Dollmaking with Seams Like Tracy

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Tracy Perry is a self-taught artist with 30+ years of experience in sewing and art to create unique dolls using fabric or clay. She’s been creating and selling dolls since 2008. Tracy was the owner and operator of ImaginePerryDolls and TerranDollmaker.  Tracy endeavors to make dolls that show the many colors and uniqueness. She strongly believes that everyone should have access to a doll that looks like them or inspires them. Her dolls have appeared in an issue of Art Dolls Quarterly.  And she has a sincere fan base that includes Virginia-based doll clubs, and collectors from around the United States.

Host: Lisa Woolfork is an associate professor of African American Literature and Culture. Her teaching and research explore Black women writers, the fiction of Black identity, trauma theory, and American slavery. She is the convener and founder of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black Lives Matter. She is also the host/producer of Stitch Please, a weekly audio podcast that centers on Black women, girls, and femmes in sewing. In the summer of 2017, she became a founding member of Black Lives Matter Charlottesville. Actually, she is active in a variety of university and community initiatives, including the College Fellows Program to reshape the undergraduate general education curriculum.

Insights from this episode:

  • How Tracy got started in doll making
  • Insights into the different types of dolls
  • Differences between soft sculpture and cloth dolls
  • Tracy’s button-jointed doll experience and the lessons she learned
  • Tracy’s favorite tools in doll making
  • Tracy’s process in doll making and choosing the personality, shape, outfit, and character

Quotes from the show:

  • “Plushies can be a novelty, they can represent lots of different things: they can be abstract, they can be representational” -Lisa Woolfork in “Stitch Please”
  • “Don’t overcommit if you are a solopreneur” -Tracy Perry in “Stitch Please”
  • “You love dolls, you love doll making, and that love was very much tested and it stood its test but you also got to learn lessons about boundaries, about protecting the peace of your creative life” -Lisa Woolfork in “Stitch Please”
  • “My number one tool is my hemostat” -Tracy Perry in “Stitch Please”
  • “If you have something that is working for you, don’t change” -Lisa Woolfork in “Stitch Please”
  • “One of the things I love about your dolls is how they look like you” -Lisa Woolfork in “Stitch Please”
  • “I just try to do what I like, I was just bending myself backward trynna say ‘people don’t like this, people don’t like that,’ then I would find out that people did like it” -Tracy Perry in “Stitch Please”
  • “I think too often when women, especially Black women, wanna do something that’s self-directive, self-determined, self-reflective, it’s seen as selfish, which is absolutely false” -Lisa Woolfork in “Stitch Please”
  • “The work that comes from your hands should reflect the deepest essence of who you are, as well as from the inside and outside” -Lisa Woolfork in “Stitch Please”

Stay Connected:

