The only think I can say is that I love this artist.
So I introduce to you
Peggy Kemp, in her own words.
Nicole has asked me to talk
about my dolls and design process.
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love dolls. My sister and I played with them, made them clothes and accessories, and made dolls out of whatever we had to hand. I enjoyed sitting in the woods, making dolls and fairy houses out of moss and twigs.
I still do.
This is Linda in the new combinations I made for her after the fire. I got her for Christmas when I was 5, cut most of her blonde hair off the same day, and got her again with a long red wig and new clothes when I was 10. She was badly damaged in the fire and ended up with a bobbed haircut.
My mom taught me to embroider when I was 5. She was such a patient teacher! She would spend 10 minutes getting a knot out of her thread, something I still do. She transferred designs to old pillowcases or sheets and taught me all the stitches.
She never dictated what colors I used,
and I liked bright colors from an early age.
How do we evolve as artists? Either we specialize in one field and become very good at it, or we move through different interests and explore different media and ideas. In my teens, I started doing cross-stitch, and then needlepoint. I started with printed kits and French needlepoint canvases, and evolved into designing my own samplers, bookmarks, and Christmas ornaments.
I fell in love with fine Italian paper and leather and learned to bind books and set type. I applied to apprentice in the bookbinder’s union and was offered a position at the University of Washington bindery. I declined because it was a dark, smelly, stuffy and noisy place, all mechanized.
That wasn’t what I wanted to do.
In my 30’s I was living in the woods in northern California. My husband had Lyme Disease and I was studying alternative healing and making embroidered healing dolls under the seven strong oaks in our back 40. This was the start of my shamanic healing practice and healing spirit dolls. I introduced beads after I started doing couched gold work.
I moved to Kauai in 1999. I didn’t make dolls or anything else for nearly 6 years. I was in a hula halau and it took all of my spare time and energy. They say “Hula is Life.” It was my life for 6 years and I will always value the lessons I learned and the community of other dancers. After the death of my father and a big fire, I reconsidered my life and path. I missed making art on a regular basis, I missed the dolls and the person I am when I’m making them. I missed gardening. I decided to leave the halau and dedicate that time each week to making art.
The first doll I made was a jointed “paper doll” constructed from reinforced poster board and dressed in removable fabric clothes. I made her up in the mountains in Kokee,
where my new husband and I spent 5 nights on our honeymoon. She was made for my friend Kapua’s birthday and featured her face. She has a green body as befits a forest spirit. Searching for flower and leaf beads, I found Robin Atkins and her spirit dolls. She’s been a valuable mentor and friend ever since.
Where do I draw inspiration from? All around me, but especially from nature.
The next doll I made is called “Spirit of Croton”. It has a printed paper face and hundreds of tiny petals cut from croton leaves and glued down individually on a felt body. I still remember the burns I got from that glue gun. I don’t use much glue now… We were living in a tiny studio after the fire and the only landscaping was a long hedge of croton.
There followed many spirit dolls, gradually becoming more encrusted with beads. I tend to make things in cycles and when I get bored, I make something else. But everything I make has a “prayer in every stitch,” a focused intentional blessing for good.
One of my side-paths was into making pocket crowns. A good friend was going in for testing for a possible tumor, and she was anxious. She had been to a recent conference in which she was told she was a “Princess of God” and I wanted her to remember that. I made a tiny pocket crown that she could carry throughout the testing.
All my friends wanted one and they eventually got bigger and more elaborate. Matt told me he wanted to be a “Duke of God”, rather than a prince, so his says D-O-G.
The pocket crowns were my introduction to
Nicole’s BeadBacking, because I needed something to bead on that was soft and easily penetrated, but would keep its stiffness if it was carried in the pocket. The front was embroidered separately and attached with a picot stitch to the plain backing.
I spent many years making dolls of felt, gently stuffed. In 2015, I broke my leg and was laid up for a couple of months. I made a series of 21 healing dolls – 3 sizes of 7 colors that represented different healing principles. They are soft and plain on the back, so that you can comfortably hold them next to your face or heart. Some of these are still for sale on my website.
I made mermaids, too. Wailani was commissioned for a friend who lacked confidence, so that is what I focused on during making her.
When I’m working on a
Linking with Paint Party Friday.
Honor and integrity in art, in life.