The making of the Can Queen and her Cat

This piece took me several months. Partly because I was occupied with other work, like preparing for my Cummington workshop and the Paris workshop week and developing new classes for the Textielmuseum, but also because I just got stucked.

The cans I got on two different flea markets in France last summer and I wanted to make a doll on them. I sprayed the cans with a kind of varnish, especially to put over rust.

I made a rough sketch: a sitting figure with hare ears and a little bunny puppet sitting on the small squared box. I wanted to sculpt in Creative Paperclay so I made already the base for the head, hands and feet.
Then I saw the announcement for the Queen challenge for the NIADA Conference 2023 so I changed my mind (again….) and decided to make a queen out of it.

For me a queen should be an elderly woman. A young royal woman is a princess. Although in my country the Netherlands we have a young queen (she is 50 now and already 10 years queen) and an old Princess (being the former queen).

So I tried to sculpt an older serious female face, worth being a queen.

In the meantime I gathered the materials. In my country orange is a royal color and I still had a beautiful silk orange velvet that I got as a present from a Greek student so that was an easy decision. It drapes beautifully. The color looks a bit brighter on pictures than it does in reality.

I was very happy with the idea of the triangular piece in her waist but it almost disappears under her collar and I had already five different things dangling down from it and still doubting.

I wanted to make underwear, an under skirt. But adding that took away from her beautiful orange dress. So no. And after several other options I decided to leave her legs quite plain.

I first got stuck on the collar. The collar needed to be royal but most things I tried just didn’t work. Since the doll is quite small a lot of my laces were too big in scale. Even the one I used in the end might be a bit too big.

And then she needed hair. I planned her to be a red head but that changed into white and that changed into the color she has now. I also found out that I am not a good hairdresser….

And the crown…. Too many possibilities and then coming back to the first choice.
The crown I used here I found in an antique shop. It originally belonged to a Virgin Mary statue.

And there she is, with her wooden royal cat.

I am not sure yet if I like her. I have mixed feelings about her face. Half of the time I think she is too sad. But then suddenly, when I am not paying attention, I see a smile on her face from the corner of my eye. It makes her interesting.


Marlaine Verhelst

Author Marlaine Verhelst

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