by Kate Pruitt

When I first saw these painted figures, they immediately recalled a memory, albeit a faint one, that rushed to the front of my mind. There was a book I loved as a child, about a doll maker in her studio. The story was about her daily routine: making herself a pot of coffee; bringing it to her worktable, where all of her brushes and needles and supplies were laid out; and contentedly falling into the rhythm of making these small dolls. As she worked, she would pause for a time to look at the doll, studying the eyes she had just painstakingly painted until she perceived the doll’s unique personality before continuing on to the nose and lips.

I can’t for the life of me remember the name of this book, but in looking back, I think it had a huge impact on my notions of what I wanted to do when I grew up. I wanted the quiet, solitary routines of that dollmaker, and I wanted to imbue the objects I crafted with the same love and care. When I asked UK-based illustrator Jes Hunt, the creator of Hinterfolk, for more information about these dolls, I discovered that she in fact might be the real-life version of the doll maker in the book. According to Jes, these characters inhabit the forested recesses of her imagination and are inspired by shamans and the costumes from various traditional folk cultures around the world.

There’s Astrid, who’s quite a straight-laced, practical, homely sort who likes to get things done; Greta, who’s wild and carefree and fiery; Sanna, who’s thoughtful, introspective and magical; and Yak Girl and Yak Boy, who live in a mountainous land and ride their Yak companions. The last two are characters in a children’s book Jes is currently writing, and her hope is that you will find a doll with a personality you love (she can also create a custom doll to suit your own individual personality) and bring it home to watch over you.

I don’t know about you, but I’m already endeared to all of the characters, and I am eager to know more of their stories. You can see the full collection here. Also, if anyone knows the children’s book I’m referring to, please let me know its name! — Kate

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  • That horse! That red horse! I had that when I was little and I’ve been searching for another one. It’s not on her site and I suspect it’s something she’s had for a while. Anyone seen that horse lately and know where to get one?

  • Hi Shay – the horse is a traditional Swedish painted folk object, called a Dala Horse, that I bought in Stockholm. You can find them on ebay too (well, you can on the UK site at least!).

  • That carved and painted horse had an important role in the foreign film “Kitchen Stories”. A farmer was promised a “horse” for allowing himself to be filmed in his home. His plow horse was sick, so he thought he could get a new horse by allowing the filming. The horse he won was of course not a real horse, merely the carved wooden horse. The film was memorable for many reasons, humorous and touching.

  • ….and i just fell in love with these dollies. it was meant to be!
    i make dolls out of paper and fabric, but these traditional ones i am swooning over!

  • Maggie – YES YES YES…that is it!!! Oh thank you so much. As soon as I saw the cover it all came rushing back to me. I can’t thank you enough. I’m off to go buy the book and read it again!

  • Hi Yael, thanks for the link – it’s very interesting and I take your point. However, I don’t copy actual native costumes and symbols in my work, I’m just inspired by the colours – in fact I don’t use any symbols at all.

    Many traditional folk costumes have similarities between countries, though they don’t look exactly the same. I have Cornish/celtic blood in me and am inspired by the folk costumes of that region. But I also use aspects of English Morris dancing costume, which come in many variations, using feathers, ripped cloth, painted faces – if you took single elements from these you could mistake them from coming from other cultures, if you were unfamiliar with the reasoning behind the designs.

    Looking back through the long history of Britain, we are an amalgamation of little slices of many cultures, bought over during countless invasions, from France, Denmark, Norway etc and our rich cultural heritage reflects this. That I look again at these cultures for inspiration as well, is a continuation of this.