Wendy Froud has gained an international following for art inspired by mythology, folklore, and the numinous world of nature. She is best known as a doll artist and designer of puppets for film and television but in this exhibition we present the artists' lesser known sculptural work. Some of the sculptures on these pages were created for the Mythic Gardens exhibitions in Devon, England — an annual event featuring outdoor sculpture in the enchanted setting of a birch and alder arboretum.
"The figures here were inspired by stag–men and deer–women legends found in cultures all around the world," says Wendy, "such as the horned god Cernunos in Celtic myth. The Greenwood Masks were inspired by reading Robert Holdstock's novel Mythago Wood, and by the mysterious Green Man faces found in country churches all over Devon. There's also a little bit of Puck in one the masks — not only the Puck of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, but also the mischievous Robin Goodfellow on whom Shakespeare's Puck is based. I made a group of Birch Tree Fairies too for one of the Mythic Garden exhibitions, but sadly they were stolen! After that terrible experience, I concentrated on sculptures that weren't so easy to walk away with."
Although she has lived in England for many years, Wendy was born in Detroit, Michigan, and named after Wendy in J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. Her father, the late German–American sculptor Walter Midener, was president of The Center for Creative Studies, a college of art and design in Detroit. Her mother, Peggy Midener, is a painter, collage artist, and a former teacher at C.C.S. "I've been a doll–maker all of my life," Wendy recalls. "At about age five, as soon as I could bend a pipe–cleaner and bits of fabric together, I started to make the kind of dolls I couldn't find in stores — centaurs, satyrs, fauns, unicorns, and faeries. I wanted to be part of a magical realm, and so I created one for myself." As she grew older, she channeled her creativity into drama and music as a high school student at Interlochen Arts Academy. She then focused on visual arts during her college years, studying fabric design, jewelry, and ceramics at C.C.S. After graduation, she moved to New York City with fellow–artist Guy Veryzer, and soon landed a job which drew upon all the various arts she'd studied: working as a puppet–builder and sculptor for Jim Henson's The Muppet Show, and then for Henson’s feature film The Dark Crystal. It was on the set of The Dark Crystal that she met her future husband, the English "fairy painter" Brian Froud, whose art and design work was a major source of inspiration for the film. Wendy worked on the development of many of the characters in The Dark Crystal, including the "gelfling" hero and heroine: Jen and Kira. She also developed creatures for The Muppet Movie, and fabricated the original prototype for Yoda in Star Wars.
Shortly after the Dark Crystal workshop was moved from New York to London, Wendy and Brian were married and Wendy made England her home. When Jim Henson decided to collaborate with Brian on a second film (Labyrinth, with a script by Monty Python's Terry Jones), Wendy was hired once again as a sculptor and puppet-builder. She was pregnant when work on the film began and soon her son, Toby, was born. Toby ended up with a major role in the film, playing the part of the baby stolen away by the Goblin King (David Bowie) and rescued by his sister (Jennifer Connelly). After finishing work on Labyrinth, the Frouds settled down in southwest England where the mystical Dartmoor countryside made a perfect setting for their art. They bought and renovated a rambling Devon "longhouse" — a thatched–roof granite building dating from medieval or pre–medieval times. In this wonderful old place, they set about creating a thoroughly magical environment filled with faeries, goblins and trolls (both painted and three–dimensional), medieval furniture, William Morris fabrics, antique toys, puppets, and shelves crowded with folklore books. Brian set up a painting studio while Wendy created two work spaces: a doll workshop in the eaves of the house and a sculpting studio in the garden.
Text copyright by Wendy Froud and Terri Windling. It may not be reproduced in any form without the permission of both authors. All images on this page copyright by Wendy Froud. They may not be reproduced in any form without the artist's express permission. Visit her website for more information.