Inspiring : Doll Disaster Design

Doll Disaster Design : Jewellery

Tessa Rickard collects antique, broken doll parts and heads, and is incessantly drawn to all the strange objects that time has forgotten about. It was what prompted her business name; her Masters thesis was called “From The Mind Of A Doll Disaster”.

Her work – part jewellery, part sculpture – is endlessly intriguing. Sometimes provocative, sometimes humorous, always colourful and strange. Ghostly horses emerge from fields of grass, glass eyes peer out from flower buds and bronze snails feast on plastic roses.


doll disaster design - forest stag necklace

doll disaster design – forest stag necklace


doll disaster design - albino rabbit ring

doll disaster design – albino rabbit ring


Creepy perhaps, but Tessa is adamant. “I make what I like. I love found objects and folk lore. I get ideas from personal experiences, thoughts, folk stories, myths, and nature, and I love finding beauty in oddities and cast-offs of nature.”

She is also interested in ideas of what is valued in our society. In one group of work she explores the notion of how much our society spends on looking after our teeth; she states “Teeth are like personal jewellery.” The pieces feature false teeth, and precious stones are set into the spaces where the real teeth are missing. And there’s another personal oddity that just adds to the intrigue: “I still have two baby teeth…. never had permanent ones to come in those spots. Maybe that is why I love using teeth in my work.”


doll disaster design - brain like a sponge necklace

doll disaster design – brain like a sponge necklace


doll disaster design - eye pod ring

doll disaster design – eye pod ring


tessa rickard - grandfathers teeth

tessa rickard – grandfathers teeth.
{I have never had these pieces in a show. I would love to do that! I could not sell them… two of the necklaces are made with my grandfather’s fake teeth that he never wore and no one wanted them, but me!}


Casting is her favourite technique, although with such an eclectic range of materials to work with her skills need to be very diverse. Plastics, fake grass, shells, metal; materials are chosen for their appearance and the details of assembly are figured out as she works.

She describes her studio as a mess. “But I love it that way! If I could I would have everything out so I can see it all. My husband can’t even look at my desks because it makes him crazy. Most of the time I get so many ideas I start laying everything out and end up working on my lap. The only thing is I wish I had better lighting; but it works for now. It is my space and I go there to escape and create.”


doll disaster design - ghost horse diorama brooch

doll disaster design – ghost horse diorama brooch


She started selling her work on Etsy in 2007, when many of the local jewellery galleries in Michigan closed. It really sparked a new direction for her. “I struggled for years with galleries, and shows trying to sell my work. But I always stayed true to myself and what I wanted to make. I found Etsy and I now know there are people out there to appreciate me and my pieces.” It’s her biggest piece of advice to anyone who is starting out.


“Keep making what you love and want to make. The world is a big place, someone out there will love it!”


doll disaster design - level me up earrings

doll disaster design – level me up earrings


doll disaster design - seek and find curiosity ring

doll disaster design – seek and find curiosity ring


Drawing, painting and making things came naturally to her from an early age. “My mother told me that she couldn’t keep enough paper in the house for me as a child. I remember being happy when I would draw or make something, and that is still how I feel today.

Metal has long held a fascination for her too. “When I was little I would go with my dad when he would use the metal detector and to dig in old dump sites. After he would dig up an old coin or piece of jewelry, I would remember thinking how interesting it was that it was still there after being buried for so long. We would find old, broken bisque dolls and other metal objects too. Working in metal to me means a more permanent or indestructible piece of art. I love the thought of someone someday digging up one of my pieces!”


tessa rickard - part of her collections

tessa rickard – part of her collections


Tessa currently runs her own studio and has been teaching jewellery at college for 17 years. “I guess it would be in high school that I decided to be a “real” artist, but in college I figured out how hard it was going to be to make a living being just an artist, so I decided to also teach art.” She has a BFA in drawing and a Masters degree in Metalsmithing/Jewelry. Her experience in casting and mechanics came when she worked for an artist on his project for three years making working stock tickers, and then working for her graduate school professor making his wax models and gates.

