Morrígan Makes a Friend: A Tale of Two Dolls

After my Lammily doll, Morrígan, became a gateway into the doll world for me, my grandmother decided it was time to give me this old storage tote. She informed me that the tote was full of old Barbie dolls that were leftover from my childhood. Intrigued and hoping to find dolls I could experiment re-roots and re-paints on, as well as potential friends for Morrígan, I lugged the dusty old tote into my apartment. I had no idea what I would find. Morrígan came downstairs to see what all the fuss was about. “What is THAT?” she asked.
“It’s a tote,” I said, “full of trinkets from my childhood.”
“Can I open it?”
“Go ahead. I’ll let you catalog the entire thing.”

GE

Morrígan stands, gazing at the tote of wonder.

What treasures lay hidden within your walls?

What treasures lay hidden within your walls?

Like finding sarcophagi, all the burial shrouds of the dead toys would needs to be removed to reveal the mummies inside.

Like finding sarcophagi, all the burial shrouds of the dead toys would need to be removed to reveal the mummies inside.

Some old stuffed animals, carefully packaged Beanie Babies that we once swore would be worth millions, and a dozen ceramic keepsakes were what we could see. At the bottom, buried under everything else, was a single Barbie doll: A mid-90’s remake of the original design. Her dress, her hair, and her body were smeared and blotched.

“Who is she?” asked Morrígan.
“Someone I haven’t seen since I was a child. Her name is Barbie,” I answered.
There was a sharp gasp. Barbie was waking up. I helped her to a chair as she tried to orient herself. “Where am I? Who are you? No… wait…” Barbie looked at me closely. She recognized me. “You’re so much older! How long have I been in that tote?”
“I think that answer might depress you. Here,” I motioned for Morrígan to sit in the empty chair, “there’s someone I’d like to introduce you to.”

GE

Barbie recounts her harrowing experience to Morrígan.

As Barbie rested to regain her strength, the two dolls faced each other. “Is this who everyone tells me I’m trying to replace?”, thought Morrígan. She looked over at me and then back at Barbie. She watched the stranger fall asleep in her chair and her mind began to stir with questions. So many questions.

**************************** To Be Continued ******************************

Advertisements

Creating a Narrative

“Beylerbayan Apek of Orhanli Beylerbeylik” by Gambargin on DeviantArt

Months before Lammily was completed and shipped out, she had a passport that could be customized by the buyer for each individual doll. The idea here is that while each doll is a Lammily doll, she could have her own, unique name and, by extension, her own personality or story variant. Indeed, so many of the Lammily dolls I come across in the Facebook groups have been given wonderful names and a few have developed personalities that are evident in the outfits the dolls are dressed in and the way they’re posed and talked about — yes, adults still have license to engage in imaginative play. It has taken me some time to find an identity for my doll.

The basic Lammily character story is that she is well traveled. This is a nod to the fact that her initial backing came from contributors all over the world. It’s a narrative that I like and that I think fits especially well with some of the themes of this blog – this is A’Cloth the World after all. The little booklet she comes with talks about some of the different countries she has been in – Canada, France, Australia, Italy, England, the United States – all Western countries. So, I’m imagining some of her travels into other parts of the world – Japan, India, Turkey – and some of the friends she might make and clothes she might wear. I’m trying to imagine where she might be from originally – just because I’m American doesn’t necessarily mean she is. I mean, she might be. But maybe she’s British? Or maybe she’s Spanish? Or Turkish? Or Russian? Or a combination of any of these? Because of her brown hair and tan-ish skin tone, there are a half dozen plausibilities – each of which provides an opportunity to learn about different clothing traditions and some history.

I’m actually kind of enjoying constructing a backstory for my doll. It makes me feel very nostalgic – I used to write short stories and fan fiction frequently when I was younger. I just have to be careful I don’t get so sucked into the details that I forget to sew anything, lol!

As of this evening, I have officially named her and we (yes, my doll and I – don’t judge 😛 ) are on our way to hashing out her story. Her name is Morrígan Çelik. Her mother is Irish and her father is Turkish. She is intelligent and curious, but very headstrong. Her mother would tell her the story of Cuchulain before bed and she would dream of epic battles and facing down snarling dogs with her bare hands. Her father taught her how to play the bağlama as a child and she plays as a way to relieve stress after a long day. (I will now have to figure out how to make a doll sized bağlama, lol.) Morrígan is a huge fangirl – she has posters of David Tennant, Tarkan, Imran Khan, and CM Punk on her wall.

