Block party primps dolls for style show
Anne Myatt of Houston makes dolls, not quilts. Exquisite, acclaimed dolls of clay and cloth, lovingly sculpted into heartwarming poses.
But when the Texas Association of Original Doll Artists challenged her to make a doll that incorporated a quilt block, Myatt didn’t hesitate. She chose the Rose of Sharon, “a quilt block I’ve always liked,” and also the name of a prominent character in John Steinbeck’s novel, “The Grapes of Wrath,” she explains.
Myatt crafted two dolls together, images of her own grandmother holding Myatt as a 7- or 8-year-old child on her lap while sitting in a comfortable chair. She titled her entry in the Block Party exhibit “Story Time.” The exhibit was part of the 2013 International Quilt Festival in Houston.
Rose of Sharon fabric, printed from Internet images, covers the small chair, Myatt’s first attempt at upholstery.
She sculpts the faces of clay and covers them with cloth. Bodies are shaped over wire armature, so they can be posed, then soft sculpted. The skin she paints with oils, acrylics and colored pencils. Special attention goes into the clothing, too, such as tea-dying the grandmother’s fabric to look older “so it matched the time,” Myatt says.
“I had a special relationship with my grandmother,” she recalls. “She lived in Mississippi. I still remember how she smelled.”
Now Myatt is a grandmother herself,
with a 1-year-old granddaughter. The first birthday gift? A handmade doll sturdily made for play.
“I’ve made dolls since I was a child — old rag dolls, Cabbage Patch dolls for friends,” and more, Myatt says. She was inspired by Lenci dolls, made of molded felt in the 1920s, because they looked like real children with beautiful garments. “I like that look,” she says.
Recently, Myatt bought a “well-loved” antique Lenci doll on eBay and plans to clean her up and make an outfit for her.
“I’ve been a doll person all my life,” says Myatt, who especially favors those depicting women and children.
In addition to doll-making, she works part-time as a lactation consultant at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston.
“The relationship between mothers and children has always fascinated me,” she says.
A second participant in the Block Party exhibit chose crazy quilts from the Victorian era as her inspiration for incorporating a traditional quilt pattern into an art doll.
Theresa May of Austin, Texas, left the human realm entirely and created a 17-inch-tall fox, titled “Crazy Like a Fox.” He’s a bit of a dandy, costumed in silk with a patchwork coat and leather boots with pewter beads, specialty trim and fox fur. His tail and other bits of fox fur were reclaimed from a thrift store coat, she says.
He carries a gilded mask, molded over his own face, May explains, and the costume is her original design full of hand embellishments. The coat is “in essence a map of the fox’s world — fish in ponds, eggs, bird and animal tracks, clouds and lightning… .”
The fox stands on another traditional quilt pattern — Fox and Geese hand-painted on a wooden base.
Yet another doll-maker with no quilting background, Neva Waldt of Bellaire, Texas, consulted a lengthy list of block titles, “hoping one would jump out at me” for the Block Party challenge, she says.
“The pattern was Rolling Stone, and being a huge Stones fan, I knew that was the one,” says Waldt, who has been a doll artist for 10 years. “I really enjoy creating characters that look as though they have a life story.”
Her entry, “Angie Loves a Good Party,” shows a gal named Angie wearing a denim jumper with the Rolling Stone block fused onto it and painted onto her base.
“Angie is obviously
a hippie at heart, from her bandana to her Birkenstocks,” Waldt says. “She grins in delight as she heads out to the block party with Stones tunes and her Colorado-approved brownies in hand. Yep, she loved a good party.”
Waldt can’t resist poking a little fun this direction, as she writes to this columnist: “Let me know if you need anything else. Except for the brownies. This is Texas.”
I have to chuckle at Waldt’s quip as this state of ours leads us farther out on the legal cannabis limb we’re cultivating. The other states have all eyes trained upon us; even their dolls have gone to pot, in a manner of speaking.
Email Sherida.Warner@ GJSentinel.com.