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Hand-crafted Cloth Sculptures and Petite Couture

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In the News

Unfortunately I couldn't find the articles...I was featured in the "Evening Tribune" newspaper on 2 separate occasions. The first one was when my sculptures were used as a special display in the Hornell Public Library to promote home arts that have been forgotten. The second article was to announce my display in May 2007 at the ATA Gallery in Canandaigua...I had several sculptures displayed...this brought attention to dolls and how they have evolved over time.

Happy New Year to all....may 2009 bring peace...good health..and prosperity

February brought fantastic news! My Art Nouveau sculpture "Mary Jane Prepares For A Stroll" won a Blue Ribbon and Best Story Category" in the Rocky Mountain SewFestival/Denver Doll Artisans Art Nouveau Challenge!!!!

I also received acceptance for a display in the Orkney Faerie Museaum and Gallery in Skelwick, Westray off the coast of North Scotland! I will have my sculpture featured along with paintings by Neil Geddes-Ward, sculptures by artist Shirley Ann MacKillop of Falkirk and artist Jacquie Day of Ebrenn Elves.

Update..January 2010...found one of the interviews....

"Canisteo cloth artist makes award winning dolls"

by Justin Head..Staff Writer

Canisteo---The sky is the limit with a needle in her hand and some extra materials.

Deborah Robinson, 56 of Adrian Road in Canisteo has been making cloth dolls for about 40 years and she has the collection to prove it.

If you stopped into her house you'd see it lined with crafting materials, odds and ends and dolls she has constructed representing different cultures, eras and fairy tale type figures.

"In the last four years I have made 52 or 54 dolls...I sell them, I donated some of them to the cancer society, and featured them in a lot of shows, but most of them end up coming home." said Robinson.

Robinson just had a doll receive a blue ribbon and was the recipient of the best story category award at the Rocky Mountain Sew Expo/Denver Doll Artisans Art Nouveau challenge in Denver, Colo. Her award winning doll, Mary Jane, was the talk of the show and one of her most prized creations.

"I've got probably 125 hours into this doll...I had to research the 1890's era for months and figure out what fabric I could and could not use," said Robinson. The doll is named after her great great great grandmother Mary Jane Campbell Davis.

Mary Jane has three petticoats, bloomers and a beaded corset, all under her suit. Every piece of material is hand crafted using antique or vintage materials for authenticity. She has a detailed outfit, down to her leather boots, gloves, umbrella and decorated hat. Her face is needle sculpted and hand painted. "I really don't have any formal training. My grandmother taught me to sew, she was quite the crafter," said Robinson.

"As a self-taught artist I often find it difficult to find recognition for my cloth sculptures as do other artists who create figurative in a medium other than clay or porcelain. Public thinking as to what constitutes an art object is a hurdle we battle daily. If we say we create dolls then the first thing that comes to mind is a play thing, a toy and not true works of an artist. As a sculpture of clay is created by the talent of the artist to convey a message the same applies to cloth sculptures. " A cloth sculpture artist takes the flat blank "canvas" of fabric and with needle and thread transforms it into a being with shape and personality." said Robinson.

Robinson currently has dolls on display at the Canisteo-Greenwood Elementary School, but has had her works showcased at the Hornell Public Library, the Teddy Bear and Doll Expo in Washington, D.C., the Ontario County Arts Council ATA Gallery and at doll shows in Ottawa, Canada and Columbus, Ohio- and these are just to name a few.

"My dolls have been up all over the country and bought by people all over the world," said Robinson.

She said a former trustee of Alfred University purchased one of her dolls to display at her home in New York City.

Whether it's a dozen hours or 175, Robinson puts every detail she can into her work. Her dolls tote guns, like "N. Y. Santa" another one holds McDonald's fries, she even has a Geisha doll with bound feet and traditional Japanese garb.

Even though Robinson admits her family members think her hobby is " a waste of time" she doesn't let that bother her.

"When one of my dolls wins a show, I take that as a pat on the back and shove it in their face," said Robinson.

Robinson said the closest cloth doll maker that she knows of lives in Belmont and has sometimes considered teaching classes. For now, she shares her hobby with online hobbyists.

Her most expensive dolls cost $300, but a smaller model with less detail can go for $25. To view Robinson's dolls go to