doll artist

As the year comes to a close, many of us are at it again…
New Year’s resolutions!…
Big ideas come to us, and in thought they seem perfect and we will become better versions of ourselves once we have achieved the goals we have planned for us.
It got me thinking about having dreams and setting goals,
and the steps we need take to achieve them,
or, the steps we fail to take because we feel overwhelmed by the spectacular end results we see in our mind’s eye,
and thus often failing to achieve our dreams.
Worst even, we never took that first step towards them.
Because when we have a dream, it is often a big and perfect dream,
shining bright on a far away horizon.
It can become too overwhelming and we feel alienated from it,
and the dream is put away in a little box of forgotten dreams,
like butterflies, pinned onto a board and stored in the attic.
It got me thinking about my own journey,
dreams I once had, and failed to achieve.
Ideals I had set out and never even tried to bring to life.
And then I thought about the journey I had been on, and still am on,
as a doll artist, as Pantovola, and how different this path had been to previous journeys towards big ideas.
For those of you who can relate to the above,
who have dreams of creating, making art, or something completely different,
but fear it may never be achieved, isn’t realistic, or because you do not have the time to actually do it, this is my little story..
I hope it plants a wee seed that may blossom into a big beautiful flower in the future.

When I started making my dolls and textile sculptures,
there wasn’t so much of a plan, it was just something I enjoyed doing.
A craft I could afford to do with little space and money,
in my canal boat I lived in at the time.
It was never part of a long term goal and I didn’t have a specific desired outcome,
to be honest, I didn’t even know of anyone making dolls professionally,
let alone of textile. But it was just something that came from my heart and hands,
and I enjoyed getting lost in the detailed hand work of it.
This may well have been a blessing,
because would I have planned to do the thing I am doing today,
I would have panicked and given up then and there.
It would have been too overwhelming.
But truth is, I just enjoyed the process, and the process was made out of many baby steps.
I had a cafe job at the time, to pay the bills, and this job took up 90% of my time.
I always looked forwards to the hours after work in which I could sew and paint,
and I would often get up an hour early just to get some stitching done before work.
This time is post sewing machine by the way, I did everything by hand then,
which took its sweet time…
But it is just one stitch after the other isn’t it, that’s all it is.
In winter I sewed by the wood burner and in summer on the roof of my boat.
Slowly but surely I was creating my first collection of dolls without even planning it or noticing it really.
I just remember one day coming home from work and seeing around ten of my first pieces all lined up, and I thought, goodness me! Look at them! I made these!
They weren’t particularly beautiful or well made, but they were a first step.
A friend saw them and bought a hare doll for his niece in Vienna.
This was my first sale.
Another friend suggested Etsy, and before I knew it I opened my Etsy shop.
It took a few months, and then there it was, my second sale to someone in France.
A person I had never met had purchased a swan doll.
This to me was a revelation. I mean, how many coffees would I have to serve in the café for that money, I much rather spend my time making dolls and selling them… and that is when I decided to spend all of my spare time making my dolls and setting up the basics for my handmade business to be.
I became the worst waitress in the world, because my mind was always completely occupied with ideas and plans for dolls and sculptures, stories and tales and whilst completely over steaming milk for flat whites, I was planning my future life as an artist.
Luckily I wasn’t fired straight away,
and the café job still supplied me with a basic stability that I needed to survive,
and gave me ample time to slowly build a portfolio, a website, an audience, and most importantly; confidence.
It was a couple of years after my first sale to my friend from my boat studio (read: small table in candle lit corner..) that I felt confident enough to quit my day job and spend all of my time and energy working on my own dream.
And I am still working towards it, I set new goals all the time.
There are tons of things I would love to do and which I feel might be far fetched.
But when I feel that fear is about to set in, before getting overwhelmed by my own big ideas,
I just think back of how this journey began, on the boat, the sewing in the hours before and after work, and I know I could never have dreamed up that I would be able to do what I do now.
The key to getting where you want to go is in breaking up the journey there into tiny,
achievable steps, and enjoying those steps.
If you want to paint 365 paintings, don’t expect to have them done in a day.
But paint one small painting each day, and in a year’s time you will have 365 paintings.
It may sound obvious, but it does work this way.
It isn’t a new, radical idea, nor is it original, but it is to my mind the key to achieving your dreams, and to becoming who you want to be.


x Pantovola x



    A beautiful story , and so true , so many people can be inpatient!!! Life is so hectic and so many people have made themselves sick from the life they lead . Always wanting more , becoming greedy and never happy , we all have dreams but as you say it takes baby steps and often on our Journey we change our path , finding another route to happiness, xxxx

  2. Constance

    Happy New Year and New You Anouk! It is always a joy to read your thoughts and behold your new work. The doll in repose (with her little black bird), is soulful and stunning!

    It was interesting and inspiring to hear your story of the birth of Panovola. Your words ring true. Great work is composed of a combination of actions, also tricks and knowledge we acquire along the way… layer upon layer. It takes hours of effort to make something look effortless.

    Another thing your words made me ponder: We can have dreams and plans, but our real journey begins as we make our first baby steps and take action. Any action can start the new journey, and not necessarily the one we thought we wanted.

    May you continue to work under the light of enchantment and love,


  3. An inspiring tale, and one I need to hear at the moment as I always find this new year period difficult, with all it’s goal-setting and resolution-making. I am much more a “take it as it comes” sort of person. But this often leads nowhere… so this year I am going to try to set some goals and take some baby steps towards achieving them!

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