Honey Loves Bea

Honey Loves Bea
One of the original Buttonface dolls

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Cheap Motel Neon

EYE CANDY: Outside my kitchen window last week, the sky was Egyptian faience blue behind a pack of ridiculous poodle clouds hurrying by. My neighbor's tin roof, jewelry-quality silver after a brief shower, sported a single gem--a lime green chameleon puffing out his bright red throat sac.

Today I set up shop at my first doll show in more than a decade. It was a fascinating experience, but successful only because my faithful friends showed up to offer support in countless ways. I am grateful to all of them for continuing to encourage me in this new adventure.

It's impossible to be in a great space filled with dolls and doll lovers without thinking about why dolls are so important to us. A recent New York Times article talked about how we are fascinated with anything that looks like us, and the author of that article would have had a field day where I was. Innate narcissism, I guess. But it's more than that, I think, given the hyper-realistic baby dolls that so many girls and women were cooing over and cradling in their arms. I couldn't help thinking of my niece and a good friend, each of whom is expecting her first child. One's in her twenties and the other's in her forties, and that's completely irrelevant.

Mother Nature is gorgeous, but she's not terribly subtle. That chameleon with his cheap motel neon neck is just a reminder that every spring, we're all getting the same text message from the universe: "make more, make more, make more." For some of us, the response is new babies. For others, it's dolls.

Stay tuned here for what's new at my house.

Friday, April 4, 2008


I didn't always color outside the lines. As a kid, I was a careful artist. Meticulous. Persnickity, even. Those were the old days when color names were just colors, not pop culture icons. If you were looking for something exotic, and you had the big box of crayons, you'd go for burnt umber or raw sienna or periwinkle. We had serious colors, and they meant something.

While I got all kinds of art-type encouragement from my family, I think it was my Granny May who really started me down the "color outside the lines" path. She'd started painting late in her life, and she flung her lifetime of "can'ts, shouldn'ts, and don'ts" at those hapless canvasses. She never progressed beyond "primitive," but she told me something I'll never forget: it takes a lot of skill even to make a bad painting.

We used to watch the John Nagy art show on the little black-and-white TV in her apartment, and one Christmas she bought me his special art kit. I was undone. I now owned an official sketchpad, charcoal, an instructional book, a paper stump for blending the charcoal on the paper, a sandpaper board for sharpening the pencils, and--the most incredible thing of all--a kneaded eraser. I'd venture to say that I was probably the only person in our little town of Crosbyton, Texas, all 2000 of us, who had both a blending stump and a kneaded eraser in the 1950s.

I like to think that our shared art gave Granny and me a bit of distance from the small town mindset. Eventually I moved on, with Granny's backing, to making oil paintings, too, and, like hers, mine weren't ever destined to hang in the Louvre. In retrospect, though, I think the most important things I learned from her were that it's never too late to start something you're passionate about and that it's okay, in fact it's necessary, to color outside the lines if you ever want to do anything new.

I have a birthday every year at the beginning of January, but this year's was important. The big Six-O, kick-off for a decade. I celebrated with my family and friends, had way too many treats, went to Vegas to see the Cirque de Soleil, and will make my first trip to Italy in June with my daughter, Kate. But, to me, the most amazing thing about this year is what, at the dawning of this late-ish period in my life, I find myself having the opportunity to do. Already in these few months of 2008, I've launched a new enterprise as a doll maker. My husband Juan Miranda and my daughter and friends are indulging me, as always, in my current obsession. My good friends Donna and Kirk, owners of Bazzirk, and their designer Kyle are building me a totally cool website that will launch within a few days. And I, confirmed luddite, am blogging!

I refuse to be anything but optimistic in the face of such reckless encouragement. And if my Granny May were with us today, she'd recognize herself here, sailing into uncharted waters at sixty, harvesting the fruit of all those seeds she planted in me half a century ago and every single day joyfully, blissfully, with abandon, coloring outside the lines.