Dolls by the dozen
NEW ROCKFORD – Near the small town of New Rockford, there is a large collection of dolls dating from 1868 to 2013 that have essentially taken over the house belonging to Judy Cudworth and her husband Glenn. Judy Cudworth doesn’t mind, however, and her husband has adjusted to the dolls’ presence.
Cudworth began making porcelain dolls in 1996. She took lessons in how to make dolls from her sister and caught the “doll fever,” enjoying the craft of making dolls ever since. She makes dolls from start to finish, pouring porcelain slip into large molds, sanding fragile greenware, firing it to bisque at 2,400 degrees in the kiln and firing parts again after being painted.
At least 200 of the dolls in the collection have been made by Cudworth. Included in the collection are about 20 composition dolls, Cudworth said, and those are from the 1930s, with the oldest one from 1924. She also inherited a large part of a collection from the pastor of her church, she added.
Most of the composition dolls are about 26 inches, Cudworth said, while most of the porcelain dolls are 28 inches. She has made 2-inch tall porcelain dolls before, Cudworth noted, but most are 22 and 28 inches since she enjoys making the large dolls the best.
The length of time it takes to create a porcelain doll varies. It takes a week “if I keep right at it,” Cudworth said, “but some take a few months.”
Cudworth and her husband live in a three-story farmhouse and also have a trailer home on their property. Half of the dolls are in the house while the other half are in the trailer home. In the trailer home, Cudworth said she has a country school scene set up with a teacher, eight students, a pump, a kerosene stove, table and benches and each student doll has a “Dick and Jane” book. There are also dolls playing a piano and an accordion, she added. Additionally, there is a nursery filled with dolls, cradles, buggies and highchairs.
Most of the dolls’ clothing has been made by Cudworth or bought in stores. A woman from Heaton sewed replicas of the Cudworths’ daughters wedding dresses for dolls as well as dresses for several Scarlett O’Hara dolls, Cudworth said. Cudworth has also made several 28-inch Princess Diana and Red Hat Society dolls.
The favorite doll made by Cudworth has been the character of Becky Thatcher from “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” by Mark Twain. She has also made several dolls of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.
“I’ve made at least 10 of Tom,” Cudworth said.
When making dolls, there isn’t any part of the process that Cudworth doesn’t like.
“I love every part of it from start to finish,” she said. “It’s all play, not work. I just enjoy it all and it’s a lot of fun.”
Cudworth has displayed some of her dolls at the Lutheran Home of the Good Shepherd in New Rockford as well as an assisted living facility in Carrington. However, Cudworth is looking to sell her dolls and the doll molds due to medical reasons.
“I’m overwhelmed with this many dolls,” she added. All of the dolls will be sold for $100 and less, Cudworth said, because she wants to downsize her collection. She has enough doll kits already fired to last through her lifetime, she added.