It’s tempting to say that the inspiration for SubRosa first came to me in my childhood, because that’s when I first began to sense the presence of spirits around me, both those of this world (the giant guardian trees and slow-moving rocks and shape shifting waters) and those from someplace beyond who were both like and unlike us, Others who sometimes interacted with humans and sometimes held themselves aloof. Over the years, this world of spirits became just as real to me–or more so–as my family and friends and the mundane realities of everyday life. Throughout my life, I have always been striving–through writing, art work, and a number of more arcane arts (trance work, divination, healing) to give voice and hands and power to the spirits around me, to offer them more of a foothold in this world, more access to those of us humans they seek to reach.
In truth, though, the more specific inspiration for this project came to me eight years ago, shortly after I had made some major lifelong vows to the Norse/Germanic god Odin and begun to center my life around Him. The path of devotion is often a lonely one, yet I was fortunate (or blessed) enough to find a few fellow travelers along the way, as well as a number of other people who supported my devotion in some way or another, even if they did not quite understand it. One of these latter people had just started a doll-making business shortly after I took my vows, and I commissioned her to make an Odin doll for me. Years later, that doll has been so well-loved by me that it is all but in pieces. During a very difficult time of my life when everything was being turned inside out and upside down, it gave me something solid and tangible to cling to, a lifeline. It was as if it housed a tiny part of the spirit of the god I loved so much, made flesh (or at least, cloth).
It was then that I first had the idea of making dolls of my own, and other devotional artifacts too; things that would give devotees something solid to focus on, to cling to, to anchor their devotion in the material world. In addition to supporting devotion, I knew that my creations would also need to pay homage to fairytales (the fodder of my childhood dreams), for in these liminal stories of encounters between humans and the Others the existence of a world of spirits all around us was not only taken for granted, but mapped and explored. A trail leads through the woods, or across the troll bridge, or over the rainbow, and one must follow that trail (while, of course, following all the classic fairy tale rules) to be reunited with the Beloved waiting on the other side.
Of course, all of these works of devotional art would be flavored by my own artistic aesthetic (dark yet bright, fascinated by death yet enthralled by life, and both ethereal and earthly at once) and values (green, with an eye towards using recycled materials as much as possible). Unfortunately, my idea remained just that for many years–until last year, when my partner and I moved from Philadelphia, PA to Eugene, OR, where a whole new world of crafting resources and inspirations opened up to me. After having lain dormant in my consciousness for so long, now the dolls woke up and began demanding to be made and sent out into the world, where they could find homes with people who needed them.
As a result, Sub Rosa has emerged from the spirit world to become a reality–finally. You can see the first dolls on my Etsy store here. The Lichcraft Poppets are an intricately crafted and hand-stitched line of dolls representing deities and fairytale characters. They are 9 inches tall and symbolically anatomically accurate. Most of the doll bodies are made from soft, cuddly 100% cotton flannel with new fiberfill stuffing. Their clothes are made mostly from recycled materials. They come to you in unique handcrafted (yet sturdy!) boxes made from recycled cardboard and paper.
Each doll contains something hidden: a red felt heart enclosing a gem, an herb and an essential oil carefully chosen for that particular deity or spirit.
There will be more unique, spirit-inspired artifacts to come–dream dolls, wearable dolls, and diety ID (“property of”) jewelry, to name just a few things–but I am starting with just the dolls, because it all started with them anyway.
This blog will highlight new items and lines as they become available, discuss projects in progress, and explore the work of other artists (print, musical, visual, wearable, and any and all other mediums) who have inspired me, and whose work I feel complements or enriches my own.
A long and unexplored journey lies ahead, lit only by torchlight along a twisting and often hidden path. I hope you’ll come along with me to see the fabulous places and people that await us.
– Lady Rosamonde (Beth)