Lisa Woolfork

Instagram: Lisa Woolfork

Twitter: Lisa Woolfork

Tracy Perry

Website: Seams Like Tracy

Instagram: TR Perry

YouTube: Seams Like Tracy

Read Full Transcript

[00:00:00] LIsa Woolfork: Hello, stitchers. Welcome to stitch, please. The official podcast of black women's stitch, the sewing group, where black lives matter. I'm your host Lisa woo Fort. I'm a fourth generation sewing enthusiast with more than 20 years of sewing experience. I am looking forward to today's conversation. So sit back, relax.
[00:00:32] LIsa Woolfork: And get ready to get your stitch together. Hello everybody. And welcome to the stitch place podcast. I am your host, Lisa. Wooord coming into you from Charlottesville, Virginia, and I am grateful to welcome Tracy Perry, who is a doll maker and dolls are incredibly popular and powerful cultural artifacts.
[00:00:57] LIsa Woolfork: They are. They are [00:01:00] craft. They are personal. They are all of these things. And just to kind of bring it home in terms of the contextualization. Very recently, the New York historical society just closed an exhibition on black dolls that the exhibition closed in June of this year, 2022. And they had dolls from nearly 100 years of American history.
[00:01:20] LIsa Woolfork: They had dolls from 1850, which included do. From Harriet Jacobs, who was an enslaved woman in North Carolina, who wrote this fantastic slave narrative called incidents in the life of a slave girl. And so they had two of her dolls that she had made for her employers. When she came to New York, they had dolls up through the 1940s.
[00:01:38] LIsa Woolfork: So nearly 100 years of black doll history at this stunning exhibition. And so that is just one example of the powerful roles that dolls play in our. One of the things I was so excited to welcome Tracy to the program for is because her dolls are, uh, amazing. I have been following and [00:02:00] watching her work for quite some time.
[00:02:02] LIsa Woolfork: I'm really excited to hear more about her dolls story, her story of sewing and making dolls. She makes the dolls, she makes the clothes, the dolls wear. She makes the hair that the dolls have on their hair. She paints the makeup that they have on their faces. Like this is. Head to toe top down doll makeup.
[00:02:20] LIsa Woolfork: So welcome to the program. Tracy Perry. Thank you for being with us today.
[00:02:25] Tracy Perry: Thank you, lisa. I don't even know if anybody can see me, but thank you.
[00:02:28] LIsa Woolfork: You're gonna go ahead and put this on our Patreon so people can in see you. And if you're not a Patriot, why are you not? You should to ride because there's a lot of great things happen at the black Kreon, including face to face video chat.
[00:02:41] LIsa Woolfork: With me. So Adrian, and you get to send me video messages and I will reply with the video message.
[00:02:48] Tracy Perry: How fun is that sounds great.
[00:02:50] LIsa Woolfork: too right. Somebody has a good question about so better. And I could be like, oh, try this really honestly, who else is doing that? I can't think of Mary many people, so I wanted to welcome you [00:03:00] again and thank you, Tracy.
[00:03:01] LIsa Woolfork: Tracy, you gotta tell us, how did you get started with doll making? How did you know that doll making was for you? How did you know that? You know what? I could be a quilter. I could be an embroider. I could be a painter. I could be a garment maker. I could be all of those things, but instead I'm gonna be all of them in small scale for D tell me, how do you make your creative choices?
[00:03:23] Tracy Perry: I was actually a seamstress first I was a seamstress for many, many years. I learned how to sew by hand. I think I must have been like 10 years old. Okay. One of my neighbors in the neighborhood, this older lady, she was a friend of the family. I would go and visit her and sit on her porch and she showed me the first time I ever held a needle and threat.
[00:03:43] Tracy Perry: She showed me how to thread a needle and how to sew things. So after that, I just started making little bitty things. I took home economics in high school and I sewed clothes. I used to sew things for my mother. She's like, could you make me this? And I was like, sure. You know, and I, so I always sew. Then I went in the military.
[00:03:59] Tracy Perry: [00:04:00] And I was up in Alaska for, I think about four years in Alaska and I still sewed, I had my swim machine up there with me. I sewed like these bears and I ne I was doing it for decoration cuz my dorm room was so glad, you know, I wanted something interesting. So I did these satin Teddy bears and I put them in my room, on my bed and everybody loved them and they had like little.
[00:04:22] Tracy Perry: Cool notes in their chest. You know, you could press a little part and it would play a little tune. And I was like, oh, this is pretty good. I didn't think anybody would like it. But me after I got outta the military, I went to Florida. I had made this doll just a ragdoll and she was a pretty big, probably about a 20 year 30 inch doll.
[00:04:37] Tracy Perry: Okay. And she had the long hair, it was the first rag doll I ever really made it sold, like right away. And somebody paid like $14 for it. And I was like, wow, I could sell these rags. $14
[00:04:48] LIsa Woolfork: is not enough for your doll, but OK.
[00:04:50] Tracy Perry: Yeah. So I had a friend, fortunately that was working in a bookstore and I was telling her this, and she showed me this book by Susanna or Ryan.
