I stumbled upon Shirley’s Studio on Instagram several years ago. I fell in love with her whimsical art dolls, their expressions, and their elaborate costuming. Today, I’d like to share her work and her love of working with polymer clay and doll making with each of you.
Hi, my name is Shirley from Shirley’s Studio Art Dolls. I live in a small town in the Netherlands, near Kinderdijk. I am married to my soulmate and I’m the mother of a 2-year old boy. Ever since my childhood always loved fantasy stories, nature, and being creative.
What’s the History of Your Art & How You Got Where You Are Today?
I have always been interested in creating art but I was always focused on drawing and painting. I bumped into an artist block and couldn’t enjoy painting as much as I did and got frustrated with it. A while later, while browsing the internet I came across an Art doll fairy created by Sutherlandart and was so amazed by it. I always thought clay was for play time in kindergarten and seeing someone combining clay with cloth intrigued me.
I ordered my first package of air-drying clay (I had no idea about different kinds of clay yet, I use mainly polymer clay now) and tried making a fairy. Of course, that didn’t work out all that well because I had no experience or skill whatsoever. I got frustrated again but this time my husband asked me if I could sculpt a “Laaf” for him (A Laaf is a fairy/leprechaun folk in a theme park in the Netherlands, the Efteling) because he loved those.
After the Laaf was somewhat of a success, I started to enjoy sculpting more. The first Troll followed quickly after and as I started to explore the world of Art Dolls more, I came across numerous artists that really inspired me to sculpt the way I do now. I absolutely adore the creative freedom that comes with Trolls and fantasy creatures and I finally got to the point where I could create with my hands what was dancing around in my mind!
What Makes Your Art Unique?
As there are more Troll and fantasy sculptors, I wouldn’t say my art is unique per sé, but it has a certain look and feel to it which is unique for every artist. I always try to find the soul of the piece I’m sculpting and that works really well for me. The pieces I create have a personality and a story and I like to take people along to see the world I am experiencing trough the Trolls.
It makes me so happy to see people look at my work and smile or start to create stories of their own. As we grow older, we can start to lose that sparkle we had as a child and I often see people turn back to that inner child once they hold my work or fiddle around with it for a bit. That is what makes me immensely joyful about my work.
Where is Your Art Created?
The funny thing is since my artist name is “Shirley’s Studio“, people tend to imagine I have a huge space filled to the brim with magic and art supplies. But low and behold, I do all my sculpting at my computer desk, in our small bedroom in the attic. I used to be ashamed of it because I couldn’t meet up to the expectations but figured a big studio space wouldn’t make me as comfortable as I am at my desk now. I like a small quiet space to work and concentrate fully on my work. Once we are able to move to a bigger house, I might turn a room into space where I can sculpt, store all my fabrics and necessities but for now, I am happily sculpting on a small desk, haha!
What is Your Favorite Thing To Do with Polymer Clay?
I think sculpting Art Dolls is something that is very close to my heart and soul. I still love it so much, even after almost 8 years of sculpting. This medium is so diverse and still evolving and I would love to try out new techniques, new brands of clay on the market etc.
What’s Your Process Like? Tell Us About It.
It’s a question I get asked a lot but don’t really have a good answer to because there’s not really one way I work on creating a doll. Often I just start sculpting and the clay leads the way. When I get a face that sparkles and shows a soul, I continue with the next step, fabrics, and accessories. Almost every time the doll leads the way when choosing colors and their own style. You can see the color of the face and eyes react to certain colors and the one that compliments the face is the one I choose for clothing. During this process stories and personality treats pop up in my mind and I take that with me during clothing and picking accessories. So essentially, every doll is different and has a different approach within the creative process!
Tell Us About Your Favorite Piece
My all-time favorite item is my Troll, Rupert. He was one of the first Trolls I’ve created, and creating him really took me to the next level of sculpting. I was getting visibly better at sculpting with him. Troll Rupert was also the first one to get dressed somewhat more professional. When I first started creating, I was not very skilled at sewing either and since I create all their clothing myself, I had to skip the “I guess I’ll glue it?” and practice my sewing to be stronger and visually better.
Let me tell you about a troll named, Birch.
Back in the day, while still being my boyfriend, my husband really liked Troll Birch and wanted to keep him for his own private collection. Later that year I was on my very first festival market and it was going so well, we were almost completely sold out. I took a few Trolls of my own private collection along to show what different kinds of work I create when a sweet couple absolutely fell in love with Troll Birch. My husband was so into the “we’re selling everything we have!” mode he actually let the couple adopt Birch (even with me asking if he was sure for about 5 minutes). After they left our booth, it actually sank in what he had done and he was really, really sad he had given his beloved Birch away. I tried to create Birch’s brother for my husband but it was not the same and he still told me every now and then how stupid he had been for selling Birch and how much he missed him.
Fast forward a few years, I still had contact with the couple that adopted Birch and asked if I could create them another Troll to swap because Birch had a very special task to fulfil for me. This couple is the sweetest, really, because they understood and traded Birch for another Troll. They even sculpted him a little suitcase when they gave him back to me!
Later that week Troll Birch was holding a small box for me with an engagement ring for my husband. It was a very emotional moment and now Troll Birch is happily sitting on my husband’s shelf again!
Editor’s Note: Awe … this gave me all the feels. So sweet. I love it! Now I have to go fix all my ruined makeup.
Who is Your Polymer Clay Idol?
I don’t really have an idol and there are so, so many artists I adore work from. I hate picking out one because each and every creator has it’s own style which I enjoy looking at. If I háve to name a few I would pick those I follow for quite a while now. I would say Brian and Wendy Froud, Álvaro Herranz (Fuego Fatuo), Moises Aspino (Goblinslab) and Raquel Ascaso (Realm of Queen Mab).
I would love to take classes from any of them, anytime!