player doll. He introduced himself and told me that he was working for Maestro. He had already seen the doll two days ago and decided to buy it as a gift for Mr.Bashmet's jubilee. He photographed the doll on his phone and showed the picture to the musician's close friend. The friend approved the doll and the idea of such gift.  So my customer returned to the fair on the last day to buy the doll. The Viola Player doll was carefully packed and handed to the customer. 

I was so overjoyed that I couldn't remember how the fair ended. Shame on me that I didn't make any picture of the doll while it was exhibited.  After the fair had finished I asked one my friends visiting me those days to share his photos with me.  So the only piece of evidence I have now is this poor phone made picture:
This is the happy end of the story. I do hope that my doll made its own long and hard way to the lucky finale. The best lot for the portrait doll is to be gifted to the prototype. I am extremely happy that it happened to my Viola Player doll. My special thanks to dear Ms.N whose critics, though being rather bold, encouraged me to improve my work and get a better result.

Happy jubilee, dear Maestro! Viva music!

P.S. Dear friends, don't forget to photograph the work you are making! Our creations leave us, but the memory of them should stay with us forever.