Cloth Doll

Filed Under (Stories) by maripipi on 10-03-2010

Hello, my name is Eusebia Gaviola Leto, “Ebay” or “Sebs” for short. I don’t know if you can call me a doll artist. I have been making dolls since 1989. I am a nurse, and I injured my back while lifting heavy patients in a medical surgical floor, so I move to the Pediatric Department of United Hospital in Port Chester, New York.  One night, as I was making my rounds, one of my young patients was crying. She was looking for her dolly. I told her I will make her one only if she kept quiet and go to sleep. When everything was quiet, I attempted to make the doll. It was then that I realized that I had never make a doll before.

What separates us from an animal is we have a brain that can dictate to us what to do next in case of adversities. All I did was think, and imagine the little girl disappointed that I did not make the doll.

She will lose trust in me and I would lose my integrity. But if I make her one she will be happy and the memory will stay with her forever no matter how ugly my creation will be. I worked hard on the doll, hardly get any sleep; but when I arrived at the nurse station, and saw the girl waiting for me with a smile, I forgot the hills and dales I passed through making that doll. As I gave her my package, she hugged and thanked me for her doll, and disappeared into her room.  The smile of the child as she saw her doll, and as she hugged her doll sleeping in bed during my rounds, inspired me to make more dolls. Soon after, my quilting was pushed aside.

In an effort to improve my work, I kept making dolls of all sorts and varieties.  I accumulated a lot of dolls. One of my coworker placed a doll below the television. The morning shift liked them, and asked me if I had any more dolls to display.  My dolls decorated the pediatric department and it gave exposure to my hidden talent. Soon our nurse station was decorated with my dolls. There were elves, superheroes, witches hanging up on the ceiling. Pocahontas was in the highest shelf.   The pilgrims and Halloween dolls were on the counter.  Doctors, coworkers, patients, visitors, nurses and other hospital staff came to see my dolls on display. Some ordered four, nine dolls to keep so they can have a doll in reserve for when there is an occasion or go out to a child party. “Why so many?” I asked.  “You cannot find this type of doll any more. They are extinct,.” said one of the doctors who bought nine dolls. I know what she meant. It takes over four hours to make one doll and you cannot find them in the stores.

The Egyptians started making cloth dolls 5,000 years ago for their children. Because it is time consuming and no two are alike it is pushed aside in favor of plastic and vinyl dolls which can be mass produced. But nothing can be compared to handmade cloth doll when it comes to child comfort in playing because of its soft body that a child can easily hug.  You cannot simply hug a plastic or vinyl doll when you are in an emotional state. Handmade cloth dolls do not last forever. It is not supposed to be. It is intended for as long as the owner is still a child.

Soon my doll making became known in the hospital.  Everyone wanted to buy my doll. Even my decorative displays were bought. I learned sewing from my mother very early in life. I just love to sew. By the time I was thirteen I was sewing my clothes.  Soon people in my community, started to ask me to sew their clothes according to their own design. I was having fun designing and sewing clothes as I found new ideas how to make it better. Then I had to stop sewing to pursue a career in nursing.

I don’t have proper training in doll making. I’ve never attended a class or read books when I made my first doll. It was necessity that gave me the courage to make the doll. There were mistakes in my first attempt, but I corrected them and in doing so I keep making the dolls. The more dolls I made, the more I discovered new ideas to improve my work. The most intricate work I did was to design the shoes.  The twists and turns were challenging, and in the end, I got it right. Because of that, a child will never lost a shoe again while playing with her doll.  My design and sewing experience became useful in my doll making. In 1996 I retired from nursing. I made plans to travel, and the first place I wanted to visit was the island where I was born and raised in the Philippines, called Maripipi Island.

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