Make folk art inspired dolls or narrative figures with Rachel Larkins

Ref: SLW29714

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About this course

Explore this decorative art form using materials such as cloth, wood and paper to produce folk art dolls. These may be based on the personal stories of their makers or traditional, or modern-day folklore.

Course Description

On this three-day course, you will explore materials such as cloth, wood and paper to produce folk art dolls, which may be based on the personal stories of their makers or traditional/ modern-day folklore. You will look at examples of character design and consider how found objects or materials can be used to inspire and communicate atmosphere or back story. You will also draw from a collection of antique and contemporary toys, including dolls, puppets and automata.

From weathervanes to whirlygigs, folk art is an intrinsic part of our visual culture and has been influential for many contemporary designer-makers and artists. Folk art, whether decorative or utilitarian, is rooted in cultural identity. It can be instrumental in preserving or subverting craft traditions and often conveys the shared values and belief systems of makers (and users) through form and material.

Early ‘primitive’ human forms range from crudely fashioned cloth dolls to carved funerary offerings. More recently, folk dolls have evolved as a decorative art form, sometimes depicting celebrities or legendary figures and often reflecting the social and/or political climate.

You are invited to bring your own stories and materials to create dolls, but this is not essential as examples of possible starting points will be given (including a playful exercise involving collage on the first evening) and essential materials provided.

On your first full day, you will explore simple ways of producing heads and limbs and transferring imagery onto cloth. On day two, you will create simple patterns to develop your ‘body parts’ into three-dimensional forms and explore methods for joining limbs and heads. On day three, you will develop and refine your doll(s), culminating in an informal exhibition of the work produced by participants.


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops until 9pm, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials


  • Most of the materials, including fabric, paper and wood.

What students need to bring

  • Examples of folk art you may have and would like to share with the group
  • Fabric remnants, small wood off-cuts, if you have them, sewing threads or yarns and found objects, which might be incorporated

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • Paints, brushes, handmade papers – optional, depending on the direction your project takes you

Additional information

Please wear appropriate clothing/aprons for the workshop or studio, this includes stout covered footwear (no sandals or open toes).


Rachel Larkins Art and Design Tutor at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation

Rachel Larkins

Core Team Tutor - Foundation Diploma in Art and Design
Short Course Tutor

Rachel Larkins is a tutor on the FDAD program and has been teaching short courses at West Dean since 2017. Rachel holds a distinction level Masters in Sequential Design/ Illustration from Brighton University following an early training in Textile Art (BA Hons). Rachel's work encompasses drawing and narrative sculptures and is held in numerous private collections.


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

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