Her work has been published in nine art books, including six in the Lark 500 series. A metal purse that she made is now part of the collection in the Tassen Museum in Amsterdam.

You can find more of Tessa’s work in her Etsy shop, DollDisasterDesign.


tessa rickard - studio

tessa rickard – studio


Oh, and she can totally relate to being a tractorgirl. “I grew up on a grain farm in southern Indiana US. All my dad owned was John Deere tractors! I know how to drive them too.”


Hot or not : cactus

OK OK OK. Well I reckon that if I’ve got a Pinterest board called “Love a good succulent“, than you can safely assume that hey, I don’t mind the odd cactus. The shapes and colours are pretty incredible – I love their chunkiness, their strange shapes and their spectacular flowers. (Go on, check out my Pinterest board and you’ll see why!)

But how does all of that translate into craft and surface design? Like most trends, there’s some total fabulosity, and there’s some goddamn-awfulness. But you know, I reckon that cactuses (or cacti if you prefer) are one of a select group of motifs that seem to hold their own in other mediums – it wasn’t hard at all to find great stuff on Etsy and Pinterest.

Yeah, I probs don’t need a cactus cushion for my couch, or a cactus nightlight for my bedroom either – but they sure look fun. What do you think?


{click on the pics for the links to original sources}

cactus mobile -

cactus mobile –


cactus cushion -

cactus cushion –


cactus crochet pattern -

crochet pattern –


nightlight -

cactus nightlight –


winter cactus - frameless on society6

winter cactus – frameless on society6


illustration -

illustration –


cactus - yoga top -

cactus – yoga top –


Oh, and I could wear this cactus top when I’m feeling particularly spiky. Watch out kids!! ;D

Julie x


The crafted object : Elsa Mora ~ papercuts

I admit it; I have been stalking the eminently admirable Elsa Mora for a few years now. Not only does she make fabulously sculptural papercuts, but her art extends into every facet of her life – she is also a drawer, a painter, a photographer, a maker of books and a storyteller. Even her site is called “Art is a Way”.


elsa mora - little red riding hood papercut

elsa mora – little red riding hood papercut


Her work is populated with plants and animals in a style that is part whimsy, part surreal; her paintings especially are a little reminiscent of Frida Kahlo’s work, with oblique hints of autobiography. But Elsa’s paintings are somehow gentler and more hopeful.


elsa mora - hand

elsa mora – hand


Elsa was born into a poor family in Cuba, the fifth child of eight. Her upbringing was unremarkable, and she remembers walking to school every morning past a park which was the local hangout for drunks and delinquents. It was not a world full of inspiring possibilities.

She celebrated her birthday on the 8th May every year until she was 16. But when she went to a registry office to get her ID card, she  was told by the officer that her birthday was actually a day later – on the 9th. Her father confirmed that this was the case – the 8th had been Mother’s Day the year she was born, and her mother had wanted a double celebration. The discovery had a profound effect. She realised then, that she could be anything she believed she was.

It was, she said, how she escaped from her original destiny.


elsa mora - fly pendant

elsa mora – fly pendant


elsa mora - bee sculpture

elsa mora – bee sculpture


“I was able to imagine a better destiny. I made it happen, day after day, inside my head. I wrote that imagined world down in diaries, I drew it, I painted it, I modeled it in clay and plasticine, I sang it  out loud in the bathroom, I day-dreamed about it.   That imaginary reality became my project, my experiment, my secret love, the only thing that I could count on because it was all up to me. Everything else failed me but not my imagination.”


elsa mora - sketch for paper flower

elsa mora – sketch for paper flower


elsa mora - paper flower

elsa mora – paper flower


“I grew up poor, but poverty taught me a series of important lessons that I will always treasure. I learned that the most precious possession that you have is your mind. I also learned that creativity and imagination could solve any problem, whether it’s a material problem or an emotional one.”


elsa mora - falling girl (part of a book cover)

elsa mora – falling girl (part of an illustration for a book cover)


After leaving home at 16, Elsa moved to a different part of the country, went to art school and graduated in 1990. She worked first as an art teacher and then as a gallery assistant, making her own art in her spare time. But she decided that neither of those jobs was what she really wanted to do, and so she left paid employment to become a full-time artist. The next several years were spent poor and hungry but she was determined and productive, and eventually local interest in her work grew. International interest in the Cuban art world grew too, and soon she was having her own shows and travelling to other countries.

