My Sister Made Me Do It! – Chapter 3: How the Cloth Doll Magazine Changed My Life
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GO DOLLY DIRT!
My Sister Made Me Do It!
A Memoir of My 30 year Journey to Becoming a Doll Artist
Chapter -3: How the Cloth Doll Magazine Changed My Life
One day in the early 1980s, I was thumbing through a new issue of the first “Crafts Magazine” EVER! I came across an ad for Cloth Doll Magazine. I jumped off the couch and immediately ran to write a check to order a subscription. I was so excited to discover there was a magazine for and by cloth dollmakers. I was overjoyed when my first issue arrived. I sat down and read it from cover to cover, then ordered every back issue available. (There were 5 or 6 by then.)
I devoured them all as soon as they arrived. I wanted to meet the authors of the articles. I was enjoying Judy Waters, elinor peace bailey, Bonnie Boots and publisher Leta Bergman. This magazine put me in touch with other pattern designers, and sellers, and sources for hard-to-find dollmaking supplies.
I thought this was wonderful. It eventually steered my path into cloth dollmaking, and since then dollmaking has been very good to me for over 30 years. Oh! The places I’ve been and the wonderful people I’ve met. I wish I had kept a Journal, but my aging memory will have to suffice. Unless I can find the back issues of “Let’s Talk About Dollmaking,” the newsletter to my family and one or two friends that became the original Diary of a Mad Dollmaker as I wrote about each thing as it happened. (Before computers, we made up originals of each page and ran copies on a Xerox machine.)
I kept on making big dolls for toys for children. I did a few local crafts shows a year to sell them. I kept one in my arms at each show. I handed one to any kid who was interested. It usually sold as they didn’t want to give it back. Today, when I look back at those photos, I want to get them all back and bury them all. I guess they were pretty good for the time, and my little experience at toy making.
I was tired of putting together pieces of several patterns to try to make then different, and decided to try to design my own. It took a while, but eventually I created a pair of 18” baby dolls. They were supposed to be new-born babies. I sexed them, one boy and one girl. A year or so before this, I made a large boy doll for a friend’s 4th birthday. Daniel’s mom is Japanese and dad is mixed American. Daniel looked very Japanese. He was a beautiful boy. I made his doll with Asian colored skin and Japanese eyes. When Daniel opened the box he said “WOW. “
I said: “And he looks just like you.”
Daniel immediately pulled down the doll’s pants and said “NO he doesn’t! Can you make him into a boy?”
So I took him home and did just that. Daniel was pleased to have a real boy doll.
So I began to sex the toy dolls to make them more appealing to boys.
Soon after, I got a call from our local police chief, who asked: “Could you make several sets of boys and girls that the local police can use to help abuse victims tell what happened to them?” He asked for open mouths and vaginas and anuses. Well, that took a few tries to work out but over the next year or so, I must have made over 100 of these for the Jersey State Police. They found them very useful for kids who had been abused but would not or could not verbalize what happened to them. I was quite proud of those dolls. I made them for only the cost of materials and shipping. It felt food to help the healing to begin with these dolls. I received many letters from police and social workers who praised them. It really felt wonderful.
In 1985 I read an article in Cloth Doll Magazine by Gail Enid Zimmer about the National Institute of American Doll Artists (NIADA), an organization of doll artists. Who knew?
I came from the business world. When I changed careers and went into telecommunications (antique telephones), I joined the professional groups and read lots of books and files to learn my new trade. Therefore, when I decided I wanted to be a doll artist, I thought I could join a doll makers group and get an education.
I wrote a letter to Ms Zimmer asking how I could join NIADA and asked for contact information.
In a very few days, I received her reply. She wrote: “My dear, one just does not simply join NIADA. One must be invited to pass a rigorous standards procedure that takes two years. NIADA accepts only the crème de la crème of doll artists into their ranks.”
Then she said: “However, the organization is convening next month in New York City at the Pennsylvania Hotel. You can come as a guest artist and can bring your original dolls to be critiqued by the Standards Committee. And she listed the contact information.
I called, got the cost and the dates. Since I had left New York City over 3 years earlier, I called a friend to ask if I could stay at her apartment so I could afford to attend the convention.
Then I mailed the check.
I didn’t even think to call Jim and ask him if I could go back to the City for 5 days. When he got home, he thought it was a wonderful idea.
Continued next week – Chapter 4: NIADA March, 1985