Emulation: Introduction

Last night, I was watching one of my favorite movies, Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom. I always loved the Indiana Jones movies as a child.. indeed, Indy was a role model of sorts for me during my formative years, and is still very much a personal hero. (How else do you think I got interested in Anthropology? LOL)

My Hero, Indiana Jones

Anyhow, as I was watching Indy travel through the jungle and narrowly escape being crushed to death, I couldn’t help but think to myself: I want his outfit. This is not the first time I have thought this to myself..  in fact a few years back I spent hours looking into just where his outfit came from. What company made his jacket? Where can you get an authentic looking hat? What dye combination is needed to make a white button up shirt look that dingy tan/grey color?

Then my mind springboarded from that and I started asking myself why I wanted to dress like him.. Or why, for that matter, does anyone want to emulate someone or something else? We see it all the time in advertisements.. we use big name celebrities to market this product or that because we know that the fans will buy said product in order to emulate their hero. Indeed, the only time I have ever spent over $100 on a pair of shoes was for just such a reason – I bought a pair of Nike Shox because I was obsessed with House, and those are the shoes he wears. (They were actually very good shoes, and while my motivation for purchasing them may have been misguided, I don’t entirely regret the purchase.)

If you follow Japanese fashion (or even just contemporary Japanese culture) at all, you might be familiar with Cosplay: generally, dressing up as a character from an anime or manga. Perhaps you’ve even heard of furries – anthropomorphic animal cartoons/ a person incorporating an animal into his/her cosplay attire?  I’m willing to bet money, if you know what I’m talking about, this is all pretty normal to you.. you may even be a LARPer. If not, you’re going to learn all about it in upcoming blogs (Come to the Nerd Side!). You may even be shocked to learn (if you’re not already aware) that this strange practice is centuries old. Yes.. people have been dressing up as animals for hundreds of years. Yes, I’m talking about animism and shamans here folks – hard core anthropology fodder.  And it is with the shamans that I will begin my investigation into the significance of emulation in fashion and culture next week.

Thoughts About: Embroidered Textiles by Sheila Paine

A couple of posts back, one of my readers gave me what has been perhaps the nicest compliment I have been paid to date. She commented upon the amount of thought and research I put into my posts, and that really made my day.  I am always reading and doing research on different textile traditions, DIY procedures, symbolism, etc. I thought I might give an overview and share a few of my thoughts on what I feel are some of the more influential works I have encountered. I will henceforth call this category of posts “Thoughts About”.

The last couple of weeks I have been reading Embroidered Textiles: A World Guide to Traditional Patterns by Sheila Paine. I borrowed a copy from my local library, but after having read it, I will certainly be purchasing a copy to add to my bookshelf for continual reference.
This book is full of brilliant, stunning photos and information about embroidery from around the world. She breaks the information down into 4 chapters.

The first of these is “Guide to Identification” which breaks down major traditions by region and points out key identifying elements of the embroidery work. I have to give her props for including a brief mention of Hmong (which she refers to as Miao… which is indeed another name, but by and large they prefer to be called Hmong) and their work, which I wholeheartedly admire.

Chapters two and three, “The Decorative Power of Cult” and “Religion and its Patterns” respectively, deal with symbolism within embroidery as it relates to the divine and otherworldly. Both chapters look at meanings and how some of the representations have changed through time.  The only real difference between the chapters is that “cult” refers to earlier objects of worship such as the sun and the goddess and significant events like hunting, whereas “religion” is meant to refer to major religions as we know of them them today with their rules and structure, such as Christianity and Buddhism.

The final chapter, “The Magical Source of Protection”, looks at decoration as charm or talisman. Locations of stitchwork, beads or trinkets that are added into the embroidery, even the colors used all have a function and a meaning.

I love this book because it is such a rich source of information on symbolism and communication within textiles around the world… everything that I am interested in and that this blog serves to discuss. I will likely be referencing this book again and again in the future. 🙂

He’s a Real Nowhere Man

I know it’s been a few weeks since my initial post, and I apologize for that. I’ve been extremely busy most of the month. I’ve sat down and given this blog a healthy dose of will power and fiber, so I promise this thing will be regular from here on out 🙂

Earlier this year I started playing around with old jeans and scraps of denim. I didn’t really have any rhyme or reason, I was just toying around, not really knowing what I would make, what these old pieces of jeans would become… kind of like streams of consciousness crafting, lol.  I wasn’t far into anything when I got called into doing some other major project and my little nowhere man got shoved into a forgotten corner of the fabric heap.

