It's never easy to lose a dear friend and
the loss of Barbara Steiker to me is especially painful.
When I was a novice doll collector (I hadn't
sculpted my first doll) I met Barbara at New York City's
National Toy and Doll Collectors club. In a sea of intimidating
expert collectors, one friendly person welcomed me-Barbara.
She was a force in the club, having been President numerous
times and she was extremely knowledgeable about all kinds
of dolls. She immediately made me feel welcome and our
Barbara was the first person I showed my
orginal dolls to-and I knew she would be honest in her
critique. She liked my dolls and encouraged me to become
involved in the organization that would change my life,
NIADA. She had a love for artist dolls like no one else
I've met-she loved the artist just as much. We would spend
hours talking about the work of her favorites.
All of us who knew Barbara experienced her
passion for NIADA. She took the organization very seriously
and her role of Patron Chairman was a highlight of her
collecting life. She truly lived and breathed NIADA; and
along with the UFDC convention, the NIADA convention was
something she looked forward to all year long.
As supportive as she could be, she could
also be NIADA's strongest critic. If at any time, she felt
that the organization was taking a wrong turn, she would
be vocal about her disapproval,-just like a mother trying
to guide her child.
I'll never forget our trips to doll shows,
the anticipation of the NIADA convention, her interest
in doll art and the doll artists and her absolute and complete
loyalty to her friends. She was so proud of her family-anyone
who knew her knew about her children and grandchildren
(how she loved to talk about Tara and Lisa).
The doll world has lost one of its greatest
champions and I've lost a dear friend. Barbara will be
Mirren Barrie was a creator of fine fabric
dolls. She was elected as a NIADA artist member in 1970
and, as the first International artist, was an active member
for thirty- five years. She served as President of NIADA
from 1986-1988 and as it’s Treasurer for 25 years
and Historian for a long period. She passed away in her
sleep in Waterbury Center, Vermont on June 20, 2004.
Mirren was born in the ancient royal burgh
of Ruthenglen, Scotland. From an early age she studied
art, fashion and fine embroidery needlework. Many years
of research at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow, Scotland
enabled her to create authentic Scottish women in occupational
costumes for the Scottish Craft Center.
Given the opportunity to submit a doll for
a British Craft Exhibition at Olympia in London she chose
to create “Rob Roy MacGregor”, a Scottish Robin
Hood of the 18th Century. She wove Rob Roy’s tartan
to scale and her husband Tod crafted his sword and shield
in sterling silver. She was quite pleased when her Rob
Roy was chosen to be one 200 items displayed out of some
twenty thousand submitted, and was the only doll to make
his bow before royalty.
Eve in the
Rose Garden, 1998
Mirren continued to create ethnic and royal
dolls based on meticulous research. They are constructed
on a felt-covered metal armature which is pliable enough
to be naturally positioned and free standing. The torsos
and heads on the 12” dolls are formed with a series
of methods using cotton, muslin and glue. The laminated
materials are formed over a low fire clay sculpture. The
doll is then painted with acrylic paint, given a fine hair
arrangement and dressed to perfection.
She and her two daughters reluctantly left
Scotland and came to America when her husband was transferred
to Detroit, Michigan.
In 1973, the Barrie’s retired
to a cottage overlooking a wooded Vermont valley where
they busily began creating dolls. In 1987
NIADA’s 25th Anniversay Banquet souvenir doll. She
was a delightful 12 inch Fashion Doll from the 1830’s
named Diana and there were 200 produced, all hand sewn
and dressed in NIADA’s colors of red and black. A
wonderful certificate for the doll can be found in a small
pocket under the skirt.
During the 1990’s Mirren spent her
time perfecting her art in 3
dimensional paper and created
many needle art embroidery pieces for
Needlecraft exhibitions. I first met Mirren in 1970 at
the NIADA conference in Detroit, Michigan and found her
to be fascinating to listen to with her light-hearted Scottish
brogue. Her sharing of her knowledge of history, fashion
and fabrics was the highlight of many conferences for me.
She had a dynamic personality and I will miss her.
An admiring friend,
Diana Lence Crosby, NIADA artist 1968
Mirren’s early dolls and dioramas
have been displayed at the Children’s Museum in
Detroit, Michigan and recent work from 1993 in the Museum
of the Embroiderer’s Guild of America, Louisville,
“Betty “ Paulson
In Memory –
“ Paulson, creator of Wee-Did-Its®, past president
of NIADA, and member for over 20 years, died on April 6,
2004, in Las Vegas, Nevada
“A Weedidit® is an original
scene inspired by a true to life experience. I use no
patterns. All figures and animals are individually hand
made, as well as all accessories, including miniatures,
furniture, and landscapes. My basic art training was
received at Iowa State University and the Minneapolis
Art Institute. Over the years I have experimented in
many media. In 1965 I began creating, in felt, little
elves, angels and elfin children and placing them in
happy settings. Because my childhood nickname was ‘Wee’
they became known as Weedidits®.”
