Williamstown, MA – Sisters Kathi George and Julie Crosier are filling their newly-launched “Until Forever Nursery” with hand-crafted artworks reflecting a contemporary version of a traditional skill: dollmaking.
“This is something that I love to do,” George said during a recent interview . “[Julie and I] have been dollmakers on and off for about 35 years. This is such a creative art form.”
A small home-based workspace hosts the tools necessary for creating dolls as well as a “nursery” populated with several baby boy and girl dolls. The dolls are placed in baskets, dressed in pajamas or dresses and accessorized with bonnets, hair ribbons or decorative headbands. The impression is of babies sleeping or laying awake and gazing at their surroundings.
Crafting the dolls is a labor of love and includes much detail work, George and Crosier said.
George and Crosier displayed about 10 finished, beautifully dressed dolls. The term “reborn dolls” was generated when doll kits known as “sculpts” were not readily available, and artists boiled the paint from completed dolls to create a blank canvas for their own visions, George said. Sculpts include a head, arms, and legs with feet. Bodies are separate. Heads offer a variety of facial expression. Reborn dolls are exceptionally realistic and have been mistaken for living babies. The art is receiving much attention; both the “Today” show and the daytime talk show “Anderson” recently featured reborn doll artisans.
“These dolls are not childrens toys,” Crosier said. “They are collectibles.”
Dolls may designed to order, meaning hair color, eye color, and ethnicity may be chosen. George said she would like to try a custom doll and would be willing to work from a photograph to try and capture an image. The dolls may be ordered as singles, twins, or other multiples.
Initial doll design steps include mastering “veining,” a technique requiring a slender, finely-bristled brush and special blue paint. “Veining” means placing veins on the face, wrists, and knees of the doll. George demonstrated the technique and then used a makeup sponge to gently soften the paint appearance. The result is a faint line that will later be covered with special face paint. The effect is very subtle but adds a life-like dimension to the finished product, Crosier and George explained.
“One thing is that you have to work in natural light [for superior results],” George said. “By the time we’ve completed the blushings [face paint applications], you will barely see the veins. Even though it is subtle, the veins are vital to create the realistic look.”
Purple and red “veining” follow the blue, and each paint layer requires an 8-minute baking in a 265-degree Fahrenheit oven. Each doll requires about eight layers of paint. Lips are painted. Eyebrows are most often painted but Crosier said she intends to try “rooting” the eyebrows with mohair. False eyelashes may be glued or rooted to frame glass eyes. Sea sponges are used to color the faces and bodies. The tools help give the dolls their lifelike appearance, George said.
“You have to be meticulous when applying color to the faces,” George said. “Too much paint and you’ll have little white dots after you bake, and too little won’t provide the skin tone that you need.”
Hair is placed on doll heads using a very fine barbed needle that punctures the surface and distributes hair strands piece by piece. George demonstrated the “rooting” process.
“It takes anywhere from four to eight hours to do a head,” George said. “I liken it to knitting. I can do it while I’m watching T.V..”
Once the strands are placed, George said she uses a hemostat and a makeup sponge dipped in glue to coat the doll head interior and secure the strands in place.
The dolls have soft bodies created by filling doe suede with a fine glass material that resembles granulated sugar. The material adds realistic feel and weight to the dolls, George and Crosier said.
Each doll is designed as a one of a kind creation. The business is selling dolls via Internet venues as well as accepting orders by phone or e-mail. George and Crosier said they plan to participate at seasonal events such as the town’s “Summer Sundays in Williamstown” endeavor. Dolls are priced at $200-$250 each, they said.
Creating the dolls is relaxing, Crosier said, but the business offers something else to warm her heart.
“This is quality time with my sister.”
Those who want to order a doll may contact George at Kgeorge957@adelphia.net or by calling 413-458-8383. Crosier may be contacted at Julie.firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 518-466-8655. “Until Forever Nursery” has a Facebook page as well.