My Little Nowhere Man

Well, I have finally reunited myself with my little nowhere man, and have started working on him once more. Only now, I have all these ideas running through my head.. I’ve decided that my nowhere man needs a purpose.. he should be going somewhere.

I considered what he is.. he is essentially pieces of recycled denim being handsewn together like a patchwork quilt. So I thought more about the concept of combining blue jeans and quilts… and thought to myself, a denim quilt, even a small one, would be kind of heavy and cumbersome.  That was out. I thought about building on him and making him into a couch pillow.. but I felt that my nowhere man needed to be seen out in the world. He needs to be worn. But how?

I thought about what he symbolizes, what he represents.. I looked at the history and cultural significance of blue jeans in America. They say that the average American owns 7 pairs of jeans. I am no exception.. in fact, I own about 10 pair. So I did some research.. here are some of the more interesting parts of blue jean history, for your amusement:

  • Despite the fact that denim has actually been around longer than the USA and was developed in Europe some 500 years ago blue jeans have become a distinctly American wardrobe.
  • The word “jeans” comes from the name Genoa, where sailors wore pants made of a kind of rough cotton/ linen blend material(1).
  • The officially recognized birthdate of the blue jeans we know and love today is May 20, 1873. It was on this day that Levi Strauss got the patent to add rivets for added durability. The idea of Jacob Davis, who sold the idea to Strauss and went into business with him (3).  Blue jeans started off as the sturdy and long lasting pants worn by the miners, the scores of men searching for gold, and most any hard working laborer because they were rugged and didn’t rip and tear as easily. Because of this, jeans are tied into that American dream, that hunt for fortune and glory of the prospectors and into the notion of self-reliance and a hard days work.

It was Hollywood that really helped to push the image of blue jeans. Most of the world thinks of blue jeans and thinks of the cowboy or the American Old West. Indeed, according to Wikipedia:

In Spain they are known as vaqueros (“cowboys”) or tejanos (“Texans“), in Danish cowboybukser
meaning “cowboy pants” and in Chinese niuzaiku (SC: 牛仔裤, TC: 牛仔褲), literally, “cowboy pants”
(trousers), indicating their association with the American West, cowboy culture, and outdoors
work. Similarly, the Hungarian name for jeans is “farmer” (short for “farmernadrág”, meaning
“farmer’s trousers”).

Before Hollywood started making westerns and depicting cowboys wearing jeans, cowboys actually hadn’t worn jeans as a regular thing. Of course, the movies and John Wayne helped to change that.
It was in 1950’s that started to bring about the association of jeans with rebelliousness, non-conformity and youth. Teenagers were wearing jeans more often, and movies like “Rebel Without a Cause” with James Dean and “The Wild One” with Marlon Brando gave rise to the image of the American bad boy, the wild child anti-hero. And what was this iconic anti-hero wearing? Blue jeans (and a leather jacket, but that will be another post for another day).  Did you know blue jeans were actually banned from schools and other public places because they were connected to this troublemaker image?

Marlon Brando in "The Wild One"

Movie poster for "Rebel Without a Cause"

I thought about all these connotations, all these icons and images that are wrapped up into the very soul of the substance I was working with. I thought about the social and environmental implications of my making this.. thing.. strictly out of old blue jeans, and that I am not using my sewing machine at all and doing all the work by hand. My mind took a tangent off into the realm of Etsy and what kind of meaning that has for us, for those of us who have gotten tired of cookie cutter fashion and big corporations controlling what we buy, what we think. I thought of how 50-60 years ago, or more, Americans knew more about how to make their own clothes and alter them themselves. I thought about how few of those of us who sew our own clothes in America today know how to draft their own patterns.. we buy readily available patterns from McCall’s or Simplicity or whoever. All we have to do is trace and ta-da! I thought about that, and how girls in Japan draft their own patterns from ゴスロリ(Gosu Rori) and the like as if it were nothing. I feel like I’m in the middle of some kind of Pro-Green, Anti-Consumer Culture, Anti-Walmart-and-all-it-stands-for, Neo-Self-Reliance Revolution…  and how, somehow, my little nowhere man is supposed to be this unifying visual symbol for all of these concepts and ideas.

And then I remembered my Peirce (Semiotics) and what my nowhere man really began as.. a nowhere man. And I think he would look pretty cool as the back panel of a denim jacket when he grows up.

Sources

  1. http://www.jeans-and-accessories.com/history-of-blue-jeans.html
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeans
  3. Confidential: Blue Jean Confidential via Youtube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YK-JRxrprAA