In 1974 my business was a small one-person operation mostly carried out on a treadle sewing table in a one-room house (no electricity, no plumbing) producing an original and rather simplistic folk art style doll made with porcelain. Since those early days, I have devoted much of my attention to the details and accessories of those dolls, creating a much larger scope of techniques, products and supplies than those just for dollmaking. In 1981, after a dream which changed my business dramatically, I began to put these skills together to produce kits - kits with integrity and quality. This began with a simple kit to make a tiny felt bear which later grew into the Basic Bear Series, a series of kits to make the bears, their clothes, their furniture and accessories. The old sewing table became a memory and the business of kits really caught on.

During all this time I have always maintained the design and production of my finished things as well. For many years this consisted of only my porcelain dolls, (click here to see porcelain dolls) but gradually I added in accessories for them as it is actually more fun for me to do these than the dolls themselves. In fact, I have always had trouble seeing myself as a dollmaker and instead see what I do as a combination engineer- craftsperson. And as you might expect, all of the accessory making eventually led to the ultimate gathering of accessories into one project which became a large dollhouse in my best 8" doll scale (in other words, not the regular small dollhouse).

I would say that aside from the pressures of earning a living, that the thing that has kept my work within the theme of dolls is my love for Early American antiques and the many wonderful dolls who live in museums and books that have really touched my heart with their warmth and charm that somehow only seems to shine through very rare contemporary dolls made by people who either unconsciously or intentionally are able to do this. With the antique dolls, it is often a basic humble handmade style which combines with the patina of age given by many years of caring hands, that accomplishes this so that I see it as a real challenge to make it happen today without those advantages. Dolls for me do not have to look old to have this dearness, even though I do work with my own distressing techniques on some of my cloth dolls to take advantage of this look - in fact, it is easier to get there with this look if you can properly achieve it, so I do think it is harder to get "heart" into a doll without these tricks. Although I did not know it in the beginning, I think my main body of work in dolls which is my porcelain ones, has been fortunate to have this quality - this appeal to the heart - which I attribute to my having designed them in a vacuum with no research and no prior connection to the doll world other than as a child, and importantly, at a time when dollmaking was still asleep as a craft, so that I was not influenced by anything other than my inner self. Since I view myself as primarily a craftsperson (as opposed to a dollmaker), the making of furniture and other accessories fits right in and I find that the same qualities that appeal to me about old dolls is also true of furniture, quilts and other early accessories and that is that the folk art, humble, simple-materials-simple-techniques part that makes me want to either have it all to admire every day or make it. It is not something I have a choice about.

A rather staged picture taken by the Boston Globe for an article - taken in my workroom of my house and before I turned gray.

Another picture by the Boston Globe of a display area in my workshop (which is not a "shop").

The drawing above is from Goldie the Dollmaker, a book I found (now out of print) in 1978, which was surprisingly also my own story.

A Note written in early 2010 after a cancer scare...

I am not going out of business! I have been trying for several years to find a way to do what I love to do and really to provide more of what you have come here to find instead of spending the majority of my waking hours administrating stuff and well, administrating a business. Recently, trends in the economy (I need not waste words on this tired subject) and then a health scare with cancer have repainted my priorities. Much as I prayed for a clear cut lightening bolt of a plan, none really materialized, so I am much like a traveler striking out into unknown territory with some heavy fog. And like fog behaves where you get glimpses of clarity now and again, I know some things clearly but most is not so clear.

One is that I cannot go forward economically by continuously adding to my inventory of what I make and sell and have it always available. It is simply too much stuff. And the older some of my products are, the harder it is to find replacements for all of the many fabrics and supplies they contain when manufacturers stop selling the materials. So, the place to start was to get rid of older kits. Then, so as not to end up in the same place, but to continue designing kits and patterns, I will only be doing limited edition kits in the future. Maybe one or two per year - I will purchase an initial amount of supplies for these new kits, then when those disappear, the kit will be retired. I will maintain any patterns that I already have since these do not require much beyond the simple printing process which we now do ourselves due to the benefits of state of the art computers and equipment, as opposed to high volume printing done by a print shop. Hitty and all of not only her present long list of clothes, furniture, and accessories will be maintained far into the future but I will have more time to devote to providing new things for this most beloved doll. I will continue to teach in live classes and online classes. I hope to make use of most of my old kits and repurposing them into patterns or booklets of series of projects. Occasionally, I may bring out a reworked kit from the past or make some finished items to sell in what I project to be quarterly email-announced mini market days. But the final and most important part is that I will at last return to where I began in 1974, by making dolls from my heart using all the skills and knowledge acquired over almost 36 years of full-time dollmaking. I hope to be making dolls that will never be sold as kits with the freedom that that will make not to have to consider each step as if someone else, not me, would have to be told how to make it. These I will also sell perhaps through the many shops and galleries that have been asking for years or perhaps through email announcements. That is the Idea as it is now. I am turning 60 this spring (2010), so I am wise enough to know now that what is more likely is Plan B. But, what is for sure is that I will not retire (can't) nor will I stop making dolls and the way the world is so now committed to the world of computers and the internet, I will maintain this website for a long time.

