On March 12th we started a monthly feature dedicated to the talented artist Erika Barrat. Her inspiring work is made in a wonderful and dreamy studio in NYC, which looks like a paradise to me! Her dolls are truly amazing and elegant. There is a lot of care in each creation, you can perceive her love for the natural high quality materials she uses in each of them. The result are dolls to be treasured with a beautiful vintage style. I bet you will love to discover more about her and her exquisite work. Thank you so much dear Erika for sharing your magical world with us!
– What would you like to share about yourself?
ERIKA: Making and working with my hands has always been a big part of my life since childhood. I have always been drawn to textiles and fiber arts in particular, a love affair that has only continued to grow. I was raised in Michigan, went to high school and college in Arizona and I live in New York now. I started my business 4 years ago while living in Brooklyn and recently moved to the Hudson Valley region of New York, 60 miles north of NYC, this past summer with my husband and dog Edith.
I live and work in a former 19th century textile factory with a community of other wonderful creative folks. My environment has always been very important to me and my studio is filled with collected and heirloom objects that hold meaning and inspire me. I like to keep my space pretty tidy, although it definitely has its moments! I used to share a studio and I got into the habit of cleaning it up before I left for the day so it is something I continue to try to do!
I love to bake, cook, play accordion, go exploring with Edie or hunting for treasures either on the beach or flea markets. I have also been dabbling in dollhouse renovations since I have been up here. So much fun!
– Can you describe your dolls in one sentence?
ERIKA: My dolls are handcrafted from carefully sourced natural materials, intended to be cherished timeless heirloom treasures.
– When did you start making dolls?
ERIKA: I officially started about 5 years ago creating the patterns and working on the collection you see now. I first made a boy rabbit and then the lady rabbit with the baby bunny in her bag. I had a little tiny dog that looked like a fox at the time and he always rode around in my bag so he was the inspiration for putting all the little animals in the dolls pockets. I wanted them to live in a world where it was perfectly normal to have a baby woodland creature living in your dress or apron pocket. Getting the doll to the point where she is now took a little longer than the rabbits and once I did I was hooked, it brought together all of my favorite elements of fiber arts and love of all things miniature. My website launched in 2013 and I started doing a few craft shows and Renegade Craft Fair the following year.
– What motivated you to start your own brand?
ERIKA: After almost a decade of working primarily with two – dimensional embroidery and creating custom display work for retailers, I began my line of dolls and seasonal décor. During a road trip through the Midwest I began thinking more about creating objects that were intended to last and become a part of someone’s history; a special heirloom object as opposed to display work that is temporary. While taking the back roads and stopping at flea markets and estate sales, I was paying special attention and noticing antique toys along the way; tattered and beautiful and obviously well loved with a layer of history on each one. The ability of cloth to collect and preserve emotion became the foundation for my work. Everything just kind of came full circle at that point and the brand was born.
– Which part of the process you enjoy the most?
ERIKA: My favorite part is embroidering the faces and choosing the fabrics and yarns for the outfits and accessories. I love to add all of the little details after they are finished. I have never had two come out alike so it is always fun to see the unique personality of each one emerge.
– What makes it challenging for you? / What challenges you?
ERIKA: Pretty much anything related to computers or technology! J Also, managing my time…always a struggle to focus, especially when I have so many ideas floating around up there that I want to see come to life!
– Favorite materials/ tools/ fabrics/ suppliers, etc
ERIKA: I love to work with all natural materials. I use wool for the stuffing, alpaca fiber for the hair, linen and cotton fabric for the bodies, cotton, linen and silk for the clothing. Most of the knitwear is made from cashmere, different wools and linens. I think yarn shopping is my favorite. The wood buttons for the joints are made locally. I collect a lot of antique lace, buttons, trims, millinery flowers and linens.
– What do you consider to set a fair price to your work?
ERIKA: Never the easy part right! Since I like to use high-end materials and like to spend a lot of time on details it is definitely a balance and I know it is an area a lot of makers struggle with. I am grateful for the ever growing appreciation for handmade so many supporters. It’s so wonderful.
– What´s the soundtrack to your doll making process?
ERIKA: It depends on the day! If I am doing a lot of repetition like stuffing I like to have a favorite movie or show on in the background. Other than that, I like podcasts (so many good ones!) and I do listen to audio books occasionally. I love all types of music but lately if you walked in you would hear a lot of old jazz, First Aid Kit, Fleetwood Mac and anything by Yann Tiersen.
– Any advice to other fellow doll makers?
ERIKA: If you are just starting out, just keep going even if you feel frustrated! I had a decent sized box of doll rejects until I was happy with the original one I was ready to share with the world. This was before I was on social media and I didn’t have any doll maker friends to ask questions or chat with. Now I am able to connect with an incredible community of so many talented makers from all over the world – it is so wonderful! Don’t be afraid to reach out and just have fun with it, it is definitely a labor of love!
(@ingle_creek for dollhouse renovation shenanigans J )
(shop updates are announced via mailing list and on Instagram)
Erika’s cloth doll collection: