“She was a true fighter, you could see it in her eyes. She was not born strong, she was made strong. She was sculpted to be her own hero when the world let her down, and she kept picking herself back up.”
get to know the artist
I was raised as a free-range child in a small Norwegian town in the 80s. When I grew up, I wanted to be Robin Hood, or a prince, or a farmer or a native american. Probably something to do with bows & arrows, wearing tight pants and living in nature. Later I revised my aspirations towards becoming a toy designer, clearly an excuse to keep playing as an adult.
Whether it was drawing, or handcrafts like knitting, crochet, sewing or embroidery, these were my outlets to recreate fantasy worlds from the fairytales, folklore & mythology that resonated with me. I curated a hoard of soft toys & dolls; Golden Girl was perhaps the jewel of my toybox, and my first foray into the world of action figures. In fact, I still have a few a tiny warrioresses today.
Pursuing a creative life, I enrolled to study visual communication in Australia, and ended up living there for over 10 years. However I got distracted by action figure customisation along the way, and later ball jointed dolls. These dolls evoked again the desire to depict characters and concepts from art, books and movies that inspired me. And when I couldn’t find figures that had the attributes I yearned for, I resolved to start making them myself.
Creating poseable three-dimensional portraits of archetypal idols stirred an innate preference for tactile things, both the act of creating miniature details and thus mimicking reality, and the personal satisfaction I get from doing something with my own hands. At some point it clicked for me that other people were liking what I made, and the internet made it possible to share and distribute my work. I may be suffering from delusions of wanting to make the most awesome doll in the universe.
I began making dolls because the ones I wanted to have, did not exist.. It never occurred to me that I might not have what it took, and so in my ingénue, I did it anyway. All I had this idea of something or someone, a seed of inspiration that needed to be realised.
After a sea-change, I am now living and working in Madrid; dollmaking has grown from being an all-consuming passion to a career and lifestyle, with people around the world as the proud custodians of the Artifex Kindred. Together we are a growing tribe of collaborators and aficionados of things eerie and elysian.
Making dolls is for me an expression of meraki, I am happiest when convincing the medium to yield and take the shape I have in my mind’s eye; encouraged when I receive feedback from clients and excited to meet people from other walks of life, who unite through our industry and community. I truly consider each doll I sell to become a collaboration with the person who receives it.
When I am not buried in bubblewrap and doll parts in my studio, I try to spend time reintegrating with other human beings, whether by having a drink with friends, meeting fellow creatives or a spot of people-watching. I am also a participating member of NGOs REDMAMSA (Madrid network for supporting Sahrawi women), Legazpi Felina and Asociación Progatos (both groups organise fostering and adoption of cats, as well as management of feral colonies), and foster FIV positive cats for them.
For complete disconnection and reboot, I like to go forest-bathing where the phone coverage does not reach, foraging for roots, rocks and bones to decorate my spaces. The dream is to one day build a tiny house and be able to live closer to nature.
Therese Olsen is the self-taught artist and creator behind twigling and Artifex Kindred.
‘twigling’ is a word purloined from Robert Holdstock’s novel Mythago Wood, and here implies an effigy in the form of bundle of twigs, bound in a roughly humanoid shape. Ready to be imbued with a spark of life, it is kindling for your imagination.
The name Artifex Kindred refers to the bonds that form between the artist, the creation and the custodian (collector). A community that forms around and grows from the BJD phenomenon… connectedness through creativity, and beyond that towards solidarity and sustainability. It is the name chosen for the product line created by twigling, to distinguish the artist from her output.
Through the brand Artifex Kindred we strive to recognise the synergistic collaboration that occurs when artisans and custodians interact to create something that is greater than the sum of its pieces. There exists a widespread community of collectors and creators exchanging ideas, and many hobbyists develop their skills and monetise them by providing services and auxiliary products, especially for other collectors, for instance by painting faces, making wigs or eyes, or designing and tailoring clothes, shoes and accessories.
No one is an island and twigling relies on the input and output of other creatives to present Artifex Kindred as complete creations… these are some of the people that have helped make this possible. Although we may not share a permanent studio space and most of us have other jobs in addition to making and customising dolls, we do have common bonds that unite us as a tribe.
Cristina is based in Guadalajara outside Madrid and regularly takes commissions to paint twigling's dolls.
Britta is based in Oslo, Norway and regularly travels to help with logistics for expos and preorders. She is among other things a photographer and wig-maker.
Nathan is from London and is an artist in his own right. He has contributed faceups and customisation to some of our OOaK dolls and also has several Artifex Kindred in his own collection.
Pilvi lives in Helsinki, Finland and is taking a break from commission work but has made some gorgeous customs and artwork for twigling.
Teba & Rebecca live in Madrid and are both artists who make their own dolls, as well as offer makeup services.
Mercedes Rodrigo lives in Madrid, Spain and lends her talents to enhance the works of twigling on this website. She also teaches digital illustration at Trazos.