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Magnuson creates her winning doll
Dodging the rain, a 12-inch doll named Umaya takes shelter under a mushroom along with a yellow butterfly; she wears a floral-patterned outfit and a hat made out of seedpod coated with layers of structural glue.
This is work from the hands of 66-year-old Diane Magnuson, a competitive doll maker from Redmond. This year, the judges of Hoffman Fabrics selected her work, Umaya’s Umbrella as the only Redmond entry to travel nationwide in several exhibits.
Founded in 1988, the international Hoffman Challenge honors top quilts, clothing and doll creations. In addition to the previous two years, this is the third time Hoffman Fabrics has honored Magnuson’s creations.
“I am finding that doing more and more of these kinds of competitions really allow me to become more creative than I thought I was,” said Magnuson.
Magnuson worked in the travel industry for 30 years before she became a full-time doll maker. Although she dreams of traveling to Ireland in the near future, she wants to take advantage of her retirement to invest in her craft.
Magnuson’s 2013 winning doll Umaya is a wood nymph with her clothing tucked and sewed around her body. Umaya’s figure is made out of dense fiberfill that gives her volume and posture. The entire project took Magnuson around three months to complete.
“Sometimes the fabric just tells me what it is I am going to do, but sometimes it doesn’t,” said Magnuson. “If I am really stuck, what I’ll do is to start by making the doll’s head.”
Fortunately, the doll’s composition wasn’t an obstacle this year. Magnuson’s growing desire to incorporate a mushroom into her design made the process less troublesome. Her biggest hurdle, however, was to figure out how to engineer a mushroom that would withstand the hardship of traveling.
“(A structurally sound doll) has to be wrapped and unwrapped, and put into box and shipped for so many times without being damaged,” said Magnuson.
For materials, instead of shopping in the craft stores, she often finds her supplies in The Home Depot. Magnuson “wanders the aisles looking for materials that serve a purpose other than what they are intended.” The stores’ staffs cannot help her because she doesn’t know what she’s looking for until she sees what she wants. At times, Magnuson’s ideas just blossom without much planning.
Magnuson chose to construct the 17-inch mushroom with a base made from a railing spindle and a top composed of a lid of a metal candy tin. She later secured her doll to the base of the mushroom through monofilament thread and glue. Umaya’s feet are covered in leather boots and her waist is cinched in ribbons, feathers and bangles.
Although the doll did not place, Umaya’s Umbrella won the honor to tour in a traveling trunk show along with other winning entries. The curator of Hoffman Challenge told Magnuson “it’s already an exceptional honor for your doll to travel.”
In addition to preparing for the 2014 Hoffman Challenge, Magnuson is selling her other fiber creations such as fish and birds at Collage at Carillon Point in Kirkland.
“I am very outgoing, very creative — I am also a little whimsical,” said Magnuson. “I think to be creative you have to be a little whimsical.”