The exquisite intricacy of porcelain doll making is now on display at the Dodge County Center for the Arts in an exhibit honoring late teacher and artist Robin Peters.
Peters died on December 14 at the age of 70 from complications of Parkinson’s disease. Her teaching career spanned three decades, most of which was spent with elementary and middle school students in the Beaver Dam Unified School District.
In her spare time, Peters had a passion for doll making, a hobby she learned from her mother growing up in Milwaukee. She embellished her dolls with clothes that she sewed or embroidered.
DCCA Gallery coordinator Kayla Ramirez said Peters was an award-winning doll maker and a large percentage of the more than 65 dolls she made are included in the exhibit.
“She made everything herself, the dolls are porcelain that she cast and then painted,” she said. “The exhibit is a great memento of his work and it’s nice to see the whole collection together.”
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The manufacture of porcelain dolls begins with the use of a mold that will contain liquid porcelain or “barbotine”. Each mold has an interior shape of the doll’s head, arms, legs or hands. The central part of the doll is either porcelain for small dolls or fabric for large dolls.
Peters owned over 100 separate molds depicting dolls from different countries.
A doll would normally take five to seven molds to complete. Liquid slip is poured into each mold and worked to give the piece a smooth finish. Each piece was then placed in a kiln where it would withstand temperatures in excess of 2,000 degrees for hours at a time. Once the part had cooled, it was ready to be assembled. The ultimate goal was to have a perfectly smooth finish.
The porcelain head receives the most extensive work, which included painting, adding color to the face, inserting the eyes, and attaching the hair.
The exhibit also includes doll pieces that were works in progress.
Artist Judy Beyer, a neighbor of Peters, said DCCA was working with Peters to display her dolls when she fell ill.
“She showed me all of her dolls and I was amazed at how many there were. I wish she had the opportunity to see other people appreciate her art,” Beyer said.
Ramirez said the Dodge County Center for the Arts is grateful for the Peters Kiln donation he received from her husband, Ken Peters.
“We hope others will learn to craft with her,” she said.
The free exhibit featuring Robin Peters’ handmade porcelain dolls will run through May 14 at the DCCA, 130 W. Maple Ave., Beaver Dam, during regular business hours. For more information, visit dodgecountyarts.org.
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