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I love miniature versions of everyday items, and I can’t resist a good bargain. So when I found this 24″-tall dress form for cheap, there was no question it was coming home with me. What most appealed to me were the classical female curves formed from angular, iron bars.

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I started by piecing together the “heart” with painted canvas, hand-dyed fabric, vintage jewelry, and a snippet of text cut from a vintage 1950s ladies’ magazine advertisement. It reads: Where did you come from and where will you go from here? Have you lived before? Are you afraid to die? (Don’t see a lot of Cosmo ad campaigns that question the very nature of life these days. :) I suspended the heart inside the breast of the dress form and then started work on the outside.

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As with most women, this piece is made of lots of layers, some of which aren’t visible from the outside. First is pale pink Asian rice paper, followed by layered strips of hand-dyed fabric, then more handmade papers, ribbons, and beaded flowers. I stuck with traditional feminine colors and shapes made from materials that supply lots of texture.

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For me, this piece of artwork has special significance. It speaks to the recurring challenge of being both fragile and strong. When you look up “tender” in the thesaurus, its suggested synonyms are “soft” and “weak.” I think it’s just the opposite: being vulnerable, choosing to live and love, takes the most strength of all.

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