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Featured Artist: Niish Ka of Madame Dieu’s Bizzare Fine Art Dolls & Fiber Arts

by EBlack on November 29, 2012

Publishers Note: It was a pleasure to sit down and chat with a one-of-a-kind felter, who’s work is nothing less than majestic, whimsical, and down right beautiful! Niish Ka of Madame Dieu’s Bizzare is a fiber lady with a knack for felting amazing headpieces and dolls. Her passion shines through in an organic and free-flowing style that makes her work extremely unique.   

Spin Artiste (SA): How did you come to love fiber, and how did you get where you are today with fiber?

Niish Ka (NK): I’ve always been attracted to natural fibers. There is a certain warmth and life in organic fiber. I first started to think about fiber arts when I bought an antique Lenci doll. The doll was wool with a mohair wig and felted clothing; it was impossibly beautiful to me in a way that separated it from my other antique dolls. The idea of creating dolls in this way was a seed that would not come to fruition for many years.

SA: Your felted doll work is amazing – what motivated you to create dolls?

NK: Dolls have fascinated me since I was a child. For years I just collected.  There would be dolls that would come along that I felt had more of a sentient vibe than others. I noticed that these dolls would often times be wool, felt, or wax. A couple year ago, I started wet felting wearables for myself and as gifts for friends. You know, scarfs, cuffs, bags, collars, the usual items that were easy as part time artistic projects. Along the way I started to think about dolls I would like to see on the market (new) such as boudoir dolls for older kids and adults, like in the 1920’s. This led me to look around and see what was being made. There are some amazing doll artists out there, yet nothing that was quite like what I had envisioned in my head. I looked through my collection and started to really pick apart the details that made the antique dolls special to me. It was the small doll firms in Italy that stuck out. One fateful night, I was felting a cuff and decided to add some needle felted details to the design so I got online and did a general search for felting needles that lead me to Feltalive and the wonderful work of Kay Petal – Inspiration came to my door — I developed my own designs based on antique boudoir dolls of the 1920s and started to get offers from collectors. Madame Dieu’s Dollery (part of the ‘Bizarre) was born from my love and a niche in the market. It’s funny how passion unfolds.

SA: It’s easy to see your love for the antique style depicted in the dolls; they are quite amazing! You mentioned that you integrate many different materials from your travels into your dolls. What are some of the more interesting fibers that you have used, and where are they from?

NK: Oh, my –  I feel that all things are connected and I like to incorporate old fiber from loved things into my new pieces. I have added antique mohair, wool from Victorian coverlets that gave up the ghost long ago. I’ve used hair from people and pets. Really, I will try to spin anything, some successes, many failures.

SA: I see you also use vintage pieces to enhance your work as well. What inspires you to add these elements?

NK: I am very much inspired by crafts of the past. In particular, many of my boudoir dolls have baubles from 1900 to 1920’s as an ode to the period. I like to use costume jewelry trimmings to add to the feel, and old textiles and beads are so lovely in new creations.

SA: I know you have already mentioned that you glean inspiration from the 1900 to the 1920’s, but how would you describe the style of your work?

NK: Garish. Haha.

SA: I must say, you make “garish” look gorgeous!  You are a talented artist in felt and you are also a spinner, dyer, and knitter. How do you balance your energy toward all of your fiber arts?

NK: I do not knit well, but I do crochet. I have the sickness where I like to have my hand in as many aspects of the process as possible. There is a feeling of magic when I take raw (in the grease) fiber from a local herd and process it from there into a finished piece. Dying is pure fun. I am in love with color and depth of pigment. I read that so often in these interviews too. Felting — both wet and needle – is like an addiction. I start with an idea and then the wool seems to take me places that I could not see when I started. It is this organic catharsis that keeps my attention. I think I’m lopsided most of the time, no real form of balance… I need to have many projects going at once. I completely surrender to the muse, somehow I end up with finished work.

SA: What is the most challenging aspect of felting?

NK: Not overworking the fiber. Allowing the fiber to guide me.

SA: You clearly value the fiber’s natural direction and it seems to always work in your favor, since your pieces are so striking and unique. How do you come up with an idea for a doll; do you create them from people you see or are they from your creative imagination?

NK: I’m in love with old style toys. Circus. Animal headed dolls. Jack-in-the-box. Lounging lady dolls. Then there is a part of me that loves horror stuff, like Grey Alien stuff, or characters from books, such as ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth’ from H.P. Lovecraft. The idea to do a doll comes from these inspirations as they churn in my imagination. I only create what I love, which is why I do not do special orders for the most part.

SA: There is no mistaking that your passion and love for a time gone by is an inspiration for your work. What projects are you currently working on?

NK: In general, I have several projects happening at once. It’s interesting as I tend to end up with groupings of things done at the same time that have a thread of continuity to them. Yarn, dolls, millenary projects that all started in the same wave look a little related –  The flavor of the muse that came to visit.

 

 

 

 

I just finished a grouping of dolls and am getting ready to work on the next set which will be a chorus line of ladies and shadow box set for them to be in.  This was a request.

I’m also working on some new wearables — 1940’s style millinery for the spring and some art yarn as embellishments on garments for a couple dancer friends.

I need to process the bags of fleece I have also. I put my yarn on the side as I’m waiting to get a new wheel for the production side of spinning.

SA: Oh, a new wheel; how exciting! You will have to update us on your new addition when it arrives. What is your studio like?

NK: A mess! I am such a messy artist, I just have to honor that and not worry about what others think. I do separate my spaces though. Dry: Sewing. Spinning. Needle felting. Wet: Felting. Dying. The kitchen is where the wet work happens and the living room and bedroom are where the dry stuff happens. It is a goal to get a real studio space someday.

 SA: Can you tell us about your present wheel?

NK: I learned on an antique Lithuanian wheel. I absolutely love drop spindles and still use those the most. I bought a Babe Bulky Production wheel to satisfy my local knitter’s needs and it’s been nothing but trouble (I’ll be nice and say no more about that). I’m saving up for an Ashford Country Spinner II now.

SA: I’m sure your family and friends have given you many fiber gifts that have tickled your fancy. What has been your favorite fiber gift?

NK: This may sound simple but it’s totally sentimental. It is a shawl my Mamo made when she was dying. It’s nothing special really, and certainly she made some impressive pieces with hand spun yarn on her loom in her day, but it’s the fact that she did it then and just for me. <3

SA: It has been a blast talking with you today, Niish. One last question and then we will let you go back to felting; what do you like to do on a rainy day?

NK: I mostly love to cuddle up under a blanket and daydream. Does that count?

I usually end up needle felting or drop spindling on rainy days.

 

SA:  A perfect way to spend the day!  Thanks so much, Niish for giving us a peak into your world.  I know a lot of the readers are felters and will be fascinated by your viewpoint and your work. 

Readers, Niish does not have an online store — she sells mainly at events/festivals — but from time to time her pieces are available through her website.  Also, her website is a delightful read as well so please, check it out.

And…there’s still time to grab a chance at winning the amazing batt from Lisa McKenzie — the deadline is Sunday at 5 PM.  Just leave a comment on the post about Lisa.

Lastly, there are only a couple of spots left for the next Secret Stash Game that is starting in January.  This is going to be the best one yet!  Linda Atkinson of SageRidge Mill & Critters has designed the kit which will contain her fabulous fibers.   For those of you unfamiliar with Linda’s work, she was one of the featured artists in the gallery exhibition at Yarnival this year.  It is a true thrill to have the opportunity to work with her and be able to offer her kit concept to you.  Here’s the link to get to the payment button. 

Be back with you in a few days!!!  All my best, Arlene

 

 

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