Creativity can be the worst of bitches. In a mind so full of ideas and tons of fabric to explore them, I find myself in a pickle when it comes to making actual decisions. Many creative people can attest to this. It takes a strong focus to make it as a professional creative, and the rest of us are just playing in the sandbox.


You may recall the generous donation by Shannon Craven, gifting one of her glorious repaints to my fund-raising efforts for my niece, Lily. It was thoughtful and proactive; hearing of the story, and being touched by the potential to help. That’s what makes great doll people – those who selflessly give to support a cause in which he or she strongly believes. Such was the case with Shannon – and her contribution brought a significant addition to our goal.


Months later, I was contacted by Monica Kohnke – another caring collector who bought Shannon’s repaint – she had an idea: MetroDolls holds its annual luncheon each fall, and they will celebrate their 10th Anniversary this year. Monica stated she would like to ‘pay-it-forward’, and donate the repaint in support of the charity auction – would I be interested in clothing the doll? I’d be lying if I said ‘yes’ immediately. I love supporting charities when I can, but holding a full list of commissions for the year (some of which have fallen behind), including a couple of surprise secret projects – well, I just wasn’t sure I could find the time and still grab a couple hours of sleep each night. And isn’t that the strangest thing of all – that I don’t have time. After thinking about it, I realized all I have anymore is time – so why not?


Contributing to charities is a personal choice. Either one feels strongly for the cause, or one wants to support the organization holding the charity fund-raiser – or both. I can tell you my past donations to charity fund-raisers have been beauties – but they also had two things contributing to the success: being associated with (and eventually employed by) a particular doll manufacturer; and one sole buyer with a deep purse (and I’ll get to her in a minute)…

Former Tommydoll Charity Work-

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I do feel my contributions were works of love. They were highly detailed projects that commanded a fair amount of attention not just in the design, but also the infamy of the one who made them. I am proudly an attention whore, and like other designing attention whores, much of what we do contributes to our overall brand. This may sound like a cold statement; but there is nothing wrong with that trade-off. Often, the simple feeling of knowing you’ve supported a great cause is enough.

It's why we get up in the morning, Sweetie...

It’s why we get up in the morning, Sweetie…

Doll artists and manufacturers set valuable studio time aside to make one-of-a-kind creations in support of the doll world’s charitable causes – many also donate generously from their open inventory. Each donation strives to build a total contribution that will ultimately benefit a benevolent cause. It is true that every little bit helps.

Paula Kagan with Doug James and his Metro Dolls Auction CED OOAK

Paula Kagan with Doug James and his Metro Dolls Auction CED OOAK

In the past, my motivation was clear – make a big splash! In the years that followed my initial contributions, I found a friend and fan in one Paula Kagan (who passed away a few years ago). Having Paula as a fan is a double-edged sword. In one case, you know as a discriminating collector, she will spend top dollar on your work – but for others who know she is in the room and bidding – well, let’s just say it can be a big buzzkill to hopeful others who desire the same doll. I’ve known some people who deliberately drive the bid up, knowing how much Paula wanted it – and then I know others who don’t bid at all, knowing they wouldn’t be able to afford the end price. Most are the more wise, they will bid up to a particular budget, and if the bidding goes beyond that, they gracefully drop out – they are able to participate and show their support – but they aren’t trying to stick it to rich people who are also bidding.

Paula with Marcia Friend of Metro Dolls at the Tyler 10th Anniversary Event

Paula with Marcia Friend of Metro Dolls at the Tyler 10th Anniversary Event

However, because Paula was also my friend, I wanted to create things for her in mind, knowing she would want it – and that driving force pulled from deep within my creative resources to make something spectacular. You don’t always have the luxury of knowing who exactly will win one of your creations in an auction – I did for quite some time; and it motivated me to push my limits. If you knew Paula like I knew her – you would know of her devotion to charitable causes – she has been a friend of MetroDolls, Tonner, and many doll artists and collectors – she will always live in our memory.

Paula and me at the Paris Fashion Doll Festival - a year before she left us...

