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Carol Kneisley, American Baby Artist

Very Fine One-of-a-Kind Cernit Clay Art Masterpieces!

From Ann, April 1, 2014:

Today we announce the adoption of Devon Connor to one of our very special customers. She is so excited and can barely wait to get him home!

January 2012 Customer Comment: "Hi Ann and Randy, Little Baby Peanut (by Carol Kneisley) has arrived safe and sound and I am thrilled to bits with him. Thank you very much for organizing the adoption for me so that I could afford to bring him home. He arrived yesterday which was actually my birthday, he was not planned as my pressie but the day was extra special due to his arrival. I unwrapped his legs first and they are such adorable legs with those wrinkly feet and knees that I actually felt emotional (not like me at all when unwrapping a doll). His gorgeous face is full of character and I love the Silicone eyes. Love, love him. Off for more cuddles, that you so much. Hugs, T."

If you missed out on the opportunity to collect one of the babies in the Adopted Gallery, call Ann and ask for a preview of the next baby from Carol Kneisley.  

About The Artist From Herself: 

I am a native third-generation Californian, and I have been living in Eugene, Oregon for the last 39 years. I call Oregon my home. I have been married for 40 years. We have two daughters, three grandsons, and two granddaughters. For as long as I can remember, I have expressed myself artistically.

I was born in Berkeley, California, and lived around the Bay Area until I was finished with junior high school. My mother taught me to sew at a very early age, and I always enjoyed creating custom sewing projects and crafts. I made clothes for myself and some friends and family. I donít remember playing with dolls. I had some collectable storybook dolls and a few others that stayed on shelves. I had more interest in room design than toys! I had almost no experience playing with baby dolls, but they were in the house because my younger sister played with them. My motherís father was an inventor, artist, and musician. I loved spending time with him and watching what he did. He was my early inspiration in painting and three-dimensional art.

When I was 15, we moved to Saratoga, CA, and I went to Los Gatos high school until I graduated in 1960. While I was in high school, I played the clarinet in the band, and I didnít have time for any art classes. I did, however, manage to make a few pieces of jewelry for myself and family. After graduation, I went to San Jose State College in California. There, I had a chance to take some art classes, and to make some more jewelry. Iíve worked in copper, silver, and gold, made bracelets, rings, earrings, and pendants. My major was early primary education. I love little children, and it was a joy to work with them. I taught kindergarten and first grade for three years in Santa Barbara, California.

On one of my summer breaks, I met my husband, Tom, in Hawaii. We married four months later. It was all very romantic. Tom was in the US Navy, and I substitute-taught while he was away. We lived near Honolulu for a couple of years before we moved to Oregon. When we first arrived, I taught elementary school for a while. I got pregnant with our first daughter. Having had no experience with a newborn, I expected the "Gerber" baby. Imagine my surprise when she was born. She was tiny, at 6# 2oz. She was homely and helpless, and the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I knew that I wanted to stay home and nurture her. I also wanted to do something artistic and creative, so I painted in oils for a couple of years. Our second daughter was born three years later. She was a bit more robust, but nevertheless, she was helpless, vulnerable, and totally dependent. The expressive looks and grimaces once again captured my heart. As she began to grow and develop she loved dolls, and they became a part of our household. After our second daughter was nearing school age, I decided that I wanted to do something creative that would generate some income. Art was out, since I had no way to market what I created, so, I decided to put my sewing skills to use. Iíd made lots of clothes for our daughters, and some nice things for Tom, and I was confident I could do it for others. Some dear friends and neighbors helped to launch my career as a seamstress, and I kept at it for about 20 years. I did home dťcor, alterations of all sorts, made lots of girlsí clothes, and created some very elaborate wedding gowns. It was rewarding work, but hard and not very lucrative. When not "working", I made doll clothes for a growing number of dolls in the house. Our daughter loved and played with these dolls until she was in high school. The last one that I remember getting for her was a very realistic vinyl newborn. Until that time, I was not aware of any realism in dolls. It probably fascinated me more than it did her. That first realistic baby doll just recently met its demise at the hands of a family dog!

