“I was 30 before I started making art,” recalls Christy Silacci, Petaluma-based doll-creator and inventor of weird, whimsical “folk art” creatures. Born in Two Rock, a small community just west of Petaluma, Silacci, 70, grew up on her parents’ ranch, where she developed a deep bond with the land and the animals that share it. Of her knack for creating imaginative beings out of fabric scraps and leftovers, she explains, “One day I bought a Santa figure. I liked him, but something wasn’t quite right. So I tore some of his pieces off and redid him. And that’s when I started making creatures.”
Ever since, the sheer joy of making uncommon critters has guided Silacci’s crafting career. To date, she estimates she’s built thousands of the little cloth creations, each one brimming with charm and personality.
“I see things in odd ways,” Silacci admits. To her, a bottle cap and some twigs, and just the right little piece of wood, are the raw components of a life not yet created, the first part of a unique creative process that almost always begins with trash.
Laughs Silacci, “When I walk down the street and pick up stuff, my friends ask, ‘What are you doing!’ and I say, ‘Wouldn’t this make a perfect nose?’ I found some old wire, brought it home, washed it and it became some creature’s wonderful hairdo.”
With the nose and hairdo (or other limbs and features) thus identified, all she needs then are some bodies.
Silacci explains, “I start by making a few bodies. Maybe I don’t even know what they are going to be. All of a sudden, an idea will just pop into my head, and I say to myself, “What if I do that? And usually I do. After that, the little creatures build themselves. I don’t really think about it. It just comes to me. Every single one is a separate being. That’s what I like about them.”
Silacci explains that her process is a mysterious one, in which she “listens’ to her little creatures as she builds them, watching as a personality begins to emerge with each new creation. It’s a blend of the unexpected and the spontaneous. When it stops being just a collection of stuff, and becomes an actual person, she knows she’s done.
Of this “I’m done” moment, Silacci says, “It’s just the way it is, not even how I wanted it to be. All of a sudden, it’ll be like, ‘OMG! There you are! There are my people!”
Silacci adds, “I make animals, but I call them my people. Born in the dumps from stuff people threw away.”
Since starting her craft business, Silacci’s oddball beasties have won themselves plenty of fans, some of whom travel long distances to craft shows just to have first-crack at her latest designs. The thing-a-ma-beasts have even been featured in their own YouTube video, created by producer and writer Bryan Hale. His 92-second-long mock-TV-advertisement puts Silacci’s creations into a fictional reality television show called “Down in the Dumps, Again!” It’s a cross between “Gilligan’s Island” and the “Island of Misfit Toys,” with a bit of “The Kardashians” thrown in for good measure.
Collector Leslie Taylor is well acquainted with Silacci’s unique blend of natural elements and human cast-offs. For Taylor, who has acquired over 70 of Silacci’s “people,” she feels a strong emotional connection to the one-of-a-kind art pieces.
WHERE TO FIND CHRISTY SILACCI’S CREATIONS
Christy Silacci is one of 64 artists who will be exhibiting at the 9th annual Holiday Crafterino on Sunday Nov. 12, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Petaluma Veterans Memorial Hall, 1094 Petaluma Blvd S. Silacci’s creatures are also sold at Summer Cottage Antiques, 153 Kentucky Street, Petaluma. More of her creatures are on display on her website at ChristySilacci.com.