Celebrate the strength and courage of refugees worldwide with artist Diana Farfan. In her doll making workshop, she will lead you through the creation of symbolic textile and mixed media characters, exploring the concepts of identity and belonging.
World Refugee Day is celebrated differently in each country. Many famous places such as the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Empire State Building in New York City, are covered in blue lights, the color of the United Nations’ logo. In Glasgow, Scotland, people hold hands to form an enormous human chain in the city center to show the world that Scotland welcomes refugees. In many other cities there are film screens, exhibitions and various events. Here, at Richland Library, we are creating atypical dolls to encourage our community to think about the lives of refugees and the universal human right to a secure “home."
To help you can take this workshop as an opportunity and moment in time to communicate with the world about your care for global refugees and why you think they require protection. With our atypical dolls, we can celebrate refugees' contributions by showing them empathy, understanding their struggles and resilience to build a bright future. Make your Atypical Doll and share a picture on Instagram with #WithRefugees or in Spanish #ConLosRefugiados.
There are tools made specifically for this type of craft, but I am using the ones that I have handy at my studio. Doll making is a beautiful art form and I’d like to suggest that you find out what other artists have created in 3D textile dolls. There are super talented fabric artists whose art pieces you can learn from. I’d like also to encourage you to recycle, repurpose and reuse old textile dolls, toys, dresses, backpacks, globes, buttons, photographs, or other interesting objects to build yours. Remember, these will be “expressive atypical dolls.”
So here is a list of materials you’re going to need:
• Colored Threads preferably nylon thread because it is more resistant
• Markers or chalk
• Ruler or a tape measure
• Fabrics, any kind. Felt is the most common to build dolls and toys, but you can use any other. I personally like to recycle, reuse, repurpose. I have made toys with parts of old dolls.
• Thin cardboard or craft cardboard (one easy to cut and fold to make our templates)
• Craft Glue. My preferred brand is WELDBOND, but you can use another brand. Just make sure it dries crystal clear.
• Cutting surface
• Medium gel, glossy or matt
• Sewing machine
• Stuffing material like cotton
• Magazines, old pictures, postcards, collage images, photos
Here are some objects that recur in most refugees’ stories:
Objects have different meanings depending on the refugee’s culture and personal life events. They can be used as symbols or powerful elements of narrative to integrate into our atypical dolls.
Try to think of more to add to my list. They will be useful to include in our characters. Can you draw them? If drawing is not an easy practice for you, there are many other ways you can collect ideas and materials. Try to find interesting images on printed magazines, newspapers, maps, postcards or just google them out. Collect those that resonate with you to then build your figure. 3D objects, preferably small or of a reasonable size are also great resources.
My suggestion is to collect images from magazines, printed pictures from google and small objects and play with them by combining them in different positions until you find the right way to arrange the elements for your story. For many of my pieces, mostly made in ceramics, I have used the self-portrait as a theme. A self-portrait is not always representational and realistic. It can be non-representational, emotional, abstract or conceptual. Maybe you can try it too.
Once you have an idea of what kind of objects and hard images you’re going to use, you can define the right size of your atypical doll’s pattern.
A pattern is important to make. It will give us the right coordinates to trace the lines where we need to cut the fabric. To make it, we’ll be using a piece of cardboard. When I am creating symmetrical figures, I like to trace just half of the pattern on the cardboard, folded in the middle, cut out the half already traced and unfold the cardboard to obtain a whole symmetrical figure. If you don’t have craft cardboard, try poster paper or the paper from old folders. When designing a template, it’s very important to take into account the space of stitching that is at least 5 millimeters on each side which is called the tolerance space. So remember to make narrow and small parts wide enough.
• You will need to find a piece of fabric long enough to cover front and back of your pattern.
• Fold your fabric in half.
• Use a pen, pencil or marker to trace your pattern. Make sure that the ink doesn’t go through.
• Use some pins to keep both sides together while you are in the process of cutting.
• Attach the small parts that you had previously selected by hand or machine.
• If you are using paper images like photos and postcards, they must have been pre-hardened with a couple of layers with medium gel. They will look laminated but will be more resistant to sewing by machine or by hand.
• Start on the face and gradually attach the rest moving toward the feet.
• You can also attach the frontal parts with glue at the end of the process.
• Take the back part and the front part with the attached elements and turn them inside out.
• It’s important that the elements of decoration stay inside because when we turn the piece, the parts that are in will be out.
• Once we have secured our two sides, we need to decide where the opening in the figure will be to flip and fill it. My suggestion is to leave the space between the legs because it’s a small and hidden area and is the perfect size to turn and fill.
• To join the two parts, you can do it by hand or by machine. I will sew them with my machine because it is faster. • • • Remember the space tolerance that you need to leave. It will help maintain your whole figure together once you turn and fill it.
• Start sewing from one leg and go all the way around the edge of the opposite leg. Remember you are leaving one small open space large enough to turn your piece inside out and fill it.
• Make small cuts in the corners without touching the stitches. They are small notches to avoid tension once the piece is being turned.
• Carefully, without pulling much, and without mistreating your piece, turn out the body first and then use a tool like the pencil eraser, handle of a brush or a wooden stick to turn out the narrow parts.
• To fill out the piece, use the staffing material that you have at home. I’m using the content of a pillow. Try to use a large continuous piece to accomplish a smooth external texture.
• Once it is filled the way you like; you need to do a closing stitch by hand. Make sure to make a couple of safety knots to reinforce that process. You can try different materials with the same pattern or modify the pattern to discover new shapes and narratives.
• At this point you can add more elements of design by attaching them with glue or stitches.
• You can also add medium gel on the surfaces to give it a glossy finish or to write a message on top.
Good Luck! I hope you have fun making your atypical doll. And don’t forget to share a picture of it on Instagram with the hashtag #withrefugees or in Spanish with the #conlosrefugiados.
World Refugee Day is celebrated each year on June 20th, to commemorate the anniversary of the 1951 Refugee Convention, which established specific criteria for what a refugee is and is not, as well as the rights and responsibilities of those seeking asylum, and of the nations providing that asylum. Find out more about World Refugee Day and how you can celebrate the strength and courage of refugees worldwide, here.