Anne-Marie Burns of
Le Petit Boutique &
By Lisa A.
Burns grew up in Glasgow, Scotland but now lives just outside Toronto,
Canada. "My ancestry is Irish but one of my great grandfathers was from
Malta. Mostly though, her family is Celtic. Anne-Marie states, "We have
many family members though who live in various areas of the United
States and in Australia. I have traveled through all of the northern
States and throughout Florida, which I really love. I still have my
Scottish brogue accent when I speak and live as though I’d never left
college in Canada majoring in property management, development and
construction. In fact, she was the first girl in her Province to study
mechanical drafting and to choose machine shop as a credit over home
economics. She worked as an office administrator and manager for land
and building developments. "For the past 7 years, I have designed
couture for dolls. Anne-Marie states, "When I think back to those years
working 9 to 5 in offices, I really wonder how I managed the routine.
Being independent, I exact a lot more discipline on myself. Although the
work is painstaking and requires a high level of concentration, no two
days are ever alike."
She started collecting
years ago at the same time she took up motorbike racing. Eight years
ago, she went online and met up with other doll collectors. As she
recalls, "Once Gene®
came along, she changed everything and my passion was for larger fashion
dolls." The motorbike, on the other hand, satisfies a wild streak in
her that can't be tamed!
has about 150 or more dolls in her collection. While her main interest
is Tyler® and
friends by Robert Tonner, she also has a large Gene collection, Madame
Alexander Cissettes®, Tonner's
American Models, and, in the past year she has collected
6 of the Jan McClean French Floozies®,
with no end in sight to that line! Because she works with dolls,
Anne-Marie states that her collection is rarely played with. Instead,
her dolls must be content to a life of posing.
In 1997, Anne-Marie
showed some online collectors a couple of cocktail dresses that she made
for Gene. "I was bombarded with e-mails to create more of the dresses."
She recalls, "One thing led to another and I am still sewing for dolls!
Although now, I've expanded from Gene size to many other fashion
dolls. The novelty of it all really never wears off and I find myself
sounding like a little girl again whenever I have to describe what I do
to those who don't collect dolls!'
On occasion, Anne-Marie has collaborated with repaint artist Laurie
Leigh of Beautiful Faces. "Laurie’s customized dolls are uncanny in
their beauty and likeness of humans." she states, "The collaboration
process usually starts with an e-mail from Laurie asking if I want
to do “Nicole Kidman as Satine" (from Moulin Rouge) for instance.
Then, we will study photos of the costumes, hair, accessories and
try to set a deadline a few weeks off.
Once Laurie has
finished her doll, she sends me photos through e-mail and I send her
photos of the costume. I then ship the costume to her so she can dress
the doll and take final photographs and then the doll goes to auction.
Normally, I would be responsible for the costume, shoes, accessories and
jewelry. But, Marcia Friend (Facets by Marcia) has also created some
gorgeous custom pieces for us. Both of these artists are so gifted at
their specialties that there is really very little actual communication
between us once we all get started on our individual items. When we
finally see the finished creation, I suppose we do indulge in a bit of
back clapping! It's such a thrill to see a completed project"
||Until last year,
Anne-Marie basically sewed every day for about 5 years without a day
off. "Since then, I have been mainly concentrating on a few one of
a kind outfits every couple of weeks." she states, "I’ve drastically
cut back on my work load due to damaged hands from Carpal Tunnel
I’m an avid rose grower and all
around gardener and I wanted to have more spare time for myself as
well. This also allows me more time to spend with my two little
Pekingese dogs, Teddy and Lulu, plus we also have a little
Alaskan/Pomeranian mix dog called Wee Neil. I also have an interest
in orchids and cross-stitching, both of which are fairly time
consuming hobbies in themselves."
sewing techniques through my teen years but despised sewing clothing for
humans! She finds dolls to be more enjoyable. Although, she notes,
"Dolls are quite a challenge to sew for as you want the clothing to look
like human clothing but you have to consider the scale of the prints and
the thickness of fabric. It takes practice to create really great
fitting clothing for dolls that are also finished to perfection and
appear credible in proportions."
Anne-Marie gets her
inspiration from fashion magazines, fashion programs, fashion books and
from movies. "I love sifting through patterns both new and vintage for
human sizes then scaling them down to doll proportions. I’ve always
loved very tailored and form fitting clothing with clean lines. Elsa
Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel have had the biggest impressions on me and
I have been influenced by these designers."
often sets out searching for a particular fabric for a project, only to
be distracted many times over with other fabrics that are too hard to
resist. "I know what the finished outfit will look like as soon as I
'meet' the fabric." she laughs! She shops in downtown Toronto and buys
a large variety of fabrics during each visit to be used for future
projects. "I don't hesitate when I see a fabric that looks and feels
wonderful." she notes, "It will always be put to good use."
From brainchild to
sketch, through cutting and construction, outfits take her anywhere from
2 days to one week to complete. "If the garment entails beadwork," she
notes, "then the outfit could easily span into a couple of weeks.
Normally though, a sheath dress with accessories such as gloves,
handbag, hat and jewelry, would take about 4 twelve hour days to make.
I tend to put the emphasis on fit rather than embellishments. If the
dress curves with the doll’s figure, this is more important to me than
tons of beadwork or frills. This entails many fittings and adjustments."
Trent® was first introduced to
the doll market, Anne-Marie sold some Zoot suits for he because "he had
that great 'continental' gangster sort of look! Now, I'm looking
forward to sewing for Matt O'Neill® as well.
Men are always useful props!"
planning out new outfits: sketching a concept, finding the right fabric
and then seeing it finished. However, she, along with the rest of the
world, hates sewing snaps!
For several years,
Anne-Marie traveled to the U.S. for various doll events, including the
Big Band event in Chicago, Gene conventions and the Tonner convention.
"Lately, I have been trying to cut back on the amount of time I sew and
spend on dolls." she notes, "So now I have to be content with seeing
photos online and the friendly faces I’ve come to know over the years.
I've really met alot of very nice people through dolls and one very
lasting friendship in particular with Hazel McMahon in Scotland."
her future plans, Anne-Marie responds, "Plan 'A' is that I am hopefully
retired to a villa in Portugal. Plan 'B', which is a bit more
realistic, is that I will still be pottering around my garden with my
little dogs and still enjoying dolls."
Anne-Marie notes, "The
past seven years, working with dolls have been wonderful. I’ve met
fabulous people, dear friends, traveled to lovely places and I can look
back with many fond memories. Even if that was the least that I got out
of my doll collecting hobby, I would be a very lucky person. But I also
managed to go it alone as an independent designer and although it is a
strict discipline to put oneself under, it is very satisfying.
Overcoming challenges along the way has enriched the experience."