Building a Character – How To Make Your Dolls Come Alive

Here are pages 109 – 116 of Mimi’s Earth Angels Storyboard Workshop.  This section begins with how to build a character and ends with picture-by-picture instructions for fitting the clothing to your particular doll.

Building a Character

A doll becomes alive when it is “somebody” instead of “something.” To a child, with a free imagination, a handkerchief doll, a clothespin doll, a pipe cleaner doll or a Raggedy Ann doll is “somebody.” Each doll has a name and a life of its own. The child invests its own emotion into the doll to make it live.

To an adult, a doll must invoke an emotion, or the memory of an emotion to seem alive. If the doll invokes a memory of times past, or of childhood dreams unfulfilled, it will live only in a collection on a shelf with the faded memories of childhood. If the doll’s life is strong enough to bring out the child within the adult, it can lead to fulfillment of those lost dreams. But if the doll creates an emotion and life in the present tense, through a sense of empathy and wonder, by recalling and recreating the human condition, then It becomes sculpture or Art. Then has the doll’s creator gained immortality by communicating beyond the bounds of time.

Let the Doll Come Alive

She was a dollmaker.
She made what she could of the doll,
until it came alive in her hands
and made what it could
of itself.

Creating a living doll is like creating anything else: at some point, the doll will take over and shape itself. The wise dollmaker knows that there is a time for discipline to enforce the basic shape of humanity, and a time to let go and let what will be, be.

Planning a Character

As an artist, you have a certain idea of what you would like to create — what it looks like, what it feels like, what it says to others. It is easiest to control the appearance of your work, for that you shape directly with your hands. You can plan the appearance of your doll by selecting the skin, eye, and hair colors, the racial features of the face, and the cut, colors, and style of the costume. This book has tried to show you how to make your doll dreams into reality.

A living character is more than appearance. You plan a character by giving it a name, a biography, a pose, and a costume. If the sum of these things forms a whole and evokes an emotion in the viewers, your work has life

If you are sensitive to it, your work will tell you its name and biography as you shape its body. Then you need only add pose and costume to help it express itself.

Naming Your Character

Like a person, a character has a name. For our children, we look through books for the meanings of names in the hopes that our children will live up to the name we give them. More primitive peoples wait until the child is older (to be sure it will survive), and base the name on the character the child has already shown.

You may name your doll before you begin, or you may wait until your doll tells you who she is. If you choose the name first, your doll will try to live up to her name. If you let your doll choose her own name, you will learn something from her.

Biography Builds Character

A biography expands on your doll’s name by giving her a past and a future. A student of psychology will recognize that the past controls the body language of the present and the expectations of the future. The past shows in our pose, expression, costume, and image. It dictates both how we perceive and treat ourselves, and how others perceive and treat us. By giving your doll a past, you determine her future.

A biography need only be a sentence or two. Where does she come from? Who were her parents? What are her aspirations? Then pose her and dress her accordingly.

Posing and Expression

We recognize expression by the shape of the eyes and the mouth, by the tilt of the head, by the bend of the elbow or knee, by the curl of a finger — by all those things which reflect our inner state of mind upon our body. You must sculpt the shape of Earth Angel’s face when first you make her. It is one of the things that will tell you who she is, To make her body match, you need only put the same expression on your own face and allow your own body to flow Into the matching position. Then copy the body language Into Earth Angel’s pose. Her head will twist and tilt. Her elbows and knees can be ladder stitched in any position. Her wrists will twist and turn. Her fingers will curl and close.

Costume and Image

A costume and its accessories merely refines the image of the character and makes it more obvious to the viewer. The right costume accentuates the character, even when the character is hiding behind the costume.

Princess Askara looks regal without her costume. “Princess” is built into her face and her posture. The costume merely tells you why she is regal.

Similarly, an Angel of Punk Rock tells you that she is hiding and afraid to let the world see who she really is, because the world might see her as nobody. Her costume says: “Look at me!” but her body language says: “I am just like all the others — you can’t tell I’m not really here.”

Earthbound Angel

Titania,
born not of the Families,
must abandon her wings,
bid freedom to Pegasus,
and become an Earthbound Angel
In whose life
the Seeds of the Wheel are sewn.

