you love fairy tales? Enter the world of Poppen en Beesten
(Dolls and Animals). Verhelst's figures will transport you
to old stories and images such as those of Grimm or Anderson.
Humor and mischief reside in their whimsical expressions, reflecting
playful aspects of the artist herself. Their hands, like the
hands of dancer's, bring full expression to Verhelst's creative
intent. The dolls and animals are having fun. You will be entranced.
of Verhelst's influences come from impressions of the work
of puppeteers, the paintings of Arthur Rackham, the theater. " Dolls
are what I do best. I make dolls because they are so close
to human beings. You really can get touched by them. I try
to create a fantasy world based on human characters and anatomy
but everyone can imagine their own story for my dolls or my
doll-animal combinations. I consider my dolls three-dimensional
illustrations of imaginary stories. My figures are independent,
introverted and (mostly) intelligent. They are meant to make
people smile. In my opinion not only the faces give expression,
but the hands as well. My guide is to keep it simple and don't
stick to conventions."
childhood Verhelst saw her future as a painter or journalist. " I
was always creating, writing poems, making doll clothes, playing
with clay, so my parents sent me to art school." She tried
everything in the beginning, both technical and artistic disciplines
at the same time developing her own methods as most ingenious
artists do. She began dollmaking after her education as an illustrator
at Art Academy in l975.
of my teachers, a writer and illustrator of children's books
made dolls for fun, for her children to play with. I will never
forget the day she showed us those dolls. I was fascinated.
Though the teacher was not a professional dollmaker, the dolls
showed the same silent character as her drawings. They were
simple dolls, with a strong expression." remembers Verhelst. "Though
I never saw those dolls again, they are always in my mind when
making my own dolls. They are still my source of inspiration
for keeping it simple. These dolls have had a great influence
on my work. "
works in several mediums. Mostly her pieces are sculpted directly
of porcelain, but sometimes air-drying clay is used for the
legs of a standing doll. Animals are modeled from papier mâche
around a base of Styrofoam. "After creating a doll in
my head, I sometimes hate to make the piece because it already
exists perfectly in my head, could still be a masterpiece,
and it feels like making is only craft, not creative anymore."
and painting are Verhelst's favorite aspects of the creative
process. Painting brings the piece to life and possibly changing
its character. Finishing touches might take her weeks of adding
and eliminating. "Less is more" is her maxim for
the final result.
is "mom" to a very active family. Finding her "Prince," more
than 25 years ago, three very active children were created.
Two follow artistic inclinations, another is inclined toward
sport. Verhelst creates websites with her son Polle and also
designs interior textiles. The prolific artist has also written
two books . Fantastische Sprookjespoppen (Fantastic Fairy Tale
Dolls) is out of print. Poppen en Beesten (Dolls and Animals)
is a dollmaking book and available. Though the language of
this book is Dutch the photos and drawings are easily understood.
This writer finds it a pleasure and easy to follow. Also with
son Polle, she is working on a CD in English about sculpting
directly in porcelain to be available in 2003.
became a member of NIADA in l999. She finds that NIADA gives
her self-confidence, the opportunity to meet colleagues and
other people. She travels extensively exhibiting and teaching
Marlaine Verhelst's Website to find out more -- about her,
her dolls, her family and where to take advantage of her splendid