Creative Lessons


with Leslie Molen

 I am so very fortunate that I have been able to create dolls for collectors and for my dear students for the past 20 years.

I find that art and business is an ever evolving and changing process, I am at a time in my life/career when I am making changes in my own business to give me the personal time I need to focus in on these skills to express and explore my own personal art that my heart so wants...needs. 

During the next year 2013, I will more personally, delve into the stories and myths of Chinese and Spanish Colonial art and who knows what else I will find along the path! My wish is to bring to you my journey through the textile arts I will as I look back over these Lessons in Finding Your Creative Path that I wish to share with you, it is also an awaking for me!

Since changing my direction 20 years ago, there have been so many lessons learned and rewards earned. It’s my desire to share those lessons that helped me to recognize and walk away from a life-style that adversely affected my health and life. 

Lesson 1. Know when to fold ‘em: One morning, feeling completely stressed out about the job I had worked for too many years, my uppermost desire was to get there and get it over with. While reflecting, this thought popped to mind, “If I have a car accident today, I won’t have to go to work.” That was twenty years ago and it defined my wake-up call.
So how did the transition occur from working in the dentistry field to doing the very thing that has always been in my heart and soul? And how do I keep it going? 
Lesson: Listen to yourself- you know.
Lesson 2. Just do it! There really was no game plan. Knowing of my complete dissatisfaction, my husband, Mark, posed the question, “What do you want to do?” The answer was to be an artist and work in fiber—cloth. At the time, doll makers were mostly hobbyists. With no mentors to turn to the 13 years I’d spent in dentistry management became the guide to a new career.
The adventure began with a visit to a former patient’s children’s clothing boutique. She welcomed me with, “Leslie, what are you doing these days?” After explaining about the dolls, she indicated interest so I asked, “What kind?” She said, “Funky rag dolls.” I assured her of my return in a week and hurried away with one thought, “Just do it! If you don’t start now, then when?” 
Lesson: Let your heart be your guide- Just do it without hesitation!

My first "professional" dolls 1992! 

Lesson 3.  Be brave but not too serious! A week later I returned with a wool rag doll and left with an order for 13! I loved those simply constructed little rag dolls and, looking back, still see that part of me--the love of cloth and working with my hands.  
Lesson: Bravery reaps benefits!

My first series of wool rag dolls 1992! 

Lesson 4. Find your market. After establishing that first retail outlet, what next? I signed up for a small craft show and set up a booth with a hooked rug on the floor and baskets filled with sunflowers and my sweet little rag dolls. As the day rolled on, the guy in the next booth was selling beer can airplanes as fast as he could take the money. I hadn’t made one sale. I knew my work was good so obviously craft shows weren’t the right marketplace for me.
At that show, my heart dropped as passersby whispered to each other, “I could make that doll!” 
Then, inspiration struck! “I can teach you how to make those dolls.” 
Lesson: Think creatively about how to make negative situations work for you---make lemonade.

Lesson 5. Jump in! Next, I piled those little dolls into a basket and took them to a local fiber shop and asked if they were interested in holding classes that I would teach. The first question was, “Do you have a pattern?” Of course the response was an indulgent but nevertheless enthusiastic, “Yes!” My teaching career was started. 
Lesson: Just jump in and be ever mindful that you can do it.
First Pattern-Dolls l to r: Doll with Colorful Soul, Folk Art Story Doll, Heart and Soul Doll.

My goal was to create each pattern with a new technique 
so my students" knowledge would grow with each pattern they made!

Lesson 6. Stay true and be Teflon. After many years my doll and pattern making were well established and a love of the process had evolved into many different techniques and styles. Developing those skills “spoke to me” and I found inventing “the new” to be thrilling. But the thrills didn’t come without glitches. Editors of crafts and needlework magazines wouldn’t publish my work because it couldn’t be pigeonholed into one specific category, and some retailers were reluctant to carry the patterns because my dolls were "sweet".
Then, at a doll show, Barbara Campbell, then an editor and now dear friend said she was impressed by my talent to capture so many varied techniques and styles while keeping a common thread or “signature” throughout the collection. That was and has remained my Eureka moment. 
Lesson: Stay true to yourself and your work. Don’t let the negative stuff stick!  