[00:04:57] Tracy Perry: I think it was called art of the. I [00:05:00] had never seen anything like it in my life. I was looking through this book at all these dolls in the bookstore, she was showing me and I was just like fascinated. And then it struck like, oh my God, you can make money making dolls. . I mean, it was just like, these were art dolls.
[00:05:14] Tracy Perry: These were like really high end art dolls, but I had never even considered it. These people make things for museums. So that was my goal. I was like, oh, I'm gonna go and make me some museum pieces. And so I started making dolls. I didn't make cloth dolls right away. I started doing soft sculpt because one of the artists in the book did soft scope.
[00:05:32] Tracy Perry: And I was like, I wanna know how to do that. I practiced and tried. I was terrible at it, but my style was totally different. And people still love those dolls. Yes. But that was dangerous work. I say dangerous. I cut my hand twice with a razor, trying to carve the Tyle or to cut out something. Cuz I would use like these little Exacto razors almost cut through my hand one time trying to do something.
[00:05:57] Tracy Perry: And also I have problems with my fingers, [00:06:00] so that constant hand sewing and pulling threads and oh my hands hurt so bad. So yeah, I stopped doing it. And then I started doing MCLE. First, they were like these little triangle shaped dolls. I did, I sold them at a craft show. And then I started doing the larger dolls, the dolls that I have now, which are like my signature dolls.
[00:06:19] Tracy Perry: I had like two prototypes that I did. And it was just something I was like, oh, I wanna figure out how to make something different. Yeah. Uh, but that was curvy. Can't think of the name of those dolls, but there is a doll similar to mind, but the shape is a little different and there's no hands or feet. So I wanted to make something similar to that, but I wanted to be cur.
[00:06:37] Tracy Perry: So I can make like black dolls or whatever with like some hips or something. Yeah. Yeah. I was like, how do you have a doll with no hips? well,
[00:06:45] LIsa Woolfork: I wanna pause you there because you have shared a whole lifetime. It feels like you experience this before you even get to where you are at this moment. And the idea that you were in the military, you were in military dorm housing, it's rather sterile.
[00:06:59] LIsa Woolfork: [00:07:00] Alaska is a place you've been stationed. You don't have necessarily family there or any kind of connection to the place where you are. And so you need something to do. Well, you got plenty to do I'm sure, but you want your home environment, the dorm space to really feel comforting and war. Now some folks would say, you know what, I'm gonna make a Quil.
[00:07:18] LIsa Woolfork: I'll put a Quil on the bed and that'll be the thing that'll remind me of my creativity and I can snuggle with it, et cetera, et cetera. But you went in a different direction. You said I'm gonna make a three dimensional object that is also allows me to do the same thing. And you are absolutely not gonna skip over the fact that your first bear projects, as you explain them to me here also included an interactive component and music.
[00:07:42] LIsa Woolfork: When I think about my first Teddy bear, which I think I might have made one or so it wasn't great. It did not sing to people kind of thing that nobody wanted to touch and make noise. It was more like, oh my gosh, I have terror. Like, don't pose this to anyone else. You know what I mean? So like the fact that you made this bear that was so [00:08:00] cuddly and you could press the heart and it would say what
[00:08:04] Tracy Perry: Tracy.
[00:08:05] Tracy Perry: How, I don't know, my mind works in this. My husband tells me it doesn't settle down, so I wanted to make the bears. And then as I was making them, I was like, Ooh, wouldn't it be needed? You could press here and play a little music. And that's exactly what I did. I went to the fabric store and looked for like those little music boxes.
[00:08:24] Tracy Perry: And so I bought like three of those little things. I don't even know if they still sell those anymore where you just press them and you can sew them into things. So I just sewed it in and I did a little heart patch and I sewed it behind the thing and yeah. And it was great that it really
[00:08:37] LIsa Woolfork: wonderful. I mean, the idea, you not only beta bear that you could touch and squeeze, but it also had.
[00:08:45] LIsa Woolfork: That is kinda next level. That's like really thinking about this as a whole project is thinking about the textures of the doll, what the doll can do, how the doll can reach out and provide comfort. And so I just thought that was just a really fun way to [00:09:00] begin. Even at the earliest stages before you became someone who is such an advanced and highly skilled doll maker from the very beginning, you were thinking in a totality, you were thinking as a whole, not.
[00:09:12] LIsa Woolfork: This is a project that I am doing for you with something else. It was more than that. So I think that's really incredible. I just think we have to give you some kudos, having that be such a powerful success. Can you talk to us about some of the different types of dolls? You mentioned something about dolls that might have hands and feet, like the idea of something being like, could you explain about what an articulated doll is?
[00:09:35] LIsa Woolfork: Can you explain what that phrase means in terms of doll making and why that's important or D.