ABOUT DECIDING WHAT TO DO WITH MY LIFE’S WORK: (reprinted from the email Holiday sale of 11/2023 with an added note at the end written 1/29/24))

This is an important announcement for those who follow my work. Although I am not retiring at this time, at 73 with my husband retired and 75, I have been trying to look deeply into who I am, who I have been and where I do see myself going. Nearly all of my friends have badgered me with the question when am I going to retire. Next year, 2024, will be my 50th year in full time business. I have always had a strong belief system that relies entirely on how my inner self feels about whatever the issue is in front of me - from deciding whether to dye the buttons on a new doll’s outfit to whether I should retire and how to do that. I don’t always get the answer quickly, but I rarely proceed without feeling the answer in my heart. And that is why my work is what it is.

This is a complicated problem. It is not like deciding to sell your store or your salon, even if you have done this your whole working life. There is a connection to all of my work that would be akin to giving up a child. How can anyone do this? Long ago I thought my daughter would take it all over, but it became clear that I taught her well. But what I taught her was indeed to be like me but the twist was she became like me but in the way of following her own muse and doing it well. It just wasn’t about making dolls. Early on I had two utterly fantastic offers to buy my business. Even though I would have been rich for life, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t sell part of me. Much later, I did entertain selling, but for each person who expressed interest, I ended up knowing I could not do it, for I knew that it would be inevitable that they would fail because they were not me. So, then what? Well, several years ago, a seed was planted in my mind that has helped smooth the way. It is a common concept after all in largely Eastern, but also native American philosophy, but brought straight to my heart by the writer Elizabeth Gilbert when she writes in her book, Big Magic, that we are only the custodians of our ideas. They belong to the universe and some of us become gifted with the opportunity and insight to follow the ideas through. So instead of worrying what am I to do with all this stuff, I can adopt a grateful stance that I have been granted the gift of guiding the ideas and inspirations to a place where I could share and hard as it was most times, make a good living while doing it. But back to the problems in real life.

In the meantime, Covid also did its work in nearly upsetting my business financially and due to this, I spent a full year overcoming chronic hives. Then the forces of nature (a direct lightening hit in June causing huge damage to equipment), followed by just recently my workshop computer (an iMac of 12 years) with everything on it died. Replacing it and all the software was an enormous expense plus is representing a major part of each day to learn and update all the stuff from much older versions of all the softwares involved. On top of the usual frustrations we all face dealing with technology and its constant changing ways, I have, as an owner of an online business which has website technology to deal with ever increasing (and difficult) security issues imposed requiring more and more IT work, and guess who is my IT person. My tiny staff can tell you that there are many hours I spend alternately cursing and crying. Excessively. Due to the mounting amount of this insanity modern technology has wrought.

Then a moment came when I had had too much and felt the only solution was to shut it all down. But whenever I had entertained similar thoughts (but related to retiring), it never felt like the answer I had been seeking. In my most recent ranting about spending ⅔ of my time dealing with admin work and technology issues, I heard myself say how much I hated hated hated it and that all I wanted was to bring all the inspiring ideas in my head to life. So, where the real lightening bolt didn’t succeed in getting the message through, the figurative one did. What is now clear to me is that I love to create new and I need to figure out how to make space to do that. That I am exhausted by only treading water to keep the business financially alive by repeating old work on far too many products with far too little help in making them and never enough time to do new ideas. I have only 2 full-time workers plus my office person (½ day per week) and there is no possibility of either finding new/additional workers or more importantly, I cannot do this by myself. So, my plan is to discontinue nearly all old work (even if I still love some of it) to make space to do new.

This email Sale-Announcement will be the final offer on all finished dolls, except the Hitty Series, which will continue. Tiny Dolls will also continue for the next year, then many will also be discontinued. Most kits and patterns will continue to be available as will most supplies, but many of those will disappear too as current supplies run out. This has been a hard decision to come to, but it is the right one. I know this because it brings a sense of peace and some excitement as I look forward to 2024 being able to do new ideas and dolls. I will always have a way to communicate what I am working on.

I love teaching and sharing what I know. Covid and the rise of venues becoming primarily only open to weddings at much higher rates, basically put an end to the kind of in-person classes that many hundreds of customers have loved in years past. Recently I read an article about the value of giving of ones talents after retirement. The article inspired me to think about sponsoring classes where I would teach for free (the only expenses would be my travel, accommodations and any class kits) thus making it more likely small groups could afford to hold one of my classes. Things to think about.

Most of my good friends are already retired and are continuously harassing me about when I will retire. I have been trying to explain in similar words what I wrote above. But I kept feeling that I was missing an important detail. It is this: Ever since I was a little girl, I admired my grandmother, who, with my watchmaker grandfather, began a jewelry store in a tiny mill town during the depression and made it thrive for over 50 years. Always making something from a very early age, when I was 16, and my parents left me home alone for a few days, I cleaned out an old chicken coop, reglazed the windows, reroofed, painted it and made a sign to become a little shop. See, the difference is for me that it is not enough to just create stuff - I want to sell it, I have a deep need to share my work (thus why I also made kits). What hit me was when I get a new idea, I delight in figuring out how to produce it to sell. That right there is what will not go away if I retire. And I am truly not a one-of-a-kind type of creator. I like production and this means needing helpers and being in business. The issue is still not resolved.

My garden - a small bit of one of them.

An older picture of our 1804 farmhouse looking south with a view of mountains from our own hill. The center part of the house was the original house built before 1795. This land was part of a tract deeded to one Samuel Bowdoin of the college of the same name. We now are proud to have installed solar panels in the field from which this photo was taken.
A newer picture with gardens and stonework we did.

Before automobiles when our house was a horse farm with many barns. No barns survived the hurricane of 1936.

And I can drive a tractor too! Here I am helping my husband pick some high up plums.