An interview with Angela Rosseau of Angela Michelle Dolls by Sy (Youngish)
(originally appeared on the ADO blog)
Please tell us about yourself. What is your name? Where do you live? What makes you tick?
I am Angela Rosseau, of Angela Michelle Dolls. I currently live in the South, in Georgia. I tend to move around; I've also lived in Italy and China. Add a history degree to my gypsy feet, and I admit whole-heartedly to being a World History addict. I adore studying people of the past and the clothing they wore. I have endless notes on wigs and hats and houppelandes and bustles and...
When did you start making dolls? Why did you start making dolls?
When I was around 14(ish), my mom handed me a craft tutorial sheet that she had picked up free in a craft store. It explained how to make simple Worry Dolls out of toothpicks. I made one, and was hooked. Our house became populated with toothpick knights and ladies, jesters and aliens. I kept pushing the boundaries to see what else I could come up with. An obsession, as it turns out! 15 years later, my dolls are barely recognizable from that first instruction sheet, but they are still toothpicks and embroidery floss. With more glamour.
Who or what influences you? Inspires you?
I'm a sucker for costume-rich movies and any sketch or painting of an outfit from history. So glad that society has always had something of a fixation with fashion - they've kept good notes! I'm thrilled by an unexpected bit of costume detail: lacing on a vest, beads on a cuff - anything. It's an unending treasure hunt, and I never know if my next find will be in a historical epic, or a sci-fi blockbuster! Mix up some Star Wars Queen Amidala with some late Italian Renaissance sleeve lacing and embroidery - what an outfit! Off to find my sketchbook...
Tell us a little about your dolls and your process for making them. Materials, preliminary sketches, inspiration, etc.
Once I hit on an idea, I have to figure out how to recreate it in embroidery floss. To my mind, making a toothpick doll is very much like an engineering or architectural project. In order to accomplish a certain look, I have to decide what the underlying thread structure will be. Toothpicks are not very curvy! I have to make that shape by building up thread as I go, which means I have to know before I start the doll what process I'll be using and in what order I'll add each element. As I sketch the doll, I make notes about how I'm going to recreate certain details, what colors I'll use, etc. Work on a single doll can take anywhere from 5-40 hours (or more), depending on the detail and how well the doll and I get along. The dolls are around 3 inches tall - taller if the doll is a diva and insists on a high wig or elaborate feather headdress. When I get into the detail work (a collar or cuff, the lacing on a bodice, etc.), I'm working on details that may be little bigger than a millimeter. I do not use a magnifying glass; I find it gets in the way. I do use a very bright light, and some specialized tiny scissors and tweezers. I use Diamond-brand round toothpicks and DMC floss.
I also make 1-inch dolls out of embroidery floss and thin wire, which stand on pennies. They're my Penny People. For when 3 inches is too tall.
Do you have a favorite doll? It can be handmade by you, handmade by someone else, or even (gasp) mass production.
My favorite doll that I have done is named Emeline, Lady de Cour-dents (Lady of Toothpicks - figured it sounded better in French). She comes from the late 1700s (think Marie Antoinette). I researched her costume for about a week, and included feathers, microbeads, an enormous curled wig, genuine mozambique garnets, and a skirt with a very wide bustle. She probably took 70 hours to make, including designing prototypes for the wide skirt and tall wig, both of which I'd never done before. I was under a deadline when making her (she was a competition doll), and I'm still not sure how many nights I favored her over sleep. I was enormously pleased with the final result, and in case of fire, would grab her before I grabbed the important paperwork.
Besides making dolls, what do you do? Job, other creative pursuits, hobbies, etc.
I'm a graphic designer in the real world, and in my dreams, I have time for writing and studying Chinese, too.
What are some of your favorite: movies, books, websites, magazines, foods, tv shows? (Any or all!)
In terms of costuming, my favorite movies are anything with a well-fed costume department: Star Wars, One Night with the King, Lord of the Rings, Pride & Prejudice...that's a good start. Websites: The Costumer's Manifesto (www.costumes.org ) - it's a one-stop shop.
As far as non-costuming (do I think beyond costumes?), I generally have The Food Network playing in the background...while I'm working on my dollies.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Maybe Singapore. It's stunningly beautiful (within a tropical rainforest!), and a great base for hopping off to Asia or Europe. Big plus - English is common, and they have both a Borders bookstore and a Taco Bell in case I miss North America too much.
Where do you see yourself in one year? Five years? Ten years?
One year - I'm working on several toothpick doll tutorials and kits right now that I hope to have finished soon. I plan to have a good line of tutorials and kits available in the coming months, as well as some accessories that can be purchased to add to a doll you've made - fairy wings, elf ears, and other fun stuff.
Five years - My ulterior motive in making tutorials is to develop a community of toothpick doll makers so that I'm not the only one trying to figure out how to make a fur stand-up collar measuring 3 millimeters out of embroidery floss and feather down. I'd like to see a community forming that feeds off of the creativity and inspiration of its members, and readily shares new tips and techniques.
Ten years - toothpick dolls take over Barbie.