I was given the extreme pleasure of interviewing the vivacious, beautiful, and extremely talented Sheri DeBow! What a treat is was. Her energy and infectious personality were tangible. I fell in love with her immediately! Sheri just had her first solo exhibition at Modern Eden Gallery last month. Her incomparable collection of custom handmade dolls, titled “Daydreams and Nightmares From Beyond Toyland”, was a huge success.
I hope you enjoy hearing, in her own words, what it was like for her to create this collection, and experience her very first solo exhibition at Modern Eden Gallery. One of the first things Sheri wanted to make very clear to me is the fact that she uses no molds of any kind, each piece is painstakingly hand-sculpted and no two are alike.
She makes every part, from the wire skeleton under the clay, to the hand sewn clothing, and hair styled dos. She uses no short cuts, they don’t exist in her world. Here’s more of our interview, and some fabulous images of her dolls below.
I asked Sheri DeBow to explain her basic work process, from start to finish, here’s what she had to say:
“So my basic process stems from a couple different places. First is that I always have way too many doll ideas spinning in my head. Second is unless I have a bunch of things to work between, I quickly get distracted and move on to something else. Because of this I have forced myself to work assembly line style, like a one woman machine. That way, once I have a small army of the beginning sculpts, I can switch back and forth between characters and work on what is striking my fancy that day. Plus it helps to lay things aside and come back to them with new fresh ideas and inspiration to be able to articular the story I’m trying to tell for each character.
So as long as I have the wire armatures all hinged together and base sculpting starting in the German polymer clay I use, I can move easily from doll to doll and before you know it I have an all new collection created. I create emotive and intricate dolls and sculptures from clay and various mixed media materials.
Every detail is handmade, never using molds or taking shortcuts, each piece is a unique result of meticulous creation and a labor of love. As a student, I have worked and studied under sculptors Franco Vianello, Phil Cornelius, Michael Maday, Professor Sakaguchi, Richard Carter and Sensei Kusakabe. I now work as a full-time artist and mom to five children in California’s Napa Valley. My work has been featured twice on the cover of “Art Doll Quarterly” and my dolls have received accolades and honors across the globe.”
Sheri went on to explain where her inspiration comes from, and how these unique dolls begin to take form in her mind:
“When I was a child one of my biggest daydreams was imagining my toys coming to life, as if the mere force of my will could bring them into existence, not in a frightening way but in a magical way. I began working three dimensionally as sculpture allowed me to create tangible characters I could hold in my hand.
In my new collection, “Daydreams and Nightmares From Beyond Toyland” I’ve expanded my body of work to include monsters and creatures of childhood nightmares who’s appearance reveals that it’s important to make friends with your monsters as sometimes they aren’t as scary as you thought they would be. Like the monsters under the bed that aren’t really there, but in your mind they are very real. I’ve applied several new techniques to my sculptures in this series, one of which is the use of gold and silver leafing.
The precious metals represent my idea of the treasured and golden, but also so very fragile nature of life. The characters in this show, be they wide eyed, somber, innocent, youthful, precocious, or mischievous represent my continual love of toys and my re-imagining and exploration of the carefree nature and wonder of childhood”.
“I have been collecting dolls as long as I can remember. I could barely keep money in my little piggy bank because I lived for trips to china town to find the more intricate and unique dolls. I have always loved pieces that were more interesting than Barbie, but even Barbie holds a little piece of my heart as I spent hours as a child creating stories with that most durable doll on the planet.”
Other than creating these magical dolls, I wondered what else the life of Sheri DeBow consists of, she went on to say the following:
“I have five children ranging in age from 6 on up to 21 that all came out of my body. They have made my life so full of joy and stress and laughter and tears at the same time that its almost hard to wrap my head around the polar opposite of emotions you feel when raising kids. Only the last three still live at home and I am so proud to see them all grow up and start life with all their own amazing dreams and adventures!
I was born in Nurmberg Germany when my dad was in the military and then my parents moved back to the states. I did my early years in Pasadena California and eventually my parents migrated up north to the Napa Valley just before Jr. High. I moved back to Pasadena for College so I consider Southern and Northern California both very much home.
I now have lived in the city of Napa for twenty years. My husband is an awesome chef and owns a restaurant here in the Napa valley called Fume’ Bistro. Sometimes our life seems very normal. But when I travel our life seems extra amazing because we really do live in one of the most beautiful places in California. The weather is always exceptional, I think I spend 80% of the year in flip flops.
I love having friends up and never get tired of playing tourist from the San Francisco Bay area all the way up to the Tuscan Castello di Amorosa at the top of our beautiful valley”.
So tell me, how was it to debut in your very own solo Exhibition at Modern Eden Gallery?
“The night was fabulous! Modern Eden always hosts a stellar show with all their artists, but I was almost moved to tears at how well they displayed my work. It was a complete honor to have my breakout solo show there because of their attention to details. From the photos, to placement of every single piece and promotion, Bradley and Kim are beyond professional!
All of my family came to the show! I cant even describe the swell of emotion to have all five of my kids attend, as well as my Parents, my brothers entire family, and even my cousin who drove from five hours away. I had friends from Childhood and of course my best friend since we were in Jr. High was there, Jennybird Alcantara who has pushed and encouraged me for years.
I don’t know what I would do in this world without her! The whole night was such a blast and I am still on cloud nine a month later as I am starting on new works for my next show.”[Sheri and Jennybird in the photo above].
I hope you enjoyed my chat with Sheri. I can tell you that she is exactly as Kim Larson from Modern Eden Gallery described her, “A Living Doll!!”