by Jo Barnes –
With her expressive eyes and warm smile, she’ll steal your heart the moment you see her. Even if she’s only 10″ tall!
She is “Daisy,” one of the many uniquely crafted dolls created by Sidney doll maker, Romona King, of Northbrook Designs. Romona is an artist who works with textiles and has extended her artistic skills into the realm of doll making.
“I view dolls as miniature people. They’re so sweet,” shares Romona. “They take on a personality of their own.”
As a child, Romona was always making things and exploring ideas. “I liked to entertain myself as a child,” she shares.
Opportunities to engage in sewing and textiles at school had great appeal, and she enthusiastically participated. “I always loved home economics. It was my favourite class,” says Romona. “I really liked making clothes and enjoyed something to do using my hands.”
Over the years, Romona has painted, knitted, engaged in needlework like crosstitch, and delved into textile art. After completing high school, she began to take creative online courses and in 2003 started to focus on doll making. Seeing what others were creating sparked a desire to go further in her artistry. “I saw a doll in a magazine and thought to myself “I could do that!” says Romona.
Through online instruction she learned tips and techniques from well-known and gifted doll makers. From the first cut of the fabric to the final detailing, doll making can be demanding. It all begins with a pattern.
“It takes one week to make dolls from a stock pattern,” comments Romona. “For a custom doll, it takes about two to three weeks as I have to draft a new pattern.”
Each part of the doll body is stitched and formed around an aluminum wire armature. The process of shaping the wire and stuffing the doll simultaneously requires patience and skill.
“I usually shape the wire, then go into the foot, up the leg, and bring stuffing to centre. For the hands, I use wire or pipe cleaners and then put the whole body together,” says Romona, adding: “The hair is last usually so you can shape the doll better with no tangling of costume.”
The creative journey brings purpose and personal satisfaction.
“I enjoy the process,” she says. “I like the challenge of taking a bought pattern and changing the costuming and design. I like learning and seeing the finished product.”
Working with fabric is an art form that can be trying at times and sometimes unforgiving. “You can’t keep changing things when working with cloth. You can’t fight but only accept what’s happening on the cloth,” shares Romona. “It’s a process of letting go and seeing what happens.”
As dolls take shape, each one takes on a unique personality. Often adjustments and new discoveries are made. “It’s not always easy to get a certain look on the face of a doll,” says Romona. “Maybe one eye is cockeyed, so it’s a little more challenging getting the smile right.”
She was asked by a young boy one day to make a unique doll for his father who was celebrating a milestone birthday. The father was acting in a Shakespeare play at the time, and the young lad wanted the doll to look like his father’s stage character. The client’s reaction to the final product was memorable. “It was really touching. The client was so excited,” shares Romona. “It made me feel so good. The doll turned out exactly like they wanted it to be.”
Fashioning a doll takes effort and time, but for this artist, it is truly something that has enriched her life.
“I have found my own voice. I love to create the best quality of work I can for people,” says Romona.
During this pandemic time, like other artists, Romona is working hard to keep the creative juices flowing and reach potential customers.
“I am working on projects and using my time for learning,” says Romona. “I keep my ear to the ground for work and reaching out through my mailing list.”
Dolls are unique creations. For some people, they help to recall the past. For some, they are simply decorative. But for others, a doll is a treasure they can love. One look at Daisy might capture your heart too.
Currently Romona’s dolls are available for purchase through online sites such as www.mavenfair.ca, www.etsy.com or through www.northbrookdesigns.ca. Clients can also phone 250-656-9495. Custom orders are welcome.
Photos by Amanda Cribdon Photography