[00:09:41] Tracy Perry: Like I said, I started off with the soft sculpture dolls and basically that's just, well, for me, it was styrofoam with some batting and then a lot of hand sewing features and putting in like make glass eyeballs and those dolls, I did make articulate, you could bend their arms.
[00:09:55] Tracy Perry: I would make fingers that actually bent. I would have to do like a wire armature. Basically. I [00:10:00] did like a solid body and I attached the head and then I would do like the wire arms and the wire legs and the wire feet. So you could move the. Like I said, those were a lot of work and honestly, I could never recoup the time that I put into that.
[00:10:14] Tracy Perry: I mean, I would sell dogs for like two 50 or something. The price was good, but honestly, the amount of work that went into it , it was probably a $500 doll. It was just so much work that I was like, I'm never gonna be able to do this and make a lot of money unless I, of course do like the people who put the things in a museum and sell 'em for like $10,000 a piece.
[00:10:33] Tracy Perry: And I didn't think mine were that good. I mean, they were good, but I was like, mm, I wouldn't pay that much. I might pay 2 50, 300. Yeah. So then I started with the regular cloth dolls. I always wanted my dolls to bend at the joints. Even my regular cloth dolls. They will either just bend at their elbow or bend at their knee.
[00:10:51] Tracy Perry: Sometimes I will make just a straight sculpted lag. Like I'll actually sew the fabric where the leg curves so that I don't have to put a joint or [00:11:00] anything there. You'll see like a knee. And I'm actually working on some like that. Now most of my dolls will bend at the elbow. I don't make a lot of joint dolls as far as like button joints and things like that.
[00:11:12] Tracy Perry: Although I do have some patterns, I have made them in the. And I've made a lot of them. I think I told you about them.
[00:11:17] LIsa Woolfork: What I'm understanding now is that I think, I believe that soft sculpture and cloth were the same. I believe that because there was softness in the soft sculpture that it was like a synonym for a cloth.
[00:11:31] LIsa Woolfork: Oh no, it's different. No, that, so soft sculptures, even if it has like wire armature, for example, it's still considered a. Sculpture because it combines, we'll explain soft sculpture, soft
[00:11:44] Tracy Perry: sculpture can be different things that most people who do soft sculpture. Now they do it in felt like felt is considered a soft sculpture because soft sculpture is basically you're taking a soft material like.
[00:11:56] Tracy Perry: Felt, or in my case with the polyfil or the [00:12:00] batting over you're taking that soft material and you're molding it into something. So that's my understanding of what soft sculpture is. A lot of felt artists do it, and they do it with the needles. I wish I could do that. I just know my hands. Aren't gonna do that.
[00:12:12] Tracy Perry: I
[00:12:13] LIsa Woolfork: do like needle felting. I've done needle felting before my teaching partner is a needle felting. And so I have learned to have that really fluffy light roving, and you just stab it a million trillion times and it turns into something hard. So I definitely hear that. Thank you. And so you're saying that some folks just news felt entirely as part of that process.
[00:12:33] LIsa Woolfork: I
[00:12:34] Tracy Perry: don't know what else they use, cuz I'm not real familiar with the technique, but that's my idea of what stuff sculpting is. You're basically taking a softer material like the wool roving, or like I said, the poly still, and you're sculpting it into something, into a figure or into a face. And that's my understanding of what soft sculpture is.
[00:12:50] Tracy Perry: There's so many different types of doll things. I know there's a whole plushy community. where people make plush doll. Which I have not gotten into, [00:13:00] but it's really big. Cuz when I go to craft shows, I see people selling pluses that they created and I was like, Hmm, I hadn't thought to do that. Yeah,
[00:13:07] LIsa Woolfork: I can totally see why.
[00:13:08] LIsa Woolfork: Cause pluses, they can be so novelty. They can like represent lots of different things. They can be abstract, they can be representation. So I can definitely see why that would thrive. I want to talk about your button joint doll experience. Y'all Ms. Perry was invited to be a. At a conference, but this is my understanding.
[00:13:28] LIsa Woolfork: She knows the story. My understanding is she was invited to be a guest at a doll conference, convention meeting or something. And part of that invitation included making 80 dolls. That were joint and they were what's called button joint. And Tracy is gonna explain about that because it felt to me like she was being invited to be hazed.
[00:13:51] LIsa Woolfork: I don't see how you invite someone to do something. And you're like, okay, I need you to bring 80 of anything other than potato chips, like really, but tell us about how [00:14:00] this experience taught you some important lessons. Oh,
[00:14:04] Tracy Perry: Well, I have local dog groups around the area from, I guess, from Richmond up to Fredericksburg.
[00:14:09] Tracy Perry: Then some of them collect my dolls. This one particular dog club was having their annual show and they wanted, well, I will say now I did get paid for the dolls, but they wanted someone to make, what do you call those souvenir dolls? You know, how you put stuff in people's bags, you know, little swag bag. So they were like, yeah, we need you to make these dolls.
