Soft sculpture dolls reflect passions, personality and dreams

by Chris Studor

For many of us, happy with our careers and places in life, we often have a second passion we dream about or dabble in.  If you are an attorney, for example, you may love your job but in the back of your mind you may be saying to yourself; “What if I opened a bakery? I love to bake!” The talented team of Ginny and Kate Create may not be able to switch your career but can provide you with a whimsical soft sculptured doll that reflects your personality especially those back-of-the-mind passions and dreams.

Both ladies are retired and with each having had a long and successful careers of a blend of marketing, advertising, writing and special event planning, neither was ready to sit idly by and let the years go by. Ginny Schneider of Hinckley and Kate Mahar of Parma got to know each other first through business interactions, found they had a lot in common and became close friends. They both love art and have a knack for creativity.

This is the second year the duo appeared at the Hinckley Holiday Market where local vendors sell their crafts during the holiday season. Last year, the duo sold gift baskets based on the Scandinavian concept Hyggee. Accordingly, the gift baskets contained items that help make homes warm, comforting and cozy.

A typical Hyggee gift basket contains scented candles, warm hats and mittens and needled felt novelty items. As for the idea to make the soft sculptured dolls, a recent trip to France got their creative juices flowing.

Ginny Schneider of Hinckley creates a dog for a soft sculptured doll by needling sheep’s felt. Photos by Chris Studor

Capturing their attention were French paper mache figures inserted into nativity scenes.

“It was common for the people to insert these paper Mache figures, made to look like various people in their town, into their home nativity scenes,” said Mahar. “These figures intrigued us but instead of paper mache, we started experimenting with making soft-sculpture dolls. We decided to give the dolls clothing and accessories that reflects person’s persona, both what they currently do and what they dream or aspire to be. The dolls all have similar stitched faces but have different colored hair, bodies, clothing and accessories.”

Most of our dolls reflect empowered women, successful but with more than one aspect to their personalities and dreams, explained Schneider. “For instance, our lawyer doll is dressed in a suit a woman would wear in court but she is holding a tray of freshly baked cookies and has a spatula in her hand.”

Each doll comes with an individual scroll that tells the story of the doll. The scrolls are penned by Mahar who has loved writing and reading since she was a child.

“I had one woman who, when asked about herself, replied that she was ‘a mere housewife,’ but there was so much more to her,” said Mahar. “In her scroll, we gave her the title ‘domestic artisan,’ with her passions being quilting, knitting, baking and sewing Halloween costumes for her grandchildren and making everyone fell like a much loved guest in her home. We listed her favorite color – red, favorite music, the Beatles; favorite food, her homemade chocolate chip cookies; and favorite vacation, escaping to Arizona for the winter.” 

Kate Mahar hand stitches a doll to create its face and will then begin with sorting through vast collections of fabrics and other materials to make the doll’s clothing and accessories.

The dolls bodies are made of felt and stuffed with typical polyester stuffing. Just recently, the duo decided to form light wire bodies and insert them into the dolls so they could be put in different poses. While the bodies are machine stitched, the faces and details are stitched by hand.

Old hats and mittens are cut up for sweaters; ready-for-the-trash blue jeans are cut up and recycled; old socks are transformed into hats; and the list goes on. Anything from bottlecaps to plastic containers are cut up to make a plethora of accessories for the dolls.

While Ginny and Kate Create make an array of dolls reflecting common professions and passions, they also do custom work. The doll artists will also be adding male soft-sculpture dolls.

“We were recently asked to make dolls for a couple that was going to be married and they were both pharmacists,” said Kate. “The future husband and wife dolls are wearing white lab coats. Another doll in the making is for someone who is a veterinarian assistant and so Ginny is at work making a dog out of needled felt for the doll to hold. Another customer has a wife who is a flashy dresser and requested the doll have fishnet stockings and we found some material to make the fish nets.”

“To form a doll, I am using sheep’s wool which has been carded into a flat piece of wool,” explained Ginny. “Sheep’s wool is very soft but pliable. To form an object, you take a small sheet of flat wool and insert a barbed needle over and over which compresses the felt into a three dimensional object, it’s a bit like working with play-do”

Mahar said both she and Schneider love to “take on the challenge of creating something from nothing.”

“It just seems as if we feed off each other,” said Ginny. “We have been friends for so long having worked together, traveled together and, once retired, started creating together, that the conversations just flow and with that, ideas for projects are born. We don’t plan on retiring any time soon.” ∞

Featured Photo: Holding an assortment of their handmade soft sculptured dolls are Ginny Schneider of Hinckley (left) and Kate Mahar of Parma who team up making creative products for their company Ginny and Kate Create. You can see more of their handmade dolls on the mantle behind them and they make custom requested dolls. Photos by Chris Studor