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Interview with Beth Robinson

By Thomm Quackenbush

Beth Robinson's dolls have a quality about them. They are not quite eerie, but one might think twice or thrice about bringing one to bed (and not merely because they have point elbows or are made of actual owl skulls). Transcending with ease the barrier where one might even question the artistic value of her work, Beth Robinson makes grim little, gleefully misshapen people.

  1. What caused you to decide to create dolls? He only want you to love him

    A few years ago, Greg Giordano of Flameape Studios, pointed me in the direction of Eyedia (a gallery of Japanese artists who create balljoint dolls). I had never seen dolls treated as an art form before. To say the artists at Eyedia "blew my mind," is really an understatement.
    Although I had been painting and illustrating for several years, I decided at that point to try my hand at something a bit more... multi -dimensional. So I went to my local bookstore and found that, in the crafts section, there was a series of books by Susanna Oroyan about making "art dolls." Needless to say, once I started experimenting with polymer clay, I abandoned traditional fine art. I was hooked.

  2. Were your dolls always quite so strange? If not, what caused the change?

    I have always made unconventional dolls. I feel strange telling people that I make "dolls" because there is such a strong assumption surrounding the word "doll." I often feel inclined to say that I make strange little people instead.

  3. What is the strangest reaction you have had to your work?

    A few months ago - and I am still not entirely sure what started this - but I received an onslaught of hate mail from from right-wing Christians. It was utterly entertaining.

  4. Which doll or series has generated the most interest?

    "Charles" is the poster child for (you can see him on the index page of my website). He tends to get quite a bit of attention, has a devout group of worshippers, and I am convinced that he must be positively unmanageable for his owners due to the rock star lifestyle he's picked up from his fame.
    Next in the "attention" line are my anthropomorphic "bird people." There are the Chimney Sweeps with their sooty black clothes and skin, their "real" eyes, and their slightly grumpy demeanor. Then there are the Hermans who have wooden eyes and ADORE striped suits. And finally the infamous Doctor Scops who dons a dashing hat which sits atop his head - a head which happens to be an owl skull. The good doctor is very enthusiastic about performing unusual experiments on his patients.

  5. Has there ever been a commission that you turned down? If so, why?

    I will not take any orders for dolls made in the likeness of a comic book/movie/book character. When I first started making dolls, I would take those requests because it was thrilling to have people interested in my work. Well that thrill didn't last very long. If someone wants a doll like that, they can find a million versions at any toy store/comic book shop in town. They don't need to commission one from an artist. If you love the artist's work, buy the artist's designs.

  6. Which doll has been your favorite? Mary Poppins doesn't visit like she used to

    The aforementioned "Charles."

  7. What is your "day job"?

    I work in an art department as a graphic designer for a fashion retailer

  8. My friend would like to know whether or not you are evil. Is this a question you hear frequently?

    Well, as I learned from question #3, some people like to think I am "evil" (whatever that is). I honestly don't understand. Unless human emotion is considered "evil."

  9. What is the process by which your dolls are made? From whence do your ideas derive? Of what are this creatures made?

    People and life are the inspirations for my dolls. I think that's why some people really love them - they can relate to them. The dolls are a product of what is churning around in my head and heart.
    They also come from the fact that I love unusual physical attributes. Unusually large noses. Misshapen teeth. Facial scars. One leg shorter than the other. A twitch. That kind of thing.

  10. What do you want people to most know about you?

    That I'm a rather private person.

  11. What was your favorite book as a child and why?

    Ironically, one of my favorite books as a child was Live Dolls. It was a tattered old hard cover that my grandmother had in her collection. It must have been written in the late 1800's and had the most wonderful illustrations. I found the premise creepy but I still loved it and would read it over and over and over with my mom.

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