Susan Fosnot makes one-of-a-kind painted cloth dolls. She designs, sews, and stuffs them herself. She paints the heads, arms, and legs using traditional brush techniques. The heads are round, but the faces are flat, with the illusion of eyes, nose, and mouth created entirely with paint. All hair and shoes are also painted. She likes to use old fabrics for the clothing—anything from the mid-19th century up through the first decades of the 20th century. Those years were the heydays of cloth dolls, and the time period her dolls usually represent.
Old dolls fascinate Fosnot. She sees them as a true record of history, a record of how people envisioned themselves and their place in the world.
Fosnot is very interested in historic methods of painting. She is an avid student of Leonardo and Rubens, as well as the American Folk Portraits. She has also made a quest of the original Columbian Doll— the techniques and colors used by Emma Adams. This has led her to an exploration of early painting materials.
Dolls have not always been recognized as a fine art form, Fosnot notes, and she has taken it upon herself to change that. In 2003 one of her dolls was not only accepted into a show of portraiture and figurative art, but also won third place.
In addition to making and selling her dolls, Fosnot leads painted cloth doll workshops. Each participant makes a cloth doll and paints the face, hands, and feet. During the workshop, the focus is on the painting aspect of the project. Participants learn true portrait techniques simplified for a first painting experience, and modified for doll making.
She also makes "Doll Starts", a special type of doll kit. She starts each doll by hand painting the face and designing the pattern. Then she passes it on to be sewn, stuffed, and dressed. Each doll is unique, both because of the hand painted face, and because of what the other person contributes. This is also a way for her to make very affordable dolls, while retaining the hand made, one-of-a-kind quality.
Fosnot was commissioned to create a souvenir doll for the 2006 national United Federation of Doll Clubs convention.
Fosnot’s work has appeared in Doll Reader, Contemporary Doll Collector, Dolls, Soft Dolls and Animals, Early American Life's Directory of Traditional Crafts (Five times), and two of Susanna Oroyan’s books. She has written articles on doll making for Doll Crafter magazine, on dolls as art for Contemporary Doll Collector, and on the Columbian Doll for Doll News.
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