|I started making
dolls when I was about six or seven years old. Some of my first dolls were
apple head, cornhusk and primitive cloth dolls. When I was a child I was
always making something "pretty". I use that word because that
is what my mother and grandmother would say to me when I showed them a
drawing, mud pie decorated with wild flowers or anything else creative I
I started making dolls professionally about twenty-five years ago. Some of the first dolls were soft sculptured nylon dolls made back in the early 80's. A friend of one of my brothers took one of my dolls to a shop in downtown Cleveland, OH. It was placed on consignment and sold within a week. That was the best feeling knowing someone was willing to pay for something I had made by hand. I then started doing some of the major art shows in Ohio where I would sell life-size dolls. I was not, however, making dolls of color and showing them in these art shows. No, I'm sorry to say if I had sent slides of black dolls into the juried shows I would not have been accepted. Thankfully, this has changed throughout the years.
I have not had a "day job" in over twenty years. I have been working in seclusion for so many years I really don't think I would make a good employee. (Unless a company could place me in a corner and give me a job I could do the way I wanted it done.)
I truly believe that my skills and talents are God given. How else can I explain them? I have not had any formal training in the arts. There seems to be all sorts of artistic talent running through my family. After my father died in 1996, I bought my mother a drawing tablet, colored pencils and markers and told her to just draw anything. I knew she had talent but it had lain dormant all through her fifty years of marriage. At the age of seventy-three my mother started drawing. So maybe my creative talents came through her. I have taken some workshops in various mediums: soft sculpture, screen printing, silk dyeing, quilting, surface design, pottery, and many others. I am also inspired by images I've retained from my travels to Brazil, West and South Africa, and almost every state in North America. Not to mention the hundreds of books I've purchased and studied over the years. In the past, I used to get a lot of my ideas from my dreams. I would get out of bed at three o’clock in the morning and start working on the kitchen table. Lately, many of my pieces are planned out for quite some time in my head before I start. Most of the time I will work on a piece to see how it will turn out. If I am doing a commissioned doll I will plan it all out on paper. When I made the Rosa Parks ornament for the White House Christmas tree, I had to research what she looked like and what type of clothing she wore at that time. I even made up somewhat of a storyboard before beginning the project. I think that was the most I've ever really planned a doll. I don't normally create historical dolls but in this case that was one of the prerequisites for the ornament.
Natural textiles and hand dyed fabrics are my favorite materials to work with. I combine them with paper and polymer clay. I also like to paint and embellish fabric with beads I've collected over the years.
My favorite doll is probably "Contemplation". For this doll I enjoy piecing the fabric, decorating the surface with various rayon and metallic threads and finishing with hand sewn bead work. She is a good solid woman figure. When I was in West Africa I saw a woman vending her wares in the marketplace. She was sitting on the ground with her knees up. I never wanted to let go of that image so I decided to make her into a doll.
I do try to tell a story with each doll. When I do a one-of-a-kind piece I write a story to go with it. On the pieces I do for galleries and shops they have an enrichment tag attached that tells how the doll was inspired.
Most people who know my style recognize it when they see my dolls in a gallery or shop. I also copyright specific designs. When I started doing "Nubian Dancer" a long, lanky wall dancer done in black polished cotton dressed in colorful African and ethnic fabrics, it was a very unique style. Soon others started doing dolls in the same style or similar. These doll makers would say to me, "I was inspired by you".
I prefer to teach doll making techniques rather than a specific doll. I hope to inspire doll makers to develop their own style by learning new skills. I teach how to make polymer and mixed media dolls. I will be teaching "Paper clay and Cloth: The Merging of Two Materials", a two day class where participants will learn how to sculpt features in LaDoll® clay over a stuffed head. In another class I will teach how to make accessories for dolls such as a breastplate, fancy walking staff or unique jewelry. These classes (were) taught at Artistic Figures in Cloth, May 1-4, 2003 in Columbus, OH.
Further information is available at www.cyndysdolls.com. Go to classes and look for Marcella Welch.
My dolls, art rubber stamps, jewelry and ect. are on the web at www.somethingforthesoul.com. There are several craft galleries that carry my work. I also do various art shows and the Philadelphia Black Doll Show.
I am currently designing more art rubber stamps for artists. I'm also designing different projects for the stamps so others can envision what they can do with the stamps. I've done some canvas wallhangings, dolls, pins and clay figures with the stamps which I think will inspire others. You can see them on my website.
I am also currently in a joint venture with my daughter, LaShawnda. We want to create an artist community or place where artists can come and be creative, get ideas, take classes, buy unique art supplies, and meet with other artists. I think it is very important that artists have a place to go where the climate allows creativity to emerge freely.
This is for all the
aspiring doll artists: Learn all you can in every medium. Create in
several different mediums. Make your own clothing, dye your fabrics and
yarns, spend that little extra on supplies to make your doll or other
artwork stand out from the others. One day everything you've learned will
culminate into some of the most fascinating dolls and fine craft. Oh yes,
never let anyone, especially your family and friends, tell you that you
shouldn't be making dolls or pursuing other creative venues. I had plenty
of discouraging remarks to deal with in the beginning. I almost let it get
me down at one point but I hung in there. I enjoy what I do. My work is
well respected. I travel and do exciting things, meet famous people and
participate in activities I wouldn't have if I wasn't involved with dolls
and art. Now I have a wonderful daughter pursuing her own creative
endeavors. If it's God's will I hope to continue creating my art for a
long, long, time.