Then she met her husband, and moved with him to California.


elsa mora - pendants

elsa mora – pendants


elsa mora - garden of books

elsa mora – garden of books


Of course, life is still life and there are ups and downs. Despite the hard bits, Elsa maintains a positive outlook.
“Sometimes life gets hard for one reason or another, but after all the things that I learned from my past in Cuba, I always manage to find the positive in the negative. Now we celebrate my birthday on the right day, but I still like to reinvent myself in everything that I do or create with my hands. In the end each one of us has the power to be what we really want to be, that’s what our journey is all about.”


“I believe that life, as well as art, has the potential to become whatever we want it to be.”


elsa mora - enchanted forest

elsa mora – enchanted forest


Elsa currently lives in upstate New York with her husband, film producer William Horberg and their two children.

You can read more of her story on her website, (in fact, I urge you to – it’s fascinating), and find more of her work there too. You can also purchase Elsa’s work through her Etsy shop,


The crafted object : A Plus Designnn {crochet jewellery}

I love these organic little textile accessories from Anda Toma (aka APlusDesignnn). They are curious and intriguing and speak to me of sealife – coral, nudibranchs and strange deep-sea creatures.


aplusdesignnn - anemone brooch

aplusdesignnn – anemone brooch


Tactile and colourful, Anda crochets and beads her brooches, bracelets and necklaces in her spare time away from her interior design practice. And when she’s not crocheting, she’s felting. Or making equally cute little handpainted ceramic bears and owls for her other shop, SeleneMini.  For someone who is so obviously compelled to make, it is ironic that she never enjoyed craft activities when she was a child. But she loves it now, and is constantly amazed at the variety of things you can do with just simple crocheting, weaving, or modelling with clay.


aplusdesignnn - bubbles brooch

aplusdesignnn – bubbles brooch


aplusdesignnn - green spots - 2 x brooches

aplusdesignnn – green spots – 2 x brooches


Working out of Bucharest, Romania, she is inspired by many things, including nature, architecture, interior design, and fashion (you must check out her Pinterest board on knit and crochet fashion that truly stretches the boundaries! It’s here).


aplusdesignnn - necklace from the Cellular Series

aplusdesignnn – necklace from the Cellular Series


aplusdesignnn - reverse flower brooch

aplusdesignnn – reverse flower brooch


“My life has always been full of color, since I was a child and I was playing in the country side. I loved the trees, the woods and the mountains. I always used to draw little house with big mountains in the back and a big smiling sun! This is the image I want to represent, the image of happiness that you can wear day by day!”


selenemini - totem bear brooch

selenemini – totem bear brooch


selenemini - tribal bear brooch

selenemini – tribal bear brooch


Anda also has another shop selling beautiful vintage clothes, and writes a blog about her finds – not only interesting for the clothes, but also for the architecture of Bucharest in the background (yes I’d LOVE to see more, thanks Anda!!)

You can find more of her crocheted jewellery in her Etsy shop, aplusdesignnn. You can also find a cute bear or two in her other Etsy shop, SeleneMini.




Small biz how-to : meet Uncommon Goods

How did I not know of Uncommon Goods before now? I am so very glad they contacted me, as I love finding new ways to help artists and designers to sell their work!

Uncommon Goods is a platform for artists and designers from around the world to sell their work through, and is based in Brooklyn, New York. They offer a huge variety of homewares, wall art, stationery, jewellery and more. There’s a large range of categories, and the site is super easy to navigate. (How fun are these upcycled shark slippers I found in the handmade section here?)


shark slippers - josh title

shark slippers – josh title


Their point of difference is this: beyond their core purpose which is to support artists and designers, their mission is to impact the world in a positive way.

