Exclusive interview with fine dollmaker Jamie Carrington

For dolls’ lovers, here is another exclusive interview with a very fine dollmaker, Jamie Carrington, who will be one of the judges at a doll-making competition at the Kensington Dollhouse Festival in May 2012. There is a prize for under 18s (£100 to spend at the KDF Christmas festival in December 2012), and for over 18s – 1 night at a top hotel in Kensington for the KDF Christmas show plus a day’s workshop with Jamie Carrington.

Q: When did you start making dolls? How old were you?

A: I started, as a child, making puppets and pulling my sister’s dolls apart to see how they were constructed. Thank goodness she was never interested in them anyway so I hid the wreckage in the trunk where they were stored.

Q: What made you want to do it?

A: I was fascinated by the proportions of the human body and wanted to create my own people. Fortunately my father, in the front of the house, had a cobblers shop and my mother, in the back, was a dressmaker so there were always scraps of fabric and leather to play with and sewing machines were freely available to experiment on. Fortunately, after a failed career as an actor and dancer, I became a costumier and learned all about the problems of the human frame and how gravity effects even the greatest among us.

Q: How did you acquire the skills to make dolls?

A: It was, sort of, natural to me but then I’ve always drawn people and I’m interested in the way they work. But the main way I acquire my new skills is to teach. My students take a new approach to my old ways and I learn to change my habits. Very hard to change but I love it when I stop fighting.

Q: Who inspired you the most in the doll making world?

A: Virtually everyone I meet inspires me. I’m lucky to travel all over showing my work but, more important to me, viewing others work. A tiny detail can change the way I work and the miniature world is full of the most generous artists who never mind sharing new skills, new mediums and new techniques.

Q: What’s your favourite doll (from the most commercial dolls currently on the market)?

A: That’s like saying ‘which is your favourite child’. They each have joys to bring so each one I see is perfect, though certain doll makers I’m in awe of, They know who they are, just watch me at a show drooling over his, or hers, table.

Q: What makes a doll valuable/appealing for a collector to be prepared to pay a high price for it?

A: A figure has to touch a collector, it should tell a story, convey an emotion to make a figure valuable to the person. Quite often a customer will tell me what the figure is thinking or doing which is very different to what I imagined they were doing or thinking but I would never correct them. So then the figure becomes very precious to the new owner.

Q: Have you have sold a doll to a celebrity/celebrities? If yes, to whom?

A: Of course I have, in fact all my customers are celebrities.

Jamie lives on his own, in dollmaker’s chaos – we use too many tools, fabrics, paint, lace, silks and hair so if we put them all away each time they were used we would never get any work done – and that’s our excuse! All what seemed like a series of wasted careers have now though paid off. The dancer gives movement to my work, the actor creates drama and the costumier gives me the ability to manipulate fabrics with gravity.

I teach for The International Guild of Miniature Artisans – for which I am a Fellow – In Castine Maine. This will be my 12th year and in Tune, Denmark. Ursem in the Netherlands and show at Kensington, Chicago, Teaneck, New Jersey and Philadelphia each year.

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