In the last few years, Iíve drifted toward art again. I have a fascination for peopleís faces. The difference in appearance using the same variables amazes me. I love hands and all of their character. I spent hours sketching them when I was growing up. So, it seemed natural for me to drift to doll making to express myself. I made a few soft-sculpture dolls and sold them. It was fun, but they were hard to market and I couldnít create the kinds of expressions I wanted. When I saw my first polymer clay sculptures, I was amazed at the realism. I gravitated to old-world Father Christmas dolls. I sculpted their heads and hands of polymer clay, and made their costumes. I tried some other adult character figures, and they were fun to do, but still not what I wanted. I made quite a few heads of various types into tops for wine bottles. They were very winsome, and they gave me lots of practice working with faces. I made two series of the history of St. Nicholas with five dolls spanning the eighth through the twentieth centuries; I dressed them in authentic period costumes. I made some tableaux with adult and child figures. I really liked the kids, so I made some adult figures holding babies, and they turned out very well. My constant goal was realism. Once again, marketing and distributing my creations was difficult. I couldnít afford to advertise, so I relied on contacts in our small and very arty town and going to doll shows in the northwest. I found out quickly that transporting my creations was so challenging that I decided to give it up.

Then, on a trip to New Orleans in 2001, I saw, for the first time, some realistic, full size, one-of-a-kind hand-sculpted polymer clay newborns, and I was amazed by them. They looked just out of the womb. They were done by a German artist whose name I never knew, and I had never seen any dolls that looked so real. They stole my heart, and I decided to learn to make them. My art has always focused on the representation of real life, so it was a natural direction for me to go. I have always had a heart for pregnant women, especially the troubled ones. Through my artistic expression, I could show my love for the newly born, and now, thatís what I do. I represent babies from birth to two months old. I love those brand new expressions, the dependence, helplessness, and neediness that they display. My interpretations are very realistic and appealing. Like most artists, I love what I do, and I want to share it with others. These creations allow me to express myself from my heart. I am passionate about my work, and I never seem to tire of seeing the new faces peek through the clay. I place a very high value on new life and I want that to show through in my work. Part of my signature on each baby is an imprint of the feet of a ten week old unborn baby, and I include a gold plated pin representing those feet.

I have no formal training in anatomy or sculpting. I teach myself as I go along. Iíve been blessed to be at the birth of each of my grandchildren, and to spend time holding and caressing them since they were born. Thereís nothing like watching and holding a real newborn to provide inspiration and an example. Iíve also met and been mentored by some very good polymer clay sculptors. I enjoy learning about my craft and I think I improve with each new baby.

I have a small studio in my home where I spend most of my time each day. I make my dolls out of polymer clay. My particular blend is Cernitģ and Super Sculpeyģ. I always sculpt the head, hands, and feet on aluminum foil armatures. I start with the head, because that seems to dictate to me what the expression should be throughout the rest of the body. Some dolls have full arms and legs. Some are anatomically correct full sculpts. The ones with soft, jointed bodies are poly filled and weighted. I use natural hair, and the eyes are glass or silicone with the deep color of a newborn babyís. Most of my babies are fully dressed in newborn baby clothes, and come with a name bracelet. Choosing the right name is important to me. It seems to establish a bit of personality to the doll, and it provides a real connection to the sculpture. Some have a toy, blanket, and basket. Each 10"-22" doll is one-of-a-kind; I never use any molds or prefabricated parts.

There are many talented artists making babies in polymer clay. My niche is the newly born; I prefer them from about two days to two months old. Often, babies this age arenít cute like most dolls are. In general, they look red, splotchy, wrinkly, and skinny. They donít smile, but they have some classic expressions. These are what I love to capture: the yawns, the stares, the cries, the grimaces, and the peaceful sleep of the innocent. I love it when people say something like "Theyíre too real looking." Thatís a compliment for me. I do lots of African-American babies. They are winsome and very different from the Caucasians. Itís challenging for me because we live in a small northwest town, and Iíve seen very few newborn AA babies up close.

I take my babies to several doll shows each year, including both of the IDEX shows and the Doll and Teddy Bear Expo. Ashton-Drake Galleries has reproduced my Clay and Kyra, full-size, full-sculpted, anatomically-correct African-American siblings, and marketed them worldwide. My experiences with Ashton-Drake have been very positive. It is so rewarding to know that representations of my babies are in the homes of collectors all over the world. Ashton-Drake has purchased two more of my babies that may be coming in the future.

My work has been published in DOLLS, Contemporary Doll Collector, and Doll Reader magazines and the Washington Post. Iíve taken my dolls to numerous shows and charity fundraising events and won a few awards. One of my babies, Alan, was nominated for the 2005 Diamond Dolls of Excellence award.

Carol Kneisley

 

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