[00:14:26] Tracy Perry: And originally. I thought they told me which doll. And so I made like three samples of these little dolls. And when I showed them to the ladies, they were like, that's not the doll we were talking about. yeah. I had these little stick, six inch dolls that you hold at the bottom. And they had a little dress and little hat and they were cute.
[00:14:45] Tracy Perry: And those would've been easy to do. But when I showed them 'em to him, they were like, you don't have anything else. And this is not what we were looking for. We were talking about this other dog that you made, and I was. Oh, so basically they wanted this little six inch doll who has [00:15:00] a little button joint for each arm, little button joint for each leg.
[00:15:03] Tracy Perry: And like I said, six inches. So you can imagine that's how tall the dollar is. Each leg is only about, you know, each arm, two inch
[00:15:10] LIsa Woolfork: torso together. Yes. Really small. Okay. So I
[00:15:14] Tracy Perry: was thinking I had like four months to do it. So I was like, okay, I could do this. I could get this done. I did it. I mean, I got it done, but I had to enlist the help of my daughter.
[00:15:23] Tracy Perry: I had to enlist the help of one of my friends, because I would draw out patterns. I'd get like 20 drawn out. And then of course they gotta be sewn and then cut them out and then they gotta be turned. That was really hard on my hands. So I had my friend, she would help me turn them and cut them out and turn them after I sewed them.
[00:15:40] Tracy Perry: And my daughter would help me stuff them and help cut them out as well. But I ultimately was the one who had to sew all the button joints and things, cuz they didn't know how to do it. They don't sew. So
[00:15:50] LIsa Woolfork: I
[00:15:50] Tracy Perry: was like, I made the deadline, got all the dolls. They were really cute and took them to the event.
[00:15:55] Tracy Perry: And every day everybody got their little, do everybody loved them though? They raved about 'em and they [00:16:00] wanted me to do more, shows other people came to me from other doll clubs who were. Oh, can you make a doll for us? It such. And I was like, Ooh, the couple of lessons I learned from that. Well, first of all, do not over commit if you're a so entrepreneur and
[00:16:12] LIsa Woolfork: that everyone is the wisdom for the episode.
[00:16:15] LIsa Woolfork: That
[00:16:15] Tracy Perry: is it. And let me tell you, I realize I am not a mass production person. I hate it. My idea of mass production is maybe six doll. I can do like six in a series, even right now. I think I've got like 10 doll. That I'm doing, but I've been taking my time doing it because it's something I created, but anything more than that, I don't do mass production.
[00:16:38] Tracy Perry: I don't wanna do mass production. If you wanna reach out to me and say, Hey, we need 50 of these. I know I'm gonna have to hire about four more people to do it. I will hire people that help me out. But I'm not gonna do it as a solo entrepreneur. Again, I didn't like it. And I had to go to this dog meeting because I was an honored guest man.
[00:16:56] Tracy Perry: I had
[00:16:57] LIsa Woolfork: to shake him on as much. They really honored the hell outta [00:17:00] you. Yeah.
[00:17:01] Tracy Perry: I mean, I got a lot of recognition from it and these are some serious do collectors, but it was exhausting. It was absolutely exhausting mentally and physically after I did all that working, I had to go and I had to set up a table too, because they let me have a table to sell my other.
[00:17:15] Tracy Perry: I was just exhausted. I was like mentally exhausted. I was like, I don't wanna do this again.
[00:17:22] LIsa Woolfork: September is national sewing month. And the St please podcast is gonna celebrate that. Like we celebrate every episode by centering black women, girls and fems in sewing for September. However, we are gonna be talking with black women authors who are also so.
[00:17:39] LIsa Woolfork: So tune in for the month of September and you will hear from writers like Bianca Springer, Hakeem, Hapa, Leslie, we Olu bamy Sola, Ruda Perkovich and more so listen out for September and we will help you get your stitch together.[00:18:00]
[00:18:01] LIsa Woolfork: It's so interesting because for other. I could imagine. It's kind of like one of those stories that you hear, those kind of really abusive stories. Like somebody sees their kids smoking a cigarette, so they lock 'em in a closet with a pack of cigarettes and say, you can't come out until you smoke.
[00:18:16] LIsa Woolfork: Everyone
[00:18:17] Tracy Perry: go
[00:18:18] LIsa Woolfork: smoke so bad. Horrible. Horrible. I do not recommend that as a technique. I like what happened to you, right? Like you loved do making, and that love was very much tested and it stood that test, but you also got to learn some lessons about what essentially our boundaries, you know yes. About protecting the piece of your creative life.
[00:18:39] LIsa Woolfork: Hey, I'm happy to make a whole bunch of dolls. I just need to be well resourced for it. So you want me to make a bunch? You gotta pay me a bunch so I can pay people to help me because what's not gonna happen is me standing up until two, three o'clock in the morning. Yeah. Putting buttons on some dolls, hip joint.
[00:18:56] Tracy Perry: Like, yeah. Shall not occur
[00:18:58] LIsa Woolfork: again. That is a lesson [00:19:00] learned. I love that because I think that for myself, I absolutely get very much involved in a project. I lose time because I'm so excited about it, but that's animated by joy. yeah. It's animated by stress then it's horrible. And you just feel like. Wait a minute.
