In 2005, I was privileged to be part of an online group hosted by Barb Kobe. It was to be a healing doll workshop. The invitation was given on-line, and those who wished to participate were instructed to email Barb. We were then given an introduction in which we were told the workshop guidelines and the required time commitment. In the workshop, we would be making 4 different dolls with 4 different healing intentions over a period of several months. Barb explained that part of the requirements/commitments to the group was to do our homework using various tools such as journaling, collage, mind-mapping, and doll making. We were also to communicate to the group what we were experiencing as we went through the guided healing doll process.
I signed up for this group for two reasons. The first is that I had heard of Barb and had read several positive reviews of her work and therefore trusted her intent and credentials. It also came at a point in my life when I was going deeper into my own emotional healing and was finding that the traditional emotional healing channels were not touching me as an artist. I needed the whole of me healed, and my art is a major form of how I communicate. I believe art is a form of language, and I needed all my communication skills to heal the whole of me.
Our group moved through several preliminary steps. We were given suggested readings, artistic exercises, and journal prompts all designed to help us define our “healing intention”. We were “defining where we want(ed) to focus our healing energy.”
The first of four dolls was to be a guardian/believing mirror doll. This doll was to be a “witness who supports you through the process.” I homeschool my kids and my oldest child loves Greek mythology. We had been spending a lot of time reading and learning about Homer’s story, the Odyssey. I felt that rather than having the typical guardian angel, I needed to have a strong female figure to watch over this part of my journey. I envisioned a female warrior, such as Athena. She guided and protected Odysseus on his journey. Not just someone to protect me on my journey, but to also battle on my behalf. I sketched out several shapes and came up with one that I liked. The body had a shield shape. I then went on to make the main body out of a multicolored batik fabric. Her wings were hand-quilted gold fabric trimmed with vintage bakelite button hands. Her face was a molded clay piece that I had bought a long time ago, and I crocheted her a helmet that looked much like a chain mail helmet that crusaders would have worn. She has a copper mesh shield on her chest with various personal symbols. She also carries crocheted bag and sword.
He came out egg-shaped with a huge black mouth—small worry dolls were in fact floating into it. The face and body are only a suggestion. He is very stark in black and white and in fact freaked my children out. I finished him in one session and he “felt” done. I emailed Barb and asked, “What is up with this thing I made?!” She reassured me that I was on the right track and at some point the doll would reveal itself to me. A few days later I kept hearing in my head a line from a song, “Caught between Sycilla and Charybdis.” Now what did that mean? Oh my, I thought with a sudden jarring revelation, the meaning had revealed itself. In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus has to sail on his journey home, between two sea monsters, Sycilla and Charybdis. If he sails too close to one side Scylla, a many headed, snapping, devouring monster will consume him and to the other side is Charybdis, a huge sucking whirlpool mouth/creature which will suck him in and drown him.
I saw in my doll that I was Odysseus, a small child who had to journey between one parent who loomed large and would snap at me anytime and another parent who was emotionally sucking, drawing energy and identity from me. In this one doll, I had unconsciously reproduced that drama. There in fabric and paint was my childhood. Remember the first doll I mentioned, the guardian doll? I named her Athena; she was Odysseus’s guardian/guide. I realized I was on my own odyssey/journey. The journey to healing.
The third doll was called the Talisman doll. This doll was to represent the “wish, want, healing, goal, or desire.” It was “to be the other side of the wound.” This doll was easy to do. I knew what I wanted. I wanted to feel: loved, cherished, heard, safe, and home. The doll itself was a simple body with 2 arms crossed over a heart—hugging and protecting it. The face is serene and relaxed. On the bottom are letter beads spelling out those 5 important words. It was to represent me at rest, no longer striving, but resting in the assurance that I was loved, cherished, heard and safe.
Our last and final doll was the “inner healer.” It was to “celebrate the lessons learned and bring closure to the process.” What was it that I had learned? I had learned to trust my inner art voice, to ”surrender to the symbols as the images bubble up.” I learned that when I silence the inner critic, and don’t edit my work as it spills out of me, that my art has much power and is capable of speaking volumes about issues that I didn’t even consciously know were there.
The question was how to represent this in a doll. While on a family vacation at the beach, I found a child’s plastic doll body washed up on the shore. My husband and kids, who had watched me go through this process, agreed with me that this doll body was the start. I sculpted a paper clay head and attached beaded arms and legs. On its body I wrote “trust” down the front of it–my most important lesson learned. I continued by writing the following on the body: “ask”, “seek”, “listen”, “growing”, ”hearing”, “letting go”, “I can”, and “I am a healing artist.”
You can read more about Linda's work and blog http://missmabelstudio.com/