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Shirley Emmerson Artist

Updated: May 26, 2023

Shirley Emmerson

Hi, I'm Shirley of Shirley Emmerson Artist. I'm a sculptor and doll maker. I grew up in a family of stitchers, knitters and woodworkers. Everything in our house was recycled and made to grow with us and then passed down to younger siblings and cousins. Making and recycling is part of my DNA.

I've been making professionally for thirty years using porcelain and recycled textiles. I have a degree in ceramics and several qualifications in textiles.

What inspired you to become a toymaker? I am inspired to make dolls by old threadbare teddies, loved so hard that they're missing eyes and falling apart. I love the stories their scuffs and marks create in my mind.

What is your favourite part about being a toymaker?

All of my dolls are hand stitched, it's what I love most. Whatever is going on in or around me falls away as I connect with the gentle rhythm.

What is the most challenging part about being a toymaker?

The most challenging part of making dolls are the hands and feet. I enjoy making realistic, wired hands and feet which are hugely time consuming, but really rewarding too. When I timed myself, I was shocked to discover that a pair of hands takes four hours!

What are some of the most popular toys you've made?

My most popular pieces are my birds. I have a deep connection to them that was sparked by a teacher when I was six. Instead of giving a star when we worked hard in the class, we would choose one of his numerous drawings of birds to take away and colour. It was so much more motivating than a star and stirred a lifelong passion and interest.

What is the most important thing you want children to learn from playing with toys?

My dolls are created for adults. Most are theriocephaly (animal heads and human bodies) At the end of the day we are all animals. When we remember this, I think it helps us to find more compassion and connection with all living things.

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