Arts & Leisure

Isolation inspires Cornwall artist to sew dolls

A COUPLE OF Lauren Ringey's dolls

Being stuck at home all day has probably inspired more than a few of us to revisit our passion projects and hobbies that have just been collecting dust in the basement for months. For Lauren Ringey of Cornwall the isolation of COVID-19 has reignited a creative flame for her handmade doll company. 
“I’m home all day with my machine,” said the 30-year-old Middlebury Union High School grad who started sewing just four short years ago for her son. “I’ve been making a lot. Recently I advertised some stock that I had on Instagram and sold it really quickly. Then, because everyone is stuck at home and couldn’t go Easter shopping, I asked my Instagram followers if they would be interested in bunnies and other dolls for baskets and that was really well received too. It was special to be a part of Easter with people in that way.”
Before Ringey launched her Etsy shop three years ago, she was doing landscape gardening for eight months of the year. Sewing was just a hobby, and Ringey admits she “wasn’t very good at it, yet.”
When we’re all not under a stay-at-home-order, Ringey works at Middlebury Fitness and Middlebury Sew-N-Vac. So her sewing projects are still on her free time. But recently it’s been more of a focus. She recently elaborated on her hobby-business and what inspires her sewing creations.
When did you start the Cornwall Doll Company? Why?
The whole reason I started making dolls is that I was having a baby (my son is 4, born in 2016). In the beginning I made dolls for him. Later, as I would post them on Instagram, just for fun, and people would reach out to me saying they wanted one too. So I would take that as an opportunity to make another version that was different so it was unique to the child but still part of my developing aesthetic.
What’s your background with fiber arts and sewing?
I am mostly self-taught, but I also learned a lot from crafty friends of mine. They sparked the “just try it” kind of feeling in me, and supported me through that whole creative process.
How has your aesthetic developed?
It took tons and tons of practice — allowing myself to venture into the world of sewing and make mistakes, and even make things that were scary to look at! Finally I had a vision, I kind of created an ideal in my head of what I wanted my dolls to look like. I wanted them to be consistent but also unique, and have an overall look that made it clear that they were made by the same person. That’s what took the time, developing that aesthetic and consistency. It meant tearing faces out over and over, and re-doing them until they had the look that I envisioned and wanted them to have.
Eventually it started to come together more and more quickly and I thought, “I can do this!” I really got inspired by inventing new faces and new creatures for people to enjoy.
How do you describe your style?
I want my dolls to be modern in a way that they are relatable to people, but vintage in a way that they remind you of something that brought you joy in your life before now. So that is what drives me. I want to create something that is enjoyable on multiple levels: for the child receiving the doll and for the person giving it.
Why dolls?
I think that was because I wanted dolls. As a child, I had one specific rag doll that was so special to me. My mom bought her for me at a craft sale when I was 7 or 8 years old. She had a hand-painted face, she was hand sewn, not machine sewn. (I do hand sew my faces, but machine sew the bodies.) I named her Irma Lee after a character in a book I was reading with my mom.
She sparked this imaginative creative joy in me, and I wanted to recreate that for myself and for others. I am a lover of children’s things. I still have Irma Lee.
Where do you sell your crafts?
Mostly it’s a seasonal thing. Around the holidays I do Bundle’s pop-ups in town, plus markets and craft sales, or by word of mouth or special request. I’ll make holiday specific dolls for Easter, baby showers, birthdays… I’m creating all year but typically sell most of the creations around holidays or by special order.
What inspires your creations?
Mostly my son, and his imaginative spirit. He inspires me. Don’t get me wrong, he loves his trucks and superheroes. But he still picks up his dolls from me and asks, “Mama, you made this for me?” and I think that that feels special to him — that I took the time and he has something that’s just for him that no-one else has.
Find more of Lauren’s work on Instagram @cornwalldollcompany.

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