Juliane Strittmatter is a native Berlin girl, who for the past six years has been living in a red wooden house in the idyll of Sweden. In her studio, Juliane designs and creates handmade dolls under the name ”Fröken Skicklig” (Update: Notes from Bjorkasa). What is particularly unique about her style is how she presents the dolls on her blog, building a beautiful garden bed or a customized dolls tent. No wonder that she has found success with her designs and the number of orders is growing every day – but how did it all start?
Behind every good business idea there is a fine imaginary concept. Sometimes, however, it is just a coincidence that leads to a new and successful business. How did your doll making business “Fröken Skicklig” start, Juliane? Actually you’re an actress, right?
Juliane Strittmatter: Yes, I studied puppetry in Berlin at the Academy of Dramatic Arts Ernst Busch and worked as a puppeteer and actress. In 2008, I was diagnosed with a chronic pain disease and from one day to the next, working on stage got impossible. Rehearsal times at a theater are usually long and intense, and when 700 tickets have been sold, then the curtain has to rise as we puppeteers say. Nobody cares if you have the flu or not.
After being on sick leave for several months I was confronted with a difficult decision : Should I take an entirely new career or should I look for something that had at least in some parts to do with puppetry? To that date, a part of my job had been to design puppets for theater or film productions.
And you’ve decided on the doll making …
Juliane Strittmatter: Yes, as it seemed the most obvious choice to switch from puppets to play dolls for children.
In the fall of 2008, I attended a Dawanda event for bloggers. Up until that point I had hardly read any blogs, this was all new to me. The event set something free: I started blogging as”Fröken Skicklig”, with an emphasis on my own DIY, upcycling and crafts.
Flickr was very popular at the time, I posted pictures of my dolls there and had already a well-filled order book when I opened my webshop in February 2009. Since then I’m able to live exclusively from my dolls.
And how do you create your dolls?
Juliane Strittmatter: I draw a lot of sketches to develop a certain design. Often it is sufficient to write down a few notes, as I already have a very clear picture in my head. If they wish, my clients may choose hair and eye color, but everything else is basically in my hand. This creative leeway is very important to me.
Is it hard to give the dolls away once they are finished? Certainly, each doll is unique and there is a lot of yourself in it.
Juliane Strittmatter: Yes, at first it was difficult for me. Meanwhile, however, I also feel relieved when I send my dolls on their journey, because it means that I can move on to the next project.
Many people tell me that I put a piece of my soul in each of my dolls, but as a puppeteer I would put it differently: A doll is initially only an object made of fabric and wool. The process of animation, the moment a thing becomes a subject with a soul, begins in the observer’s mind, without his imagination the doll will not come alive. If I am able to create a personal connection between this object and the customer, if I can offer a surface for a projection, a doll turns into a being with a soul in the perception of the customer. It’s wonderful to create such moments, but my soul stays with me.
Beautifully said! How long do you spend working on a doll? And how long do your customers have to wait from the initial order to the finished product?
Juliane Strittmatter: It can be anywhere from two to seven days for a doll, but my waiting list is very long. My clients need to have patience, but the wait is worth it when they receive a unique doll.
What does “Fröken Skicklig” mean actually?
Juliane Strittmatter: Fröken Skicklig means “The skilled Miss”, and “Fröken” in swedish is rather old-fashioned. I have chosen that name deliberately: Each of us knows one of these old ladies from our childhood, a „Fröken Skicklig“, to who could turn an old army blanket into a pretty winter coat, someone who carefully saved old buttons, unraveled worn-out wool sweaters, someone who could make something beautiful out of nothing. I really like that image, hence the name.
You have a soft spot for – may I say that? – the old-fashioned and proven, right? People who follow you on Instagram do not only see your beautiful “bouquet per day”, but also your love for vintage dresses. Do you sew them yourself or where to find them?
Juliane Strittmatter: I mostly wear vintage or second-hand, sometimes I sew garments myself, but most of my vintage clothes I received as a gift. A few were from my old neighbor, some from an inheritance – our local church called and they offered me to choose some dresses in the house of an old lady. I’m lucky enough to still fit in the same clothes I have worn fifteen years ago as the style of the 1930/1940 was not so fashionable as it is today. My wardrobe itself is not very large. But I wear everything with so much pleasure and joy.
Thanks and Tack for the interview, Juliane.
If you´re interested in one of Juliane´s handmade dolls please free to contact her: firstname.lastname@example.org
More from Juliane Strittmatter:
This post is also available in: German