Interview with Heather Louise Bennett of The Doll Farm
I first came across The Doll Farm dolls when I was walking through Environment Furniture on Beverly Blvd and the dolls literally jumped out at me! Three uniquely different Marie Antoinettes standing 24″ tall bursting with whimsy and color? Who makes these dolls? Naturally I went home, researched and discovered the mastermind behind such surreal fun is South Salem-based Heather Louise Bennett. The more I looked at her dolls, the more I wanted one.
When The Elephant Girl became available recently on Etsy, I knew she was the first of my future collection. There are multiple reasons why I love her: she’s 18 inches tall and stands on her own, she’s got a killer outfit with wonderful details, she’s quirky, she’s quiet but full of personality and she has a pink trunk for a nose! Who’s behind such delightful madness? My curiosity piqued and I had to ask. Here’s my interview with Heather.
She’s so funky cute! Where did you get the idea for the elephant girl?
The idea for her came quite unexpectedly. I made a series of embroidery faced dolls with no noses and they just sat in my studio for ages. No one was really interested in buying them. So one day I was just looking at the 4 of them and I had this funky arm I was working on for another doll and I just was messing around by putting the arm between their eyes and it was like Pop! Then they all just needed to be elephants right then and there and they sold fairly quick after the transformation.
Where are you from? What was your upbringing like?
I was born in Texas, but I cannot honestly say I’m a Texan as I have little to no memory of ever being there. My dad was in the military so we were total nomads and the constant moving turned me into a very restless person. I went to 3 different high schools and went on to attend 5 different colleges. By the time I got out and away from school I was totally pooped—yet I lived in a few more cities, a million more apartments and even spent a few years in Europe. So when I came to start sitting and sewing, it felt great to relax and I have been sitting and sewing for the past 5 years!Making up for lost time I guess.
Did you draw and play with dolls a lot as a child?
I did both! As weird as it is to admit this I was a total Henry Darger:
I loved locking myself up in my room or in a secluded place and drawing these sagas for hours. I would talk aloud while I drew and have all my dolls around to listen. One day my brother walked in on me and he was like, “ Who in the crap are you talking to?”
Have you always been crafty?
If by crafty you mean that I can make anything out of odd materials Id have to say I am definitely not crafty!lol I’m not good at figuring out patterns, I cant knit or crochet, I cant braid hair and I can barely install batteries into my remote control…I mean I can only have one concentration at a time or fires will start popping up everywhere.
How was the Doll Farm born?
Well..the name “The Doll Farm” is new. I knew I had to stop screwing around and get focused. In keeping with my escapist attitude, Ive had many different aliases such as : the late night milk run,pencil fight and Heather Louise Dolls. People kept saying, “what was your web site again? Blue pencil, pencil milk? Heather pencil? So..the time had come for the doll farm to take all the confusion away.
What inspired the name?
Well..I don’t know..it just fits. I make my dolls in chunks meaning I make many at a time so its like Im farming in a way. I guess..lol
Where do you find inspiration/ideas for your dolls?
Anywhere and everywhere. World history, people watching, music, interior design, architecture, fashion, pop culture—all of it. I have my antennas tuned in and I’m looking to be inspired by anything that comes through my filter. I love looking at old turn of the century cartoons, graffiti, graphic design, paintings, art blogs, old photographs, weird plants, cuttle fish, sci-fi movies from the 1980s—and everything else under the sun.
What is your creative process like? Do you sketch an idea first?
I do. I sketch a lot. It’s a habit I got into when I was training to be a painter in college. Materials are expensive and its important not to waste time and money so I make sure Ive got the sketched worked out before the scissors hit the fabric.
What do you do when you are stuck creatively?
I love getting stuck creatively –actually! lol—It’s the only time I’m allowed to stop working. I work around the clock—I’m obsessive about sewing and getting these characters out and its not odd for me to not leave the house for days. When I do get stuck on an idea I just ride it out. I go out and do stuff out doors until the ideas find me– and they always find me. I work so hard sometimes my fingers burn!
All of your dolls are made with such attention to details… how long does a doll usually take to make?
It really depends on the doll. Some dolls I can make in a day and some dolls take a week or two. My dolls come in all different sizes from 4 inches to 4 feet tall! Its also contingent on my spazz levels. Some collections seem to take forever if I feel drained or if I’m distracted.
What do you love about your dolls?
I love how they look like they are caught in motion. Like you just walked in on them getting ready to take a bite out of your sandwich or like they were in mid conversation with someone or something and they just froze —like freeze tag. I strive to make them look alive in some way.
Your characters are full of childlike whimsy and personality. Do you ever think about creating children’s books?
I think it would be cool to have one of my stories published but I would worry that I would be too dark for children.
How do you see the Doll Farm evolving? What’s your ultimate dream for it?
My ultimate dream for the doll farm is to publish “the field guide to the doll farm” –a book telling the stories behind all the characters Ive made over the years..and then beyond that Id love to make stop action films using my dolls, shadow boxes and animation.
What’s your favorite dessert?
Hmmm…I do love cheese cake! I do I do!
Isn’t she lovely?
Isn’t she wonder-full?
Thank you Heather!!!