| Ravenstone Press
Stories of Kansas and the Great Plains
|Gayla Brown - Dollmaker|
Gayla's Kansas Katie Doll
The Cover of Kansas Katie
The doll is to the left of the title.
|Gayla Richards Brown was
born in Manhattan, Kansas on December 28, 1947. She attended
Eugene Field Elementary School,
graduated from Manhattan High School in 1965, and attended Kansas State
As a child, what she loved best was playing with dolls. She still has most of her dolls and their furniture. Gayla says, "I spent hours playing with dolls and hated to give it up. I didn't have brothers and sisters, so they were like my extended family." Now, as a craftswoman, she loves to make dolls.
Gayla also loved to read and remembers Nancy Drew books and comic books with great fondness. She still likes to read mysteries and best sellers, and books by her favorite authors . . . especially while riding an exercise bike. When she's really engrossed in a book, she gets more exercise!
Gayla has been married to Jerry Brown, her high school sweetheart, since 1969. The night she met him, she told her mother she was going to marry him. They have five children, Brian (1974), Tim (1978), Sara (1979), Rachel (1981), and Daniel (1985). They live in Manhattan with their Yorkshire terrier, Cloey, who takes Gayla for a 3-4 mile walk every day.
Gayla chose to focus on her family as a stay-at-home mother, but enjoyed crafts and began making items such as counted cross stitch sweatshirts to sell at craft shows. Many of her designs started out as gifts she made for family members and she was always looking for new ideas. Her best friend showed her a doll made by her sister-in-law in Nebraska. Gayla was taken with the idea and went to Nebraska to learn how to make the dolls. She adapted the design and created new dolls, beginning in 1988. Her most popular ones are her witches, angels, sunflower, and patriotic dolls, but she has many other designs such as holiday dolls and "university" dolls for Kansas State University and the University of Kansas. Her favorite doll is the witch.
Gayla says, "I still do it because I have fun doing it. It's still a diversion for me." The things she enjoys most about her dollmaking are coming up with new designs, finding ways to incorporate counted cross stitch into a design, and seeing "the stick with the rope on it become a doll." The part she likes least is combing out the sisal rope she needs for each doll.
Gayla's dolls are constructed on a wooden base with a dowel rod fastened into it. She chooses fabric and accessories and constructs them using sewing and a hot glue gun. Preparing all of the materials takes most of the time in making a doll. Once they are all ready, assembling them takes around 45 minutes, and it is a lot of fun to see the doll take shape.
She continues to sell at about nine Kansas craft shows a year and also sells from her home. Some people who collect her dolls have ten or eleven of them. Gayla also makes fabric baskets.
After Jerri Garretson moved back to Manhattan, she discovered Gayla and her dolls at a local craft show in 1996 and began her collection with the witch doll at left. Jerri was delighted to renew her friendship with Gayla, whom she hadn't seen since 1964. They played together in elementary school, shared those Nancy Drew books, spent the night at each other's houses, and were in the same Girl Scout troop. In the fall of 1998, she saw Gayla's sunflower doll for the first time . . . she had just found "Kansas Katie," the character in a Kansas tall tale she had written . . . and asked Gayla for permission to use the doll's photo in her book.
Gayla's Pilgrim Doll
Gayla's KU Doll
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Last updated on October 22, 2003