Sheri DeBow has graced our gallery once again for her show Return of the Bubblegum Princess
. Her dolls are intricately crafted with the same love and passion that is seen when looking at them. Sheri draws great inspiration from the love and joy that her family brings to her life and the fabulous eccentricity that makes her who she is.
"Dolls are a tiny vehicle that mark history....mostly, I hope that people are moved."
From anime to hairdressing, she tells us about the experiences that inspire her and the process of bringing her imagination to life.
JV: This is your third solo exhibition with Modern Eden. How does it feel to have had such success with your work at this gallery?
SD: It's feels amazing that Bradley & Kim have not only made a place for & encouraged my work but also that they believed in me from the start. They are so professional and show so much great work at Modern Eden that it pushed me to really want to finesse my dolls and sculptures to another level!
JV: Can you talk a bit about the theme or concept behind this show, "Return of the Bubblegum Princess"?
SD: I have been wanting to work on this theme "Return of the Bubblegum Princess" for a while. I think the idea of "rites of passage" and the change of a girl into womanhood is a story easily told with dolls. I find a great power in feminine sexuality and this show is about the girls that hold that power and the innocence of the ones that haven't found it yet. I grew up loving comics, anime, the "Manga" girls and had a huge collection of dolls that were always so delicate and intricately beautiful to me. For me this show is a natural progression from all the childhood dolls & art I had loved to my own interpretation of how I view dolls today & the story they can tell at the fingertips of an artist.
JV: I am so intrigued by the titles of your dolls. How do you come up with them?
SD: Choosing the titles for my pieces is a really fun process. Sometimes it starts with a line in a book I have read or the theme of a song. The title can be a twist on a well known saying like, in this show, "Two Hearts Are Better than One" of course comes from "Two Heads Are Better Than One". Since I always seem to come back to the theme of Love and what a huge role it plays in life many of my pieces come from that inspiration. As well, many of the titles stem from my own dealings with love in life as well as experiences I have either had with my kids or watched them have, from their triumphs to their heartbreaks. All the titles are very personal for me.
JV: That is really touching, thank you for sharing. Do you feel that your collectors influence the direction of the work you make?
SD: I love my collectors and I do want them to appreciate and connect with the work especially if I head in a new direction. But because I have such a strong vision about what I'm trying to say with my dolls I don't think the collectors influence the work. If I did commissions then maybe, but generally I have a story I'm trying to convey with a new collection and I just jump in and hope they will love it when it comes to life.
JV: That makes sense. It'd be great to hear a bit about your process. About how long does it take to make a doll from start to finish?
SD: It's difficult to say a set time period of how long each piece takes as I generally work on a collection at a time. So it's generally ten dolls or more almost assembly line style starting with wire armature laid out, then wrapped, sculpted, sanded, painted, glazed, clothes & wigged last! Each stage is done together in groups. I worked on this show creating 24 new pieces starting at the very end of December and ended the last week in February . And that was dolls & sculptures together in a two month period.
JV: Amazing that you were able to get so much done in only two months! Do you have a designated studio space or is it something you work on all around the house?
SD: My poor family has to endure me everywhere in my house. I did start with a designated "Studio" space years ago but I'm super social & love to be with everyone so my artwork has pretty much melted into every space of my home. I honestly can't believe how patient my family is with my art & dolly messes, I guess they love me! ;)
JV: It is clear that they do very much! What is your favorite part of the creation process?
SD: I love the initial process of making the wire armature because it's exciting knowing something new is coming. The sculpting starts giving them character. The painting creates their personalities with the expressions. These are all the parts I love. And then the sewing has to happen - I love it when it's done but it is torture and tedious while it's happening. I have a love/hate relationship with the sewing process. And finally the hairdos bring them to life. Since I spent 25 years being a hairdresser, old habits die hard so I definitely enjoy that part.
JV: Can you talk a bit about everyday things that inspire your work?
SD: I am inspired by everything from movies that visually grab me to all the life that is always happening around me with all my kids. I am inspired by books I've read but even fabric can inspire me. Especially vintage fabric because I think of where it's been and the stories it could tell.
JV: Super interesting. What kind of message, if any, would you hope that your dolls are putting back out into the world?
SD: I truly hope that people feel love & joy from my creations. Even if a character has a sad face, I want people to know I poured so much love into that piece to get the perfect somber expression. Dolls are a tiny vehicle that mark history. They convey, fashion wise, a statement of the past or something current. They can speak love & comfort or they can also freak people out which is hilarious too. So, mostly, I hope people are moved.
JV: Do you have a favorite or favorites in this current collection?
SD: In this collection I have a really hard time picking a favorite because there are different reasons that I love each piece. They are all incredibly personal and I have been considering this theme for so long I truly love them all!
Sheri DeBow's show Return of the Bubblegum Princess
will be on display until March 25th here in San Francisco. Swing by the gallery Wed-Sat between 12 and 6pm to see her love and craftsmanship in person!