My Sister Made Me Do It! – Chapter 6: Lets Talk About Dollmaking 1986 – 1995
I had a good report card this week. The tumor which was very large last October has continued to shrink and is now less than a quarter inch in size. The Cancer sites on the liver have also shrunk. Several are no longer there. My Oncologist said that there were 60 people in the “infusion” room getting treatment would all get up and do a happy dance if they got a report card this good. The mix of Jim’s protocols, pills and drinks (ugh) combined with the chemo, not to mention the prayers and love I have been receiving from dollmakers all over the world is working!!!
So I take one more treatment on Monday, and I will ask that they omit the one bag of the three that has caused this awful neuropathy – numbness in my fingers, before it becomes permanent. It’s hard to work with numb finger tips, and hard to walk with numb toes and feet. I can’t knit or sew…The numbness and the nausea have gotten worse. I try to keep the nausea controlled with organic herbs. The four kinds of nausea pills I was taking, AND their side effects rival the side effects of the chemo. The side effects of those poisons called chemo therapy are all cumulative and I have been taking them for five months almost six. Enough Already.
I am taking a month off from drugs and going to AFICC convention of dollmakers and doll artists. I have taught here several times. It is called “Artistic Figures in Cloth & Clay” and is in Columbus Ohio at the end of April for five days (including travel). the Doctor said it would be good for me.
At AFICC, where I was asked to volunteer for auctioneer, do a little judging, offer critiques and a do a three hour demo on expressive hands. All of these events are held after dinner and I will have had a nap or at least a rest away from people for an hour or two but If I feel too tired for any of these events I have permission to cut it short or even to cancel. I get to take a class or two with teacher doll artists who are all friends who have a technique or two I want to learn. I have never been able to afford to go to one of these things as a student. I am really looking forward to seeing lots of old friends again and to meeting some now ones.
When I come back from Ohio I will see the Oncologist again and probably begin a course of a new oral drug that was just approved by the FDA. It is designed to kill my particular kind of cancer (stage 4 colorectal cancer).
We will treat this remaining cancer like a chronic disease – like diabetes – you never get over it. I have learned to live with it and will take whatever helps to rid my body of it for good. My doctor said that since I am being treated at the Regional Cancer Research Center we have access to the latest thing to be become available and there is lots of stuff on the way. If I can stay healthy for a couple of three to ten years the cure may be ready for human trials. It’s that close he says.
I have vowed to make my body as healthy and strong as I can. But it will have to wait until the nausea and exhaustion as well as the numb feet and hands go away and that will be about three to six weeks after all treatment stops. The cancer has not made me sick it’s the chemo that makes one sick. This will involve exercise which has been missing from my schedule for almost five years now. I also intend to make my body an inhospitable place for these “anomalies” to get comfortable and begin to grow. SO I have already begun to rid myself of any foods that will cause inflammation in my body because inflammation makes a lovely nesting place for new cancers to grow. Sugar has already gone. Others to leave are animal protein except organic chicken and wild seafood, and dairy, I will miss cheese, ice cream and yogurt but not enough. Perhaps after I am cancer free I can have a bit of birthday cake or ice cream, but rarely, and as a special treat.
I expect to be my old busy self by the end of the year and setting up a series of classes. The owners of the apartment complex where we live will allow me to hold multiple day classes free of cost in the club house/offices. There is enough space for ten students, as well as a small kitchen, a sitting room and toilets close by. There is also a lovely pool right out the back door of the clubhouse.
Let me know If you are interested in coming to Southwest Florida for a few classes next spring, or summer when motel rates are lower. I can teach anything, so let me know what you want to learn.
The Usual Announcements:
- Chat every Sunday evening at 7 to 8 pm Eastern time (GMT-5). Go to Chat.Quiltropolis.Com choose a user name, select “The Screaming Mimis” from the drop-down list, and click the “Join Chat” button. You don’t have to be a member to join the chat, but we’d love to have you as a member of the group.
GO DOLLY DIRT!
My Sister Made Me Do It!
A Memoir of My 30 year Journey to Becoming a Doll Artist
Chapter-6: Let’s Talk About Dollmaking
Jim’s mom was a thin diabetic. I came out to Goleta, a small town adjacent to Santa Barbara, to find what she needed to stay in her apartment. Santa Barbara is a gorgeous small city on the ocean, 2 hours north of Los Angeles. I fell in love. So much beauty!
I was there for 6 or 8 weeks gathering up the data from all of her doctors and finding someone to come around every day to straighten up the house and cook her a meal. We shopped for her first microwave, and both of us took lessons from the dealer – they were that new!
