Diana Baumbauer has spent many years developing her unique approach to artistic expression through doll making. She is self-taught by her own admission and has found when she is in the creative process, she is in her element. Diana’s work evokes a sense of play and joy from those who engage with her art.
Diana is currently creating original pieces for sale and conducts workshops for those interested in making their own dolls from her designs.
Carrie: When did you first realize the arts were important to your life?
When I was very young I was the kid that would tear apart my dolls and toys to see how they were made. I also received hand-made toys too, so when I was old enough my parents signed me up for 4-H (rather than the Girl Scouts) and I got to explore all sorts of arts and crafts. My curiosity about how things are put together to make the whole still intrigues me. I am always thrilled to see works of art, no matter the medium, that make me curious.
Carrie: How did you discover your interest in doll making?
Dolls and toys were things I could actually create at a young age with relatively little expense, while other endeavors would have included expensive equipment and materials of which I had no access. But what I really discovered was that with simple fabrics and trims some really wonderful treasures could be created and enjoyed.
Carrie: How do you move from idea to finished work? Do you follow the same pattern or is each doll different?
Over the years I’ve built up quite a library of resources and I’ve taken many workshops and classes to develop and hone my own skills. This is usually my go to place when I’m rummaging around for something to trigger an idea. If I already have an idea, going through my resources will help me figure out the hows of what I want to do. That said, when I get an idea for something I’ll sketch it out and make little notes all over it to trigger my memory. It’s just to get the idea out of my head and onto paper.
I’ve developed my own ‘style’ in pattern design and will pull from those patterns for some of my ideas. Sometimes I’ll start fresh and that’s when I’ll refer back to my references for more ideas about certain techniques or processes as I go along. Once I have a first draft of my pattern I’ll usually make a doll and take notes as I make it about changes I want to make to the pattern. I’ll go back, tweak the pattern and do it again.
I reach a point when I know I have a finished doll that looks the way I expect it to look. By this time I’ve got several versions of the doll made that allow me to see what I like most, incorporate those changes and toss the rest. This reduces the chance of incorporating the wrong pieces into the final pattern.
My method for making any doll typically follows the same process. Once I’ve got the pattern created that I want to use, I’ll select all my materials to make that doll; fabrics for the body, clothing, hair, etc. As I construct the doll and its clothes I’ll take notes along the way and draw an illustration for myself so I will remember what it was I did and how I moved through the process. This has come in handy when I’ve converted my finished products into patterns for others to make. Today with smartphones and pocket size digital cameras available, it is very easy to take pictures of each step as I move through the process of making and finishing a doll.
I’ve discovered over the years that my customers like that I include all the steps and make the process understandable and easy for them. I don’t take for granted that people just know how to sew or how to make a doll or anything like that. I suppose my process has always been as a teacher and how would I want to learn a new process or technique for making a doll.
Carrie: How do you decide when one of your dolls are finished?
I discovered a long time ago, that for most of us who consider ourselves as creative, a finished product really doesn’t exist. There’s always something that can be adjusted, tweaked, added to, embellished, or scrapped and started over. For me, the doll is finished after I’ve walked away from it for a few days and come back to it, look it over and am satisfied that anything else I could do would not really improve what I had intended.
Carrie: If you feel stuck on a project, what do you do?
Sometimes, when I’m feeling stuck on a project it’s because it’s really not inspiring me. I feel like I’m fighting with it and end up making mistakes and getting frustrated with it. I have to set it aside and either let it resolve itself in my head or cannibalize it for something else I want to do. I’ve learned over the years that if I am forcing something, I will not be satisfied with the end product.
When I get stuck getting started on a project, or getting an idea, I’ll turn to my personal reference library of books and materials. Sketchpad in hand, it never fails to get the juices flowing and then I’m in the flow and it feels good.
Carrie: What does your workspace look like?
In reality my whole apartment is my workspace. However, I do have a designated spare bedroom I’ve converted into my workspace. My worktable is a blank interior door set up on a pair of 2-drawer filing cabinets. This is where I do everything but sew the dolls together. I have a small table set up with my sewing machine and he closet is where I keep my supplies, sewing equipment and all those goodies that inspire more projects. I have an old dresser that serves as one of my supply cabinets.
There are bookshelves everywhere in my apartment full of everything from how-to technique books, anatomy books, and my favorite children’s books because they have the best illustrations for ideas. I also have binders with inspiring clippings, notes from workshops I’ve taken, my patterns and patterns from others that have inspired me over the years. I’m fortunate because I get the morning light through my east facing windows so when I’m painting or working on faces it is the absolute best lighting to have.
Carrie: What is one obstacle you’ve faced in your work and how did you overcome it?
Early on, I got involved with law enforcement and the courts to provide dolls that were used in sexual abuse investigations. Until this point I was making maybe one or two dolls from a pattern then moving on to something else. A friend of mine who worked with child abuse cases suggested I create a family of dolls that could be used by law enforcement and social services to help children through the process of abuse. She also helped me get a foot in the door to potential clients for my products and I was off and running. Next thing I knew I was a one woman assembly line for these dolls.
Although I believed in the cause, I hated that I had lost control of what I loved to do, which was to create new designs and processes, not generating the same thing over and over. Eventually, I turned down future sales for the sake of my own peace of mind. These dolls were not about bringing joy or playfulness to anybody. They were used to gather evidence for a conviction in child molestation cases.
Interestingly, the desire to create has never left. But that experience helped me rethink what it was that I wanted to do with my creative energy and what I want someone else to experience when they are in contact with one of my dolls.
Carrie: What do you hope people take away from your work?
Joy. When someone sees one of my dolls in person, they always have a smile on their face. My dolls invoke a childlike wonder, even for a moment, that lifts us up and just makes us feel good. My work isn’t going to change national policies or inspire deep thoughts about the environment or deep inner spirituality, but what my work does do is bring a person into the present moment where joy and curiosity are king. And for that moment my work has helped someone just feel good.
Carrie: What is one creative resource you can’t live without?
I couldn’t live without my muse. She only comes around when I’m doing the work, but without her, it wouldn’t be worth the effort. Doll making is the creative outlet that I’ve taken to express all that stuff inside and my muse is there to light the path and feed me ideas for future projects.
Carrie: Who/what inspires you?
I have many contemporary doll makers that have inspired me over the years. Susanna Oroyan and Elinor Peace Bailey were most influential because they showed me that you could be as creative as hell, but you also had to be grounded and keep a business sense around you too.
Carrie: How do you define Creativity?
To me, creativity is akin to problem solving. We are all creative because we all problem-solve. The investment banker is creative when he/she helps a client maximize their investment portfolio. A doctor is creative because he/she is able to elicit from the patient specific information that helps identify a diagnosis for a prescribed treatment approach. The artist is creative because we evoke an emotional response to what we present to the world.
Be Creatively Courageous: What do you want people to experience when they interact with your art? I want to know. Share in the comments below.
Additional Contact Info:
2746 E 2nd Street Long Beach, CA 90803