THE ART OF THE DOLLMAKER
The development of this film could easily be called a miracle. Take one twenty-three year old young lady, Mary Katherine Esslinger Haworth, who found herself in the struggle for her life because of ovarian cancer.
Add forty some dollmakers to share their talents and stories...........
and you have a remarkable story of living.
It begins while sitting in the recovery waiting room, after one of the many operations and chemotherapy that my daughter had just completed. I found that making small dolls became my favorite activity to use up the time which passed so slowly. Doctors and nurses became my first models and they provided all of us with much entertainment.
Losing the four-year struggle I was still searching for something to fill the void of a missing child. Elinor Peace Bailey and Virginia Robertson were offering a class at the Osage County Quilt Factory and this was my Christmas present from my husband. As several other disappointments entered my life I found myself turning more and more toward doll making.
My niece, artist Sarah Rakes, was preparing for a show in LA and while visiting me she wanted to take a couple of my dolls to her show. Her agent bought the dolls which was exciting and would be my "discovery"!
Six years passed. Lee Hubbard Crowe had been doing volunteer work at cancer centers in LA and she wrote a poem/story to entertain her patients titled, "The Hat Lady". She would dress up for the parts as she shared the story. Looking for some way to better illustrate the story, she was visiting with my nieces agent, Connie Tavel. Connie described my dolls and thought they would provide a different twist to the story. These were dolls portraying character and already were wearing hats.
And so six years after Sarah had taken my dolls, I received a call from Lee Crowe explaining what she was doing and what she would like from my dolls. In that one conversation we decided to do twenty dolls to depict the different characters in her story.
Before the month was over I sent her the first dolls with a letter describing my family and why we all worked together to make dolls. Lee had also lost a small daughter-- we had an immediate connection that comes from two mothers who have lost a child.
As we visited during the next month Lee said that she wanted to write a documentary film about my family. Lee would be here in late summer to work on the project. Meanwhile we would meet at Dollmakers Magic in Utah to plan the course of action.
I yelled out at my husband in pure faith, telling him we were having a film made about us and Lee would be here in August or September. His words were, "I suppose I have to clean up the barn yard?"
After thinking about it I began to panic and I told her the only way I would go along with this would be if my doll club would be included, plus the people that had been the most influential in my doll making. Lee agreed if I could get all of them to participate.
Our doll club, The Pin Ella P.s, said that they would be the hosts for a doll show of our members. Lisa Lichtenfels, Charlene Westling, Elinor and Virginia agreed to go along with the project.
What we have to offer are the fruits of these past three years. It is amazing how it all fell into place and that at the last minute Lee was able to get a crew together to come to Kansas to do the filming. Mel Metcalf III agreed to do the directing. These were kids all in between jobs and were willing to come to Kansas to make a film on DOLLS!! It was certainly meant to be.
Below are some of the pictures taken at the Osage Quilt Factory for the very beginning of the film.
As the story of the Esslinger family and their struggle to accept the death of Kathy is woven throughout the film, so too is the story of the use of dolls in accepting the many problems we face in life.
You will be able to watch Lisa in her doll making process which made her the "Worlds Greatest Doll Artist". You will see the New Guinean Warrior as he comes to life and watches Lisa while she is working. Lisa shares many of her stories in dollmaking.
Elinor shares her philosophy in doll making and in life. Her wonderful poems add the usual spark and humor to her work. It clearly shows why elinor has been instrumental in getting many of us started in doll making throughout the entire world.
The problem of having to part with our dolls is faced by Charlene Westling. You must listen to the roosters crow as Charlene is working on one of her dolls. Bev Radefeld and her mother share their close association, as well as the way Bevs dolls were also instrumental in her survival after the loss of her son to leukemia. You will get to visit the Osage County Quilt Factory that the Pin Ella P.s call home with their gracious owners Lynn and Virginia Robertson.
The film project, once started, seemed to grow and grow. Kooki Roberts, E. J. Taylor, Roxanne Padgett, Evon Beams, Mary Pyle, Carol Mellies, Christine Shively, Shelly Thornton, Helen Dodge, Barb Swisher and Mary Jo Harbour were some of the doll makers who described the meaning of dolls in their lives. These people were joined by about twenty-five other doll makersí dolls. Many of you we missed because we very simply ran out of room.
The film is about one hour and twenty minutes in length and could have gone on for days!! Before the cuts started, Lee called me and she had just watched it for 20 hours!! We know only doll makers would watch something that long!
If there are any regrets for me it is that we were unable share a picture of Lee Crowe even though her spirit runs throughout the film. Lee is so dedicated to doll makers and she had not even been a doll collector until the "bug" bit her at Doll Makers Magic. Some of you will remember she bought many dolls that day and she won several dolls in the Opportunity Drawing. We are all very thankful to Lee for finding all of us and for sharing this story with everyone.
Below I will end this with a picture of Lee and Myself. I offer my thanks to this very special women who used her loss for the gain of the doll world and to all of the people touched by her message. Also, I thank you all for your acceptance of the film and the many positive comments it has received.
In 2004 the video was made into a DVD with special features of the producer's introduction, doll makers' bios and an interview with producer Lee Crowe. The video is also still available in Video form.
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