My name is Viola Williams…

 Most of my life I hated my name… I wanted a “frilly, flowery” name like “Juanita”.  I compensated for that disappointment  when I was about 10 years old by naming one of my dolls “Clarabelle Annabelle”.  You can’t get much more flowery than that!  Today my dolls are named with the aid of a baby book and by snatching the pretty names of my friends.

 Some things have changed in recent years. I now love my own name.  There is a reason for my change of heart, and the reason is that it occurred to me that the flower “viola” (being a miniature violet) related to me (since I am also, a "Viola"),and that I,  like the flower, could claim a kinship to "miniature".  Hence, the flower, viola, has become my logo.

 I began making miniatures long before I made the connection between my name and that of the little flower.  My miniature creations began even before I expected to be making dolls.  My beginning was a little dollhouse for my children.  That was followed by several more dollhouses, and several pieces of mini furniture, even making copies of my personal furniture.  One day it dawned on me that my houses looked lonely, there were no people.

 Because I was not involved in any miniature groups, nor had I heard of Miniature Shops or shows, I was not aware of the many products that are available to craft people.  In spite of that, one day I was given a small piece of a friend’s polymer clay and I used it to sculpture my first doll. That  was the day my whole life changed.

 No more dollhouses, no more tiny furniture, no more pictures or other accessories. I gave up all my other hobbies as well… no more oil paintings, no quilting, or leather work.   My enthusiasm from that day on was directed exclusively to creating little people.

 It must be clear to all who read this that without any books, or workshops, I made many mistakes in the early creation of my  1:12 scale dolls.  I began, as seemed proper to me at the time, by sewing the clothing.  I have since seen beautifully sewn doll costumes, but I thought my own pieces looked too bulky. I wanted to produce the tight-fitting tiny waistlines that were so admired during Victorian days.  I did NOT want visible stitches across the sheer fabrics that I was using, nor did I want the clothing to fit loosely.   “Perhaps",  I thought, “I ought to glue the seams so there would be no added bulk and I could obtain a tight fitting bodice.”  .

At this point I am ashamed to admit that (not knowing any other alternative) I used Elmer’s white glue.  Again, I was not satisfied with the results.  True, the hems, and seams did not show stitches, but they were stiff and that stiffness was as disappointing as the appearance of my earlier attempts.

 There is nothing quite as effective as “failure” to make one push forward with ever higher standards.

 I can no longer remember how I found out about Aileen’s glue. I continue to thank that unknown person for helping me solve my problem, but I was not yet free of challenges.

 I wanted to convert my polymer clay dolls to porcelain.  Had I known about workshops, or even mini magazines, I would have walked the next several steps with fewer stumbles, but I did not know about those services.  I did however discover a ceramic shop that gave classes on how to make big dolls.  And I began asking questions.  Of course I could not expect them to provide free answers to something for which they expected payment, but I asked anyway, and got a few (very few) answers.

 Trial and error, coupled with bits of information here and there, helped me find a way to make porcelain dolls.  Some time later, I discovered a miniature shop.  After locating the shop, I soon also learned about miniature magazines and miniature shows.

 My first shows were successful in spite of the amateur appearance of my dolls, and in spite of the fact that I had not yet found appropriate shows for my product.  I had chosen “antique toys” as one venue and a big doll show as another.  Before long I subscribed to a miniature magazine and found it to be filled with useful information, including more appropriate places to offer my dolls for sale.

 By now I was a hopeless doll-lover and was constantly disappointed at the meager number of dolls featured in  the publications. Years later a partner and I decided to publish our own magazine, which we called "Dolls in Miniature".  The magazine was devoted entirely to dollhouse dolls and doll related items.   It was later sold, and then it was discontinued.  I do still have a few (new) back issues available.

 It seems that no matter how many twists and turns my life has taken, I have never been able to overcome my addiction to doll making. I began finding new ways to add realism to my dolls and the addition of “real” eyelashes to the ladies enhanced their appearance considerably.

  Oddly, I am not a collector, nor was I ever a collector, even at the very beginning of my miniature mania.  My passion was in the 'making', rather than in 'collecting'.

 For that reason, when people ask “don’t you have trouble parting with your dolls?” I can honestly say that it's not too difficult  to do so (although I keep some of them hidden for a month or so before I put them up for sale).  That’s enough time for me to say my farewells and focus on new ideas for new dolls.

 I realize  I must face the fact that I am growing older, travel to shows is more difficult, And I am running out of names for new dolls since I try to never name two dolls alike, nor to make any two dolls exactly alike..  When my dolls come out of the mold I re-sculpture each face, even if only slightly, to add some variance to their expressions.  I am also careful to never use the same fabric in exactly the same way for more than one doll.  I believe that my customers like to know that no one else will have a doll exactly like the one they bought from me.

 I’ve noticed too that some of my molds need replacing as they have aged along with me.  The cost of making a master mold and from that, several individual molds, is very expensive. I decided to purchase arm and leg molds from other artists and use them with my dolls.  I continue to use my sculptures for their heads and torsos, as well as using my arms and legs for some of them.  

 My daughters show no interest in making or collecting miniatures, so I do wonder if my molds, dolls,  and fabrics and trims will find themselves sitting in a garage sale when I die.  I have had to accept the possibility that that could very likely happen since interest in miniatures was limited only to myself.

 Until my granddaughter was born!  As she grew older I realized there was another miniature dollmaker in the making.  I am hoping that in time, I can pass the flower (viola) on to her and that she will love that creative endeavor as much as I have.

 In the meantime, for those of you who love dolls as I do, I invite you to visit my porcelain people.  In my search for doll's names, perhaps your name is among those listed.  If so, I would like to say “thank you” for loaning  it to me so I could provide my little person with the dignity of a name.        

    Post script: I recently began going through the boxes that housed some of the mini items that I picked up through the years.. and now have to admit that I AM a collector after all!      I've been so very surprised at the amount   of minis that somehow found their way into my house.  I guess, though,that I am not a true collector after all, since I generally do not display them... I guess I've bought them mainly to "have" them.            

    Email:  dollsmini@aol.com

 ................With thanks to my daughter, Laura, who set up the web site for me, and to Lady Robin (see her link as "Crown Jewel Miniatures"), who guided me through it with her excellent advice.