Thursday, May 12, 2011

My First Doll Show part 3

48 years ago this month, Helen Bullard founded the National Institute of American Doll Artists to promote the recognition of original handmade dolls as fine art. "Collections of mass-produced dolls, originally made for children to play with, are everywhere.”  Bullard said to the doll makers gathered at the Watts Barr resort near Ozone, Tennessee. “Far rarer and generally unknown to the public are the original dolls handmade by artists with the same creative approach which is used in painting and sculpture. Their dolls, many of which express American culture, are not intended for play."  Today, many dolls by NIADA artists are prized additions to collections held by art museums including the Louvre (Musée des Arts Décoratifs) in Paris, France, the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., and the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Macon, Georgia.

Artists accepted into the NIADA must meet exacting standards for excellence of execution and must show a unique and recognizable identity of design.  The NIADA has always pursued a strong educational mission to help artists meet these standards and each year at their annual conference, visiting artists may bring one or two pieces of their work to informal critique seminars where NIADA artists share their knowledge and expertise.

The 2011 NIADA Classic Conference will take place August 25-28th in Denver, Colorado.  In addition to speakers, exhibits, and doll making demonstrations, the NIADA will host a doll-making school from August 22 – 25th with workshops on topics such as “Choosing, Coloring, Manipulating and Embellishing Textiles for the Doll Artist” by Stephanie Blythe and “How to Make an Innocent Doll Face” by Ankie Daanen.

Vanessa Morrison of Van’s Doll Treasures first called my attention to the innocent faces of Embraceable Memories’ reborn dolls at the Atlanta Doll Collectors' annual doll show last Saturday.  As I mentioned in my inaugural post, I am not a fan of baby dolls, but the life-like sculpting of these innocent little faces really made me appreciate these dolls as works of art.


“The alternative is I could play golf” – Celeste Morris

Embraceable Memories

Celeste Morris                               

C.J. DeFreese

 Celeste Morris and C.J. De Freese already have a cool day job.  As partners in a theater arts business they design sets and create large Styrofoam sculptures, but they were looking for a hobby that wasn’t directed by a client.  “In theater you can’t hedge the deadline,” C.J. explained.  While a one of a kind reborn doll represents about 20 hours of labor depending on the hairstyle, the work process can be piecemeal in between folding laundry or watching TV.  From the glass beads that give the dolls the comforting weight of a live infant to the realistic hair, materials can run $100-$150 while sculpt molds start around $65 and go as high as $150 for new models.  Celeste justified her new hobby to her husband by pointing out that the end product has value.  Indeed she and C.J. have supplied churches with Baby Jesus reborn dolls in place of real infants who sometimes disrupt the solemnity of services.

Hannah was C.J.’s first doll while Celeste’s first attempt, Edward, won 2nd prize at the Gwinett county fair. 


Embraceable Memories recognizes the need for beautiful dolls representing the whole human family, so Celeste crafted Amani, an African American reborn whose name means “peace” in Swahili.

 Ileana was named after the youngest child in a Mexican family of Celeste’s acquaintance while Olivia looks like her own babies.  

Embraceable Memories reborns are truly a work of love.

For more adorable photos of Embraceable Memories dolls see my Flickr Stream:

 À Bientôt


  1. There's my little girl, Ileana! They tried very hard to get me to take her home. I had to explain to them that I already have so many babies at home that need cuddling.

    I really enjoyed meeting these two ladies.

    I am still so impressed with how your pictures turned out considering your camera experience.

  2. Thanks for calling my attention to these sweet little faces. Since I'm not partial to baby dolls I wouldn't have given them a second look without your encouragement. I really enjoyed talking to Celeste and C.J.