So, besides ensuring that emerging and established artists get paid fairly for what they do, they encourage ethical and environmentally friendly goods – all of their products are produced without harm to animals, and around a third of what they offer is upcycled or recycled goods. AND they have connected with a number of non-profit organisations – for every item that is purchased, they donate to the organisation of your choice, such as Reach out and Read (a literacy program for school kids).

So, already they’re an awesome company in my books.

And it gets better (for both artists and buyers!). It’s a curated site, so that means the quality is consistently high – if you wish to sell your work through them, you need to apply. And when you submit your work  for their assessment, you can also allow it to be voted on by the public so you can get immediate feedback on whether your item is a viable product! So if you’re feeling a bit shy or hesitant about putting it out there in the big wide world, here’s a very quick and easy solution to your dilemma. Uncommon Goods also have a calendar of Design Challenge competitions and encourage new and existing artists to enter their work for kudos AND a variety of prizes, including money and ongoing royalties It all adds up to helping you improve your own work, by encouraging design excellence throughout the whole site.

I love the clarity of this necklace; it’s reminiscent of mid-C atomic style, and I can’t go past the paired colours of aqua and coral (I found it in the handmade jewelry section here).


lotus on wire necklace - ronni kappos

lotus on wire necklace – ronni kappos


AND there is also a section for personalised items – posters, wall art, bottle labels… and embroidered portraits (found here).


personalised cross stitch family portrait - elizabeth dabczynski

personalised cross stitch family portrait – elizabeth dabczynski


If you’d like to apply to become one of their artist/designers, you can do so here.

I urge you, go ahead and do it!! And good luck!!


Julie X



Disclaimer : This post was written in collaboration with and supported by  But rest absolutely assured I only ever share things  that I believe in, and that I think will be genuinely useful for you.


The crafted object – Pearson Maron {clay}

Pearson Maron

Adam Maron and Quincy Pearson once invented a secret society of monkeys which was so secret that even the monkeys didn’t talk about it, but identified each other by the particular hue of yellow in the fezzes that each of them wore.


pearson maron - circus monkey

pearson maron – circus monkey


Besotted with tales of Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster and the aliens of B-grade movies, Pearson Maron combine mythology with snippets of everyday life to create new stories. Working primarily in clay and paint, they add in wood, metal and occasionally found objects as needed; each piece they create carries with it its own narrative, like a glimpsed scene from an unknown movie.


pearson maron - rainbow factory

pearson maron – rainbow factory


pearson maron - shoes on a wire - urban scenery

pearson maron – shoes on a wire – urban scenery


They both had creative childhoods. Adam remembers drawing all over his parent’s hallway walls, and Quincy remembers making her own paper doll collection. “I loved paper dolls and would make my own because there were never enough options in the paper doll books. My paper dolls had tube tops and roller-skates. They were horrifying.”


pearson maron - faux bois monster fish

pearson maron – faux bois monster fish


pearson maron - bigfoot magnet

pearson maron – bigfoot magnet


After first meeting in art school, they began collaborating almost immediately. “Quincy was busy making a cardboard robot army and Adam was sculpting voodoo doll/puppets of the art faculty members.” So, they decided to get married. They now have a daughter, and two cats named Macaroni and Cheese.


pearson maron - dog sculpture duo

pearson maron – dog sculpture duo


pearson maron - wedding cake toppers - bigfoot and the abominable snowman tie the knot

pearson maron – wedding cake toppers – bigfoot and the abominable snowman tie the knot


When they’re not spending  time in their Southern Californian studio up to their elbows in clay and paint, they love watching old movies, checking thrift stores for velvet UFO paintings and vintage exercise records.

Their best piece of advice? “If you truly love what you do, it will show in your work and other people will respond to it.”

“Don’t try to appeal to a broad audience; what makes you different is what people will love about you and your work.”



pearson maron - jackalope diorama

pearson maron – jackalope diorama


the workshop kiln

the workshop kiln


You can find more abominable snowmen and polar bear factories in their Etsy shop, PearsonMaron.