Recent Doll Patterns; Meow Meow Neko, Hunny Bunny, Ruby Radish, Etta, Tasha

Change and different techniques 
has now become my own personal trademark! 
Lesson 7. Keep learning and give yourself time. Most of us have dolls running around in our heads and our desires are to design them NOW! In his book, “Outliers,” author Malcolm Gladwell referred to research that indicated it takes 10,000 hours to become a master in any field. Personally, I can point nearly to the moment when that happened for me and yes, it was after 10 years of full-time doll making before I could say to a completed doll, “Yes! That’s it!”
Lesson: As much as this is a lesson for you, it is also a reminder to me. Learning leads to becoming the master we desire to be and learning is continuous. Perfection isn’t necessary at first. Allow yourself as much time as it takes and enjoy the journey.
Dragon Story Doll- Being the divine mythical animal, the Dragon can ward off wandering evil spirits, protect the innocent and bestow safety to all that hold his emblem. The Chinese Dragon is look upon as the ultimate symbol of Good Fortune. Everything connected with Chinese Dragons is blessed. 2012 is Chinese year of the Dragon.
Dragon Close up
Goldfish Story Girl:  The fish symbolizes a word for plenty, surplus, and enough to spare. It is an essential food. The fish is a homonym for jade. It is also a symbol for happiness, good luck, and abundance. The fish is able to beat all odds because it is able to swim against the current.
Goldfish Close up
©2010 Photography Mark Mortensen

Lesson 8. Step out of your comfort zone. Several years ago, I was showing my work at a Santa Fe doll show and beside me was NIADA artist Gail Lackey. I had invested great effort to design and make the best dolls of my career. At the show’s end, Gail asked if I had considered applying to become a NIADA artist. It had occurred to me but my career was doing well and I was comfortable. NIADA artists’ works were so defined that it was a challenge to take it on, but it was time to measure my abilities against the very best. It was a perfect fit! My art would not be where it is today had I not embraced that opportunity to move beyond comfortable.
Every year, as the conference looms, a new project causes me to be uneasy--but the consequence is continuing growth!
Lesson: Always, always push yourself in a positive direction!
Lotus Story Doll: The Lotus flower starts as a small flower down at the bottom of a pond in the mud and muck. It slowly grows up towards the waters surface continually moving towards the light. Once it come to the surface of the water the lotus flower begins to blossom and turn into a beautiful flower. The lotus flower stands for purity and beauty.
Lotus Close up
©2009 Photo by Robert Batey

Lesson 9. Keep a fresh eye. Understand that lives inevitably change and cause unexpected adjustments. My lesson was to learn that success could be overwhelming. Because I have loved teaching and have gained a wonderful group of students, my schedule has become overloaded with limited time to make the figures trapped in my head.
Lesson: Use a fresh eye to solve issues that simply aren’t working. To be free to design, you must adjust. My 2013 plan calls for time for myself to design and make the creations I have in my heart.
Swan’s hand sculpted stone-clay head is overlaid with silk crepe, a silk crepe body and costuming of silk, tulle decorated with Swarovski crystals and marabou feathers. Jointed knees and arms are useful for multiple poses for the 16” tall figure. She sits atop a handmade wooden stool with a music box that plays “Swan Lake.”
A close-up of Swan’s face shows off exquisitely delicate hand-painted details. The head sits upon a ball-joint that allows changing poses.
Snow’s head is also hand sculpted from stone-clay and overlaid with silk crepe. Costuming of silk with printed “Mirror, mirror on the wall” at skirt hemline. Hand-sculpted apple overlaid in silk velvet. Jointed knees and arms are useful for multiple poses for the 16” tall figure. She sits atop a handmade wooden stool.
Snow Closeup

©Snow and Swan- 2011 Photography Mark Mortensen
Handmade Stools- Gary Leitch

Lesson 10. Be grateful and walk in sunshine. Turn adversity around. Be happy and spread sunshine along your journey. We all face knocks in life and some may need more healing time than others.
Lesson: Be grateful and that will lead you in your own right direction.

Every time I turn the key to ROotie StudiO, I am grateful for my husband’s, family’s, friends’ and students’ support. I so look forward to pushing myself personally as an artist...stay tuned for new things 2013. 
This is my calling and I am one lucky lady!
   Leslie Molen, ROotie StudiO, 1855 S Pearl St, #5, Denver, CO 80210

Finding Your Creative Path © 
Copyright 2012 Leslie Molen / ROotie StudiO
            Article from Doll Collector Sept 2012
 editing: Barbara Campbell

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