Diana de Los Angeles

Diana de Los Angeles was born with a golden spoon in her mouth and a silver chalice at her side. She lives in Marina Del Mar on-board a 48 foot Choy Lee trawler. She can tell you to the last monel screw why she thinks the Choy Lee is better than the Grand Banks trawler, and why none of the other trawlers are worthy of the name. She also owns a 51 foot Morgan Out Island ketch that she charters in the Caribbean. It is rigged for single-handing from the cockpit. She has participated in the Around-The-World Solo Sailboat Races. She is at home with a LORAN or a computer, or doing a major engine overhaul at sea. She has survived a hurricane at sea by lying awash. She has been knocked down and rolled over, but never defeated.

Betty Mae Bearcat

Betty Mae Bearcat was born and raised in Florida. She discovered at an early age that she couldn’t compete with the Golden Girls and didn’t want to spend her life as a supermarket checker or live in a ticky-tack town. During her adolescence, her best friends were alligators, and she learned more about poachers and swamps than it was safe to know. Now she holds the Unofficial Women’s Title in Unlimited Class Air Boat Racing and works for the Drug Enforcement Administration. She still knows more about swamps than it’s safe to know, but she’s awfully fast.

Rusty Rhinestone

Neither Rusty nor Rhinestone are her real names. When she grew up in a small town in Texas, her flaming red hair earned her the name of Rusty. She moved to the East Coast to find her fortune, working for a time as a dealer in an Atlantic City casino where she added Rhinestone to her name and two children to her responsibilities. Cursed with both beauty and taste, she never thought of herself as intelligent because nobody valued her for those qualities. She moved to The City to try her luck as a model, but neither Ford nor Elite found her exotic enough. She survived as a pattern model, furnishing her wardrobe from the samples that were pinned on her. When attending the Fashion Institute of Technology, she became fascinated with electronic design machines and computer graphics. She now has a degree in Computer Science and a new career selling Digital Video Effects machines to the television industry. She hopes to join the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers soon. And she still wears her West Texas cowboy boots.

Princess Askara

Princess Askara is a real princess from a tribe in West Africa. She came to the United States to study Political Science at George Washington University in the District of Columbia. Her beauty and regal poise soon attracted attention and she became a top cover model earning valuable foreign exchange for her country. She will be returning home soon, and hopes that the symbology of the spear and the flowers will help her people understand that there is more to the world than a small, proud, but impoverished country.

Costume and Accessory Notes

The sunglasses and earrings for Diana de Los Angeles are children’s toys found in a local pharmacy. The straw hats for Diana de Los Angeles and Betty Mae Bearcat were found in a local craft shop where they are usually used with flowers and ribbons.

The costume pieces for Rusty Rhinestone are completely described in this book.

Princess Askara’s spear is a 1/4 Inch wooden dowel rod cut about 30 inches long. The end has been partially pointed in a pencil sharpener and then sanded smooth. It has been stained with a mixture of Burnt Umber and Raw Sienna artists colors (in tubes) diluted with water and rubbed in with a paper towel. Her earrings are real wooden earrings with the ear wires removed and are sewn in place. Her necklace, bracelet, and anklet are assorted beads found at craft shops. The flower is selected from the artificial flowers at the craft shop. Her copper snake arm band is made from a piece of the same copper wire used for a neck support with the plastic insulation removed. It is fitted to her arm before cutting the ends, and the ends are filed smooth to prevent snags in the fabric before it is put into place.

If you are sensitive to it, your work will tell you its name and biography as you shape its body. Then you need only add pose and costume to help it express itself.

Altering Clothing Patterns to Fit

One of the beauties of cloth dolls is that no two dolls are exactly alike. Your doll may be thinner or fatter than mine. It is easy to adjust the clothing patterns to fit your doll exactly.

