Used by permission
Not Playing Around
[October 9, 1989] Betty Bailey says her doll
manufacturing company, Betty Bailey Originals, is "very small."
It is, in fact, just Betty Bailey making dolls in the basement
of her Hatfield, Montgomery County, home.
Bailey's latest product - a 15 inch porcelain charmer known
as "Katy... Proud to Be Irish" - is one of five finalists
for Doll of the Year in a national doll design competition
sponsored by Doll Reader magazine. This is a competition entered
by the biggest doll companies in America - Mattell (of Barbie
fame), Hasbro and World Doll to name just a few.
is a finalist in the "direct purchase division" of the contest
- meaning dolls that are displayed in print advertisements
and ordered through the mail. The other finalists include
two dolls created for Franklin Heirloom Dolls, a subsidiary
of the Franklin Mint, near Media. The Franklin dolls are "The
Victoria and Albert Bride" and "Vivian Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara."
Two dolls created for the Georgetown Collection, a subsidiary
of Arcadia Trading of Portland, Maine, also are finalists.
Franklin Heirloom Doll, "The Gibson Bride," won the direct
purchase prize last year, and that fact is announced in all
short, this is heady company to keep - as Bailey is well aware.
"When I heard [Katy, Proud to Be Irish] was a finalist," she
said "it took me two weeks to stop smiling."
business is just six years old. "I started out as a doll collector,"
she said. "And then, when my two boys were grown - my youngest
is now a senior in college - I decided to turn my interest
in dolls and in art into a business. I first draw the doll,
then make plaster molds of the head and other parts, then
cast all the pieces in fine porcelain." Bailey handpaints
the doll's face and designs and sews the clothing herself.
who is jointed at the neck, shoulders and hips, is dressed
to go off to school. She wears a sweater and box-pleated skirt,
topped by a coat and knit cap. She carries a pocketbook. Unseen
are panties and a lace-trimmed slip.
know that some people have collected all my dolls," said Bailey.
There are 14 so far. Bailey produces only a limited number
of each doll. In the past, she has sold 25 or fewer of each,
but she plans to produce 250 of Katy. She markets her work
by advertising in doll collector magazines and making appearances
at doll fairs.
most of the dolls sold in America (475 million were produced
last year, according to the Toy Manufacturers Association)
are baby dolls, fashion dolls and plush animals sold to little
kids, dolls designed for collectors are an important segment
of the market. Collectors are willing to pay more for what
they buy, and thus it is not unusual for a doll artist operating
on a small scale to target them.
of course, it has happened in the past that a doll-artist
operating alone is "discovered" by one of the mass-market
companies. The best known example of that is Xavier Roberts,
a Georgia gift-shop proprietor, who hand-stitched and personally
sold stuffed dolls known as Cabbage Patch Kids. Coleco mass-marketed
Roberts' designs and made him a millionaire.
far, Betty Bailey Originals hasn't "taken off," according
to Bailey, "but it's doing fine."
of the dolls Bailey has designed are; like Katy, figures of
children. "They are just kids I see or kids I know." Bailey
said she was inspired to draw Katy by a picture she saw in
a magazine. Not all the dolls are Irish. In fact, they cut
across ethnic and racial lines.
finalists for the Doll of the Year awards are selected by
a group known as the International Doll Academy from hundreds
of dolls entered by doll manufacturers. Members of the IDA
include retailers, museum curators, artists and historians
with a special interest in dolls.
public gets to choose the final winners. In 1988, according
to Charles Gill, spokesman for Doll Reader magazine, 82,600
consumers cast ballots at retail ballot centers, doll shows
and the like. This year, that number is expected to grow because
Disney World in Florida has mounted an exhibit of the finalists
and has invited visitors to vote. The winners, in each of
10 categories (popularly priced baby doll, premium priced
baby doll, collectible vinyl doll and such), will be announced
By Rose DeWolf
Daily News Staff Writer
© 1989, Philadelphia
Used by permission