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It’s a doll’s life

Handcrafted porcelain dolls delight residents of Peabody community

Created date

March 22nd, 2016
Adrienne Maglio

Adrienne Maglio’s collection of handcrafted dolls was on display at Brooksby Village in Peabody, Mass.

When Adrienne Maglio moved to Brooksby Village in March 2012, she brought her extended family with her.

Adrienne’s collection of 30 porcelain dolls took up residence in her large one-bedroom, Ellicott-style apartment home.

“I consider these dolls part of my extended family because each one is special to me,” says Adrienne, who began handcrafting the dolls after she raised her eight children. “Doll making has given me such pleasure over the years.”

Brooksby residents recently had the opportunity to share Adrienne’s labor of love when her dolls were on display in the craft studio of Towne Centre Clubhouse.

Residents passing by stopped to admire the craftsmanship and uniqueness of each doll.

“Each doll has its own personality,” says Adrienne. “Residents stop to tell me which one they like best.”

Passionate hobby 

Adrienne’s interest in doll making began during a visit with her youngest daughter in Anaheim, Calif.

“We went to a doll show in Anaheim, and I saw these beautiful dolls women had made,” says Adrienne. “I’ve always loved dolls and decided I wanted to try to make them myself.”

Adrienne returned home to Lynnfield, Mass., and signed up for doll-making workshops through Seeley’s, now New York Doll Products.

“There were a few women in Lynnfield who had home studios for making dolls,” says Adrienne. “Once I learned the basics, I would go to their homes to use their kilns.”

Adrienne’s hobby gained momentum, and she set up her own 12- by 22-foot studio in her garage.

“Then other women began coming to my studio and using my greenware [unfired porcelain clay] and kiln,” she says. “It was lots of fun.”

Delicate process

Adrienne’s doll-making process starts with a bottle of liquid porcelain poured into separate molds for the head and body parts.

After a soft fire in an 1,800-degree kiln, Adrienne removes the pieces, gives them a light sanding, and uses a scalpel to shape the features. She returns them to the kiln for one more soft fire before painting on eyelashes, eyebrows, lips, nostrils, and fingernails. 

She adds German-made paperweight eyes ordered from a doll supply company along with stockings, shoes, and other accessories. Adrienne, a talented seamstress and quilter, sews the rest of the doll’s clothing.

“I patterned most of my dolls after the original European porcelain dolls of the late 1800s,” she says. 

Adrienne made her first doll shortly after she became a grandmother and decided to name her collection “les poupettes de grandmère Adrienne,” which translates to “the dolls of grandmother Adrienne.”

New life at Brooksby

When Adrienne’s husband passed away, Adrienne sold her home and moved into a condo in Topsfield.

“My sister Regina moved to Brooksby about ten years ago, and I would visit her for dinner and stay overnight,” says Adrienne. “I began to think Brooksby would be a good home for me, too.”

Since moving to Brooksby, Adrienne has become active with the Catholic community on campus, serving as a lector and lay Eucharistic minister at the weekly services.

While she’s not making dolls anymore, Adrienne has turned her artistic pursuits back to quilting. She still enjoys her doll collection.

“I talk to the dolls sometimes,” she says. “Of course, I’ll know I’m in trouble if they ever talk back.”