  1. Begin by tracing the pattern pieces on a paper towel or pellon. Mark the stitching line, not the cutting line. Cut out the traced pattern leaving lots of extra space around the stitching lines. On a pattern piece with a fold line, don’t leave extra where the fold will go.
  2. Pin the traced pattern to the doll. In the case of the tank top shown here, the fold line goes down the middle of the doll’s back.
  3. Now pin the pattern on the doll so that it fits properly. Tear or cut the edge, or make darts as necessary. Add extra by using transparent tape on both sides of the pattern piece (so that it sticks to itself, not to something else). Using a soft pencil, mark the new stitching line. On a chubby doll such as this, the new stitching line will be outside the original stitching line.
  4. Flatten the pattern piece back out. You will see both the old and new stitching lines (left). Trace the new stitching lines onto a piece of tracing paper (right).
  5. EA-Sample_html_236fc323If you place the new pattern piece on top of (left) or next to (right) the old one, you can see how different they are.
  6. If the pattern piece you are adjusting has a dart, make the dart in the paper or pellon pattern and adjust it also as needed.

Hints:

  • Make a test garment from inexpensive fabric to check fit before using your fashion fabric.
  • You may have to make multiple pattern fittings and possibly multiple test garments.

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Mimi’s Cancer Update and Plans

I Apologize for the long interruption of Mimi’s Adventures – due to health reasons.

I can’t fully express how much I appreciate the prayers and other forms of positive energy sent into the Universe on my behalf. I know your help has contributed to my healing.

My stage 4 colorectal cancer showed up in 11 months and it’s pretty much gone away in the next 11 months.

The Good News is that my last PET Scan showed the lesions in the liver and the original mass are both almost undetectable. I will have a colonoscopy in the fall to know for sure it is all gone. I have been off chemo for about a month, and I will stay off indefinitely. (Never really cured, only in remission.)

I will continue to have blood-work and have my port flushed on a monthly basis, and do another PET Scan in 3 months.

All my side effects are gone except for 2. This is the wonderful good news for me and my family.

The Not Quite So Bad News is that my year-old chemo brain should clear up in a few months. My family is very happy about that as it is driving them crazy.

The Bad News is that the Neurologist tells me that the Chemotherapy Induced Peripheral Neuropathy (CINP) is permanent. I refuse to settle for that and hope for improvement over time – physical and occupational therapy and massage of hands and feet. I need to get over this now so I can drive again and get back to my first love, teaching.

The Neurologist is primarily concerned with alleviating the pain rather than improving on the function. Eventually, he wrote me a script for the same type of therapy that is used for Diabetes caused Peripheral Neuropathy. The therapist says I will be driving again in a year. (Actually, two therapists, one for hands and arms, and one for legs and feet.) They’ve put me on an exercise program that’s designed to open up new channels for nerve growth – the places that have died have to be bypassed, they won’t come back.

There is no pill, and I would be afraid of it if there was a pill – there’s a problem with side-effects on every damn drug.

Because of the serious neuropathy, handwriting and typing is painful and almost unreadable. The chemo-brain causes me to forget words, have a very short attention span, and very poor short-term memory.

I had to stop working on the DVD on Doll Hair for Dollmaker’s Journey because I simply cannot think clearly or use my hands effectively. I hope to continue this project later this year. Mary Ann at Dollmaker’s Journey has promised to do one if I did not. I hope she does this as there is a need for a good hair book. If I am able to complete it, it will be different anyway. Always room for one more.

Jim is going to concentrate on getting Earth Angels and Mannequins finished. Mannequins will be re-oriented to comparative anatomy in doll patterns with a very short section on costume fitting and only 3 discs.

Jim is working on getting me to storyboard and then voice over instead of talking when I’m on camera. (I write out the script steps and voice over, then we shoot the video clip and record the sound separately.) Jim assembles the clips and voice over tracks. This avoids the problem of having to work and talk at the same time on the camera. I’m hoping to do about three small projects (simple dolls) this year including one with my great grandkid.

Anyway, we need some help.

Jim can’t keep up with the Diary of a Mad Dollmaker. I tend to wander and tell stories (which is part of the idea) and he cleans the diary up so that it doesn’t have the interruptions.

The problem is that Jim is the only driver in the house (since I can’t anymore due to the CIPN) and Cassie and I have doctor or other appointments almost every day. His day gets chopped up to the point where he can’t do his own work.

It would work something like this: 1) Call me up once or week for about an hour and 2) interview me on a subject. Then 3) write up and post the blog article. (Jim would probably edit the first one or two.) If you’re interested, email me at Mimi@Mimidolls.Com.

