Spotlight: Gianna King, Maker of Mandala Dolls
Gianna King, maker of Mandala Dolls gives each of her creations a unique and wonderful personality. She incorporates mandalas that she creates into the designs of her dolls and brings them to life to share with all of us.
What inspired you to start making Mandala dolls?
It’s hard to name one thing that inspired me. I’ve dabbled in so many art and craft forms over the years but none of them kept my attention past the learning stage. I’ve been waiting patiently for the right creative outlet to show up. Last winter three things happened in close succession. A friend introduced me to the amazing dollmaker community on Instagram, I made a willow reed doll at a primitive skills gathering, and my roommate sewed a stuffed animal bunny. These things all inspired me to start making dolls! That and I’m at a place in my life where many of my friends are starting to have children. I love to draw and paint mandalas as a daily meditation so it seemed natural to incorporate them into my style.
How would you describe your dolls?
I think of them as cosmic interlopers from other dimensions, whether it’s the farthest reaches of the night sky, the dream world, or any fantastical realm you can imagine. These places feel very real to me, and my dolls are like something tangible and comforting that was scooped up from the intangible. They are meant to be both relatable and mysterious, not quite of this earth but also very happy to be here. They have large spacey eyes and embroidered mandala designs.
When did you learn to sew? and embroider?
I learned some machine and hand sewing basics as a child, but I am mostly learning as I go. I have very little embroidery experience, trying out a few simple stitches from a book several years ago. I’ve always found it fun to see how creative or elaborate I can be with just the basics. The learning process is a big part of the fun for me, and I have a lot of room to explore, from creating clothing patterns to new embroidery stitches to knitting and crocheting.
How have you changed over time?
Hm, I believe my awareness has grown. I’ve relearned a lot of the qualities I expressed as a child, like curiosity and a sense of adventure. I am getting better at communicating and understanding that sensitivity and introversion can be strengths. I am taking on more responsibilities.
Do you have a favorite or special doll that you just can’t part with? If so, why?
I feel attached to almost all of them, but I decided one would be mine forever. My first cosmic space bean exudes cuteness and fits perfectly in my pocket for taking on trips.
Do you plan your work out all ahead of time, or do you just dive in with your materials and start playing?
While I do love to make lists, I don’t plan a whole lot. I like the element of mystery and surprise. Usually, I let myself be inspired by a color palette or theme and then dive in and see what happens. I sometimes sketch out ideas, or at least envision in my mind before diving in, but often I am surprised at what comes out. Sometimes I have a clear idea of personality or story, and other times those things emerge as I go. It’s fun to learn each personality as they come to life! Sometimes I am wrong and have to redo something.
When is your most productive creative time?
I love days when I can wake up, have some tea and start making first thing in the morning. If I really want to be productive I like to start in the morning or I will get sidetracked.
How do you schedule your creative time? Do you schedule start and stop times? Or only when inspired?
I try to only work when feeling inspired. The trick for me is to learn how to cultivate inspiration. When blocked I’ll doodle or sit at my blank desk or tidy up until something clicks. Usually by doing something simple and mundane I can clear enough brain space to receive a spark. I find that inspiration feeds inspiration, and so far it has been fairly easy to find. I tend to have far more ideas in my head than time to create.
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
In a way, I designed my whole house for creating. It’s important for me to have many spaces that feel functional and inspiring. I do have a dedicated craft room that has one big table in the middle, some shelving on one wall and some storage under the table. It’s the only room in the house that has white walls, which gives a kind of ‘blank slate’ energy to the space that feels inspiring and energizing. I use one side of the desk for sewing and the other side for ironing and cutting fabric, and there are a lot of materials in the middle! There is also a sliding door to the back porch and a window so I have views and easy access to outside.
What is your favorite storage tip for your creative supplies? Especially all of your embroidery threads.
My embroidery threads are a complete mess. I try and accept the tangle and not add to it unless absolutely necessary! I have a basket that I use to transport whatever I’m working on around the house because I like to sew in different spots. I’m constantly changing how I organize things and which containers I use for what, so flexibility is key.
Tell us about your most challenging piece. What were the obstacles and how did you get past them?
I thought I hadn’t been doing this long enough to encounter a challenging piece, but I did get totally stumped on how to make a squirrel tail recently! I had to do some trial and error sewing and make something really wrong before I figured out what would work.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
The advice I give myself is if I consistently put energy into what feeds my soul, the benefits will show up. I also remind myself to be process oriented, not results oriented, and to follow the spark of inspiration!
Where can people see (and buy) your work?
I post photos and frequent updates on instagram @mandaladolls and you can purchase directly from my website www.mandaladolls.com.