Monday, February 23, 2015

It's What's on the Inside that Matters

This last October, my creative crazy friend, Sarah, called me and asked if I could help her with a project for New Beginnings.  If you don't know what New Beginnings is, it's a special night for the Young Women (ages 12-18) in our church congregation that starts the new year off by introducing the Young Women Personal Progress program and the new mutual theme from the year.  In addition we introduce the new girls that have moved into the ward and those who will be moving up from the Primary organization (children ages 18 months - 11 years old) to the Young Women's.

Sarah decided that for her ward's New Beginnings she would use the Russian nesting dolls as the visual that inspires and teaches. The Mutual Theme for 2015 is found here.

Hand painted 2015 Mutual Theme by Aimee Ferre via Etsy

I love the symbolic connection to these dolls for many reasons.  One being the connection that the heart, might, mind and strength are all on the inside of our souls.  They are not external qualities.  You can't buy them or have them surgically added, you must develop them spiritually. You have to embark and serve, with all of your heart might, mind and strength.

I created the print below this past summer and Sarah ordered them for each of her girls.

by Aimee Ferre via Etsy

She purchased a set of 10 blank nesting dolls and thought I could paint them to match the colors of the eight YW Values represented by various colors, and then for the two largest dolls I could paint them to match the print she was giving away.

I thought the theme was perfect, and immediately asked if I could use her idea for our New Beginnings.  So this was the start of the great Aimee and Sarah collaboration.  Our dates just happened to be a few days apart, so the timing couldn't be more perfect.  We could share our resources. And we did. 

Nesting Dolls primed and templates drawn

"It's what's on the inside that matters"

Notice the tiny dolls?

by Aimee Ferre via Etsy

I decided to paint the dolls with respect to their value color backward from the order of the Young Women Values and how they are outlined in the Young Women Theme.  I wanted the faith doll to be as the children's primary song, Faith, describes:  "Faith is like a little seed".

Detail on the back of the second doll

I hand-lettered the Young Women motto on the back of the second largest doll.  On the front, I had the symbol of a beehive, Mia roses and the sprigs of laurel branches, representing the three classes in Young Women's.

There are a couple of interesting facts about the nesting dolls: 

"The dolls are constructed from one block of wood in order to create a proper fit; different pieces of wood would have unique expansion-contraction characteristics and moisture content. Production involves use of a turning lathe, along with various woodcarving knives and chisels."  Wikipedia 

I love the truth that we are made in God's image (Genesis 1:27), from the same block of wood so to speak.  Think on that principle for a little bit.  

Another metaphor used from the same Wikipedia article is the Matryoshka principle, stating:  

Matryoshkas are used metaphorically, as a design paradigm, known as the "matryoshka principle" or "nested doll principle". It denotes a recognizable relationship of "object-within-similar-object" that appears in the design of many other natural and crafted objects. 

The onion metaphor is of similar character. If the outer layer is peeled off an onion, a similar onion exists within. 

Yet another way we must believe that we are created in our Heavenly Father's image.  

Another item I hope my Young Women will learn from these little nesting dolls:  As women, we should be as the babushkas and be strong and care for one another, keep each other safe from hurt and harm, build each other up, nest one another in the comfort of our service; we are brothers and sisters working together for the same cause, to love one another and serve one another.

Hand painted and hand lettered New Beginnings invitations  

Entry table with programs, terrarium by @leafdesigns


Because I am a cheapskate when it comes to spending church funds, to save on color copies, I duplicated three sizes of handpainted Matryoshka dolls, and me and my friend Rose, hand cut them all out and then sewed them at the top of the program.  I pretty much sew everything together.  Saves on glue and time.


The Russian Tower

Can I give just a word on this little table project? Because in sharing this, I think it reminds me that Heavenly Father is in all the details and He cares about how we present our sacrifices before Him.  And it also is a reminder that when we fall short in whatever way, He makes up the difference in all ways.

