Mary Sowatzka

It was almost ten years ago now that I entered my first doll competition. I have entered many since then, but the first one changed me forever.

The competition was part of a small doll and ceramic show that the local ceramic association put on every year. I had been making dolls for less than a year, so I wasn’t planning on entering the competition. I never dreamed my dolls would be good enough to even bother entering. But, my fellow doll makers convinced me to enter so I would get some objective feedback on my painting.

So, that is the attitude I went into the competition with. I didn’t even expect a ribbon, I was just looking forward to seeing the score sheets so I could improve on my skills.

I entered a composition set of Dionne quintuplets. They were sitting in a bed, dressed in their individual colors. Oh, the hours I spent trying to make them all look alike. The eyes were the worst, it was almost impossible to get 10 eyes to look the same. Well, as the competition deadline neared, what I had just had to be good enough.

Because I was an employee of one of the shops sponsoring the show, I helped set up the booths and tables for the competition. The other dolls were so sophisticated with their lacy costumes and beautiful wigs. My dolls were in simple pastel dresses with airbrushed hair. I just kept reminding myself that I just wanted the feedback on my painting, nothing more.

The judges worked into the night looking over every doll. Thankfully, I did not have to be there to help. I went home and waited anxiously for the next morning when I could find out how badly I did.

I arrived at the show early the next morning. As I entered the door, I could see my boss grinning from ear to ear. She looked so excited she was about to jump out of her skin. She didn't even make it over to me before she started saying “You won! You won! You won!”

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw not only the blue ribbon by my dolls but a rosette and the best of show trophy! It was from that moment on that I knew I’d be a doll maker.