[00:19:15] LIsa Woolfork: Yes, I can do it, but why do I have to, you know, and so you, yes. And the thing is you don't
[00:19:20] Tracy Perry: have to,
[00:19:21] LIsa Woolfork: you don't have to, I'm really curious about some of the tools that you use in doll making to make the dolls work. I think a lot about I'm a big notions fanatic. I love, yeah, I'm terrible. I'm looking right now.
[00:19:36] LIsa Woolfork: Three pressing hams and ham holder and a ham MIT, two mitts, really like I am very much into sewing notions. And so I consider that the dolls y'all have such cool tools between the hemo stats and all the other things that you use. What are some of the things that you found most helpful for notions and making dolls that maybe some of us who don't sew dolls was?
[00:19:59] LIsa Woolfork: So [00:20:00] in general might be curious to know about,
[00:20:01] I'm
[00:20:01] Tracy Perry: gonna tell you my number one tool is my hemostat. I don't know. I never even knew what a hemostat was. And I, I don't even know how I came about it. I needed a pair of pliers that were like really, really thin. So I got the hemostat, I bought it from like Walmart or something.
[00:20:17] Tracy Perry: The first one I got, it was a small, just a regular size. And I bought it in the fishing department. I don't know what I was doing in the fishing department. I think I was my husband. And so. Got this hemostat and I got it home and it was a life changer for me. I could turn like small fingers and everything because you know, hemostats basically, they're like pliers at clamp.
[00:20:36] Tracy Perry: Yeah. Oh my God. I love them. My most favorite tool in the world. I don't know who makes them, they need to put me on some kind of promo.
[00:20:45] LIsa Woolfork: I think that hemostat and what she's describing, she says it's like a pair of PLIs. It's a combination of scissors and PLIs don't you think? So I'm holding a pair right now of hemostats y'all essentially, it has these teeth at this here where the handle is, and this is why you should be a Patreon [00:21:00] subscriber.
[00:21:00] LIsa Woolfork: Cuz you could see this or just Google hemostats for free. I get you. It has these teeth and you clamp it shut. And then when you pull, it'll pull turn, it'll do whatever you need. I have three of them. I had more and I'm sure I gave them. No, that's not true. I've got three, four. That's another parent there, one hug, you can get these medical supplies cuz I think nurses use them and that kind of thing.
[00:21:22] LIsa Woolfork: So the hemostat, right? Oh my gosh. How do you turn with the hemostat? And this is something that I struggle with. I don't know if I'm just too heavy handed, but when I go to clamp, I always feel like, and have
[00:21:33] Tracy Perry: done. I poke a hole. Oh, no,
[00:21:36] LIsa Woolfork: that's right. That's what I always say. Oh no. And it's like, look, not a doll maker.
[00:21:41] LIsa Woolfork: So how do you avoid poking a hole through, does it require like smaller stitches? Well, I guess you're just more patient than I am and that
[00:21:49] Tracy Perry: I fully believe I used smaller stitches on my doll so that I don't have to reinforce. I used to so over everything twice and I was like, oh my God, that takes too long.
[00:21:57] Tracy Perry: So now I just use this two millimeter, like the [00:22:00] tiniest stitch that I can do that will. Yeah, you gotta really wanna rip it apart. Take it apart. Yeah, but with the human stats, I have two sizes. Okay. Well, I have two smaller ones about the same size that you just had. And then I have like the really long curved ones that I used to turn feet and legs, but I don't always initially start off with the human stat.
[00:22:19] Tracy Perry: I use a tube Turner. I will start it off with my fingers. I can use my smaller hemostats and I use like a regular straw. And I put it on the inside and then I use the tip of the hemostat to push the fabric into the straw to get it started. And then once I get it started, I just move to the main part of the hand and do that part as well or the other fingers.
[00:22:41] Tracy Perry: And then after I get it so far up, I go ahead and stick the hemostats in and just pull it out and it makes life so much easier. so it's kind of a combination of tools. I always use a tube. And let me tell you smoothie straw. Work. Excellent. If you're turning like a little small belt or something, smoothie [00:23:00] straws, there's kits.
[00:23:00] Tracy Perry: Like I bought this kid, I paid like $14 for this stupid thing. It's just some plastic tubing I could have went to Lowe's and got it for like, you know, 50 cents so you can find tools. So I use my hemostat with the tubing and I find networks. Excellent. Well,
[00:23:16] LIsa Woolfork: I'm gonna offer to you a suggestion of my absolute favorite tool in all of sew.
[00:23:23] LIsa Woolfork: That is the fast turn to turn set. if you've ever listened to this podcast, but maybe more than five episodes, I'm sure I have said it aloud. I do not work for these fast turn to turn people. They don't tell me from a can of paint, but I bought one back in 1998 and I have been using it UE LA Lee. With my sewing for 25 plus years.
[00:23:44] LIsa Woolfork: Wow. So, awesome. I'm just gonna recommend that to you because as you say, it's not the kind of plastic with the stick and the whatever. First of all, if you have something that's working for, you don't change. you wanna trying something I'm telling you those that fast [00:24:00] turb tune toward set, like it changed my sewing.