I arranged for Cele (Jim’s mom) to visit with friends for the day, once a week, so that I could take a day off and drive all over the LA area visiting with dollmakers. I met dollmakers from Santa Barbara in the north to Long Beach in the south. I drove east to Chino and Riverside to meet other dollmakers. Many had written to me after a Jim’s little blurb about my patterns appeared in the Cloth Doll Magazine. We began a sort of correspondence with round-robin letters (pre computer era).
When I didn’t have to drive Cele anywhere, or she wanted to rest, I worked on my dollmaking. I was working that Winter in Santa Barbara on the Earth Angels pattern. I took a couple of “test” stuffed bodies to a few doll shows to get some feedback from other cloth doll makers. I traded business cards whenever I could. I got a lot of good advice and I learned a lot.
When we were ready to publish Earth Angels, Jim wrote another blurb to Cloth Doll Magazine and to Crafts Magazine, asking for a dozen test dollmakers from those who had never made a doll before, to other cloth doll designers. I sent the pattern book and a kit of everything needed to make the doll (without clothing). We asked them to let us know about every problem, and give us suggestions on how to make it better. The book had hundreds of stitch-by-stitch photos and it turned out pretty good. The questionnaire Jim designed gave us a lot of information to improve the book before we published it. (It’s still a great book after 26 years. We will be republishing it with updates sometime in 2013.) Dollmakers began to call and write to find out where to get the fabric and joints and yarn for hair. Like Topsy, it Growed! Mimi’s Books & Supplies for the Serious Dollmaker was born. There was no other place to get these kinds of dollmaking supplies – no special supplier for dollmakers.
During this period, I had attended the Crafts and Hobby Industries Annual Shows, a NIADA convention, a Society of Crafts Designers seminar, and Toy Fair. I wanted to share new sources, materials, and supplies that were not even in the shops yet.
One day when Jim came home from the office, I was burning up my little copy machine printing a 12 page letter to my dollmaking friends. Jim asked how many copies I needed. I said 78. He almost choked. “Do you have any idea what it will cost to mail that many?” he asked rather rudely. I said no. He said about $100 – and that was in the late 80s when postage was only expensive, not ridiculous. He took my letter back to his computer (an early Osborne – it was a personal computer – you could carry it maybe) and formatted it and cleaned it up. For 10 years, it became Let’s Talk About Dollmaking Magazine.
Within a year, we had 600 readers. It was quickly becoming a full time job for several folks. Earth Angels was selling well, and dollmakers were calling asking where to get fabric and supplies. Next thing we knew, we were retailers. Mimi’s Books & Supplies was the first mail-order shop specifically for hard-to-find fabrics, patterns, books, and tools for cloth dollmaking.
We recruited our adopted daughter (actually my granddaughter) to come run the business as she worked as an accountant and had computer skills. The business grew exponentially. Soon we couldn’t keep supplies on the shelves in the basement. We were ordering in larger quantities and finding new products as I traveled to the trade shows – Hobby, Sewing, TNNA (needlework), Embellishment – what fun! As an Society of Craft Designers member I got free entry and classes at each show. I got great fun stuff at Toy Fair too. Miniature musical instruments – gorgeous reproductions in ¼ scale – great for dolly musicians. We had five people working – my cousin’s daughter, the UPS guy’s wife, and even part-timers – a neighborhood high school kid who watched her 6-year old sister after school, so the little one did her homework in our living room so big sis could work.
All went well for several years. We began falling behind on Let’s Talk and hired Jim’s friend from Canada, Ruth Swayze to help out part time. During this time, we had many famous artists teaching at our house over 3-day weekends. We had one seminar a month and I did all the cooking in addition to teaching. Our home classes gave birth to the dollmaking convention. (More to that story later.)
Then one busy day I discovered we were getting letters from distributors and designers who were complaining that they were not getting paid. Mimi’s Books & Supplies was in trouble. It seems that Jim and I were not paying attention and we never intended to run a retail shop. We never wrote a business plan or any plan – it just happened. Salaries and employment taxes and health insurance were eating up most of the money. We were over $90,000 in debt to suppliers and advertising media.
I sat down and wrote a letter to every supplier to whom we owed money and explained our situation. Jim had been financing Mimi’s Books & Supplies since the beginning on his salary. We are very proud of the fact that we paid off everyone in one year. Anyway, it took all we had, but it was easier than the alternative bankruptcy. Many of our suppliers were women working in their kitchens like I was, and they deserved to be paid off first. It took many years to build a reputation, and we were determined not to lose it. We had to let all the employees go. They all enjoyed the beach that summer as their unemployment insurance was always paid on time. Since that time, we disbanded the supplies business and now only sell what we publish ourselves.
Continued next week – Chapter 7: 1987 The Beginning of the Dollmaking Movement.