Betty “Wee” Paulson
Wee, an internationally honored doll artist
was born and raised in Boone, Iowa. She and her husband,
Quentin Paulson, moved to Madison, Wisconsin, in 1956 to
raise their three children, Heidi, Lisa, and John. She
moved to Las Vegas in 1979. Her children knew her as an
exceptional, well-loved mother and grandmother.
first saw Wee and her work when I drove to a Plainfield,
Wisconsin, doll show and sale, where she was selling her
felt creations of children, depicting scenes of childhood.
I was impressed, but too shy to talk with her about her
work, except to say I loved them. I remember that I didn’t
buy anything that day, but I have kept a picture of my
introduction to her lively felt children in my mind to
When later I was introduced to Wee, I felt
an instant connection, and I have always considered her
to be one of my dearest friends. She created many Weedidits ® for
me that I will always treasure. One is of me, as a little
four year old girl, carrying my Jane Withers doll, a bouquet
of bleeding hearts, with our collie dog, Pal, mischievously
standing beside me. I can almost hear him panting! When
she created that funny little girl that I was, with long
curls, homemade clothes, wearing dirty high-top shoes and
striped gray knee socks, I think she saw exactly that hopeful,
trusting look that a little girl often has. Wee could truly
capture the essence of childhood. Another creation of Wee’s
was for my daughter, Michelle, when she graduated from
high school, which included her as a 6 year-old playing
with two younger brothers. Wearing matching plaid shirts
and pulling a red wagon, the scene is a wonderful depiction
of child’s play. My daughter still has that work
in her home.
was exceptional in her depictions of children, but she
was also especially adept at creating the animals and other
creatures that accompanied many of her scenes. She told
me that because her husband was a veterinarian, she was
aware of the bone structure of an animal, and was always
determined to get it just right
Wee Paulson was known to be a devoted mother,
a talented artist, and a great friend to many. While she
was diminutive in size, she was large of heart, with great
determination to live in the present moment. There was
nothing like her hearty laugh to always spark a cheerful
note. She was able to take charge, to make her presence
felt in many ways. As president of NIADA, she helped the
organization incorporate in Wisconsin. Her thoughts and
concerns were always for the artist, the doll artist.
I think that the way she saw her work was
that her heart led her hands, to re-create in her Weedidits® the
joy of childhood, the celebration of innocence to be born
in her many, many works of doll art. There were times when
she was asked to create an adult figure, which she did.
but it was not what she preferred to do. When Wee moved
to Las Vegas, her work reflected the children she saw there.
At the end of Wee’s life, she was
unafraid. She expressed great happiness at having had a
wonderful life, “grateful for every minute of it.” Her
unrelenting philosophy, through good times, rewarding times,
and through many struggles and loss, was: “Don’t
worry, be happy, let go and let God.”
By good friend of Wee Paulsen, Gloria
Past member of NIADA, having served as Newsletter Chairman
and Secretary In the 1970’s.
He was, he will always be an original -
a delight on both sides of the ocean. Born in England,
John acquired a love of things antique, but most especially
toys, paper creations, and anything with an air of fantasy.
He pursued this love with talent and dedication, and it
led to a long-term appointment as Curator of Dolls and
Toys at The Museum of the City of New York. Here he could
meet with doll artists and other creators of magic, and
here he created a magic of his own. Another facet of John's
character was a deep religiosity and together with his
lifelong partner he conducted a ministry in the city.
visit to his office in the museum was an honor and a treat.
There were always new objects to be admired. And there
was John's inextinguishable enthusiasm for the works of
other artists and creators of fantasy such as unique and
imaginative doll houses. Unforgettable was the large central
exhibit he mounted in the museum in conjunction with the
United Federation of Doll Clubs annual convention in New
York City in 1979, with many rare and wonderful French
bisque dolls strolling and playing in an extensive park
scene complete with ponds and bridges. Equally unforgettable
was the delightful manner in which he verbally danced through
a slide program at that same convention after his slides
had been upset and haphazardly replaced by the projectionist.
No one ever had such flair!
John continued to work with other museums and exhibits
after his retirement and the move to California, and here
he did much of his writing for all the major publications
in our field. His love for antique dolls was equaled by
his love and appreciation for the work of the top doll
creators of our time. He also found time to put all his
artistic talents to work in creating treasured paper dolls
for publication. He was a man of wide talents and tastes,
and also possessed a wonderful and wicked sense of humor.
All of these aspects endeared him to his many readers and
friends throughout the world. We have lost a very special
person in our special world.
The Artist membership of NIADA was
pleased to posthumously elect Carolyn Cook an Academic
Member of NIADA at the 2003 Annual Meeting in New Orleans.
Carolyn was formerly managing editor of Doll Reader Magazine
both for Hobby House Press and later for Cowles Publications.
She was especially instrumental in the concept and editorial
work involved with Hobby House Press's publication Doll
Artistry in the early 1990s. She has also authored numerous
articles and published a journal for antique doll collectors.
As a NIADA patron for many years she attended many conferences
and worked diligently to further her own knowledge of
original doll art and to share her knowledge of the art
of the doll in all publications she was associated with.
Carolyn passed away on April
29, 2003. We will miss her.