Paula and me at the Paris Fashion Doll Festival – a year before she left us…

Knowing Paula, one would also know of her intense love of animals and the animal kingdom – MetroDolls has created a fund-raising program to assist in sponsoring a guide dog in Paula’s name in conjunction with The Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind – to be named ‘Paula’ or ‘Kagan’, depending on the gender – it’s an admirable way to remember this generous lady – one we called friend. Several items are available for purchase to meet this fund-raising goal..and the prices are great – all donated by MetroDolls Club Members – so you can pick up a bargain, and support MetroDolls, too! Click here to see the items, and to learn more…


So when I was asked to create a gown for this Tonner Kit doll, I recalled my last project working with Tyler, and I wanted something just as showy. But time was not on my side to spend several days beading another piece like that one – but there was something brewing in that design that hadn’t been there before.

The original skirt before the rise of the 'rose'...

The original skirt before the rise of the ‘rose’…

I still have several friends in MetroDolls – friends I have known for years, during the infancy of the 16inch fashion doll explosion brought by Gene Marshall. When I worked for Tonner, these friends became confidants – people I could talk about my behind-the-scenes struggles and triumphs – those comments forbidden to the online chat and bulletin board worlds. These friends knew things that no one else knew, and they protected these secret conversations with all their honor. That may sound melodramatic to you, and you’d be correct to a fault. Nevertheless, these folks stood by me when I lost that dream job, and you don’t forget that kind of friendship…ever – especially when I turned my back on so many of them during the dark period following the loss of my position at Tonner. As the years progressed, many of these relationships were built again, and I am happy to say that good friends will always be good friends.

Those really were the days, my friend...

Those really were the days, my friend…

So, you can understand a little more when I tell you how special I wanted this dress to be. I wanted to get the maximum output from what little spare project time I did have. And wouldn’t you know that my best inspiration came from an ice cream cone – you heard me…



I won’t apologize for where my mind was going during this creative process – and I’m happy to say that I am not afraid to admit I’m wrong – but that doesn’t make me like it. But I get ahead of myself…

An issue of taste...

An issue of taste

During the creation of Le Phénix, a hiccup between embroidered sequined fabric and silk charmeuse just didn’t flourish in my head – a trumpet skirt had been created, but the rose drape just was wrong for it. After dropping the red silk drape (which I am now re-working to finish and make it werq), the narrow trumpet skirt wasn’t grand enough for that project. I still had a skirt, and plenty of extra fabric to make something new.



Now understand that avant-garde is something I just don’t do well…say like, Superdoll…and true, there are few who do. But I have allowed that abstract muse to touch my inner fashion designer before, and I really thought this was the perfect opportunity for it.


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Through creation of a strapless bodice and an over-sized peplum, I began to play with a pink organza with excellent body and crispness – the ice cream cone’s frozen folly, if you will. I thought the organza was silk, but not being sure, I did a burn test – and it just didn’t behave exactly like silk (it did bring shiny ash, but not that burning hair smell) – but it wasn’t fully synthetic (they give off acrid chemical odors after burning). My guess is it’s rayon or a blend – if memory serves me, it’s a vintage fabric I acquired from a friend – and she didn’t recall what it was, either.

Concept...see? It's an ice cream cone!

Concept…see? It’s an ice cream cone!

The gold sequined fabric was ready-made, embellished onto a net backing – it pressed well, but it had to be machine-sewn with a heavy duty needle. The organza required a lightweight needle, so you already have a few curse words escaping my studio while changing needles and thread colors.

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The idea was to create a double layer of ruffled organza underneath the peplum – it was a pretty concept, and a nice contrast of pink and gold with Kit’s hair and makeup colors. Not trusting my machine’s zipper foot, I hand-stitched the zipper. Everything seemed to be going well…the lining had been made, and the pieces were fitting together nicely…it just seemed so natural.

