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© 2019 Original Doll Artist Council of America

Rhonda King

A love of old things has always held my heart. A highschool history teacher for thirty years often found me exploring antique shops and flea markets on the weekends for materials I could use in my classroom. Eventually I stumbled upon my first antique bisque doll, which completely fascinated me. Collecting, researching and costuming these dolls became a passion that I thought would never be topped. I learned to sew costumes for these dolls, often using period textiles and antique patterns; soon I learned to draft my own patterns, often inspired from photographs of dolls in their original clothing. I taught myself to make wigs, shoes, underclothes and bonnets, as well as other accessories. For some twenty years in honing my craft as a doll costumer, I had no idea that art dolls existed.

A good friend and fellow collector first showed me her small collection of cloth art dolls made by artist Susan Fosnot. I was hooked the moment I aid eyes on them! The next three years involved working in concentrated isolation, as I learned to make cloth doll bodies, paint faces in oil, and sculpt in air-dry clays. I still use what I learned long ago about textiles and costuming to select, amend and design costumes for the dolls I now make.

My dolls are made of cloth, clay and paints; all elements of the earth, and I feel the breeze of the past, of the homestead and the Missouri soil as I work. Heavily influenced by American traditional doll makers, both known and unknown, as well as folk art portraiture and nineteenth-century photography, I find I am most excited in capturing a face when it is painted on a flat surface. Although I also sculpt facial features that are not deeply molded, I rely on the painting to achieve the characterization I desire. My dolls are all one-of-a-kind creations, each being my signature as a witness to the concept of a doll as art and history.