No matter what kind of art you’re into, Kerry Howard-Schmidt’s handmade dolls are guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. The artist was touched recently to receive an email from a customer requesting a new doll because she had just finished a round of chemotherapy. The client wanted a new critter made by Kerry to cheer her up.
Being the owner of several of Kerry’s original pieces, I can attest to their charm. From her cute fairy tale figures to her creepy zombie animals, each one-of-a-kind doll is just adorable. Of course, being a Halloween art collector, I am partial to her funny jack-o-lanterns, ghosts and the like, but I also recently purchased one of her sculpted kittens that I couldn’t resist.
Kerry’s dolls, with their signature bug-eyes and whimsical accessories and outfits, are mostly created by needle felting. Needle felting is the process by which barbed needles are used to interlock wool fibers to form the denser material known as felt. The artist repeatedly jabs the needle into the fibers, forming three-dimensional forms. Every doll is completely unique, and none are replicated. Kerry says their personalities develop during the sculpting process.
Kerry has a new collection of “Faux Taxidermy” pieces that have been popular with her customer base. These are the heads of hilarious varmints mounted on wooden plaques to resemble mounted stuffed trophies. Included in the collection are mice, birds, and fish sporting bright colors and silly expressions.
The mother of four children ranging from ages twelve to twenty-one, Kerry lives on what she calls a “small suburban farm” that includes three dogs, a tortoise, a leopard gecko, and a rabbit. Although having never been trained formally in art, Kerry grew up with a mother who made a living as an artist. She carved duck decoys and taught Kerry how to carve. In the fourth grade, Kerry couldn’t stop making bread dough ornaments after Christmas ended, so she started producing bread dough magnets and went from store to store taking orders.
When asked about where she finds inspiration for her curious creations, Kerry says, “My gifts from God are truly my inspiration, as are my kids and my dogs…but I truly can’t turn off the creativity. There is inspiration around me all the time.” Ideas come to her in cloud formations or in patterns in the tile floor. She sees faces and tries to sketch the visions before the images slips away. Kerry loves cats, which make up a large portion of her catalogue of work. She studies cat pictures and their funny expressions and personalities. Unfortunately, her daughter is highly allergic to cats, so she can’t adopt one of her own. For now, her fuzzy miniature feline sculptures dressed in fancy gowns stand in as the perfect surrogates.
Want to see more of Kerry’s art and find the perfect piece for yourself? Check out her listings in her online store at Paper Moon Gallery. She also sells pieces via her instagram account @papermoongallery and posts updates there daily. Kerry does several art shows during the year. Coming up this month from April 22-24 she’ll be a guest artist in Pasadena, California for Monsterpalooza. She is a partner in a Halloween-themed art show called Halloween & Vine, a show where her work has been featured annually for the past several years. The date for the show this year is September 26, 2016 and it takes place in Petaluma, California. She and her dolls can be found this October at Spirits in Sanford in Florida on October 1, 2016.