More than a dozen doll and doll house makers are to appear at this weekend's Arlington County Fair, craftsmen whose work is filled with tiny details. "I can spend a whole day doing nothing but painting eyelashes," said Judy Breeden of "Dolls by Judi."
A maker of porcelain dolls for collectors for the last seven years, Breeden spends about 50 to 60 hours on each order, more on fashion dolls. "I spent five months just doing one dress," she said.
Making doll clothes is tougher for Lee Campbell of Falls Church, who with her youngest daughter Bonnie makes "portrait dolls," copying pictures of youngsters. "We did one for a woman whose daughter was a child in the 1940s," she said. "It was fun trying to find the old-time fabric and do it up in just the right style."
Bonnie Campbell began her doll-making career as a senior at George Marshall High School, creating her first portrait doll in an art class in 1979. "Her art teacher asked her to make another and entered it in a ceramics show," her mother said, "and it eventually went on display in New York City."
Encouraged, the mother and daughter teamed up as "Bonnie Lee Portrait Doll Makers," reproducing photographs in porcelain.
Breeden, like the younger Campbell, starts a doll by sculpting a mold and pouring porcelain. Once dry (but not fired), the doll is sanded clean. "It's tough, hard, dirty work, and I hate it," Breeden said.
Then she "china" paints on the faces, firing each five or six times until the paint is set. A cloth body is strung together with elasticized cord ("so it's poseable and movable," Breeden explained) and attached to the head. The clothing then begins.
"I reproduce dolls of the 1700s and 1800s, so I have to do a lot of research," Breeden said. "It was hard when I first started; they didn't have all these doll-making classes they do now. I had to teach myself."
Most of the dolls sell for $150 to $200, although Breeden said she has some "very special fashion dolls that go as high as $400." At the fair, the Campbells will sell, for considerably less, small dolls and puppets. Customers tend to be male collectors, Breeden said. "You'd be surprised how many men are interested in dolls."
Less complex dolls, from Raggedy Anns and Andys by Oakton resident Deana Bowers to clothespin dolls and crocheted creations, will abound at the fair. Out of 200 booths inside and 50 outside, roughly one-third will be arts and crafts oriented, a fair spokesman said.
Donald Kerr and Jerry Avvenire make one-inch puzzles and pictures and miniature spinning wheels. Describing themselves as "very much the beginners," the pair started less than a year ago to fill orders for a friend's shop, making miniature blanket chests, red wagons and one-inch-high drums patterned after those used by Fort Myer guards.
All of these could fit into Harvey Loveless' doll houses, found in the booth marked "A Little Something." But Kerr is trying to fill a doll house he bought for his 12-year-old daughter.
Breeden said using a daughter for an excuse to play with dolls is a good ploy for her customers, but it doesn't work for her; her 12-year-old "is more interested in Levis." Breeden, however, has "always loved dolls. They're just like miniature people. I talk to them all the time. But I always say the day they answer back, I'm going to quit."
Dolls and other crafts, food, games, rides, competitive exhibits and entertainment will be at the Arlington County Fair from 2 to 9 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, at the Thomas Jefferson Community Center, 3501 Second St. South, Arlington. Admission is free. For more information, call 558-2475.