[00:24:02] LIsa Woolfork: It revolutionized it. I can turn spaghetti straps the size of actual spa. And it lets you stuff at the same time, you can put it down and then pull, it will pull in the stuffing as the thing is turned. Wow. Yeah. Cause it's about physics. Right? You can lay the, you know, you've done this. I'm sure. Once you start turning the batting or the filler that I use.
[00:24:24] LIsa Woolfork: For like the cord, for example, to make a corded. Oh, it just pulls it right in, right along side. And so you don't have to shov or whatever. It just automatically grabs it. I love it. I love that dog on
[00:24:38] Tracy Perry: thing. I think I do well, you know, I'll be looking for it.
[00:24:42] LIsa Woolfork: It's not cheap, but it is worth its way in platinum.
[00:24:44] LIsa Woolfork: In my opinion. It's such a good thing. I won't use anything else. It is so, so. And we've been talking about like advice and offering advice and you have done such a wonderful job with your dolls. And as I was saying, one of the things I love about your [00:25:00] dolls is how they look
[00:25:02] Tracy Perry: like you. .
[00:25:04] LIsa Woolfork: I really feel whenever I'm just scrolling through my feed.
[00:25:07] LIsa Woolfork: And one of your dolls pops up on your page. I know it's your page. I'm like, this is Tracy doll. This is Tracy. Because I can tell. So can you talk a bit about the creation? You'll have dolls with purple hair. Their makeup is so nice. Like all of these things, all of the wonderful detail that you put into that.
[00:25:26] LIsa Woolfork: Can you talk a little bit about your process for how you decide on what a doll's personality's gonna be, what her shape's gonna be, what his outfit's gonna be like? How does that come to you? Are you creating a series of characters in your mind or is it just like what just happens to speak to you at the.
[00:25:43] Tracy Perry: It speaks to me at the moment. And sometimes with the faces and things, I'll look at television or I'll look in a magazine. I have like some stock faces around here that I've cut out a magazines. And because I love the expression, I will just use that face. Sometimes when I do custom dolls, sometimes people send me pictures and sometimes they [00:26:00] don't.
[00:26:00] Tracy Perry: So I have to kind of get a feel. There're like, oh, she loves. The pain. Oh, she smells all the time. So then I just have to come up with something. It's probably because I am looking at my own face. A lot of times I'm looking at my face, say, okay, where's the light. Okay. My eyebrows, most of my dolls will have like very similar eyebrows because I'm either drawing my eyebrows or I'm drawing something dissimilar to 'em.
[00:26:19] Tracy Perry: They all pretty have my lips. I don't know why I try to change it up. But for some reason they always end up looking like me. Back when I was in high school, I used to paint and I was good at watercolor and I love painting. So painting is like another thing I'm gonna go into because I absolutely miss it.
[00:26:35] Tracy Perry: And the only time I get to do it is when I do the dolls. So I draw their faces on with one of those permanent archival in pens. I'll draw the face on and then I'll just start painting from. Sometimes people tell me what colors they want. Like they want the lips to be really red or they just want, I try to make it neutral.
[00:26:52] Tracy Perry: Cause I know some people don't like a lot of the makeup look on their dolls and some people like that look, but I'm a selfish doll maker. I just try to do what [00:27:00] I like. And I was bending myself backwards trying to say, oh, people don't like this. People don't like that. And then I would find out that yeah, people did like it.
[00:27:07] Tracy Perry: It's just like, I'd make a doll and it'd sit here for two years. I've got dolls in these boxes. Some of them have been sitting here for like a year or so, and then I'll repost them and they'll sell right away. And I'm like, I don't understand.
[00:27:19] LIsa Woolfork: I love this idea when you were saying that and I would not call it selfish in a way that is negative.
[00:27:26] LIsa Woolfork: I think too often when women, especially black women wanna do something that's self-directed self-determined self reflected based seen is, is selfish. That is absolutely false, but it's absolutely false. And in the same way that Tony Morrison wrote books that she wanted to read. And we all benefited from that, that you Ms.
[00:27:48] LIsa Woolfork: Morrison. Yes. Right. So too, does Traci Perry make dolls that kind of look like Traci Perry, but also. Are incredibly powerful. And because they look like Tracy Perry, they [00:28:00] are speaking to an entire community of black women who have never seen themselves in a doll. And I'm, I'm just assuming that most of our cultural institutions that are not created by black people, that the doll community is predominantly white and reflects white.
[00:28:18] LIsa Woolfork: All the time, as a matter of course, and that black dolls are somehow other and special and different and white dolls are normal and regular. So don't call it selfish,
[00:28:29] Tracy Perry: call it corrective. Oh, I gotta tell you on that. You're right. Because the majority of my dolls are brown dolls. That's what I like doing. I like to sprinkle in a few Caucasian dolls.
[00:28:39] Tracy Perry: I do, but that's not my primary focus. I like to offer one or two, because if somebody does love my dolls, I want them to be able to say, Hey, I can purchase one as well. But I like the fact that I make my dolls for brown people. Well, not for brown people, because a lot of people buy the dolls, all different races, but I primarily make brown dolls.[00:29:00]
