Doll crazy

Doll collecting author to sign books

Collection of “artist dolls” to be displayed
at Jeffersontown Historical Museum

By Kelly Kapp
Contributing Writer

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (January 2005) – A prominent author who writes about doll collecting will be a featured guest in January at the Jeffersontown Historical Museum.
Northern Kentucky author Kathryn Witt will visit the museum from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Jan. 27 to sign her books. Witt has recently written two books about doll collecting, including “Contemporary American Doll Artists and Their Dolls” and “The Doll Directory: A Guide to U.S. Doll Museums, Collections & Hospitals plus Clubs, Organizations and Annual Shows,” in which the Jeffersontown Historical Museum is listed.

Kathryn Witt

Kathryn Witt

The first book chronicles 25 contemporary doll artists and their dolls. It features nearly 200 color photographs and doll artist biographies. The second book is an extensive directory.
The Jeffersontown Historical Museum has been in operation at the Jeffersontown Government Center since 2000. The museum first opened around 1976 in the old City Hall but was not successful enough to continue operating.
Around 1997, the city decided to try re-opening the museum in celebration of Jeffersontown’s Bicentennial.
The museum is home to a “Dolls of the World” exhibit, with almost 1,300 dolls in the collection. According to the museum’s website, the collection is thought to be the “largest collection of its type in the Midwest.”
Many of the dolls were donated by collector Petra Williams, including a collection of Barbie dolls and a two-story Schoenhut doll house that she received as a child.
The dolls in the museum collection come from many different parts of the world. The oldest piece is a Greek Tana-gra figurine dating back 2,300 years.
“Tanagra figures were made of terra-cotta and were mass-produced and used for decoration in the home,” said museum director Beth Wilder.
To help celebrate Witt’s visit, the museum will be holding a special exhibit to showcase a collection of “artist dolls” belonging to members of the Derby City Doll Club. This special exhibit will run throughout January and February.
Established in 1975, the Derby City Doll Club is a local organization for doll collectors. It has 22 members. The club meets once a month, and each monthly meeting consists of a different educational program about dolls and doll collecting. Club members also attend a national convention each year.
The activities at the convention include educational programs and an antique doll competition.

Mother's Day Doll

Photo provided

Mother's Day Doll is one of many dolls in Witt's collection.

A doll can be considered an “artist doll” if it is an original production and if it is produced in limited numbers. Ann Hays, vice-president of the Derby City Doll Club, says that artist dolls are crafted from the artist’s “own original ideas – they are not copying the ideas of others.”
Artist dolls can be renditions of well-known characters, such as the characters created by Beatrix Potter, but they have to be the artist’s own specific version of the character.
According to Hays, artist dolls can be made from many different mediums, including wax, porcelain, wood, felt or self-sculpture.
To ensure that a specific artist doll will stay limited in number, the artist always destroys the mold after the desired number of dolls is produced. This is one of the processes that makes a doll truly an artist doll.
Hays is planning on displaying at least four of her artist dolls at the Jeffersontown exhibit, including “Sophie,” an all-porcelain “lady doll” that dates to 1966. “Sophie” was crafted by doll artist Sonja Bryer, and there are only 75 copies of the doll in existence.
Hays also plans on loaning the museum a pair of dolls collectively named “Mother’s Day,” by artist Maggie Iacono, and another doll named “Montague,” by artist R. John Wright. All three dolls are made out of felt.
The two dolls from “Mother’s Day” are fully posable, with bendable arms and legs. “Montague” is more than just a doll – he can also be used as a candy container.

• The Jeffersontown Historical Museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. It is located at 10635 Watterson Trail in Jeffersontown, behind the library. For information or directions, call (502) 261-8290 or visit: www.jeffersontownky.com/museum.html. For more information about the author, visit: www.kathywitt.com.

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