Special Projects

Sara McConneloug

Dolls and stories are ways children connect to the world. There was a time, that I disconnected from life. I spent time in nature to find room for my raw emotions. On many walks, I collected objects that caught my eye. Oak galls, twigs, moss, seaweed, shells, and stones became dolls, each with a story. These dolls are one-of-a kind. Each doll helped me reconnect with the world.


My emotions fueled my intention to create. I needed new images of women: broader than brides, wives, and mothers I had known. I looked to a book about the past. Marija Gimbutas wrote The Language of the Goddess based on her studies of ritual and household artifacts in agricultural communities from 9000-350 BC, including dolls. She developed a rich amazing lexicon of symbols and meanings in her book.  Birds, fairies, dragons, eggs, snakes, and spiders have held powerful meanings over time which inspired these dolls.


My nature dolls are intended to look old, somewhat like artifacts. I juxtaposed materials that were fresh, colorful, or silly with objects that appeared aged.  Additional oddities that needed a new purpose, such as a solitary favorite earring, shiny beads, buttons, glass shards, wire, and soft colorful fabric remnants. Recycled black shoeboxes became display cases…and caves.


I would often get up in the middle of the night, with the moonlight shining on my workbench, or on the floor where I sometimes worked. The moonlight whispered and its glow made the dolls look almost alive. Pete Seeger’s rendition of “Buffalo Gals,” a lively folksong with catchy upbeat lyrics, danced these dolls into being. 


                                 Buffalo Gals won’t you come out tonight…

                                And dance by the light of the Moon!

                                I danced with a dolly with a hole in her stocking,

                                and her knees kept a-knocking and her shoes was a-rocking…


Oak Gal was firstborn. She has an oak gall head with wiry knees. Stocking Head still has her marbles. Mermaid Fairy has red dancing shoes.  And Owl.  These are a few of my favorites. 13 Buffalo Gals traveled to several shows, including ARTwalks San Rafael and the Mermaid Festival in Mill Valley. My 10 years as a contributor the de Young Museum’s Bouquets to Art encouraged me to think outside the box as I created these dolls.


A doll is a friend, a companion to share secrets; a shaman energy to help you on your way: to help you hold on tight–like the roots of bullwhip kelp attached to rocks on the ocean floor, called “holdfasts” –or to help you let go of a difficult feeling, like a leaf that falls to the earth. Nature is incredibly healing. I hope you go on lots of nature walks; maybe you will create your own doll.