Heather Louise Bennett is the doll maker and illustrator of The Doll Farm, which turns out playful and plush creations from South Salem, New York. Her dolls have appeared in magazines and fashion shoots around the world and can also be found for sale on Etsy. I caught up with her to talk to her about her plush friends and the story behind them.
How and when were you first led to designing and making dolls?
I first started making dolls in 2004 when I put together one for my boyfriend (now husband) as a silly birthday gift. I had so much fun making it and received such great feedback from so many people that it gave my creative mojo a really good buzz. I had seen other artists online making little plush dolls, in addition to selling their paintings or other artwork, and I thought it was such a nice complement to their overall presentation that they offered these characters.
Which of your experiences have most influenced your work?
In the early days of my doll-making, we lived in Antwerp, Belgium. While my husband was at work I would explore the city. One day I peeked into the Koninklijk Museum voorSchone Kunsten Antwerpen and, although I felt they could use a little central AC, their collection really inspired me. Flemish fashion over the past 400 years is so weird and fabulous… some of those hats might as well be from another planet! And all those royals in their crazy pointy shoes and waffle cone hair-nets nearly blew my mind into bits. I had a “Eureka moment” wherein I felt that I had to resurrect everyone in the room and have them follow me home.
How do you choose what each doll should wear?
I spend a lot of time sketching. I have two large chalkboard-painted walls in my house, and I have numerous dry-erase boards in practically every room. On those walls you’re likely to read words like “peach and burgundy” or “Thomas Jefferson’s slug boy brother—rag time blue with powder pink”. Should you look around my desk (or any other flat surface) I’ve also written on junk mail & sticky-notes filled with color combinations that pop in my head. Many of them have question marks by them so I’ll remember to ask myself whether or not this is a good idea.
My dolls always start with a story; next comes the landscape where they live, and then I create the doll’s costume in relation to the landscape. For example, if I wanted to make a vampire who lives among the orchards of backwoods Georgia, I envision first the colors of the trees, the fruit, the blue sky, the insects, & the birds… then I ask myself how these things in this landscape would affect my character. Then it all comes together organically once I have this basic foundation.