Also, we are looking for anybody who has a set of issues of Let’s Talk About Dollmaking (a letter from Mimi). We’d like to reprint them in the Diary of a Mad Dollmaker, but we’ve misplaced our copies when we moved. Again, email me at Mimi@Mimidolls.Com.

One other piece of good news. My youngest daughter arrived from New York City for several days to help celebrate both the remission of the cancer and my 80th birthday. We plan to do it again on my 90th. Actually, she’ll be here in the fall with my granddaughter and newest great. Christopher John is now 16 months old.

Happy Dolling,

Love,

Mimi

 

A Week Off

Cancer Report

I have completed 2 rounds of standard chemotherapy this week. The last several weeks have been difficult.

The cancer is not making me sick – the cancer is almost gone. It is the chemo side effects that are keeping me from feeling as good as I used to feel. The chemo is poisons that kill the cancer, hopefully, without killing me as well.

The side effects are cumulative and my body is just not happy hosting six months of nausea, neuropathy of the hands and feet and bladder muscles, and swollen mouth and tongue. The taste buds are not doing well either.

In addition, there is the feeling of almost total exhaustion. The Oncologist tells me the nausea and exhaustion will be gone in three weeks or so, but the nerves may take months to heal.

When I had my last treatment, I asked to skip the oxy-platin (?) that caused the tingling and numbness and “chemo incontenance.” The Oncologist omitted it, so maybe the side effects will all subside a bit earlier.

I expect to feel great in 3 weeks when I go to AFICC. I can’t wait!

I hope to write the next installment in “My Sister Made Me Do It!” in a few days as I get healthier and stronger.

 An Unusual Announcement:

  • I probably won’t be in the chat for the next few weeks until I get back from AFICC. But please go ahead and chat, about me or not.
  • 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.

My Sister Made Me Do It! – Chapter 6: Lets Talk About Dollmaking 1986 – 1995

Cancer Report

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.
Happy dolling,
Love
Gloria

 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.

My Sister Made Me Do It! – Chapter 5: Society of Crafts Designers, Reno, 1985

Cancer Report

Next week I should have the results of my latest PET scan.

Love,
Gloria (aka Mimi)

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 -5:  Reno, Nevada, 1985

I learned about the Society of Crafts Designers from an article in Crafts Magazine. I immediately sent off a letter asking how to join this professional organization. After getting my membership card and a ton of reading material, I made reservations for their annual convention. The convention included three days of educational seminars about how to become a professional designer:

  • Request for Proposal.
  • How to get free stuff from manufacturers.
  • Selling (magazine) articles.
  • Selling work.
  • Licensing.
  • Teaching.

The list was so exciting!

And, it was in Reno, Nevada – WOW! So again, I mailed the registration check, then asked Jim if he would mind if I went to Reno for a few days? Well, it was a three-week adventure.

Jim and I had just finished and printed our first book, “Adam & Eva”, cloth newborn baby dolls. We made a book of over 120 pages of picture-by-picture instructions. We sent review copies of the book to the editors of all the crafts and consumer magazines. Jim and I wrapped each book in baby gift wrap. I discovered which cottages the editors were staying in and left the packages on the tiny porches. The announcement was the talk of the day, but we didn’t get a single review out of it.

It turned into a wonderful trip with my sister Bobbie. Jim said, of course I could go, and handed me a bank card. I arranged to have my sister and my only living aunt whom we both loved meet us in San Francisco.

I traveled to Eugene, Oregon to visit my son and his daughter Syrena. I flew into Portland, and walking out of the terminal, I was thrilled to see Mount Hood in the center of my vision. It was early June and it was covered with snow above the tree line.

I rented a car to drive to Eugene. Larry drove me and Syrena (whom he was raising alone) over to the seacoast. How beautiful! We drove through a redwood forest. He took us up to the volcano on Mt St Helena. Tons of lava rock. The mountains are magnificent. I didn’t know there were so many shades and hues of green.

Then we drove to Mount Shasta to meet Leta Bergman and her family. Leta founded, wrote, and published the Cloth Doll Magazine. I spent a lovely afternoon, and found a motel for the night. In the morning, off to San Jose where Larry left me with Judy Waters, founder of the National Cloth Doll Maker’s Association (NCDMA) and proprietor of Doll University for 3 days while he and Syrena visited friends in a nearby beach town.

