Dear Friends and Family


My "doll of the month" (see if you don't know what I am talking about) is La Femme. I realised, with a shock, that I've got a week left to work on her. She's been the most difficult doll so far - I just could not "make a connection". At first, I thought I'd turn her into a "Folies Bergère" dancer (since she's French), all in black satin and lace, red velvet, fishnet, ostrich feathers and spangles - make her really sexy and showy. But she did not want to. I was going to cut up a curly red wig of mine for her, but she did not want that either. I was, most of all, unhappy with her proportions, so I started work re-shaping her body. She was happy with that. The surgery was drastic. She got a waist, hips and a bottom, shorter arms and bigger feet, and I smoothed out some of her bumps and made her breasts the same size. As I worked on her, she looked more and more like a visionary - she sort-of gazes into the distance with a faraway Joan of Arc look in her eyes. At present I am nearly done covering her in lace "armour". I hope I finish by Thursday…


Thus I wrote, today. But it is not true that I was “mostly” unhappy with her proportions. I also hate the kitsch stuff in the shelves of her box – especially the white “snot” used to glue down some of it. I have puzzled and puzzled about how to remedy the situation. If I have time, I’m going to pull it all off. I’ll put the animals and the jeeps from Antoinette’s “African Safari” in a little box. Squares and oblongs will harmonise with the clean lines, and will help return the whole to the “look” originally intended – pure, virginal, sanctified, holy. I feel very irritated, cross, frustrated – how can some people be so insensitive, not even attempt to understand? I am gatvol fixing up: the first thing that happened is that the wheels broke off. The way they’d been attached damaged La Femme’s beautiful box/coffin/torture chamber. Then the “pulling handle” came off – the weight was too great, and the leather tore. My eccentric neighbour fixed the wheels and the handle. I also asked him to add “feet” to the box. The wheels were lifting one side of the box off the ground, so that it tilted when upright. You struggled to get it open, and once open, it looked rickety.


A solution to the kitschy disunity of the inside of the box is to overstuff the “ugly” shelves with so much junk that they’ll eventually look a bit like the outside of the box: gleaming rectangles of colour and texture. Problem is, I do not have much junk immediately to hand. I suppose I’ll find enough, once I start hunting through the house, but I am running out of time… My simple solution, is to “cover up” – I’ll make doors for all the “ugly” shelves that “don’t go”.


I have been thinking about La Femme for three weeks, instead of just starting on her. I used to tell my learners: “Inspiration comes while you are working. You cannot steer a static vehicle. Just start, then you’ll know what to do.” I certainly did not follow my own advice, this time! Now my head is just bubbling with ideas – but there is no time left.


I am taking a fat chance, venting my spleen like this, on paper. My husband just asked, reading over my shoulder: “Gaan die ander mense dit ook lees? Hulle gaan nie baie daarvan hou dat jy hulle goed is kitsch nie.” Don’t I know it! With any luck, only Hester and Joy will read this page. They are the last two people who will actually work on the doll.


Now that I have spent about three solid days re-shaping La Femme, and bedecking her body with a collage of lace, I am starting to love her. Before, I found her very unapproachable. Now, I feel such tenderness towards her. She has gentleness and courage and strength, although she is so frail. She is ready to do battle, listening to a Voice we cannot hear.


I found a beautiful poem, author unknown, for her book.



Sunday, 30 May 2004