The name Goldie Wilson is well known in the doll world. Dolls by Goldie has become her brand. The talented dollmaker was born in 1938 and raised in Alabama.
“I’ve made hundreds and hundreds of dolls,” Wilson said. “My ideas come late at night when I’m in bed thinking.”
Wilson is a porcelain doll artist who started bringing her creative endeavor to life in 1990 through reproduction doll making. At the time, the dolls were made from someone else’s molds. But most dolls Wilson creates today are made of porcelain slip. The entrepreneur has made dollmaking a part of her legacy. Wilson does not take orders or reproduce her one-of-a-kind creations. Wilson stated that she believes that she is the only African American porcelain doll artist in the United States that creates complete porcelain dolls.
“Right now, I do what I call commission work. I make a certain amount of dolls, then I send an email message out [to my email list of subscribers] with pictures of the dolls and prices. They’re sold on a first come, first served basis. At this time, I cut back my productivity to creating only six to 10 dolls to sell,” Wilson said. “Those dolls start from $500 up to $1,000.”
The resident of South Carolina explained that interested customers contact her after reading an informational email about her dolls that are available to be sold. Thereafter, Wilson does not make another doll like it.
Looking at people, and visually noting their features, inspires Wilson’s doll creations. The dollmaker pays homage to another time in the world when young people were taught practical skills. As a child, Wilson was taught to sew.
“I started when I was five years old because my grandmother was a seamstress,” Wilson said.
From start to finish, it often takes Wilson two months to create a doll. Wilson’s ability to add the most minute details to her dolls comes in handy. Making original creations requires her to make molds, sculpt them and even make doll wigs and clothing.
Wilson’s dollmaking began after she attended a Black doll show when she purchased her first doll that she collected. Wilson was also the proprietor of a ceramic store in Prince George’s County Maryland back in 1980. She brought the reproduction dolls into her ceramic store and began teaching reproduction doll making.
But Wilson noted that the presence of Black dolls is rooted in the days of slavery. Enslaved people would make dolls from corn husks and whatever could be used to make rag dolls, so their children would have something to play with, too.
“A lot of people think about dolls as a plaything, but dolls are a part of your history. Black dolls clubs were formed to keep our history alive through dolls,” Wilson said.
Wilson added that the Black doll shows that she had participated in were attended by people who collected all sorts of dolls as a hobby, from Barbies to other types of them. She is currently a member of Black doll clubs that include Maryland Society of Doll Collectors, located in Prince George’s County, Maryland. It started in 2006 and is still up and running. Additionally, Wilson is a member of the Charm City Dolling Club. The club has existed in Baltimore for 25 years.
“We provide information on the collection of these Black dolls,” Wilson said.
The Black doll clubs also host Black History Month presentations, doll luncheons and little girl teas where girls bring their dolls. The club also conducts presentations at schools and libraries. Although the clubs are composed of all sorts of people who collect Black dolls, Wilson noted that a declining number of young people do not participate because of growing interest in devices and other hobbies.
“We would like to see the younger generation carry on the Black doll traditions,” Wilson added.
Wilson is the author of two books about dolls. The first pictorial book of her dolls sold out. Wilson’s second book, “This Is Me” Original Black Dolls By Goldie Wilson, is an autobiography that recounts how she started in the doll industry up to the present.
“I believe in being different. Step out of that box,” Wilson said, referring to her journey to create dolls.
Email [email protected] to order her second book, request being added to Wilson’s email list to find out what dolls she is working on next for sale, or to obtain more information if you are interested in joining a Black doll club in the Baltimore area or Prince George’s County.