Judy put me up in a room that housed a full wall of craft and quilt books. Didn’t sleep much, learned a lot.

I asked Judy to call elinor peace bailey to be my guest at a restaurant near her home. Her husband said she was in New York City where she was meeting with a couple of companies she designed fabrics for, and would be jet-lagged and tired. But a local place would be okay. We met them at a Chinese restaurant in Hayward. elinor’s husband, Gary, joined us to take pictures.

Gloria Winer, Judy Watters and elinor peace bailey

Gloria Winer, Judy Watters and elinor peace bailey

Poor Judy was caught in the middle between elinor and myself. (I’m on the left, elinor is on the right). elinor and I played “can you top this?” elinor and I tried to out-talk each other. We both had so much to say. It was a really fun evening.

Judy had her doll club meeting at her home during my visit and I was the guest of honor – for what I don’t know. I hadn’t yet written any articles or published any patterns. It was so much fun. Every member brought their dolls to share – a treat.

The next day Larry picked me up and we put him and Syrena on a bus home. I drove to SFO (San Francisco) airport to meet Bobbie and my Aunt Florence. We drove on to Reno. They would play tourist, and I would attend meetings and lectures and hands-on test-playing with new craft supplies not-yet shipped to the crafts stores.

The little car had trouble climbing some of those “hills.” We crossed the Great Divide and sang along with the radio all the way to Reno. Florence said it looked like the Black Forest in Bavaria. The lake was heavenly. Such post-card views. Bobbie enjoyed the casinos. Florence and I slept at night.

When the convention was over, Bobbie and I dropped Florence at the Reno Airport and drove back to San Francisco. She had never been there. It was freezing in the city and 80 degrees every else. Everyone at Taco Bell was wearing heavy winter coats. We were in shorts and sandals. We took one day visiting Fisherman’s Warf and Lombard Street, the crookedest street in the world.

Next we drove to Santa Barbara to visit Jim’s mother, and then on to Long Beach to visit our brother. I made good memories on that trip.

Continued next week – Chapter 6:  Let’s Talk About Dollmaking Magazine

My Sister Made Me Do It! – Chapter 4: NIADA March 1985

Cancer Report

To everyone who sent me lovely gifts; beautiful examples of their work, thank you so  much. That is adorable and made me smile. And the beautiful cards both the electric cards and the ones I can hold. Thank you so much for thinking of me. Thank you so very much for your lovely samples of your art work, I treasure them all, and especially for your prayers.

I have not paid much attention to the computer and email for the past few weeks and will probably continue to be listless about it. There are only two more treatments and then either it’s over or I take a break  and enjoy AFICC. I can’t wait. What fun to look forward to.

The reason for the inattention is that I have been feeling a bit under the weather for the past several weeks. No off week last week and just had the fourth infusion of round two last Monday. I have been feeling the cumulative effects from the three bags of poison that is fed into my chest every two weeks for five months… Nothing serious. It is not the cancer: this is the chemo sickness.

My numbers are still low but not very and come up a fraction of a point every week and that is very good.  I am scheduled for another PET Scan soon. More news after I see my oncologist the following Monday. I am spending most of my time dozing in my recliner because between the nausea and the feeling of total exhaustion that there is absolutely no energy to do anything. Today I am able to type for a while. Every day gets a little bit easier and then it starts all over again.

I am trying to rid my body of inflammation by cutting out most, eventually all, animal protein and all sugar. These cause inflammation which encourages and feeds cancer cells. I saw the photos of a scan that when the nuclear medicine mixed with the glucose (sugar) the cancer lit up like a Christmas tree and began to grow. Funny that I no longer miss the sugar. I have been cutting down drastically but there were a few slips from time to time – very small ones. I have to get this body in good health so it can be more efficient at healing itself.

