Hilary Tapper-Zakheim creates her inspiring, eco-friendly Khadil dolls with a hand-powered sewing machine in her Christchurch workroom. She uses handwoven cotton, woven by empowered village women in India, and other natural materials to create dolls that celebrate natural beauty, wholesomeness, inner strength, and handmade, conscious living.
What do you make?
Dolls to inspire inner strength.
How did you get into your craft?
My mum taught me to sew when I was little, and I’ve always loved cuddly friends.
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
Handwoven cotton ‘khadi’ fabric (made by empowered women weavers), coffee and medicinal herbs to dye the khadi a variety of skin tones, local New Zealand wool for stuffing, my hand-powered sewing machine, coconut shell buttons for attaching the body parts, and hand-spun thread for the hair.
What inspires you?
Feeling guided from within and feeling in harmony with my surroundings.
Is there a philosophy behind your work?
Khadil (pronounced ‘cuddle’) comes from the word ‘khadi’, meaning handspun, handwoven cloth which was a vital aspect of Gandhi’s freedom movement – it symbolises self-sufficiency, non-violence and truth. I use khadi handwoven by a women’s empowerment group in India, and feel that the love and happiness of these women is woven into every fibre of the cloth.
Conscious living and non-violence are very important to this project both in regards to the materials I use, but also the purpose of the dolls. These dolls are designed with the intention of simplicity and self-love, inner strength and wholesomeness. I want that every girl know that she is perfect and beautiful just the way she is, that her power and magnificence lies within her, and she need not seek her value outside of herself. These dolls are not just for young ones, but also all of us ‘big kids’ who still need reminders now and again that we are loved and never alone in our lives.
These dolls are designed with the intention of simplicity and self-love, inner strength and wholesomeness.
Describe your creative process:
I see an idea in my mind and try to unpack it on sketch paper. Sometimes it takes me a while to finally see all the details and then I create it – or I hear a song, smell a childhood scent, a memory returns, or I feel great affection for a friend, and I try to embody that feeling/sound/scent into a form.
Describe your workspace:
Lots of beautiful fabrics, a big wooden table, calming music, my watercolour paints and paintings, lots of bits of scrap papers, ideas, sketches and lists.
Your favourite feedback from a customer:
“She sits on my desk at work and keeps me centered, a friend to remind me that I’m never alone.”
What are you currently listening to? Miriam Stockley, Perfect Day.
Recommend an album: Jahnavi Harrison, Like a River to the Sea
What’s your favourite childhood book and why?
The Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter – I love the magic of the little mice coming in the night and finishing the tailor’s coat.
What are you reading now?
The Lord is My Shepherd by Rabbi Harold S. Kushner.
Who is your hero/heroine? Why?
My husband, an embodiment of creativity, infinite possibility and ready any hour of the day for bouncing ideas, problem solving, and hugs. He makes special tools to suit whatever function I need – he made all the stuffing and turning-inside-out tools I use for my dolls.
A favourite quote:
“…at the still point, there the dance is.” T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets.
What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
Read The Artist’s Way, seek your inner guide within your heart, and do your craft everyday with confidence.
What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
A felted sleeping fox, quiet and enchanting.
What’s in store for the rest of 2016?
I have an unending list of doll designs to create, and I hope to do more of my watercolour illustrations and start printing them.
Hilary has very generously offered a prize for one lucky Felt reader of a custom Khadil doll! The winner will get to get to choose their own hair colour, skin tone and dress fabric for their very own doll, which will also come with a woollen cardigan and handwoven scarf. To be in to win, simply leave a comment telling us what you like about Hilary’s philosophy and dolls. The draw will be made on Friday 17 June and is open to New Zealand residents only.