Studio pop-in with Merilee Bennett


You have a background in photography and film, and now make three dimensional objects. How has your process evolved through these different mediums?

I started out as a painter and photographer, morphed into film with the making of Song Of Air. This was autobiographical using mostly home movie footage to tell the story of my relationship with my Dad. The film was invited to Cannes and many other International Film Festivals. I did further film study, and taught photography and creative writing, but I never stopped making things with my hands. I made a Venus of Willendorf and cast her in bronze, and many years ago, my 14 year old daughter was leaving to live in America, and I made her a Vasilisa doll, as a symbol of mother love and intuition. I kept exploring 3 dimensions - boxes and envelopes, body casts, the occassional party costume. The Wisdom Dolls started with my menopause doll, to celebrate entering that particular rite of passage. From then I have been listening to their whispers, and following their inspiration.

 ‘A Thousand Faces of the Feminine'. Do you they come to you in your dreams? Manifest themselves in people around you? Wander around in your garden? 

 She is everywhere! In seed pods and flowers, and the wind! In the feeling of sun on my skin, or the night sky when the stars are out. In the feeling of my body moving, or the energy within me during meditation. There are ancient stories that speak to me, and ordinary fabulous women around me who embody the archetype of the feminine in so many different ways. It is the grandmothers, the old goddesses, the earth under my feet.

What type of conversations do you think the dolls share with one another? How about with you?

My girls are sometimes very quiet, and I have to listen inside my own silence. Other times they sing together. Yes, I think they have more of a choir than a conversation. When I'm working on one, I will wait until I feel that tranquility in my heart that says, Yes, I am done. They definitely tell me when I need to keep working. I hear it - "this is not my face yet", or "I have no face, I am face of fire, or sky". Sometimes I feel enchanted by them, as if they are coming through my hands and wont let me rest until they are happy. 

Are you also intrigued by faces of the masculine?  How do they appear to you?  Do you envisage a face-off in the future?

At this stage, I'm not so intrigued by the masculine archetypes, but you never know what might happen down the road. I do have ideas for larger dolls, one of which is a male/female together, like a Shiva/Shakti. Also, animal/woman together. But these will still be part of the Thousand Faces of the Feminine.

Merilee Bennett's exhibition 'A Thousand Faces of the Feminine' is showing at Pop Craft Studio on weekends 11-4pm, October. 1-9.  Her 2-day 'Wisdom Doll' workshop will be on the Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd of October 10-4pm. To make futher enquiries about this workshop please contact Merilee.

All photos courtesy of Heartland.