Doll makers’ orders pile up

Call her one of Santa’s little helpers — without the standard issue pointy hat and equally angular ears. Adjacent to her Jonesboro home lies her personal workshop, a place where she creates both cloth and vinyl dolls. And the orders are stacking up for her and other area doll makers.

Green lives and breathes dolls all year and has for the better part of two decades. It’s something, she said, first born out of necessity. Although her creations come in a variety of complexions, Green specializes in African-American dolls.

“Growing up as a child, it was very hard to find pretty African-American vinyl or cloth dolls,” she said. “And when I did find a cloth doll, it wasn’t necessarily the complexions that we really are.”

Creating dolls across the skin color spectrum helped Green morph her hobby into a full-time gig. She sells the dolls online, including on her site (www.doll ) and teaches doll-making classes at her workshop.

But most of the time she’s creating. Green started as a seamstress, so cloth dolls remain her first love. Each is hand-stitched from a cotton blend fabric. Using a technical pen loaded with archival pigmented ink, she draws facial features. Green then finishes the illustrations by brushing in acrylic paint. She typically sews yarn or synthetic hair into the dolls for their pint-size ’dos. And the outfits are hand-sewn, too.

Prices start at $15 for kid-friendly dolls and climb close to $100 for those sporting serious detail aimed at adult collectors.

Collectors are flocking to, too, a site belonging to East Point artist Deborah Grayson. She dubs her one-of-a-kind, hand-stitched cloth dolls Urban Wildflowers. Like Green’s, her African-American dolls are popular picks. One of the big selling points of her work, she said, are the hairstyles. Bundles of dreadlocks, abstract afro puffs or flowing locks made from strips of cloth are customer faves. Her work ranges from 15-inch rag dolls ($38) to 4-foot creations ($425) with detailed features like sculpted faces and articulated fingers.

According to Grayson, cloth dolls “evoke a sense of nostalgia among collectors.”

Collectors are finding nostalgia in realism, too. They’re snatching up Green’s reborn baby dolls. She pieces these vinyl dolls together using store-bought parts or discarded toys found at places like thrift stores. Green adds layers of heat-set paint, the final coat going on with a sponge to replicate pores. The massive makeover might include rooting the doll’s hair, setting the eyes and French manicuring the nails. She usually sells them for about $200.

Samantha Gregory of Kennesaw creates vinyl doll kits like the ones Green sometimes uses. Gregory, a self-taught sculptor, began creating hyper realistic baby dolls, each measuring 17 to 22 inches in length, using polymer clay.

Her one-of-a-kind custom jobs often find her sculpting an image based on an actual child, a tangible snapshot of infancy. Gregory’s known for her meticulous lifelike detail.

Her custom dolls fetch about $2,000 each. In an effort to get more dolls out to collectors, Gregory now focuses on limited edition duplication.

When she finishes a sculpt, she mails it to a molding company in China. A limited edition of 250 kits are made for Gregory to sell through her Web site (, on eBay and to online doll dealers.

Gregory’s kits are sold unpainted and without hair or eyes. Hobbyists then buy their own paint and materials and finish the project.

Her kits range from $50 to $80. Gregory will custom finish a doll for $250 to $350, depending on the amount of detail.

As the holidays approach, Gregory is working on a deal with the Home Shopping Network to sell a toddler doll she is creating. Grayson is feeling the seasonal rush with orders rolling in. And Green keeps making dolls as fast as her sewing machine can stitch.

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