Whether working as a fiber artist, or a BJD costumer and painter, Michele Hardy has always pushed herself to do her best. In working in her latest endeavor, she pursues her goals to perfect her abilities while still maintaining a playful approach to her materials.
Michele started out in a science career with a BS Chemistry, MS Geological Sciences, and 11 years working for Shell Oil as an exploration geophysicist. She left her job to start a family and created a new career for herself as a fiber artist. Before she pursued a science career, Michele had always loved sewing and fabric. She eventually became quite successful in her new field. “For several years I did exclusively art quilts and mixed media fiber pieces and became fairly well-known in that world.” Michele won numerous prizes in shows and has exhibited her fiber works regularly.
Doll collecting began as a Mother/daughter hobby in 2004, starting first with American Girls (Michele has 2 teen-age children, Cassandra and Steven) . Michele began researching different types of dolls, starting with vinyl ones, and eventually discovered BJDs. “From the start I was intrigued by BJDS, but the cost and not having seen any in person were issues. In 2006, while on our house-hunting trip for our relocation from Louisiana (where we lived for 18 years) to Colorado, I made a trip to Denver Doll Emporium and bought my first BJD. And like many, I vowed only one. (ummmm – that didn’t exactly work out too well.)” After acquiring her first BJDs she said “I immediately began costuming, face painting, and re-wigging. I joined several online forums and collectors began asking me for outfits.” Michele obliged, and began to enjoy working with dolls, which she found less stressful than being a full-time fiber artist. “At the time I was experiencing a bit of burnout dealing with galleries and art competitions, so it was easy and fun to make the switch from my full-time fiberart to doll costuming.” Soon Michele switched from being primarily a fiber artist to being mostly a doll costumer. She has not given up her fine art work completely and she still makes new works every year, and continues to show in exhibitions. “Now I am working with BJDs nearly full-time, but I do take time out to create fiberart commissions. Last year I completed 2 projects (2 large pieces each) for a financial company in IL and a major hotel in New Orleans.”
Michele Hardy Designs sells not only fashions, but also lambs wool and fur wigs. In addition, Michele takes commissions as a face-up artist. She also has purchased more dolls. “As I became known and my outfits, face-ups, and wigs came into demand, I began collecting BJDs – after all, I needed plenty of models. My dolls are rarely clothed these days as I am always busy making outfits for my Dollpage store, online sales, and conventions, and DDE. I work with artists like Berdine Creedy and have created many one-of-a-kind and small limited edition specials for shows and shops.”
The clothing designs for her outfits are mostly her own, but Michele has occasionally used some gracefaerie designs. She has worked with most doll sizes. “I love having more space for detail, so I really love designing for the 1/3 scale dolls. But I also do a lot in the 1/4 size, particularly the slim-minis. And there’s something so perfect about some of the 1/6 sculpts that demands attention. My favorite models overall are from Elfdoll, Dollstown, Narae, Goodreau, Creedy, and Bambicrony. For face-ups, I definitely prefer to work on the larger heads and prefer “character” faces, but I do faceup on all sizes except real tinies.” Currently 20% of her doll-related business is face-ups.
Last January, Michele ran a face-up workshop at IDEX. “Berdine Creedy and I came up with the idea when she was considering what other types of events to offer at shows/cons. It’s extremely gratifying to take a subject like face-ups that folks are scared of and de-mystify it so that everyone can do enhancements or even complete faceups on their dolls. It was a huge success and I was thrilled that everyone who participated was able to leave with a finished faceup.” Michele will also run face-up workshops this year at the Creedy-Goodreau and Modern Doll Collectors conventions.
Michele explained her working method. “Spontaneity is an important aspect of my creative process. Nothing is ever really planned and I change things as I go. I often start with an idea for one part of the outfit then build the rest around it.” Michele explained how this process worked and used an example of how one of her new fairy costume designs evolved. “I found really awesome black feathers and wanted to make wings out of them, then worked on the concept for the characters and went from there to choose fabrics for the Night Faeries.”
Michele seems unlikely to lose interest in her latest career shift anytime soon. “I have been using a sewing machine nearly all my life, and can do a lot more things with it because of my extensive work in fiberarts. I feel like that really enhanced my skills. My experience with fabric dyeing and work with fabric as art has given me a lot of insight into color. I use that to make exciting and often unusual choices when selection colors and fabrics.” In comparing her new business with her fiber art career she states “Dolls are more easy-going! With fiberart, there were always deadlines for show entries, or gallery shows. And each piece was major time commitment. While there are deadlines in the doll business, they tend to be more flexible. Individual projects take much less time, and it’s easier for me to go back and forth between sewing and painting projects, or work on several simultaneously. But there’s still always the (self-imposed, mostly) pressure to keep doing better and creating new things.”
See Michele’s latest fashion line for Faeries in our Photo Gallery and in her web-shop. To see Michele’s Fiber artwork, check out her online gallery.