Doll makers don't allow motherhood to end easily

September 11, 1992|By Craig Timberg | Craig Timberg,Contributing Writer

Motherhood, it seems, dies hard.

Three times a week, The Clay Menagerie in Pasadena becomes stomping grounds for women, most of whom have retired from the full-time rigors of raising children, dedicating countless hours to a new task: learning the exquisite art of crafting fancy porcelain baby dolls.

"It's like giving birth," says Dee Goshell, whose child is still young enough to live at home.

"They don't talk," corrects Faye Rothenberg.

"They don't cry. They don't need to be fed," adds Becky Beauchamp, a teacher for the class.

Of course, some non-mothers attend the two-hour classes as well. One 80-year-old Frederick County man recently gave up the classes because his wife complained she had no more room for all his projects, says Dianne Undutch, owner of the shop.

But the motherhood connection is unmistakable.

"When my children were all grown and married," says Mrs. Beauchamp, "I decided I needed something to do. So these are my children cluttering up my house."

Creating these delicate dolls is easier than live birth, but perhaps only slightly. A new pupil's first 'baby' requires around three or four months of attention.

Once hooked, the hours and expense can grow.

Betty Goossen, a retired nurse with five grandchildren, averages 25 hours a week.

Across the table, Jeanne Rezac, another grandmother, is working on five dolls. She has already made 40 in her 3 1/2 years of classes.

"I guess I was a frustrated child. I wanted a Shirley Temple doll," she says. "That was the first doll I made, and it snowballed from there."

Like many of the students here, most of Mrs. Rezac's creations end up as gifts. Friends and relatives even place requests.

Mrs. Rezac prefers active dolls. Her favorite is a replica of a German antique called "Mein Liebling," who silently bows a tiny violin.

Once skilled at the intricate cutting, painting and gluing, the dolls take only a few weeks to complete, but there are exceptions.

Mrs. Goshell tells of one doll whose eyelashes took nine hours to paint. "Then my cat took them off with its tail," she says. After several more hours on a fresh paint job, a careless nephew ruined the lashes again.

She gave up on that doll for a year before trying again. When she finally finished, her teacher gave her a new head and told her to start over.

But all the students rave about the classes and the professional-quality dolls they bring home.

Lessons are $5 a week, but the first ten weeks cost a flat rate of $275. That price includes tools, paints, molds -- everything needed to complete two dolls except their clothing.

"Cheaper to make them then it is to buy them," Mrs. Rothenberg says.

And no doctor bills.

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