My Sister Made Me Do It! – A Memoir of My 30 year Journey to Becoming a Doll Artist – Chapter 1

First, the usual announcements:

  • Chat every Sunday evening at 7 to 8 pm Eastern time (GMT-5). Go to Chat.Quiltropolis.Net choose a user name, select “The Screaming Mimis” from the drop-down list, and click the “Join Chat” button.
  • We have a new tutorial on Making a Bowler (Felt) Hat by Jorge Fernandez, Santiago, Chile at Mimidolls.Com. You can read it on-line, or download a copy.

Now the big deal!

I was in at the beginning of the whole doll art movement. So many of them (the artists) are gone, and the history is in danger of being lost.

So here’s my story. I will post a new chapter each week until it’s finished. When it’s all done,  it will be available as an e-book with all the chapters.


My Sister Made Me Do It!

A Memoir of My 30 year Journey to Becoming a Doll Artist


to James Mitchell Winer, Partner for 40 years – husband for 35 of them, who also funded this journey, and, of course, to my beloved sister, Roberta Ann Jackson Taylor aka Bobbie. I miss you every day sis.

Introduction:  Fort Myers, Florida, February, 2013.

Today is the ninth chemotherapy session of twelve. This stuff is cumulative and a bit more side effects than in the first six.  I won’t get much done this week, only a couple of hours a day before I’m exhausted. Next week with no chemo will be good.

This afternoon, I asked Jim to post a wonderful photo of the day in 1985 that elinor peace bailey and I met for the first time. As I told him the story behind the photograph, this book was born. That story is coming soon – in  book time, but I need to start at the beginning.

Chapter -1:  New York City

My journey began on a Summer week-day in the cafeteria of a 50-some story skyscraper on Wall Street. The building was the World Headquarters for one of the “Big Banks” (now a little part of some other Big Bank). Work was a 15-minute subway ride from our 16th floor apartment on East 87th Street off Third Avenue.

A summer day in 1979. I was taking my tray to the conveyor belt on the way out of the cafeteria when I felt a huge chest pain and had difficulty breathing. I fell to the floor. Next thing I knew, several paramedics and EMT folks were asking questions like they thought it was a heart episode. They got me into the emergency room at Mount Sinai Hospital.

After deciding there was no heart event, and no lung embolism, they called for a gastrointerologist. I got the whole bit – upper and lower GI tract. They found a hiatal hernia. My esophagus was in trouble. Too much stress.

Jim was so relieved he asked me: “If you didn’t have to go to business every day, what would you do?”

In a New York Minute, I answered “All of my life I wanted to be an artist, but I got pregnant as a teen-ager and spent the next 20 years raising kids – 2 girls and a boy.” (After a teen-aged wedding before I embarrassed my family. Not many options in 1949. It lasted 12 years.)

As a young child, my mother said we could probably afford some lessons, but not the art supplies. She was right. Dad was a sailor in the Navy. Not an officer, but an enlisted swabie. He did work up to a Master Welder MCB4 in the SeaBees and served 2 tours in Vietnam as a Great Grandfather. But there was no money for many extras. I was the eldest of three – myself (Gloria Mae), Bobbie Ann, and Alan Arnold aka “Buck” as he named himself at 3.

Jim responded to my answer with another question: “What do you want to study?”

I said: “Art. I want to draw like I used to, learn to paint, and study surface design techniques.”

Jim then gave me my dream. He said: “So give notice and enroll in school. This is New York City. You can study anything here.”

I had recently been diagnosed as dyslexic and did not want to go through the math courses (numbers moved around) and did not care about a certificate or a degree. I just wanted the education.

So I took classes at the School of Visual Arts on 23rd Street for several semesters. All the teachers were working artists. I took drawing and oil painting classes several days a week. Then I took courses in Life Drawing and Design at the National Academy of Art and Design for a couple of years.

I remember one life session at the Art Students League. Most of the students were female and many were middle-aged. The nude model was new at his job and nervous. Every time I looked up from my drawing, a certain part of his anatomy had moved again – and the poor boy’s face was blush red. Poor kid.

I also took classes at the New School of New York City and studied batik making with Indian teachers, Shibori with Japanese teachers, and Silk Painting with a French teacher. At this time, Silk Painting was just getting started and all silk paint was imported from Paris and brushes from China. Neither was available here. I spent 2 more years taking classes 5 days a week at several locations. When you are not matriculating, you pay a lot less for the course and there is no obligation to do the homework as it is not graded. I did most of the homework because I wanted the practice.

About this time, in 1981, Jim lost his job. Contractors are the first to go when a recession hits. It takes two very large paychecks to live in New York and pay for private school for my granddaughter (Chrisi, 13-years old). We were doing it on one check and rapidly diminishing savings. It was time to leave our beloved City. So we went “Down the Shore” to family in Point Pleasant, New Jersey.

Continued next week – Chapter 2: Down the Shore