I had borrowed many little terrariums from sweet Sarah to use at our New Beginnings, knowing I didn't have much time or money to worry about decor for this evening.  I had no idea how I would incorporate these little green gardens in a vase, and quite frankly spent my time available on Saturday, frosting cookies.  (The cookie frosting project might have been something President Dieter F. Uchtdorf would have considered a foolish sacrifice in his talk, "Forget Me Not", but then again, maybe not, they were pretty tasty).  So I'm sitting in church with my head spinning just a bit over the how to utilize decor I have and make it all flow together, because while it's not a necessary element of New Beginnings, it's a nice one.  The cinderblock walls with the oak chair railing aren't very inviting when you have to go back for yet another meeting on Sunday night.  One thing led to another in my mind's eye, and I remembered my Jadeite tower of cake plates from my collection.  My memory brought back the old Martha by Mail catalogs and her beautifully styled cake pedestals using cookies, flowers, nuts and candies.  And then the wheels began to spin faster, right there in the middle of my church worship.

Summer of 1998 Martha by Mail catalog cover

And then I started kicking myself that I was trying to save money last night on any unnecessary items and had put back the two baskets of strawberries at Costco, only to decide they would have been perfect for my tower of cookies mixed in with the miniature and large red mushrooms, and the remnants of flowers from Elsa's basketball senior night, (talk about being frugal and innovative, the flowers were 2 weeks old, but still looked pretty good).  I tried to forget about those strawberries.  Then it turned to:  I shoulda bought heart candies too.  Now it was the Sabbath Day.  I have made a concious decision that I would not shop on Sunday as a part of my Sunday worship.  The shoulda's were starting to pile up and make me nuts, with my obsessive compulsive behavior kicking into full gear.  I resolved that I would make do with what I had available, and that was final.  And with my 300 Box Project in full swing, I knew I would be just fine using what I have on hand.

After church, our family made a visit to my sweet friend that just returned from her mission in the Ukraine.  She had yellow flowers on the table, lovely sets of hand painted Ukranian nesting dolls, AND large, beautiful, red ripe strawberries.  I couldn't help myself, but to shamelessly ask...

"Can I take just a few of these strawberries home?"  I inquired of my sweet friend.

"Why of course, I actually have TWO baskets in the fridge we aren't even going to get to use," she responded.

She led me to the refrigerator where she pulled out two of the exact sized baskets of strawberries I had in my Costco cart the night before.  So four hours before our New Beginnings was to take place, I walked away with beautiful strawberries, a couple dozen delicious lemon bars, a fresh bouquet of yellow daisies and some more authentic nesting dolls to share with the Young Women.  I know it's silly and probably doesn't mean anything to most, but to me, it was a little voice whispering to me, "Heavenly Father cares about the details that we care about."  And if we don't believe He is the master creator and impeccable designer with our lives in the most flawless way, we must make a firm decision to get to know Him better this year.  Ever seen one of the LDS temples during an open house?  Yes, He cares about the details in the moldings, the carpet, the artwork, and He even notices when a tiny sparrow falls.  Yes, He cared about the Dimple Dell Ward Young Women enough to gather strawberries for them.  And they are shaped like hearts for a reason.

I forgot about the little gumballs we found in my basement. Yellow and pink lemonade. Perfect.

Terrariums by @leafdesigns (handle on Instagram)

Tulip bouquets for our visiting Stake YW President and 3 new beehives

The YW motto print for the New Beehives that night

I do sell this print here.

And the 2015 motto can be found here.

The take homes and the nesting doll displays

More nesting dolls came later, they were just stunning.  Again, more terrariums by @leafdesigns on IG

Blank nesting dolls we will paint at our YW activity this week.  They will be a representation of each girl's individuality, talents, and the many layers they possess.

Blank Nesting Dolls from eBay came straight from Russia, so plan on 3-4 weeks wait time.
Terrarium by @leafdesigns on IG


  1. I would love to know where you found the wood plain nesting dolls given to the beehives? Your entire night looked so darling

  2. Are you referring to the large set or the little sets of 3 we gave to all the young women? The little sets are found on eBay. Several sellers available. They came from Russia so it took about 3 weeks to receive. The large set was out of New York, I only painted one set because of the labor involved. I will try to find out the resource for those if you are interested in that.

  3. Love how this all came together 👏👏👏 Well Done! ps. Check your insta direct mailbox🍄 Lisa(leafdesigns)

    1. So glad to know the creator of all of these beautiful terrariums. Thank you!!! I just sent you a reply to your IG DM. :-)