Akira Blount | Man in Lion Costume
Akira Blount

born 1945
Resides in Bybee, Tennessee
Photograph by Mike Laughlin

Biography             Statement              Ask the Artist
Akira Blount's work is in the permanent collection of the Louvre (Musée des Arts Decoratif), and the Musée de Poupees in Josselin, France. Based in Bybee, Tennessee, she travels throughout the South winning numerous awards at crafts shows and fairs. Contemporary Doll Magazine, Doll Life, and Dollreader have all taken note of her work.

Blount has served on the Board of Trustees of the Southern Highlands Handicraft Guild and the Tennessee Association of Craft Artists. Since 1981 she has worked full time in her studio creating dolls and other art from textiles.


Statement

Dollmaking began for me about twenty years ago in response to my children's need for toys, but I soon discovered that it satisfied the child in me far beyond its original purpose. The doll evokes in me a singular emotional response and I do not stray from that association with play and childlike fantasy. At the same time, the form provides me with a valid artistic canvas upon which all the same elements of other art forms come together--color, line, texture, and form. I use cloth because of its immediate spontaneous quality. Each doll is constructed of cloth and stuffed with polyfill. The hands and faces are made of a fine cotton knit which is hand sculpted with needle and thread. The eyes are embroidered and facial color and shadow added with pencil. The hair is either of natural fiber, such as wool or flax, or hand-painted with textile pigments. Clothing consists of cloth, leather, pinecones, feathers, etc. and embellished with beads, buttons, lace, embroidery and quilting.

I have committed myself to the use of cloth because of its immediate spontaneous quality. Originally, only the most lowly of dolls were made with cloth and I find that the room for innovation in the medium is wide open. I have dedicated myself to that innovation and find the challenge of elevating the concept of the cloth doll to new heights irresistible. The limitations lie only with myself and the changing nature of cloth.

As dedicated as I am to pursuing what is fresh and new in doll making, I am equally committed to what is sound and fundamental in design and craftsmanship. I am committed to excellence, yet I do not want to lose sight of that emotion, fun, and childlike fantasy which dolls inspire in me. I enjoy sharing that with others. In a world of problems, I feel it is important to never be without those elements which seek to connect us with the child within.


Ask the Artist

Where do you get the ideas for your work?

I'm not sure where my ideas come from - a lot of my ideas are suggested from the fabrics I choose. One thing about ideas is that one spawns another - they keep multiplying.

Do you work alone on your craft, or with others?

I work with my husband Larry Blount and my son Chris Minar.

Do you ever teach, or take on apprentices?

Yes. I teach - at doll conferences and private classes as well as at Arrowmont School in Gatlinburg, TN.

What's the most exciting part of creating your works?

Watching the way the work speaks to people.

What's the most difficult part of creating your works?

The day-to-day schedule, the stress of meeting deadlines and demand.

What sort of technology do you use in your work? Has the technology of your craft changed dramatically over the past 100 years?

My craft is low tech - a sewing machine, needle, thread, paint. Technology hasn't changed much.

Do you have any advice for somebody just starting out?

Be patient, believe in your work, and be willing to put in many hours and pay your dues.

Can you share a "secret of the trade" with us--something nobody else knows or that you found out only after years of experience? Put another way--what do you wish somebody had told you when you were just starting out that might have saved you hours of wasted effort?

I wish someone had told me it was possible to make a living as an artist instead of the opposite. I would have taken myself seriously much earlier in life.

What are we missing by experiencing your work through the Internet and not seeing/hearing/feeling/smelling/touching it in person?

The rich textures and the tactile quality of the cloth. Also, the pieces are often articulated and the animals are really people wearing masks - the mask lifts to reveal a human face - hence, you miss the element of surprise when the face beneath the mask is discovered.


Sonja Blomdahl Ken Carlson