Puppets and Portraits

Puppets and Portraits

I had a great day last Thursday making ambrotypes with artist Vineta Gailite. Vineta’s hand-made dolls, sculptures and recent shadow puppet theatre work, Imaginary Islands, are beautiful, eery and full of atmosphere. I love the way each of her pieces tells a story or draws on one.

Hand-tinted ambrotype of Vineta with her creations.

I’ve commissioned Vineta to make a special doll for the youngest member of our family, Violet (age 5), and what she’s made is magical: it’s both a likeness of Violet and a puppet with its own personality. In return, I offered to show Vineta how to make ambrotypes (wet collodion photographs on pieces of glass) and to help her take some portraits of her dolls.

Violet Doll
‘Violet’ guarding the ambrotypes © Vineta Gailite.

We worked in my partner John Brewer’s studio in Ancoats. I demonstrated the process to Vineta, who set up a series of still lives. We had huge fun making images of them. Vineta got the hang of wet plate straight away and made some lovely glass images and I took a portrait of her sitting with her creations.

The portrait reminded me of the Maurice Sendak classic Where the Wild Things Are. After I’d sprayed the back black to make a positive image, I hand-tinted the glass using chalk pastels to make it a bit more of a special object in return for the fabulous creation Vineta is giving to Violet.