So that is my goal: To make this body last another 20 years. I have too much work to do here and I will need the energy to do it and this is how I shall. A Mediterranean diet and enough exercise. It will take a few months to get strong again. I have been out of the gym for almost five years. But our apartment complex has a lovely gym and it is free to tenants along with a lovely pool. As soon as I get off the chemo its back to the gym. Baby steps at first but I tend to get in competition with myself and overdo it. Jim is always telling me to take it easy and slow down a bit.
Love,
Gloria (aka Mimi)

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 -4:  NIADA (National Institute of American Doll Artists) March, 1985

NIADA! Finally! I waited for the day it opened for a long month. I think it was March because it was Spring and my coat felt good. I don’t know how many days NIADA ran, probably three. Now it’s longer. I wish I could remember every minute.

I arrived at the hotel across 7th Avenue from Pennsylvania Station at 9am. I was met by Mirren Barrie, President of NIADA (you can see a retrospective of her work at NIADA.Org). There were 50 or 60 people in the large room. Mirren read the agenda for the day and I wish I could remember it all. They usually have programs by various artistes, both NIADA and non-members, who show slides of their work and tell the story of each doll. I loved them all. I met Carole Bowling who spent an hour explaining how she created a perfect portrait of her son at 4 years old. She covered the sculpt with cloth and made a cloth body. My mind exploded! The ideas! I had no idea these kinds of people existed! Doll Artists! I wanted to be a Doll Artist!

I attended every program that morning. On a break that afternoon, I wondered over to the bar to get a bottle of soda water and this interesting looking couple, three sheets to the wind, were discussing dollmaking. I eavesdropped for a while and then joined the conversation. I had just met Lisa Lichtenfels and Bob McKinley. They were calming their nerves while waiting to see if the Standards Committee and the present member artists found their work worthy of membership. It was announced later when we were invited to view the new members work. They both got in.

There was a mixer that evening where the artists, patrons and guests were introduced to each other. I had no idea who anyone was. I did get an invitation to visit a United Federation of Doll Clubs (UFDC) in New York City. I did visit the National Doll and Toy Collectors Club of NYC and was an active member from 1985 until we moved to Florida last July.

The next morning I took my first modeling class from Susanna Oroyan. I sat next to R. John Wright’s wife. She modeled her young daughter’s face. The child was about 6-years old. When I saw his dolls, I knew she modeled the faces for her husband’s dolls. She never publically said so.

At some point, the Standards Committee critiqued “guest artist” dolls for $25. (I had registered far in advance.) I brought my newborn male doll, Adam. He was sexed and bare naked. R. John Wright stood up inside a circle of 5 seated artists – the Standards Committee – and held the doll up. This was a program with an audience. I don’t even remember if there was another to be critiqued. I was mortified that he thought it was “cute” but not anatomically correct. The arms and legs were too long and the genitals too large.

I said: “You haven’t met my newborn grandson.” (He grew up to be 6’ 7” and one of New York’s Finest.) Then he passed it around the committee. Most of the other artists echoed the chairs opinion. Mirren Barrie said I should study with Lisa Lichtenfels because she too did soft sculpture!

I asked Lisa if she gave classes. She said she would think about it.

On Sunday was what everyone wanted to see: the Annual NIADA Show and Sale. Tables were set up around the perimeter of the room. As I walked around the room, I talked with each artist about how they did this and that, and they explained so much. I was amazed at how open and friendly everyone was.

When I got around the room, I was amazed: Carol Nordel had sculpted Camelot in miniature. There must have been dozens and dozens of figures – horses, armored knights, medieval ladies, a castle. I burst into tears.

Little (5’ tall), and quite gently Mirren Barrie reached up to touch my shoulder. She asked (with about 5 “Rs” in the word): “Is this your firrrrrst time dearie?” Then I lost it. She was so cool. She said I was “viewing the best of the best” and she was glad to see how it moved me.

Many, many years later, when Carol Nordel was suffering from dementia, at her last NIADA convention, she “showed” work that had retreated to child-like primitive. I cried yet again.

Continued next week – Chapter 5:  Reno, Nevada

My Sister Made Me Do It! – Chapter 3: How the Cloth Doll Magazine Changed My Life

First, 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.
  • Nine rounds of chemo down, 3 more to go. I’m wiped out for about a week each time. I have found that the anti-nausea pills have more and worse side effects than the chemo. I’m trying an alternate method for stopping the queasiness.

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