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Character Dolls
Their Personality Shines Through...
by Lynn Hibner
Alpena News Staff Writer
Photo by Christine Malenfant

Area artist Tammy Schultz designs and makes what she calls "character dolls," and other original collectibles.

"Character dolls are a collector doll for anyone that is into collecting," she said. "They are strictly to look at or to put in cabinets." Schultz said she has made character dolls for the last nine years, though she cannot recall when she began making dolls. "I've been making them forever," she said. "I guess I never quit playing with dolls."

Schultz said she played with them when she was young, then she started making clothes for them. Her grandmother and mother, who have always sewn, have helped her. At some point after making the clothing for dolls, she became interested in making the whole doll herself. Schultz took a couple of doll-making classes at the Grayling Ice House, a quilt shop in Grayling.

Alpena News Special Advertiser"Most of it is self-taught," she said.

The process of making a doll is a lengthy one. Schultz first sketches her idea, and then makes the "armature." This is a wire base which allows most of the dolls to have moveable, posable limbs. She then makes more sketches, which may include the clothing or any other ideas for the doll. Next, Schultz said, she works on whatever she feels like working on.

She has to assemble the skin to the armature, and then start making the clothing. She then adds the "wigging," which is the hair, and then finishes with the hand-painted features and other details. Sometimes, she uses human hair for the dolls.

"This is especially nice if a child gets their first haircut," said Schultz, who can use that hair to make a doll for the child. She hand-dyes the skin for flesh tones using all kinds of natural fibers. "I don't tend to use something that is man-made because the fibers break down," said Schultz. The dolls are made from many different types of fabric.

Pendleton wool, satins, and other natural materials are her favorites. Schultz gets her supplies from all over. She's even been known to go into a clothing store and buy something off the rack to cut up and use for doll clothing. "You wouldn't believe where I get things," she said. "You have to be resourceful."

For example, old fur coats make cuddly, new teddy bears. Antique clothing can be recycled as can rings, necklaces, earring and bracelets. Each doll Schultz makes is signed, dated, and numbered. Some of her dolls are limited in the quantity made. She uses no patterns; each doll is an original design.

Such detailed work takes time. According to Schultz, the longest time it Javasite: Online Coffeehouse 108 S. Union, Traverse Citytook to make one doll is eight months to one year, while the shortest time is one day.

She is concerned that all her dolls be heirloom quality, because "if people are going to pay for the doll, they want it to last." The dolls are not as expensive as might be thought, with prices ranging from $40 to $650.

Her quality work has earned her many awards. She was named Homemaker of the Year in 1995, and one of her dolls was the 1994 Grand Champion at the Alpena County Fair. Some of her dolls have been purchased as gifts and sent to different parts of the United States, as well as the world. Her dolls have gone to such places as California, Arizona, Florida, and even Warsaw, Poland. The two local stores that handle her pieces are Handmade by Netta, located on M-65-N, and the Alpena Flour Mill, which is located on Campbell Street. Schultz said she likes all her dolls; her favorite being the one she's currently working on.

"I like each one as I do them, because there are never two alike. I want to create each piece for itself, and not care if it is going to sell or not." "It is an art. It is my relaxation," she said.

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