The trending craze of Ophelia, the doll that shows signs of age
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The trending craze of Ophelia, the doll that shows signs of age

The doll that actually degrades, and ‘dies’ in real time, is trending online and is starting conversations between parents and children about the end of life.

by Georgina Maddox Oct 25, 2019

It is time when toys and the world of play and make believe reflect the harsh realities of life. The Ophelia Doll, also known as the Doll that Dies, is made out of bio-degradable and compostable materials that degrade over time with play. The doll is the recipient of the Student Notable Design Concept Award of Core 77 Design Awards 2018, and is currently trending. The Doll is modelled on the Shakespearean tragic heroine, Ophelia, the female protagonist to Hamlet, who drowns herself in a brook when she assumes that Hamlet is dead. It is seen as her one act of agency.

The original doll from Core77 Design is made up of red algae, jackfruit, mycelium (for the inner skeleton), and human hair. It is coated with a wax exterior that protects it from the wear and tear of play, but ultimately over a period of time the doll is supposed to show signs of age, similar to the way the human body would age. It has been argued that the Ophelia Doll may serve as a tool for starting a conversation between parents and their children about the end of life. 

Ophelia, the doll that degrades | Ophelia Doll | Jordan Taylor | STIRworld
Ophelia, the doll that degrades Image Credit: Courtesy of ophelia_jordan taylor_the free folk

Children who own Ophelia will have the opportunity to develop a belief that talking about death is normal. When a person talks about death, they begin to understand the impermanence of life, and become inspired to be prepared for their own end of life, setting the stage for a less stressful and positive ending, as well as a more appreciated and fulfilled life.

Parents and children can choose to ‘bury’ the doll in their garden and have it become part of the natural environment. The doll does not leave behind any bio-waste and is a beautiful way of coming to terms with the ephemeral quality of life.
Typically, most toys and dolls are made of plastic, from oil-based materials, a non-renewable resource, and are made to be broken easily and are then sent straight to the landfill. 

There are several versions of the Ophelia Doll, one very interesting kinds making waves in cyberspace has been created by Jordan Taylor, an art doll artist and emerging writer from North Carolina. “My art doll is intended to represent the moment in Hamlet of Ophelia’s drowning in the brook,” says Taylor.

The doll’s name take inspiration from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet | Ophelia Doll | Jordan Taylor | STIRworld
The doll’s name take inspiration from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet Image Credit: Courtesy of ophelia_jordan taylor_the free folk 2

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the lines that speak of Ophelia are quote poetic: “There is a willow grows aslant a brook (and) there with fantastic garlands she did make, of crow flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples… There, on the pendant boughs her coronet weeds clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke, when down her weedy trophies and herself fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide. And mermaid like awhile they bore her up. Which time she chanted snatches of old lauds, as one incapable of her own distress. Or like a creature native and indued unto that element.”

“Ophelia’s cloth body is hand-stitched and covered in paper-clay, and painted with water colours. I spent a long day knotting her blonde mohair wig, for which I used a sock as the wig cap. Ophelia wears a watercolour blue silk slip with silver embroidery threads sewn into it, intended to mimic water in sunlight. Her over-dress is sewn from emerald green floral damask silk, something a young girl of medieval Denmark might not have actually had access to, but the colours were so lovely I just couldn’t resist,” writes Taylor.

Well, the doll certainly inspires the tragic female character that Shakespeare created all those years back, and it is wonderful to see the protagonist of the dark drama get a new life in the form of this bio-degradable doll.

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About Author

Georgina Maddox

Georgina Maddox

Maddox is an independent critic-curator with 18-years-experience in the field of Indian art and culture. She blurs the lines of documentation, theory and praxis by involving herself in visual art projects. Besides writing on immersive art for STIR World, she is a regular contributor for The Hindu and Architectural Digest.

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