The Making of My Moth Doll
By Rachel Myren
It was in mid-December on a dull grey day when the question just came to me, “What do you really want?” My life so far had been consumed by what had to get done and by meeting other’s needs. This idea of what I wanted was new territory for me. But when I surely thought about it, what I indeed wanted was to make a doll! I had no idea what kind of doll. Just a doll, was all I knew for sure.
So with that, I set aside my irrational fears and garnered up the courage to just start this doll having no idea what was to come of it. I started with the head working in lightly spotted muslin. Once the head was stuffed I then needle sculpted the facial features. At that point it was late, and I held this little doll head in the palm of my left hand and just looked at it as an artist would do in the process of creating something.
In that very sweet moment, “she” told me, “she wanted to be a moth!” I thought to myself, “a moth…really?” My next thoughts were, “what kind of moth, and why a moth?” But that didn’t seem to matterright then. Besides, it is not worth arguing with a matter such as this! What I had come to realize wasthat this doll knew what she needed to become and I had been chosen to create her. It felt like such an honor! With this, I realized that it was my role in this project, “to listen,” and, “to trust.” So I sought outand followed this subtle and in-audible instruction offered to me on, “a need to know basis”…the trust part. In a vague sort of way this felt kind of exciting to me coming out of the dull of winter. I had
decided with an open mind to follow and just go along with it.
For months she sat on my work table in varying stages of development and frequently my sewing clients would ask, “What is she going to look like when she is done?” I could only answer that I had no idea! It was kind of like she was unfolding in my hands, little by little as I worked on her. I had lots of resistance
when it came time to approach making the wings. This, I knew somehow, was an inner personal resistance! These wings represented a transformed and profoundly changed state. Something was also going on inside myself; I too, was being transformed by this process! So, when my own inner resistance came up (the arguing which is, well, you know… futile), I just let the project be for a span of time, while still listening for the much heeded and needed guidance.
I knew that insects have an exoskeleton made of chitin and I needed to represent these tiny and shiny scales on the limbs, hence the appliqued dull lace over the sheen of the iridescent silk doupioni fabric. Her forearms still have skin showing through the lace indicating that she is still in the process of changing. Moths also often have dull colored, furry bodies. I “just happened” to find the perfectly
colored taupe fur for her thighs, her bottom and for her back on either side of her newly emerging wings.
Her “petticoat” is made of white fluffy feathers which imply lightness and coming flight. For her hair I found the perfect combination of taupe and teal twisted together and fashioned this yarn into pig-tails of rather youthful looking looped braids which somehow reflect the new-ness of her future condition. I even
had to add 3 fishing weights inside her bottom to keep her from falling over due to the imbalance created by all the heavy glass beading on the back of her wings. What a funny nuance! A little grounding is never a bad idea!
The question that most often came up was, “Why a moth and not a beautiful butterfly?” Well, there is a special significance to her becoming a moth. Moths are comparatively not noticed. We marvel over butterflies and their graceful beauty. Moths are not thought of as being beautiful, but they are if you
really look close. Some moths around the world are quite unique and beautiful! Both moths and butterflies go through a significant metamorphosis entering into a very still, chrysalis-like state, alone, in order to later emerge completely transformed with wings. Moths also seek out the light which is what this doll is all about!
About 5 months into making this moth doll it just came to me one day that her name was to be, “Harken,” which, in old English means to actively listen. This has been my preoccupation with Harken the whole time…to actively, and silently listen for guidance. As it turns out, Harken is a woman who is in the process of morphing into a moth. She is aware of something changing within herself. She can sense the emerging wings, the antennae and even the thorax, but she is not able to see any of these changes because they are happening behind and over her. From the front, Harken is very dull in color, much like a moth’s body, but from behind her there are bright colors that are taking place on her wings. Harken’s expression is open and she’s listening attentively to her creator to gain an understanding of what she is to do with these emerging, brightly colored “gifts.” Her eyes are looking upward and she’s seeking out wisdom and her creators will for her newly changing life form.
To finish her, I gave her a single teardrop on her necklace which represents the bitter-sweetness that is ever present during the sloughing off of the old and the taking on of the new. Change is rarely easy. The fact is that the doll is me. Like a moth that is so often not noticed, my life so far has been nearly consumed by invisible work which is only noticed when it is not yet done. Harken is an allegorical form representing the transformation I am experiencing at this, what I call, my mid-life upheaval.
Doll making is a powerful and personally transformative journey for me. I’m glad that I took the time and accepted the inner challenge to actively listen as I was creating Harken for she seemed to know what she needed to become…just for me. I would have never imagined her to be what she has become on my own. It took 9 months total to create Harken. Is this another amusing nuance? I am not sure, but it did makeme smile a little. Now that Harken is finally complete, she continues her harkening…to gently remind me to sit still, to quiet my thoughts, to actively “listen,” and, to “trust,” in this sometimes daunting inner process of mid-life, morphic changes and upheaval. So, onward, upward, and inward…God is not done with me yet.