Touch of Elegance, A Glimpse of Heaven!
by Lisa A.
Born in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Patricia, a military brat, had moved 25
times by the age four! When her father, a WWII POW, finally left the military,
he moved his family to south Florida, where Patricia grew up until age 18. Her
parents haven't ever moved again.
Feeling like she was "born to teach," Patricia earned a Bachelor of Arts in
English/French with a math minor from Stetson University, followed by a M. A. in
English and a Doctor of Arts, both from the University of Arkansas. Patricia didn't stop there! She also earned a Certifcat d'études
from Université de Neuchatel,
Switzerland. Armed with multiple degrees, Patricia taught English at various
universities and helped initiate a graduate program in Gifted/Talented education
at Midwestern State University.
So, how did an English professor end up repainting dolls? For over 10 years,
Patricia, husband David, and their kids had been comfortably living in north
Texas. Then, in 1998, they moved to Houston for the 3rd time. Two
years later, David's early retirement took the family to Colorado.
Despite Patricia's many moves in childhood and as a corporate wife, this move
"Moving twice in two years was rather hard." Patricia explained, "I went
through a real grieving in 1998 at leaving the town we'd lived in for over 10
years and many special friends. Although the first move, to Houston, was a good
one for my husband's career and for my daughter's senior year, I sort of died. My
old friends in Houston where we relocated had moved on with their lives, and so
had I. We never found a church, never really found a circle of close friends,
and David hated the commute and working downtown. So when that last corporate
reorganization came up in 2000, and early retirement packages were available, he
was keen to go and get us out of the heat. He wanted to go to the mountains. My
initial plans were to get our new home in Colorado
Springs settled and go back to teaching college. But I was apprehensive about
how bad winter would be and whether or not I wanted to drive in to work
everyday, so I waited."
"Along the wait, I found something that really tempted me. Sewing has been my
main creative outlet for years. I had been sewing since I was 5. It's in my
genes (sorry about the pun!). My maternal grandmother, mother, and all the women
of my family have always sewed. We like complexity. I made most of my wardrobe
from 5th grade on. I love smocking, embroidery, and making christening gowns.
One day I saw a Vogue® pattern I loved and bought it; it was for one of those
nifty little tailored suits like my mother wore in the 40's, but it was for a
doll! I had never heard of the doll, but she reminded me of those movie stars
who mesmerized me as a child." The doll was Gene®! In December 2000, Patricia
discovered eBay and bought her first Gene (nude Shooting Star) with the
intention of making custom clothes and selling them, just for something fun to
Then, Patricia discovered repaints! "I had never painted anything but walls
before Gene. My mother paints in oils, my sister in watercolors. I was the
family academic. When I found Gene, I finally found something I wanted to paint.
I had to learn everything from scratch, because I had avoided art all my life. I
read voraciously and hunted for materials-- didn't find anything about painting
on vinyl. So, I experimented and, by trial and error, made some progress."
The encouragement of some key people has made all
the difference in Patricia's tenacity in the repaint business-- Juan Albuerne,
Adrian Wright, Debbie Rodrigo, and Lee Nathenson. She cherishes her customers
like friends-- which many of them become!
The same month that Patricia started doing repaints,
March 2001, she started selling them! She had simply accumulated too many
and had to get rid of some!
Patricia only works on fashion dolls, preferring Gene, Madra®, Alex®, Kitty®,
Tyler®, Sydney®, and Mei Li®. The makeover process usually takes a couple of
days. As Patricia describes, "First the doll loses her face-- all the paint
comes off; her "skin" is clean and ready after a soda wash. Hair is next; the
harshest part of the repaint is the boil perm. I often do spiral perms which
take an hour or two to roll. When the hair is dry and styled, then the doll and
I look at each other for awhile.
This sounds funny, because she has no face! I
begin to sketch in her features-- brows, eyes, nostrils, and mouth. I want her
to look at me with some interesting expression on her face. I hate vacant-eyed
dolls! I outline the features in a dark brown and fill in the eye whites next,
many layers of whites. First the brows frame the face, then the lips get
their color. Finger/toe nails are given the same color as lips. Highlighting and
breast accents are next. The eyes are last for me. They take perhaps 4 times as
long as the
time of all the other painting. I love detailed eyes and experiment with colors.
Coats of matte and gloss varnish are used and let dry-- many coats. After the
lashes go on, sealer precedes the last bit of eyeliner. Then, more varnish
As far as costume making, Patricia declared, "Fabric talks to me; most of it
says 'take me home.' I love the visual and tactile pleasure of beautiful fabric.
One thing I have always had is an excellent eye for color—I remember color well
and often match something from home in a fabric shop without having it in front
of me. I go into the good fabric shop and buy some of everything I love-- yes,
this gets expensive! The pieces all sort of stew around in my mind-- suddenly,
one day I know exactly what I want to make from something I bought 5 years ago,
a year ago, a month ago, a week ago, yesterday. Hopefully, I can find the fabric
when I am finally inspired—or I spend days looking for it!"
Patricia works out of her home, describing it as "the best possible place to
work right now! I like to work alot and steadily but don't want to be
overwhelmed. It is important to me to get things out on time. I want to sell
steadily and build a larger clientele but not lose quality and personal
contact." During the June 2002 Colorado wildfires, which came close to her
home, Patricia posted on Vicky's board that she had no time to paint. Instead,
she was making lists of things to remove from the house if they were evacuated,
as well as preparing for company. The wildfires continued to threaten not
far away. Her guests came anyway. Right after her friends left and the wildfires
were just starting to be contained, Patricia listed 4 new repaints on eBay.
Supposedly distracted by fires and company, and claiming she had no time to
paint, Patricia still managed to come out with some of her best work yet, and
the dolls reached some of her highest prices ever! A few weeks later,
having completed more repaints, Patricia debuted her website,
www.eleganttouchrepaints.com! Her talented son, a programmer, designed the
site and showed his own elegant style.
In January 2002, I started making daily visits to both eBay and to Vicki's
Fashion Doll Bulletin Board,
http://www.xynadra.com/bbs/dolls/ and discovered many repaint artists. Some
were clearly new and in need of more experience, some were ok, some were
downright outstanding. This is how I found Patricia. Her repaints caught my
eye immediately. I loved their simple elegance. I watched Patricia's work for
a couple of months and saw improvement where I didn't even think improvement was
possible! By April 2002, I contacted Patricia, asking her if I could interview
her. Typical of what I would later learn was Patricia's completely honest and
refreshing humility, she answered. "Dear Lisa, Are you sure? Me? Wow! Thank you
so much. I am really sort of a newbie and don't have any idea how I got such an
honor, but thank you indeed!"
Through our months of correspondence, I found out that Patricia is an
reader, a gourmet cook, enjoys logic puzzles and loves to travel. Patricia
greatly impressed me with both her humble attitude and her strong desire to keep
improving her work. During this time, she started using new techniques on her
dolls' eyes and other features. I noticed immediately. Her dolls went from
being wonderfully elegant repaints to astonishing beauties that began to take on
a life-like quality that actually brought tears to my eyes. When I look at
Patricia's dolls, I get a glimpse into what the beauty of Heaven must be like.
In just over a year, Patricia has gone from being a completely inexperienced,
unknown repainter to a Master of her craft. She's not the only Master out
there, but she can certainly hold her own with the very best of them!