The Girls Within
You look right through us in the checkout line…old women made invisible by thick waists, drooping breasts, and sensible shoes. “Do you have any coupons, Ma’am?”
But we have our secrets!
We are the girls who danced barefoot on the beach under the stars,
who outraged our mothers, had affairs, and swam with sharks.
Yes, we have our secrets!
And so we smile as we stand in the checkout line
holding our coupons.
- Ann Hord-Heatherley
I often find inspiration for my figures, my "girls within" in old photographs. I am drawn to images of women from the early twentieth century taken as they go about their daily lives working on farms, in factories, or just dreaming as they sit on the back stoop. As I consider each figure, each with her own character, her own internal life, her hopes, dreams, worries, I try to imagine the underlying emotions of this one moment of time. I often think of events from my own life as I work, of the many girls I've been: the one who danced barefoot under the stars, outraged my mother, had affairs, swam with sharks. Memories are personal, but I believe our thoughts, feelings, and experiences are universal. While my pieces are gender specific, the emotions they convey are not. I hope that you- mother, father, sister, brother, son or daughter- will find a bit of your own story through my figurative art work.
My process is similar with each unique piece. I begin by sculpting the face in air-dry clay. As I add the features a personality begins to emerge. The piece is always more successful when I allow the figure to tell me who it is meant to be. When the face is complete and the clay is dry, I adhere a layer of tea-dyed cotton gauze. I then begin to sketch in facial features using color pencils to shade, enhance, and refine each face's distinctive appearance. As the figure speaks to me I consider the posture that will enhance the mood the character is trying to convey. I sew the neck, trunk, hands, arms, legs and feet individually. I then hand sew the body parts in place, fitting them together like the pieces of a puzzle. Choice locks from my angora goats are dyed and needle felted onto the head to create hair. I’ve been known to use bits of old curtain, petticoats, and vintage lace, but I hand-dye raw silk for most of their clothing. Each figure takes days and weeks and about fourgazzillion stitches before she is ready for her new home.
© 2009, Ann Hord-Heatherley, All Rights Reserved