Diary of a Mad Dollmaker

Mimi's Weblog – Let's Talk About Dollmaking

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.

Thursday, March 28, 2013 Posted by | Cancer, Diary, Memoir | , | 2 Comments

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

Thursday, March 21, 2013 Posted by | Cancer, Diary, Memoir | , | 2 Comments

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

Thursday, March 14, 2013 Posted by | Cancer, Diary, Memoir | , | 1 Comment

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

Wednesday, March 6, 2013 Posted by | Diary, Memoir | , | 1 Comment

My Sister Made Me Do It! – Chapter 2: Down the Shore

First, the usual announcements:

  • Chat every Sunday evening at 7 to 8 pm Eastern time (GMT – 5 hours). 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 -2:  Down the Shore

We lived in a Bed+Bath. My Jim helped my cousin Mary’s Jim build a 2-room extension out of their garage so we could live there. My Jim may be the only Jewish husband who knows how to use tools. He did all the electrical work (to code) and learned how to sheet rock, etc.

My Jim got a short-term contract in Washington, D.C., and commuted on the weekends. I kept house and cooked for Mary who worked very long hours and had three daughters, one tween and two teens. Chrisi (had disappeared from New York and gone back to live with her mother.

We did not own a car in the city. It cost as much to park as for a small apartment. Jim rented a car and drove to D.C. every Monday morning and back every Friday evening.

I became a housekeeper for 6 months, and Mary and her Jim and me and my Jim are still good friends. After 6 months, we found a rental in a condo development. We were “cliff dwellers” from New York, and were comfortable in a 2-bedroom, 1-bath apartment, the size of my studio apartment before I met Jim.

A few weeks after moving into the apartment, Jim found work locally and we each got a used car. I found a couple of private art teachers for more painting – mostly florals, landscapes, and seascapes. I was still interested in surface design on fabric. But I was still painting on canvas boards and lots of drawing pads – and not much fabric. I had no space to work.

I have cousins in Atlanta, as well as my sister and her family. Bobbie had often come to the City to visit me, but I had not been to Atlanta for a long time. I flew down to visit my family.

Bobbie drove us out to my cousin’s house in Stone Mountain, GA. I knew Diane was a doll collector. She had dozens of large baby dolls. Bobbie loved a big cloth doll that Diane had bought at the gift shop called “The Cabbage Patch” at a tiny antique maternity in Stone Mountain. Diane began to make the bodies for these dolls in spare time (she was a banker),

Seems a fella named Xavier Roberts had started a cottage industry with ladies in the area making the dolls, and he had purchased an old, but small, maternity hospital once called the “Lying-In Hospital” and now the nursery became the show room. Each doll had to be adopted with official paperwork and certificates. This was the beginning of the “Cabbage Patch Dolls.” They still had cloth heads. Within two years, they were showing up in Point Pleasant and everywhere else with plastic heads and cloth bodies.

As we were driving away from Diane’s house, Bobbie asked how I liked Diane’s dolls.

I said: “They’re fine. A few are quite beautiful and may be valuable, but I was not really impressed. I hated the Cabbage Patch dolls ugly faces and can’t believe she paid $50 for a 25-inch cloth doll with an ugly face.”

So Bobbie asked if I wanted to visit a craft store. I got excited! There wasn’t even a craft store in New York City except the top floor of Pearl Paint – a decrepit building on Canal Street with a construction elevator with one wall up to the 5th floor craft department.

She took a giddy me to a very large craft store which a few years later was part of a chain of shops bought by Michael’s. I was in heaven.

Bobbie asked me if I would make her a doll. I was surprised. I let her know that I knew nothing about dollmaking, less about shoe-making, wigging, and all the stuff required to make a doll. She insisted: “You can do anything. You have been sewing most of your life!” She marched me over to a table showing a couple of sample large dolls of cloth and some pattern books called Foster Kids designed by Esther Lee Foster packaged with a yard of double-knit polyester fabric called “Southern Comfort.”

Of course, the bourbon folks got upset and made them change the name. Since it was made by Windsor Mills, it became Windsor Comfort. Windsor also made Ponte (a heavier) double-knit fabric. Both knit fabrics were made for undergarments for “Plain People” aka Pennsylvania Dutch, Amish, etc. There was a limited choice of color.

Anyway, Bobbie started it all by insisting I make her a boy doll with red hair and freckles. I had to! She phoned several times a week until I started one to shut her up!

Well, he was not beautiful. I kept making several more – boys and girls – not sexed, just dressed genderly! Bobbie got the third one. I kept the first one and dated him and hid him in the closet for years. I learned a lot. Not to pull stitches too tight was very important.

Jim came home from work one day and the dolls were all over the place. I was having so much fun! He asked: “What are you going to do with these?”

I said: “I haven’t a clue – maybe give them to family members for Christmas.” This was mid-November 1983.

He asked: “Have you any idea how much money you are spending at Cloth World? – and mail order from Foster?”

I said meekly: “Not a clue.” (I knew I was in trouble.)

He marched down to the local firehouse and got me a table at the upcoming craft show the day after Thanksgiving. Since the indoor space in the firehouse was sold out, he also bought me a set of long warm ski underwear to keep me warm as I sold dolls outdoors in 25 degree (F) weather. By this time, I was combining Esther Lee’s head with a baby doll pattern by Tiny Tots. Still not making original dolls, but they were nice 25” and 28” baby dolls and toddlers. Jim priced them at $65 and took orders to customize them by sex, hair and eye color, and clothing style.

We got over 50 orders that cold day. Now we had a problem! We had to deliver before Christmas Eve! We took 50% on order and the rest on delivery to pay for supplies. I sewed and stuffed and finished the dolls. My daughter Cathie, a stay at home mom, made the clothing to my patterns. We purchased baby shoes wholesale. Jim used his drill press to make a yarn winder to wrap yarn around a wood frame. The frame fit under the sewing machine needle to sew wefts of yarn for hair.

All of the dolls were delivered before 10pm Christmas Eve. All the 15 or so samples went to the family for Christmas. I learned to love being a dollmaker.

Continued next week – Chapter 3: My First Original Pattern

Thursday, February 28, 2013 Posted by | Diary, Memoir | , | 3 Comments

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.

GO DOLLY DIRT!

My Sister Made Me Do It!

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

Dedication

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

Wednesday, February 20, 2013 Posted by | Diary, Memoir | , , | 7 Comments