Skeeter Scheid creates fairy dolls with a dark humor
By MADISON BROWN
Elizabeth “Skeeter” Scheid describes her artwork as “not pretty, but playful.”
She creates fairy dolls and tree sculptures out of mixed fibers at Artful Dimensions Gallery on Caroline Street.
“I was always drawn to fairies,” she explains, “but not the normal fairies. Mine aren’t really pretty, but they’re probably more what I imagine real fairies to be: a little ornery, sometimes a little nasty.
“I had given [a doll] to my mother, and she had to put it away because it scared all the little kids!”
The dark playfulness with which she crafts her fairy dolls extends to her tree models as well. Showing off one of her trees, she said, “This one I made for my 70th birthday, and I called it Not Dead Yet!”
Every tree in her collection features a miniature bird’s nest and a face. “I don’t know [why],” she said. “It just seems right. A tree should have a nest.”
Skeeter actually began her career as a painter. “But I just got really bored of painting,” she confessed. “I thought, ‘what else could I do?’” On a whim, she signed up for a doll-making class.
“The teacher stood up and showed us this cloth doll, and I went, ‘oh, my God!’ And that was it. Because it [dollmaking] had everything. I had always liked to sew.”
Skeeter turned her full attention to her new medium. She joined Artful Dimensions, a three-dimensional art gallery, in 2014. But she hasn’t given up painting entirely. “I paint the [dolls’] faces, and I have some pieces in progress where I’m painting the skin like a landscape.”
Her “magic wand” collection adds a touch of whimsy to a historic symbol of brutality. She paints smiling faces on detached doll heads, and attaches them to their wands with colorful tassels. “The thought of a head on a stick was kind of intriguing,” she says. “We can make it good.”
“I don’t guarantee the magic,” she quipped.
She also recently started a series of Cambodian spirit houses with hand painted details, the first of which is on display in her gallery.
Skeeter says she always hoped to become a professional artist. “I come from a pretty creative family. My aunt was always doing really crafting things. She’d make all these intricate paper flowers […] so it was always special to go over there. And then I had an uncle who did paper sculptures, and he was just magic. He would show up – I don’t even know where he lived, but he lived out of town – and he would do these paper dolls and trees.”
After years working as an art teacher, she moved to Fredericksburg and began pursuing a career as a creator after the 2008 recession. She describes finding a “fabulous” art community in the city.
“It’s a smaller scale, so [artists] really talk to one another and we’re all really good friends, we all like each other. There’s a lot of collaboration.”
Skeeter describes herself as “detail-oriented and picky,” but resents being called a perfectionist. “It doesn’t have to be perfect, it has to be excellent. But sometimes the imperfections are the best part.”