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Why No Mouth

“Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become the next moment. By the same token, every human being has the freedom to change at any instant.”
Viktor Frankl
 


The Totootse doll's image was refined over the years. I changed proportions, fabric, hair, clothing. One thing remained unchanged. They had no mouth or nose, only eyes.



Some people found this scary. I succumbed to persuasion and made attempts to create a doll with a nose and mouth. All attempts were futile. I didn't like it.


As soon as a mouth appeared on her face, she became an ordinary doll. Happy or sad, depending on the mouth's position. The emotion became fixed, and everything became unambiguous and boring.


People attributed all kinds of emotions to Totootse dolls without a mouth and nose.


"Why are they so scary?", "she's very sad", "what is she thinking about?", "she's dreaming". Everyone saw something different in them, a reflection of their own emotions at the moment.



In my childhood, I whispered my joys and sorrows to some favorite toys at night.


My own doll for me is a witness; her name is Uma. She sits on the shelf and always looks at me.

"I see you, you exist, you are real and alive." When I see her, I smile.


My doll Uma

Almost everyone has childhood trauma. Psychologists advise becoming a parent to yourself, to love your inner child. This process can take years, decades, or even a lifetime.



Totootse & Dorimu collaboration

I didn't try to create a doll for psychotherapy, it was much more prosaic. I love cartoon characters, playing with dolls, and most of all, picking colors. Before dolls, I spent six years knitting and felting cartoon animals, and then I wanted to create something strange and cute.


My son was unschooled, I was passionate about attachment theory and read many books on the subject. This is how I learned that one of the main conditions for harmonious development is free play.



In the process of my own free play, I created a doll that helped me begin to heal my inner child. But at first, I didn't realize this, of course.


I didn't intend to create a doll for psychotherapy. The realization began to come when therapists started buying them to work with clients.


One day, my friend ordered me to make a doll based on her childhood photo, at her therapist's request. This is how the Inner Child project was born.



I have been making Totootse dolls for 10 years, and all this time people have been asking me if I have a master class on them. I didn't.


It's almost impossible to prove copyright on handmade work. Patenting a design is very expensive and almost useless. My knitted bunnies from my first handmade brand "TutseeToy" were copied by the hundreds. Their design went mainstream, and no one even knows they have an author anymore. You can find my bunny on any Etsy page.





I was afraid the same thing would happen with the dolls.


But years went by, and there were only a few plagiarists. Although they are really very simple to make. One girl apparently figured out how exactly and started actively selling them. But for some reason, she gives them a mouth, thus losing their essence.

I watch her over the years but she still didn't get it.




I stopped worrying about plagiarism when I understood their purpose. They are not works of art; they are art therapy. They outgrew me and my ambitions as an artist and needed their own path.


Handmade work has its downsides. Yes, you can express yourself and get paid for it, be independent, and do what you like. But you can't scale and delegate like in a regular business, even a creative one. Handmade work is very expensive, and many cannot afford a doll for $200.


And if Totootse dolls' purpose is to help, they need to be let go and even pushed forward.





So, as one unknown philosopher Joey Tribbiani said: "It is a love based of giving and receiving as well as having and sharing. And the love that they give and have is shared and received. And through this having and giving and sharing and receiving, we too can share and love and have... and receive."


 

Stay tuned and may the Totootse magic be with you!


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