LYNNE BUTCHER....dollmaker, designer and teacher
A little bit about myself.......
Like many mothers, I began making dolls when my children were babies. They were simply put together and were typical of the day, very basic with gingham dresses, yarn hair and lots of frilly lace. Dollmaking has progressed to an art form in only a matter of fifteen years and though there will always be a place for dolls as children's toys, many of today's dolls are masterful pieces of sculpture that tell a story and evoke powerful messages.
Cloth dollmaking is my passion.... I grew up in the 1950s and 60s surrounded by amazing fabrics and the great talent of my mother who earned her living as a fashion designer in Sydney, Australia. I had no need to learn to sew, in fact I rebelled and refused to learn...why compete with perfection?
My husband and I moved to Queensland in 1977 and had the first of our three children the following year. As they grew up I became involved with their schooling and joined the P&C and Mothers Clubs, helping to raise necessary funds for school equipment. It was while making craft items to sell for a fete that I realised how much I enjoyed the handwork. I began to make and sell simple original items at art shows. This was an enjoyable way to make a few dollars to supplement our income.
Before long, my work was in great demand and I was sewing and glueing everyday to fill my many orders. In 1992 I travelled with the family to America where I saw the most amazing cloth character dolls and knew on the spot that this was something I had to learn more about.
Australians were still making basic country dolls and I knew of no one who could show me how to make the sculptures I had seen, so I bought some samples and many patterns and carried them home to Australia to teach myself. As I had few sewing skills, this task proved to be more of a challenge than I had expected. But it wasn't long before I tired of simply making 'clones' of other people's dolls and decided to do my own thing!
I believe that having so few sewing skills helped to make me a more innovative dollmaker and designer. I was constantly asking myself how I could make things easier and quicker. I gained enough confidence to accept a teaching position that was offerred to me at the local TAFE college. Here I could utilise my teacher training and help adults create the dolls I loved. I thought I had it made! A student in one of these college classes introduced me to the owner of a local quilting store who in turn offerred me work as a tutor in her shop! There was much enthusiasm for my dolls and before long I was encouraged to set up a 'cloth doll club' in the store which met once a month. Within two years 'The 3-D Club' had grown from 18 to 200 and I was booked to speak at functions and teach all over Australia!
But I am jumping ahead of myself a bit... I took my first workshop as a student back in 1995 when Gloria McKinnon from Anne's Glory Box in NSW brought elinor peace bailey and Julie McCullough over from America to teach. I was in awe! The following year elinor came to Brisbane where I was living and she took me under her wing (something for which I am eternally grateful). She pushed and bullied me into becoming a designer and starting up the doll club. She really was the one that got me moving...she gave me confidence in myself and motivated me...thanks elinor!
Much of what elinor told me in those early days was not what I really wanted to hear...'you can do much better than that' and the like. Within months I had designed a small range of patterns and published them, marketed them and began teaching my designs.
Today in 2001 I can proudly say I have taught in many parts of Australia, I have seen tiny bush towns that I probably never would have visited if it wasn't for dollmaking. In 1999 I was invited to teach in America at the prestegious "Doll University" in San Francisco as the first (and to date only) Australian to have been asked. I taught there again this year along with other US venues. This year has also seen me travel twice to New Zealand to teach a number of workshops.
In 2000 at the first 'Doll-O-Rama' (a four day live-in doll symposium held in Brisbane), I proudly worked on the committee which saw 250 students attend along with 25 doll tutors. In one of the most moving experiences of my life, I was voted into the inaugural "Dollmakers Hall of Fame" by my peers.
I spend much of my life travelling the country-side teaching my designs and techniques. I try to set aside a couple of months each year for designing new patterns and workshops for the following year (this is usually done during December and January). I am planning to teach On-Line classes so that those students who, for whatever reason, can't get to work with me in person, can still experience the joy of creating a doll, that I try to share with my students.
I am constantly learning and changing my techniques. I have had great success playing with, and teaching my lycra-skin technique. This looks way more difficult than it really is, but the end results prove that almost anyone can achieve a wonderful and individual doll using this method.
I am in awe of dollmakers who create life-like dolls where they build a doll from the skeleton up using layers of batting over armatures. But these are skills that are too difficult and time-consuming for most dollmakers. My dolls are designed to be made in one or two days...I like instant gratification. My friends will tell you that though I am ever-so-patient as a teacher, I am not very patient when working on a doll of my own!
I think I have the best job in the whole world. Something which started out as a little hobby has turned into a full-time business. And though I am not making my fortune, I am enjoying the interaction with (mostly) women. I hear their stories, I feel their frustrations and joy, but mostly I can create and feel that what I am doing is worthwhile. I tell my students everyday that we as women have enough stress in our daily lives and do not need stress in our leisure activities. My workshops are very 'laid-back' and fun.
I hope I have the opportunity of meeting you somewhere in my travels. Please feel free to visit this website whenever you like for updates on new patterns and workshops.