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But after pressing, the ruffle just didn’t have the loft and shape of the conceptual drape. And there was also the issue of not foreseeing how the installation of the zipper would anchor down the back of the peplum – irreversibly changing its dynamic of a tutu effect – into one stinking conundrum. Yes, yes…I should have draped the muslin first, but I was pretty confident that it would all work out, and it was…until I sat staring at that damned pink pouf.


No, not that one…

I pinched it, shoved it, tacked it up, briefly toyed with the idea of beading it, flattened it, ruched it into even more poufiness, crushed it…steaming and re-steaming it each time as a concept majestically rose in my mind – only to have it tragically crushed in its visual appearance. It just wasn’t working…at least not with a ‘q’ (as in werq)…

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Many online friends watched the process unfold, offered suggestions…some even liked the pink pouf. However, in my head…I just felt like this avant-garde element was not proportionately working to my aesthetic, and terrified people would just point their fingers at it and wonder, ‘just what in Gay Hell is that thing?’ I can wave them all away with a superior toss of my wrist and palm claiming it’s ‘art’. But the truth was even more dubious. I thought it looked silly.


To test my theory, I tried it onto a Sybarite – they can wear anything, dears…well, except for this. I could just hear Nina Garcia weep from across the room over my joyless pouf on the runway, calling it pale and sad. Despite the support I received from numerous points-of-view – I just couldn’t make it werq. In fact…I hated it. Now, Puddings…if you hate something – there’s just no method of couture art or frippery alchemy you can apply to make it any better. So it was time for this pouf to sing ‘sayonara, sweetheart’…


And what a difference that day made, indeed.


In the end, I wanted a beautiful doll that potential buyers would want…not laugh at. I even added a little room to the dress to make sure it would be compatible with other dolls for mix and matching play (unfortunately, it swallowed 16inch Poppy Parker’s slender frame…the photos you see later on have the dress pinned in the back). Additions of straps allowed the fit to work well, should its new owner want to try it on a number of dolls in his/her collection…but it won’t work on Andy Mills.


The voices of Ginny Liezert who demonstrated that sometimes the fabric speaks for the whole design – let it; and of folks like Robert Tonner, who urged me to understand editing…and for all of you out there who have commented on likes and dislikes in designs I’ve shown – this dress is a tribute to you…and of course, to Paula Kagan…whose guidance, love and friendship quite possibly are the primary reasons I continue to sew today.


And so I present, for your viewing pleasure, and potential bidding excitement – Metro Gold, featuring Tonner’s 16inch Kit on the Bending Wrist Classic Tyler Body, painted by Shannon Craven and donated by Monica Kohnke – with a lovely gold gown by Tommydoll. Included are hosiery, gold strappy shoes, and a doll stand. There is also a certificate included, and I hope Shannon and Monica will also sign it if they are attending the luncheon. The earrings shown in the images broke in between my sausage fingers, but hey have been replaced by a lovely similar pair by the same artist, Chris Staats.

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The doll will be available via live auction during the MetroDolls October 4, 2015 Luncheon – more information is available here…there may still be a couple of seats availableyou’ll have a wonderful time! The auction this year is to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital – an organization near and dear to my heart – and if you haven’t checked out the other incredible artist items available from the auction – go here, now! There’s truly something for everyone…with more items coming in before the event.

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Also, if geography happens to get in the way of your attending, proxy bidding will be available for many of the items (but not all) – I am told by the organizers that our Metro Gold Kit will be one of the items open to proxy biddingclick here for more information on how proxy bids will work…the website will be updated with this information closer to the event, or contact Metro Dolls here.

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We celebrate MetroDolls’ 10th Anniversary – and their contributions as a proud member of the United Federation of Doll Clubs (UFDC) – they are one of the hardest working, and most dedicated teams out there today, and every person should take a note from how their events have evolved through the years with panache and style. Happy Anniversary, MetroDollshere’s to another 10 Years and More!!!

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Metro Gold on Superdoll Voltaire with wig by Laurie Lenz – and on 16inch Poppy Parker by Integrity Toys – Voltaire and Poppy are not included in the auction, thank you very much:

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Dress is pinned in back on Poppy…






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