Thursday, June 21, 2012

Thelma Bates - Preserving Our Doll Making History

Thelma Bates doll maker extraordinaire, photo courtesy of The Gist of Freedom BlogTalk Radio show (2010)

I have not had an opportunity to add a Thelma Bates doll to my collection.  The probability is slim.  After seeing her one-of-a-kind President Obama, purchased by doll-friend, Yvonne Peters, I contacted Ms. Bates in 2010 about the possibility of making a "little girl" doll of about 10 to 12 inches for me.  She explained that most of her dolls are larger dolls that represent adults, but she had made some smaller ones in the past.  Most of her dolls are inspired by pictures of family members and other people with whom she has come in contact.  She said she would try to make one for me.   At that time, Ms. Bates was experiencing the onset of vision problems, which according to my friend, Yvonne, who received a letter from her recently, have worsened.  It is doubtful that Ms. Bates is still making dolls.  I tried telephoning her prior to publishing this blog, but the call was unanswered.

In order to preserve our doll making history as I know it, I am taking the liberty now to showcase some of Ms. Bates' doll art here in image form found on the Internet and from my personal doll ephemera.  More such artists' work will be shared in the future.

One of a kind, "Zoot Suit" by Thelma Bates, stands 17 inches, made of cernit.  "Zoot Suit" was nominated for the 2004 Dolls Awards of Excellence in the OOAK category of dolls under $1000.  Image scanned from the front of a postcard; the back of which contains Ms. Bates' contact information.

At the 18th International Black Doll Show in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I met Ms. Bates at the table she shared as a vendor with another doll artist (whose name escapes me now).  After we briefly chatted, she gave me the above postcard of her "Zoot Suit" man. 

One-of-a-kind, "President Obama" made of cernit, by Thelma Bates, stands among other President Obama memorabilia, photograph courtesy of Yvonne Peters

I received the image of Yvonne Peters' President Obama by Bates in a letter Peters wrote me in 2010.  Along with the photograph, Yvonne wrote:  "I ordered this O'Bama from a school teacher, doll artist in Maryland, Christmas 2009." 

Ms. Bates' online bio, which dates back to 2002.

The following two photographs of dolls made by Thelma Bates were found on Photobucket, uploaded by the Gist of Freedom Talk Radio.

Elderly woman by Thelma Bates, made of cernit.

Regal gentleman by Thelma Bates

Ms. Bates used cernit in her dollmaking, which is a type of clay.  The sculpted dolls are backed in a special oven.

September 2010 The Gist of Freedom TalkRadio Interview with Ms. Bates on doll making -- the interview is over 30 minutes long.  There is about a 2-minute musical pause near the beginning before the interview resumes.


Update 02/23/2018:  I woke up this morning thinking about Ms. Bates and decided to conduct an online search for her dolls in hopes of finding one for sale.  What I found instead, sadly, was her obituary.  Ms. Bates passed away on December 8, 2017.


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