Monday, October 21, 2013

Evolution of Message Stick Art Dolls

Message Stick Art Doll - stick, polymer clay, hand dyed & stencilled fabric with embroidery 
My  message stick art dolls  have evolved over the last couple of years. 
Why have I called these art dolls “Message Sticks” ? 
 I wanted to recreate a doll which was based on traditional techniques, so I have used ideas from a few different cultures.Many traditional dolls were made from wood - often wrapped with fibres. 

In Egypt, several types of paddle dolls have been discovered in tombs in Egypt. The dolls are made of wood, flat, and constructed in a shape has led the form to be called a 'paddle doll'. The dolls seemingly follow a convention for the female figure, emphasizing the hips and hair. The wooden figures are usually painted with a geometric pattern of lines and dots. These patterns may reproduce tattos or ritual scaring in female Egyptian culture of the period or represent clothing or jewellery.  A fine example of a paddle doll with hair constructed of string and sun-dried clay beads, found in a tomb in Ancient Egypt, is on display at the British Museum.  
 I also liked the idea of conveying a message. message stick is a form of communication traditionally used by Indigenous Australians. It is usually a solid piece of wood, around 20–30cm in length, etched with angular lines and dots. Traditionally, message sticks were passed between different clans and language groups to establish information and transmit messages.  Donald Thomson, recounting his journey to Arnhem Land after the Caledon Bay Crisis, writes of Wonggu sending a message stick to his sons, at that time in prison, to indicate a calling of a truce. In etched angles, it showed people sitting down together, with Wonggu at the centre, keeping the peace. ...  from Wikipedia

Message stick art doll - stick, polymer clay, silk waste 
 How are the message stick art dolls made  and what materials are used?  
The first ones were sticks with wrapped fibres, and the message they carried were written on the stick itself, following both the Egyptians and Aboriginal idea of etching a message on the stick itself. Then I began to attach another piece of wood on which a message was written. While the basic armature has remained a stick found in the garden or the nearby bush, the ‘female’ form has become more accentuated with wrapped fabric. The first dolls were merely whatever shape the stick was.  At first, I used scraps of commercial fabric and decorative yarns. Then I began to use handmade felt, scrumbling samples (free from knitted and crochet pieces) and frayed offcuts of sari silk. More recent message stick dolls have been wrapped with hand painted  and stamped fabric and hand dyed and eco dyed  fabrics of different textures. All of my message stick art dolls are embroidered and many also feature some bead embroidery.  Each of them has a polymer clay face. 
My first message stick art doll  and  below another early doll with messages written on the sticks .
sticks, polymer clay, beads, yarns, scrap fabric 

Mother and  child message stick art doll  machine embroidered fabric, sticks & polymer clay
below, the message  written on a wooden bead 

Here is a recent video of  art dolls I have made with sticks - many of these are message sticks .... 
Here are some more recent version of message stick art dolls and photo variations. 
Message stick art doll - stick, polymer clay, wood tag,  eco dyed fabric ( onion skins) and tea bag papers. 
Message stick art dolls - sticks, fibres, wood tags hand dyed  & overprinted fabrics, scrumbling
and below, computer manipulated photo 
Message tick art doll - eco dyed fabric, stick, polymer clay, beads , wire
and below computer manipulated image. 
If you want more information,please  go to the tutorial on the page listed above this blog post and here is a
 link to a  previous related post.


  1. Love the dolls! I've been making similar dolls lately too. I love how freeing they are to make!

  2. Namaste from Nepal Empress Wu. What beautiful creations! They really are wonderful messengers. I love the use of the sari silk and braids. Internet here up is slow but I will enjoy exploring your blog as much as I can! Wendy Moore


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