Tuesday, February 28, 2017

An Interview with Doll Artist Marry Tuthill

This month, I was privileged to interview a very unique doll artist who works in wood, Marry Tuthill, who has a wonderful Facebook page called Marry’s Lost and Found, as well as an Etsy shop.

I met her last fall during the Spoon River Scenic Drive.  I bought one of her fully articulated wooden dolls, aka, “Bittersweets” because they were so unusual.  My doll has long black hair and her stand is a repurposed lamp base.  Marry understands what Tottie and Miss Hickory did, too, that wood is a living substance.  Marry’s dolls remind one of the finest marionettes combined with the dignity of a Queen Anne doll.   Like me, Marry is interested in automatons and movement in dolls.  She also loves bronze statues and her work shows a careful understanding of movement as well as meticulous craftsmanship.  She is interested in animating all dolls, or giving the impression that they can move, hence any of her dolls could work as a mobile.  Marry intrigues me in many ways.  I am touched by her artist’s history because my grandfather was also a carpenter and my own father did a lot of woodworking.  They both were very fond of their tools and took care of them, just as I love my paint brushes, sculpting tools, and knitting needles.  Marry is that rare creature, both artist and collector, and her understanding and love of dolls comes through her work.

  1. How did you get into doll making?
     I guess it was a natural process. I started out taking the eye makeup off of a Barbie and then changing her lips.

Image may contain: one or more people and indoorMermaid by Marry Tuthill, Marry’s Lost and Found.

  1. Who is your favorite artist? Doll Artist?
    I love, love Gustav Klimt. As far as dolls I can play with a Madame Alexander adult dolls; my aunt had a case of dolls that I could look at for hours.

No automatic alt text available.Carved Mermaid Head as a Work in Progress. Marry Tuthill, Marry’s Lost and Found.

Image may contain: one or more people and outdoorMermaid Body as a Work in Progress.  Marry Tuthill. Marry’s Lost and Found.

  1. Do you collect dolls?  What kind?
     I don’t have a collection per se.  I have a Maxi doll from my childhood and a Jem doll that I rerooted  to be a redhead. I have a dozen or so.  One is antique, another papier mache, and I even have a Monster High bat girl.  So I don’t have a group of one maker, but a little of everything.

No automatic alt text available.One of Marry’s full articulated wooden dolls. Marry Tuthill. Marry’s Lost and Found.

  1. What inspires you?
    I never played with the dolls like my cousins. I always wanted to make the clothes, pose and build the tiny world around them.  The movement of a female automaton that could assume any position without losing a feminine style always interested me. The possibility of a MEGO Dorothy doll moving that way would have me fascinated.

Image may contain: 2 peopleDressed Dolls, including a redhead to the left.  Marry Tuthill, Marry’s Lost and Found.

  1. What other antiques or art sparks your interest?
    Woodworking and furniture are interests for me and are part of my own history.   The intricacies of a mechanical table that was made without power tools and the time and care of carving four claw feet that match perfectly intrigues me. I love my tiger maple clad treadle sewing machine.  Also, the thought that I get to use a 100 year old hand crank grinder in my day- to- day life to make my dolls is so fun. My tools being prettier than the things I make with them is so girly and fun!

Image may contain: 1 personOne of Marry’s Dolls in an Elegant Frock. Marry Tuthill, Marry’s Lost and Found.

6. Why do you use wood as a medium to create dolls?

My dad and granddad were wood workers. I made doll furniture  and then my own "bad" houses out of scraps. It wasn’t until four years ago that the lady wind chime became a doll that everyone wanted to touch and play with.  I get caught up in the way wood feels and the grain turns into an ankle or chick. They feel like they have been alive because the wood has been. More than once, I started one thing and the wood changed how the doll looked and her tone was much better for it.

No automatic alt text available.An example of Marry’s woodworking art. Marry Tuthill, Marry’s Lost and Found.

7. What do you think the future will hold for your art dolls?

I hope to keep playing with movement and size. Each doll is her own creation. The next one I make is my favorite, created with simple movement of45° hips with sculpted knees and legs that hang just so. I hope they make their next owner as happy as I am when I’m creating them.

 8. Are you looking for anything special?

As far as dolls, I look for old joints and craftsmanship. I love fashion art dolls and curvy porcelain. I love old bronze statues and would love to have them in motion. A doll that I want to play with is so hard to resist. It’s hard to say what that is, but you know it when you see it.