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JOCELYNN BROWN

Handmade: Statuesque mannequins display retro fashions

Jocelynn Brown
The Detroit News

Battle Creek artist Sheila Jones combined her “love of art and fashion” in the form of oversized papier- mache mannequins that stand 6 foot 4 inches tall, dressed in vibrant retro garments and accessories. Each is faceless because she wants to focus attention on the clothes.

Jones started making her fashionable collection of 16 mannequins in 2013, after being inspired by a friend who exhibited his sculptures every year in Grand Rapids’ ArtPrize competition. “I figured I could make a sculpture,” she says. Led by her passion for fashion, especially clothes of the ’50s and ’60s, she began “thinking outside the box,” after choosing to use something original in place of the dressmaker forms she’d purchased.

“I decided to make my own papier-mache mannequin, so with trial and error, I came up with a solution. I used recycled cardboard, cereal boxes, wax paper, butcher block paper, medical exam room paper and every other kind of paper I could get my hands on,” she says. It would be her first time creating with paper pulp and glue.

Everything about her mannequins, or “girls,” as she playfully calls them, is made of paper and hand-painted with acrylic or latex paint. She purchased most of her supplies from Menards, but says, “I had Lowe’s mix custom paint for me, and of course I got boxes from them. I tore the boxes until they became really malleable.” And for more realism, she used the trompe l’oeil technique for a three-dimensional effect.

She says the “hardest part” was translating her sketches into three-dimensional form “because the papier dictated how it would go.” But being the inventive person she is, Jones came up with clever ideas, like using Bounty paper towel, soaked in dye, to create dimension for the poodle on a pink poodle skirt worn by one of the mannequins.

For construction of the body and some of the clothes, she used chicken wire as support. PVC pipe, “bracketed on a wooden base,” goes up through one leg to support each mannequin in a standing position. Jones taught herself to build the stands after buying a drill.

Hair for each of the 10-12 pound sculptures is also made of paper. Jones says she consulted a beautician on how to make a wig, but used paper in place of hair. Several of the “girls” have detachable heads to prevent damage to their hair when being transported.

Before venturing into the world of three-dimensional art, Jones, who attended Center for Creative Studies in Detroit and Parsons School of Design in New York, developed skills as a fine artist. She continues to produce coastal artwork on canvas, selling it on commission, and through Beachcomber Art Gallery in Delray Beach, Florida. She once did a mixed media collage, using articles from the ’50s, written about her late jazz musician father, Jack Perkins. Before selling the piece, she made reproductions which she later used to make mini-dresses for two of the mannequins, her favorite among the collection.

About six of Jones’ stylish mannequins will be on display during “Spring Into the Arts-Art Walk,” from 5-9 p.m. May 20 in downtown Battle Creek, where the public can vote for the People’s Choice Awards. Her mannequins have also been exhibited at the “Fall Into the Arts-Art Walk,” and at the Battle Creek Art Center.

Depending on “the complication and intricacy of the design,” Jones’ mannequins are priced from $1,500 to $5,000 each, but if you’re interested in making your own, she’s willing to share her techniques.

Correction: In last week’s column (“More than hair – it’s wearable art”), one of the show sponsors (Universal Beauty Products Inc. of Glendale Heights, Ill.) for Sunday’s “Hair Wars” event was incorrectly identified.

Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, jbrown@detroitnews.com or facebook.com/DetroitNewsHandmade.

Contact Sheila Jones at (269) 924-9815, sheilajones6040@yahoo.com, or on Facebook.