Kiarra's Spectacular Menagerie presents Art Dolls by Paula Nerhus
"When listening to music one may experience an emotion that possibly takes you on a journey of a creation. A painting can invite you in and give you a spark of mood...a walk in the woods where nature may present a color or a texture...all things speak to your imagination and can send you running with a vision that you must bring to life. Any and all things shape inspiration in all sorts of packages to me." ~ Paula Nerhus
What is it about dolls that they can fascinate, amuse, thrill, terrify and even offend us? A doll is not just a doll. A doll can be used as a tool for religious and magical rituals. A doll can represent something terrifying and haunting. Even a doll that serves as a child's play toy embodies more than its outward appearance - a baby to tend to and care for, or a friend to keep one's company. To avid doll collectors and enthusiasts, dolls are treasures and artistic marvels. Whatever the appeal may be - whether you are a doll collector, a child, or someone who is fascinated with the supernatural - dolls carry a symbolic significance that is hard to ignore.
My daughter Kiarra adores dolls - she has several of them - too many to count. My son Ronan is terrified of them and is convinced to this day that they move on their own when one is not looking. Needless to say, our family has a deep fascination and appreciation of dolls and the differing emotions they can invoke. Naturally, I figured a Circus Living feature on dolls was long overdue.
In my quest to decide which artist to first cover for Circus Living's feature on dolls and doll makers, I came across Paula Nerhus' exquisitely crafted dolls. Her dolls are both beautiful and eerie - a deliciously perfect combination. Her dolls are blatantly expressive yet retain a mysterious quality about them. When I look at her dolls, I cannot help but wonder how they came to be, and what inspired Paula to create them. I knew there had to be a story behind each of her creations...and not just any story - a moving story that would tingle the senses and spark one's imagination. Paula is an exceptional individual with a passionately reflective attitude towards life. After learning more about Paula and her dolls, my first impression of her was confirmed, and that is nothing about Paula is ordinary or mundane. Paula Nerhus' dolls are her brilliantly inspired visions brought to life.
Paula Nerhus played with dolls as most little girls do as a child. She would make clothes for her dolls using her mother's fabric scraps and her father's black dress socks. Later in life, she became a visual merchandiser where she did windows for malls, designer shops and department stores. She saw this career as being able to dress bigger dolls. In her early 20's, she felt a burning desire which drove her to start making dolls, and she has been making them ever since.
When I asked how long she normally takes to complete a doll, she explained that she has no idea how long it takes to complete one doll because she is usually working on several at the same time - "I may have up to 20 dolls that are missing the one special thing that has not come into my possession just yet. That dolly will just sit incomplete until that moment when you have married them with that very last detail".
It does not come as a surprise that the details on her dolls are impressive and incredibly intrinsic given the amount of dedication she puts into creating them. Her dolls perfectly portray the abundance of love and passion Paula extends to her craft - a mindset Paula describes as an 'illness' of sorts. What she calls her illness, I call genius.
And without further ado using Paula's own words to tell the story behind some of her dolls, Kiarra's Spectacular Menagerie presents Paula Nerhus' art dolls...
Meet Amirah. Gone too soon.
"This doll was the hardest doll I ever made. This doll was requested by a dear friend and I normally do not do requests but because of the situation I made an exception. You see my dear friend lost the life of her granddaughter as she slept in her bed. Like any other morning she got up and went about her morning letting her sleep in when she was spending the night. This morning when she went back to wake her she did not wake up. So making this doll to resemble a passed away angel was pulling on my heart strings the whole time I sculpted her. Seeing her little face appear in the clay and each lock of hair I curled up. I wanted her to look like Amirah but not so much that it was to real. I gave her to her grandmother on the anniversary of her death. Amirah was two and half when she died of S.I.D.S. She was hand sculpted from creative paper clay."
Meet Loved but not Forgotten. A Creative Collaboration.
"Loved but not forgotten was a really fun piece. I wanted to do a pose-able jointed doll in a dreamy attire from the fourteenth century. This piece was a collaboration doll that I worked on with my sister giving my sister an opportunity to express herself with her gift of sewing. I sculptured the doll and gathered fabrics. We discussed her clothes a bit but I let her run with it. It was a fun project to work with another person and see how others see your piece as opposed to how you would have finished it."
Meet Tina's Angel. An emblem of faith and friendship
"This doll is titled Tina's Angel. This doll too has an interesting story behind it. I sold a doll on ETSY to a gal named Tina. The doll she bought was also an angel. She found my dolls to be interesting yet wondered if I was dark. She was chatting with me on ETSY and feeling me out. As our conversations went she learned that I am NOT dark in any way. This online friendship grew over the months. Turned out that Tina and I both live in the same state and we are both married to farmers. I didn't mind building a friendship with her and I seem to find that my dolls may draw in hurting people. Tina shared many things with me in emails and we built a wonderful friendship. Turned out that Tina was an abused woman. We did meet and have spent many hours together. Me driving to her home and her to mine.
We talk on the phone a lot and it has been over four years or so now. Through our friendship I shared my love of Christ with her and her joy spilled over to her husband and he too turned his life around. They are now building a healthy marriage. So after this beautiful friendship grew I wanted to make Tina a special doll that reflected my feelings for her and her love for Angels. She thinks I am an Angel but I am not, I am just a human. The doll is hand sculpted with creative paper clay and dressed in vintage scrapes of old vintage clothes and hankies. Tina and I remain friends and I look forward to the next friendship my dolls bring me."
Photo Credits to Paula Nerhus
Paula Nerhus on Pinterest
Paula Nerhus Art Dolls Page on Facebook