PAT THOMPSON (American b. 1927) - This artist produced dolls the likes of which, by many accounts, are without equal. Doing my research on this amazing woman has brought me to admire her greatly. I saw this precious doll, so child-like, with her rosy cheeks and lovely smile, and simply had to find out more about her. I have excerpted some very interesting facts from several newspaper articles about her, referencing her pivot to doll-making in 1980, and the devastation of a fire destroying her beloved FACTORY, Vlasta. I wish there were space to reprint all of the excellent articles that were available, in particular those by Donna Chavez and Bonnie Miller Rubin, Tribune Staff Writer. The following is excerpted, quoted EXACTLY:
``Of all the people in the world who make dolls, there is no one of Pat`s caliber,`` said John Young, owner of the Glen Ellyn specialty shop American Doll Guild and a 20-year veteran in the doll business. He describes Thompson`s designs as ``incredible. She`s unique among thousands (of dollmakers). The way her costumes work fabrics with each other puts her ahead of everyone else. Her costumes display her greatest talents.``
Indeed, it might be said that one of the roads that brought Thompson to this profession was paved with fabrics. Well, textiles actually.
As a professional free-lance interior designer for more than 20 years before ``my retirement,`` Thompson confessed to a lifelong passion for textiles, especially antique lace and exotic, rare fabric.
Thanks, in part, to the aunts who raised Chicago-born Thompson in Minnesota after her mother died in childbirth, she grew up with an
appreciation for the antique costumes in their attics. In the later years of her interior design career Thompson began focusing on the design of fabric decorator accessories.
``I`d spent 45 years collecting fabrics in all varieties, both antique dresses and by the yard,`` Thompson said.
Fortunate to have traveled both in the United States and abroad, she had amassed a vast fabrics collection. Much of what she gathered was truly priceless because it was irreplaceable-she had paid as much as $1,000 for 5 to 6 yards of fine lace)-and Thompson estimated if it were available today it might cost as much as $450 per square inch. Other fabrics in her collection had cost her more than $500 per yard.
It was from this collection that Thompson selected laces to create, among other items, what she referred to as ``the forerunner to those Victorian lace pillows`` that have since become a decorating staple.
Her next tentative step toward dollmaking, in 1980, was the design of all-cloth dolls dressed in these same Victorian laces. Since they were so well-received and since contemporary handmade dolls were gaining popularity, Thompson determined next to create fine porcelain dolls dressed in exquisite outfits. These were no ordinary dolls, and Thompson was no ordinary doll manufacturer. Vlasta dolls-some of which commanded prices
of $25,000 and up-are regarded as objects of rare art by upscale boutiques and private collectors, including actress Demi Moore and TV producer Aaron Spelling. Her customers are drawn to the dolls' delicate features, meticulous workmanship and opulent costumes, many created with textiles that date back to the 19th Century
In 1995, a bolt of lightning hit the Beecher studio, destroying the building and its contents. The effects will be felt far beyond this rural hamlet, some 40 miles south of Chicago..
Mark Broin, a Minneapolis collector, said the presence of Thompson's signature, discreetly scrawled on a porcelain leg, meant the owner possessed something precious.
"Even kings and queens of the old empires didn't have dolls that were of the quality and craftsmanship that Pat was able to create," said Broin, who, along with his wife, has acquired 30 dolls over the last decade. "If not the finest, she is certainly one of the finest dollmakers in history."
India Thybulle of "Dolls: The Collector Magazine" compared the loss to a fine art museum going up in smoke.
"It's a traumatic loss . . . not just to Pat Thompson, who has spent so much of her life at this, but to people who collect," Thybulle said from her New York office. "These people invest their hearts and energies into collecting . . . and it's going to put a damper on the entire doll world."
Now about Etta: #17/75/250 . Porcelain head, feet and hands. She has brown colored glass eyes, auburn wig, and cloth body. Marked on head and body. Height 26". Overall Very Good Vintage Condition.. Some staining on the outfit as pictured.
FLASH: Pat Thompson listed as one of Five Past and Present Doll Artists to Know and Love by Ellen Tsagaris on Ruby Lane Blog!
VLASTA Pat Thompson - Doll Artist Extraordinaire - "Etta At Her Desk" - c. 1986 Very Large and Very Special!