January 28, 2012

Meet Kristen Sunby Owner and Creator of Canfolk Dolls

Kristen Sunby, Creator of Canfolk Dolls
Kristen Sunby, creates her own "Variety of Spice" with her unique, handmade, vintage spice canfolk characters.
This is her story:
My name is Kristen Sunby, I grew up in a suburb of Chicago, and all through my childhood, I watched my mother Karn Bernabe, create all kinds of crafts. She could make anything! I was always amazed by her talent and so proud of all that she could do. She would help my sisters and I with projects in school and they always had that extra special touch of creativity added to them. My mother has always been my creative inspiration and mentor.  I continue to be amazed by her abilities and ideas to this day. She is actually the one who got me to start making my Canfolk dolls. She saw potential in the idea and thought that I could do it. She usually works with fabrics rather than clay and paint, she encouraged me to try and make dolls. After creating a few, they were well received and a new door filled with inspiration opened for me.
I attended the University of Illinois, Chicago and studied Teaching of English. I really enjoyed my literature classes and my student teaching experience. I was actually an English teacher in Chicago for 6-1/2 years before I had my daughter. I do miss teaching, but I also cherish having the opportunity to create at this point in my life.

I currently live in Round Lake Beach, Illinois, which is about 10 minutes from where I grew up. I do all of my creative work right here in my studio at home. My work is inspired by primitive folk-art. I feel like the creative gene was passed down to me from my parents, but I never envisioned myself creating work that would be considered "art."
After I made my sold my first Canfolk dolls at a craft show and received positive feedback. I realized that I had a knack for creating  this type of media. I enjoy working with paperclay. It is so forgiving and easy to work with.  In college, I took several art courses, but in making the Canfolk dolls I learned by experimenting and practicing different techniques on my own. So many different factors inspire my dolls. Sometimes, the design ideas come from the cans themselves. Like the pun of having a clock on the "Thyme" can, or having Abraham Lincoln on the can branded "Union Leader." Other times, the season influences the design and sometimes, I just think of characters I would like to see myself. I store all of my cans in the basement on shelves. When I need a new idea, I go down and stand in front of them and see if anything catches my eye.
Essential skills I have found in my work is that more than anything, I need patience when I work. If I rush any of the processes, the work definitely suffers. I usually work in the evenings after my 4 year-old daughter goes to bed.
I have my Canfolk dolls in several stores in the U.S. and also many albums displaying my work on my Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Canfolk-by-Kristen-Sunby/125661707521097 and on Etsy at http://www.etsy.com/people/Canfolk . I was recently published in the Winter 2012 issue of Prims magazine and I posted new designs on the Handmade Art Fair Blog at www.handmadefair.com
I have also sold my dolls in several craft shows in the southern Wisconsin/Northern IL.
If you want to contact me by email, you can reach me at canfolk@aol.com.

I have a few questions for Kristen.
Q: What is the most significant decision you ever made?

A: My decision to be a Christian will always be the the most significant decision in my life.

Q: Who is your favorite artist?

A: Frida Kahlo was captivating. She created beautiful work and seemed to have a confident fiestiness   about her. I am also smitten by the work of the ladies who created the Gee's Bend quilts.

Q: What makes you laugh the most?

A: My daughter Avery is the funniest person I know. She amazes me every day with her sense of humor.

Q: What are your favorite foods to eat?

A: Strawberries. I eat loads of them and keep the farmers in business!

Q: If you won a million dollars, what would you do with it?

A: I would definitely travel with my family. I have not had the opportunity to see much of the world and I would love to do so.

Q: What words of advice would you have for someone starting out?

A: That's hard for me to say, because I am just starting out myself! I would say that it is important to have confidence in yourself and your ideas. Try to connect with other artists whenever you can to open up endless possibilities for opportunites!

Kristen, many thanks for sharing your story and unique Canfolk dolls. Please check out the above links to see more of Kristen's creations.


  1. These are some of the cutest, creative dolls I have ever seen. Glad to see you are one of the new Chicks.

  2. Kristen: You are amazing. Your creativity and execution are both extraordinary. I wish you lots and lots of future success. I went to your Facebook Page and "liked" you. Welcome to the Chicks. You couldn't find finer "crafting enthusiasts" anywhere. You go girl! Linda, the Mousemaker from Warmth on Etsy.

  3. I still say The Bumble Bee is my most Favorite Canfolk Doll...But I love all of them! You do wonderful work Kristen. Keep up the good job and NEVER give up. You are an ispiration to artisans as well as non-artisans. ;) Hugs~Tawny Dalton Bell from The Primitive Nook

  4. Thanks for welcoming me to the chick family and for the lovely comments! I really appreciate them! :)

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