Continuing our look at some of the most creative female artists in the field today, we’re happy to introduce you to Sandra Arteaga! Hailing all the way from Barcelona, Spain, Arteaga has made a reputation for herself thanks to her unique series of sculpted and paper dolls. Many of these “children” come complete with their own backstory which help to make each that much more real.
In addition to talking about how she got started making these dolls, which involved playing with her food, Arteaga also shares with us how each one comes together and teaches us the fine art of snot-inspired shadow puppetry. This is gonna be good!
Thanks for joining us Sandra. Before we get started, can you give us a brief overview of who you are and where you’re from?
Thank you, the pleasure is mine! I born on December 20, 1980 [in] Spain and I make art dolls, illustrations, paper dolls and many other rare things…
Ah, yes, you’re “children.” Before we get to them, did you study art in college or did you learn through self-discovery?
I´m completely self-taught. Of course, I would have loved to receive some kind of arts education, but for different reasons I never could. I had to start working very soon… it has been very frustrating.
When did you create your first art doll?
I started to create dolls about 5 or 6 years ago. But surely my first dolls are from maaaaaany years ago… when I was 5 years or so, [I] had a strange hobby. [I] remember waiting anxiously for the time that my grandparents had finished eating, then [I] gathered all the crumbs I could find scattered on the table. They were merged together patiently and kneaded until it formed a moldable mass. I ended up modeling a full farm of “animals” …but then came the ants.
All of your dolls share an eccentric, monstrous, even “freakish,” appearance. How did your fascination with these types of characters begin?
[Ever] since I can remember. I love the curious faces, the animals, the very old people… finding pretty or pleasant things in what is supposedly labeled ugly or wrong.
I actually get so surprised when some people tell me that my work is scary or too dark. I can understand that people like my work or not, but never when people refer to my dolls as something more or less diabolic… I do not know. The truth is that I get very sad when people say these things, I do not see it [that way]. It is true that I make monsters and strange creatures, perhaps they are not lovable creatures from a standpoint of classical beauty, but I can never see my creatures as something hellish. No matter how “ugly” they are, I always look into its eyes and I do not see evilness. All I know is that I would not mind to go out drinking with my dolls or to have any of them as neighbor. *laughs*
Do you create multiples of each piece?
Never, they are all unique pieces.
Can you explain your creative process? How do you start a new piece?
Well, each doll is different, these creatures are often quite fussy. As for a “process,” I never do sketches, it is always very anarchic. I let the forms [and] characters flow; and if I imagine something specific before I started to work, at the end does not matter because I always end up making something completely different. That is because I do not accept commissions, it’s [difficult] for me to adapt to some sort of set rule. I give much importance that my dolls tell stories, to transmit emotions.
I start making a skeleton of wire, then coat it with several layers of aluminum foil and then start modeling over that this with polymer clay. I usually begin with the head, then the body, and once modeled and painted I start with the clothes. I do not know how I do it because I have no idea of sewing, but I do, sewing here and there, after hairdressing salon and finally ready to the photo shoot!
Are there any dolls that stand out as your favorite?
Yep, if I have to choose one, it is certainly “The Last Chapter.” It is for me the most special and personal piece I’ve made so far. It’s a kind of self-portrait. It is a book that the letters are dropping away [from], his stories are not read by anyone for a long time and when they are it’s not understood. So in the end it is believed he’s crazy and that his stories are written in an impossible language… but I do not think that’s true.
What sort of materials do you typically use? What are the advantages of these materials over others?
Currently I use polymer clay. But I started with air dry clay, paper mache, etc. I like polymer clay more because for me is faster to work with. I really like the density that it has, it’s very tough. Although, I’m still doing stuff with air dry clay because I can get different results.
Are there any materials you’d like to experiment with?
I would love to learn to work with wood, latex… I feel attracted for too many fields, so who knows what’s next!!
What/who are a few things/people that inspire you?
Well, I love reading, listening to music, watching movies and tv series like a possessed person, so even in a thousand years, I could never name all the artists that make me have a good time across thousands of different fields!!
Fair enough. So, before we let you go: What’s the strangest thing you can remember doing as a kid?
That would be a long list of things! *laughs* But for example, when I was 3 had the “curious” mania to escape from the sight of the elders and get into the shower with only diapers and let cold water fall (had to be really cold) on my head, until my diapers were so heavy that I was stuck in the bathtub, literally.
More things related to water, when I was a little older (about 7) my parents could not take me to the beach because I believed that if I spent enough time submerged under salt water without breathing, at the end I would become a mermaid, or some similar creature with gills in the neck… wonderful tentacles or fishtail.
Finally I’ll say something very nasty, but I did it. I’m guilty so I confess!! Again, when I was 7… I took a snot, gave it shape of a dog, grabbed a flashlight and projected it on the wall to give my cousins a Chinese shadow puppet show. That’s it, I’ve said it!! Sorry for the nausea! *laughs*