Designer Edge: Sarah Burford

“Nostalgia is very important to some people, and the references to Silver Screen sirens tap into that world of old-fashioned magic.”

The Golden Years of Hollywood have a chance to glitter again, not in celluloid but in fabric. And the award goes to … Sarah Burford, who has created a red-carpet line-up of starlet-style dolls. Think Hedy Lamarr, Veronica Lake, Myrna Loy and you’ve got the picture, so to speak.

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“It’s really my creative response to everything I love about bygone eras, from the movies and the fashion and styling to the sophistication,” says Sarah. “I’ve always been fascinated with women of elegance – Hollywood starlets, slinky villains, showgirls and fashionable heroines.”

Sarah designs and markets her dolls and illustrative work under the brand ‘Curious Pip’, and it feels as if her Pip dolls were simply meant to be – preordained because of her artistic instincts and career path. Like many designers, she has been making things since childhood. But combine that with an acting degree and a background in performing arts, not to mention her natural love of vintage fashion and old movies and you have the makings of a cottage industry for handcrafted stars dolls.

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“I’m pretty knowledgeable on the fashions of past decades, because it’s always been of huge interest to me. The late 1930s is my favourite era for fashion, especially when teamed with a touch of surrealism from designers such as Schiaparelli or Hollywood costume designer Gilbert Adrian. My home is littered with vintage fashion bibles and movie books.”

Celebrate your baking prowess with a quirky 1950s-style doll!

While on maternity leave from a 9-5 office job, Sarah determined she’d  NEVER go back to staring at a computer screen (“I used to get told off for drawing in my notepads when I was on the telephone, can you believe?”) and equally determined to ditch acting (“You can’t very well trot off on tour when you have a small child.”). Drawing and stitching took their place in her everyday life at home, as did her blog “ramblings”.  And so a few star dolls were born!

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Early in the piece, she made five Esther Williams dolls, with long, straight limbs, vintage-fabric bathing suits and felt flowered swimming caps. These designs tapped into a sense of nostalgia for a lot of people, and the bathing belles sold quickly. There followed her Busby Berkeley range – dolls wearing costumes made from old silks and lace.

Make Victorian-era style dolls with this pattern

“I also illustrate. One wouldn’t really exist for me without the other. I create the characters on paper first, then put them in lots of little situations to make an illustrated storyboard. The characters develop – they have a name and a story before I even pull out my needles and pins,” says Sarah. “The part I love doing most is the face. Adding the eyes and shaping the eyebrows give her personality, and the smallest stitch can change her whole attitude and character.

“I don’t feel like what I do is work – it’s just what I do. And thankfully, people want to buy it. I’ve created the best job in the world.

To find out more about Sarah Burford’s art and dolls, go to Curious Pip, curiouspip.com