I have never known a time when I wasn’t creating little people. When I think back to where it all began, I can go further and further back in history through my family and see the creativity and feel it flowing through me too.
I love making my little dolls, they have been imprinted on my psyche since I was a tiny child. I was raised in a rural environment, my elderly grandparents delighted in finding every creative way to prove that magic and fairies existed. I could spend hours in woods looking for glimpses of little pixie hats, or tiny shoe prints, my grandfather having created a little world of “proof” for me, so that I actually believed I could see them.
And so I believe I am here today making the tiny models I love because my grandfather would meticulously whittle the tiniest little shoes out of wood and attached them to long sticks, and “walk” them across fresh snow to convince me that elves and fairies existed.
He would sew the tiniest little socks or hats and leave them for me to find in the vegetable patch, beside a trail of tiny shoe prints, he would weave magical tales of seeing a little tiny man running through the vegetables being chased by the cat, and in his hurry, had lost his hat or shoe. My grandmother, would keep me spellbound by stories of her tiny house elf doll that held a broom in her hand that stood on the mantle shelf, the little doll would be in a different place every day after cleaning house all night. She would spend hours teaching me how to sew the tiniest tapestry stitches, showing me all the tricks and special methods that were used by her own grandmother who was the embroiderer to Princess Alexandra of Denmark.
My great-grandfather, who was a famous Irish Bagpipe player in the 1800‘s, The Donegal Piper, insisted that he was stolen as a child and taken to the “Land of the Wee Folk” and taught how to play fairy music by Leprechauns. His music was reported to be so ethereal and otherworldly that people had never heard music like it before.
A poem of the time was even written about where he could have learned to play so magically. He never deviated from his story, he kept it up till the day he died, so who knows, maybe, just maybe, it was true! So I am just following in my family footsteps in keeping the magic alive. I was immersed in folklore and the magic that can be created from using your hands, it was as natural and came as easily as breathing.
From the earliest age I was given modelling clay, “Plasticine” and encouraged to make my own dolls and playthings. When I made small dolls and creatures, a whole world opened up to me of clothes and accessories that I could make to enrich their lives. I would make whole villages with tiny farms and roads and fill the fields with animals and make families to tend to them.
My garden would be converted to a model village where the game would last the whole summer long. By the age of 5 my grandparents were putting the little dolls and models I was making into the window of their shop for passersby to see. I have memories of lying in bed being read stories that painted glorious images in my mind, Russian Fairy Tales, The Brothers Grimm and Charles Dickens, these were the pictures that I would one day be able to reach into and pull out of my soul to create my artwork, it was a gift that I would use many times over my life.
As an adult I became a Graphic Artist working for a multi national company but found the work empty and unfulfilling, working on 2 dimensional images was soulless and too flat for me. I decided to change career and returned to university for a second time to train to be a Theatre Designer. This led to me becoming a Theatre Props and Scenery Maker, working on huge scale projects for the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford upon Avon amongst other companies. I had, in effect, recreated the model villages of my childhood, I was being paid to design little room settings or castles, and clothes to fit “living” dolls.
It was such a refreshing job to turn up for work to construct Juliet’s balcony, or a 60 foot fire breathing mechanical dragon, every day held something new, every project was diverse and challenging and took me to new places and meeting new people.
A wonderful exciting job where no 2 days were ever the same, but this wasn’t a lifestyle compatible with a stable home and family life, you have to travel to where the projects are, wherever that happened to be, anywhere in the country. When I met my husband and my children came along, I knew it was time to leave and finally dedicate my full love and attention on creating my own little world and inhabiting it with little people.
When my children were very young, I made them a castle and populated it with tiny dolls of knights, princesses, witches and warlocks, and a dragon or 2. We ended up with a model railway track running through the entire lower floor of the house joining all the little habitats together. There was fire stations, farms, schools even an old church replete with smiling monks.
When they loved a particular children’s story book, I would make them soft dolls of their favourite characters, and they still have them to this day, it opened up a world to me to show my own children how to use their imaginations, both of them are creators in their own rights now, and no doubt will pass the baton on to the next generation.
I now spend my time creating little moments of joy, little glimpses into another world, and have gathered a lot of collectors of my little Irish Leprechauns which are to me, little mischievous creatures, always up to something naughty but can bring you great luck if you treat them well. They are part of Irish Folklore and the Leprechauns capture that innocent, whimsical, magical time in my life, that I suppose I have never grown out of. I keep a book of ideas, images and feelings that prompt me to see a model in my head, I write it all down to use at some point, I have kept this little book for 30 years and if I actually made the models written there, it would keep me busy for a further 100 years.
I feel like the luckiest woman in the world, I have the blessing to be able to work from home, be there for my children and family, but still be able to pursue my dreams and continue to produce models for many years to come. I live in an English village, my home now standing where an orchard once thrived, the garden enclosed by a 400 year old wall with a 14th Century Church on the other side, its clock bells mark out the day for me. I have a specially designed studio in my garden and when I go into my studio to work, that is where I come alive, I only truly find myself when I am completely lost in my creativity. I can unlock a level of peace and tranquility in my studio, its where I can go and close the door and create my own bubble of bliss, it is as much one of my creations as any doll I have made, everything is in place to help me capture the inner delight and humour of the little people I see in my minds eye. I fall in love when making them, I see them come to life in my hands, I can feel their joy or sadness, and it moves and motivates me. All the stories of the past informs my art, it guides my heart and my hands as I strive to convey the joy of what childlike innocence and unflinching belief feels like. I get to give form to the tales woven into the fabric of our folklore, I set them free, tempting them to tell their own stories. I feel so blessed to be able to reach into my soul and find the little spark of imagination that will one day become an art work that will touch the people who see it and be enjoyed long past my lifetime.
Here are some testimonials from previous collectors of my works, all of which can be found on my Etsy and Ebay and Facebook feedback:
* This little man is the MOST beautiful thing! I adore him, that face, I can’t stop looking at him! You are by far the best at what you do….such talent and feeling. Thank you for creating such a fabulous little creature!
- Words just cannot express my delight in your work, just excellent!
- Fantastic, beautifully, delicately and obviously love crafted!
- This is amazing, beautifully made, WOW, lovely talented seller.
- A first class piece of work, I WILL buy again!
- Absolutely wonderful!
- It is splendid, I adore him, he is wonderful!
- A very rare and special talent.
- A wonderful work of art. An amazing talent. I couldn’t be happier and I love my Lucky Little Leprechaun.
- I am lucky enough to purchase one of Leigh’s sweet leprechauns! I am so happy to have him in my home! Her work is amazing. The details of her creations are filled with love and skill.
- Congratulations on Window of the Soul!!! Wonderful job as always Leigh!!!