[00:29:00] Tracy Perry: But the thing I love about it is that the Caucasian dolls are the minority dolls. in my set. Yes. It's like put the switch, you know, it's.
[00:29:09] LIsa Woolfork: And that's how it should be. And that is what Tony Morrison was also saying. She's like in my world, black people are the only people. They are my neighbors, they are my family.
[00:29:18] LIsa Woolfork: They are my children. This idea that somehow it is wrong for black people to start with ourselves when it is not wrong for white people to start with themselves and to look around and see reflected everywhere. That's not seen as wrong or bad or selfish, we call that normal. And when we go to do that for our.
[00:29:36] LIsa Woolfork: It's a problem. Really? You have to ask yourself why on earth. Would anybody think that as a black woman, you are supposed to begin and end with whiteness? That makes no sense. It would be in my mind, unhealthy obscuring, your true vision of who you are. It makes no sense at all. And yet there are folks who often start with white it in with white, and that is all [00:30:00] there is.
[00:30:00] LIsa Woolfork: And they wanna kind of fit themselves in the background. And that's just fine. And you know what? I don't judge lies. I do judge, but it's not for . It's not for me. It's not for me. And that's what I love about it. I mean, of course the work that comes from your hands should reflect the deepest essence of who you are as well as on the inside and the outside.
[00:30:19] LIsa Woolfork: That is just a normal human expression of life. And you are doing that so beautifully in so many ways with your dolls. And I am so glad we got to talk about it today. You know, I'm gonna ask you. The slogan of the stitch please podcast is that we will help you get your stitch together. Okay. And you Ms.
[00:30:39] LIsa Woolfork: Perry, the doll maker from who makes these amazing, amazing clock dolls, dolls that are so vibrant and they have so much personality, they've got so much integrity of craft. How would you. Someone to get their stitch together. What would you say to them? You know what? We were
[00:30:57] Tracy Perry: talking about tools, and I'm gonna tell you, Lisa, my [00:31:00] number one thing for anybody that's started at get the right tools and then just take your time, develop your craft.
[00:31:06] Tracy Perry: Take your time. You don't have to be like me. You don't have to be like this person. No two peoples are the same. I sell the patterns for my dolls and someone says, oh, they're gonna steal your idea and somebody's gonna make them in. I'm like, you know what? They can make them, but they're not gonna be my dolls.
[00:31:22] Tracy Perry: And anybody looking at my dolls is gonna know that it may be my pattern, but is not my doll. Get to the right tools and take your time and develop
[00:31:29] LIsa Woolfork: your craft. That is absolutely wonderful. And on that note, where can we find you on the socials? Where can we find you to follow you and to learn more about your work and what you have coming up?
[00:31:40] LIsa Woolfork: And everywhere I am
[00:31:41] Tracy Perry: at seems like Tracy, I'm on YouTube. It seems like Tracy I'm on Instagram. It seems like Tracy and my new website, well, by the time this eras will be up and it is at, seems like trace or seems like Tracy.
[00:31:54] LIsa Woolfork: like Tracy and you know, we're so in podcast and seems our S E am at. [00:32:00] Seems absolutely.
[00:32:01] LIsa Woolfork: Tracy. This was delightful. Thank you so much for speaking with me today. I really appreciate this so much. Thank
[00:32:07] Tracy Perry: you, Lisa. Thank you so much for reaching out to me. I really enjoyed it and I've admire you so much. You do such a great job. Oh,
[00:32:15] LIsa Woolfork: exciting.
[00:32:19] Tracy Perry: You've been listening to the stitch,
[00:32:20] LIsa Woolfork: please podcast the official podcast of black women's stitch, the sewing group, where black lives matter. We appreciate you supporting us by listening to the podcast. If you'd like to reach out to us with questions, you can contact us at black women's stitch@gmail.com.
[00:32:35] LIsa Woolfork: If you'd like to
[00:32:36] Tracy Perry: support us financially, you can do that by
[00:32:38] LIsa Woolfork: supporting us on Patreon. P a T R E O. And you can find black women stitch there in the Patreon directory. And for as little as $2 a month, you can help support the project with things like editing transcripts and other things to strengthen the podcast.
[00:32:54] LIsa Woolfork: And finally, if financial support is not something you can do right now, you can really, really help the podcast. By rating it and reviewing it anywhere. You listen to podcasts that allows you to review them. So I know that not all podcast directories or services allow for reviews, but for those who do for those that have like a star rating, or just ask for a few comments, if you could share those comments and say nice things about us at the stitch please podcast that is incredibly helpful.Thank you so much. Come back next week and we'll help you get your stitch together.

Hosted by Lisa Woolfork

Lisa is a fourth-generation sewing enthusiast who learned to sew while earning a PhD in African American literature and culture. She has been sewing for more than twenty years while also teaching, researching, and publishing in Black American literature and culture.

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