Thunder Jay Studio: Faerie Art Dolls by Amanda Mae Larsen
Amanda Mae Larsen, the artist behind Thunder Jay Studio, captures the sensation of being lost in the woods in each one of her unique art doll creations. Larsen’s dolls are not the whimsical, pink frilly fairies of children’s books, but rather the wild and earth creatures that exist in the oldest of faerie stories.
Her dolls are textured and expressive, each with unique features and a multitude of details that make the viewer want to reach out to shake hands with the doll and ask what it does for a living. Their lively faces are a result of Larsen’s experience with a collection of Madam Alexander dolls she received from her grandmother. “…They were gorgeous porcelain things, so pretty and works of art in their own. But their faces were always a little disturbing to me… expressionless sweetness,” Larsen explains. “When I started sculpting, I wanted to come from a place of wrinkles and asymmetry and give my critters a bit more to look at in the face than the princesses in the blue box in my closet.”
Larsen began her work as Thunder Jay Studio in 2013 and has been handcrafting unique, one-of-a-kind faeries and fairy-creatures since then, but her inspiration for her dolls started much earlier and transformed throughout her journey as an artist.
Larsen possesses a degree in Graphic Design and was originally inspired by the designer toys produced by Kidrobot’s artists in 2008. However, Larsen was not satisfied with simplistic designs and found that her work became too complex too quickly. She took a step away from clay and moved onto soft sculpture and textiles, taking a week-long doll making class a local quilt store, and hit the ground running. She discovered she could get that clean look she wanted to emulate with her plush patterns and thought she found her niche.
“Keeple” – snow leopard
Then Larsen took a class with artist Wendy Froud in 2011 and everything fell into place. “When I saw her pull this beautiful, flawed creature face out of a ball of nothing it was like a light came on and I realised I should follow my strong suites and not be so simplistic,” Larsen explains. “It was like I’d been trying to get the weird polygon to fit in the circle hole, and then realised there was a weird polygon hole right there all along.”
Larsen describes herself as eclectic and pulls inspiration from a variety of myths, urban legends, and folklore from around the world.
“I do prefer the stuff that has teeth and runs a little more into the dark woods where Baba Yaga holds court,” Larsen says. “Even the more lighthearted stuff can have a bit of a bite, though.”
As an artist, Larsen puts her own unique twist on each one of her creations. The experience and perception of faeries have changed over the last several decades, and Larsen’s creations have adapted and evolved to fit with modern times. Larsen’s take on Bogans (also known as boggarts or boogey men) is a prime example of this. Bogans may have started out shape-changing into your worst nightmare to scare you off their territory, but Larsen’s bogans gave this up a while ago.
“Who the hell falls for a jump-scare anymore with all this wild stuff on at the movie theatre!” Larsen says. Instead, her bogans grew a third eye to see what really disturbs their victims and then throw existential crises at them until they go away: “What are you doing with your life, Victor? Do you want to wind up like your father?”
“Bogan” – with third eye
Perhaps what contributes most to the uniqueness of her art dolls is how Larsen begins with a story for each one. Her dolls seem to be waiting to share their story with you. Each one displays a wide arrange of trinkets and found objects, all textured and carefully placed to give personality. Larsen does not consider a doll to be finished until it is in the hands of its new owner and constantly evolves her work, so her creatures may change in minute ways from one show to the next. Even the creatures who go home encourage change; her keeples, for example, are an original fairy that collects meaningful odds and ends. The owner is encouraged to fill the keeples’ pouch with small items that are important to the owner. The doll will evolve throughout its life with you.
Sometimes, Larsen’s inspiration is more spur of the moment.
“I’m not going to lie, I get the occasional oddball thought like ‘What would it look like if a goblin SHARK was a goblin FACE?’ and go from there,” Larsen says.
So what does it look like if a goblin has a goblin shark face?