Did your Mama ever tell you that when you grew up you had to give up your dolls? Well, Mama meant well. She didn’t want you hauling your doll with you forever; but of course, she may not have considered that you could take that precious doll from childhood and begin a collection. Yes, that tattered doll with her sparse hair and her one dislocated arm can be restored.
Perhaps, deep in your heart, you still wish to have lots of dolls—realistic baby dolls, realistic lady dolls, or reproduced antique dolls. You may even have an empty, glass-encased shelf you’d like to fill, but when you look at the prices of the antique dolls, you shudder and think, “Ah, maybe an extended library would be better.”
Wait. Here’s an idea: why not make your own heirloom? Why not restore that treasure from childhood and give it to your own daughter or granddaughter?
Marie Ross, rural Albany, is just the lady to help you. Her shop, My Doll Retreat, located at W1223 County C, is a fun place to visit if you love dolls, or porcelain creations, for that matter. Walking into her doll wonderland, you’ll see numerous unique dolls. Step around the corner and pick from her many accessories. What isn’t in stock can be ordered. You’ll have fun fitting new wigs or outfits on your doll, and if new appendages are necessary, well, Marie can help you there too. If your doll isn’t porcelain, that’s okay. She can still help.
So you don’t think you’re very crafty or artistically talented. No problem. Marie says that making porcelain dolls is not really difficult. A person needs more patience than anything because the process is done in steps and some waiting is necessary.
“Anybody can do it,” Marie said. “But like anything else, some are more gifted than others.”
About Marie Ross
Marie has always enjoyed crafts. She had a ceramics store in New Glarus for five years before deciding to try porcelain. She had admired the workmanship of handmade porcelain dolls and wanted to learn more. In 1983, she began taking classes. She continues to take classes today because she enjoys being a student sometimes too. The classes keep her refreshed, motivated. She has a teaching certificate through Seeley’s and has taken classes through Jean Nordquist, Collectible Doll Company.
She started teaching doll making in 1985 and opened a business in Sun Prairie in 1990. She continued the store there until 1996 when having two store locations offering classes got to be too overwhelming. Now she keeps plenty busy at the shop adjoined to her home.
About the classes
Classes are offered each Tuesday, with two times available: 1-4 p.m. and 6:30-9:30 p.m. The classes are offered from April through December and cost $5 per class plus an additional fee for green ware, green ware firing, and supplies. The cost of your doll will depend upon how large of a doll you want, how elaborate you want to be, and whether you want to purchase clothes or make them yourself. You may choose from a wide variety of sizes and styles of dolls. Among them are modern dolls, finely sculptured, realistic dolls, both baby dolls and lady dolls; Native American dolls; and reproduction of antique dolls such as Steiner, Jumeau and Bru.
She enjoys teaching very much. She noted that student interests vary and each doll is unique, making each class fun. She also enjoys watching the students work and sharing their excitement.
The eight-week course includes making a 10-inch doll and a second doll of your choice. It usually takes about four to six weeks to make a doll. You may keep coming for as long as you want, all year if you’d like. Some students have been coming for five to six years.
Where to purchase dolls
If you’d prefer to purchase an already made doll, you may visit My Doll Retreat, rural Albany, or Creative Touch, Evansville. For more information about the dolls and the classes, please call Marie at her Evansville phone number: 608-882-5412. These dolls will make a treasured Christmas gift for years and just might become a family heirloom.
Photo and Story By Michelle R. Welsh
Originally published in the Brodhead Independent-Register, December 15, 1999.