Doll makers dote over porcelain creations Exacting craft can be addictive GLEN BURNIE

November 25, 1992|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer

She's a doll. But not just a doll. Not the kind a child drags by the hair up the staircase or takes into a bubble bath.

She's a handmade porcelain doll, with skin so clear it glows. Rough play will shatter her. Water will turn her fine features to paste. She is a showpiece, and, says the woman who made her, a show-stopper when on display at area malls, where people readily drop a dollar for a chance to win "Sugar Britches."

It won't be easy for Linda Goladay to let her go. Mrs. Goladay acknowledges that when she displays her creation at malls, she scrutinizes the raffle buyers.

"I take a really good look at the people and think, now what kind of a home are you going to give her," she said.

The winner will be announced at the Dec. 2 Glen Burnie High School Band Parents Association meeting. Mrs. Goladay's son Daniel is a 10th-grader who plays saxophone in the Glen Burnie High School Band.

The doll is one of two that Mrs. Goladay made and donated this year for fund-raisers for local groups.

The North Arundel Hospital Auxiliary will draw the winning $1 raffle ticket for "Joey" on Dec. 4 during its holiday bazaar. Meanwhile, the toddler doll wearing a blue outfit and sucking in his lower lip is in the hospital gift shop -- not far from Mrs. Goladay, who works as the secretary to the hospital president.

It will be especially hard for Mrs. Goladay to see Sugar Britches go. She didn't use a picture to get the idea for the white eyelet lace christening gown the blue-eyed doll wears.

"The dress I had both of my children christened in has been handed down and is a white dress with eyelet," the 44-year-old mother recalls.

New handmade porcelain dolls sell for $125 and up, depending on size and costume. The materials for Sugar Britches cost Mrs. Goladay about $80, making doll-crafting a pricey hobby.

But in a county rich in crafters, Mrs. Goladay is joined on Mondanights by a dozen women who gather in the workshop at the back of Marge Kroneberger's house to make porcelain dolls.

Mrs. Kroneberger refers to the gatherings, which she has three nights a week, as "hen parties" for the chitchat around the brightly lighted tables. With an air-cleaning machine whirring in the background -- porcelain polishing creates incredible dust -- women talk as they buff doll limbs and faces.

On the walls around them are body parts: One shelf holds a lineup of unpolished doll heads, another holds boxes of doll eyes, lashes and paint powder.

Mrs. Kroneberger, supervisor of housekeeping at North Arundel Hospital, starts the process by pouring liquid bisque into doll molds, making heads, arms and legs. But the casts leave seams in the rough "greenware."

It takes a few hours of scraping with a scalpel and then rubbing with several sponges, brushes and their own fingers for the crafters to get a porcelain limb silky smooth. A doll takes months to make.

"I tell you, it has to feel like a baby's rear end," Mrs. Kroneberger, 62, says.

And it is exacting work: hold the limb too tightly and you'll create a stress fracture, buff too much and there's nothing but dust, rub too little and the doll will be rough to the touch, and so on. Only after the parts feel right can they be "blushed" with a rose-tint and have features and nails painted. Painted parts go in the kiln.

Sharon Wimer, 48, of Millersville has spent several exasperating hours painting on and wiping off eyebrows for a reproduction antique doll she is making.

"I know I had to have taken them off 25 times. You've got to get them just so," says the Bank of Baltimore worker. Once the doll is fired, the paint is permanent.

But she, like the others, says she does this to unwind as much as to create a masterpiece.

"It's relaxing," says Mrs. Goladay, her hands covered with white porcelain powder.

Mrs. Kroneberger has maintained the shop in her house for about seven years. Crafters pay for their supplies, and about three dozen women have dolls-in-progress at any given time. The painstaking work can be addictive.

"I've had girls come and say, 'I'm going to make one doll for my mother.' That was three years ago," Mrs. Kroneberger says.

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