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‘I just enjoy creating. I think that’s part of what’s wrong with a lot of people, they’ve forgotten how to be creative’

<i> Times staff writer</i>

Jacqueline Ball’s living room is filled with dolls, each with a face as individual as the faces in a crowd. Some are mothers, others are daughters and quite a few of the dolls are modeled after their creators. Ball, 56, teaches doll-making and loves to help others tap the creativity that she only recently discovered in herself. Ball was interviewed in her Chula Vista home by Times staff writer Leslie Wolf and photographed by Barbara Martin.

For years, I had nothing really of value in my life but raising my four kids. I loved to design clothes, and I would sit up at night and make my children the most gorgeous clothes.

I started making doll clothes for someone and finally decided I wanted to learn how to make the dolls, too. I started teaching myself sculpting about seven years ago. I’ve never had any training in it, but I learned by my mistakes.

I start with the head, and each head is a separate sculpture. It begins as an egg-shaped lump of clay--just clay that comes from millions of years of water rushing over the earth. Then, I mark it out like you would a painting. For instance, the space between the eyes is one “eye,” and there’s one “eye” between each eye and the ear, so you have a total width of five “eyes” across the head. For a baby’s face you drop it a little lower, and put all the features in a smaller space. I can do a head now in two or three hours.

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I go to people’s houses to teach them how to make dolls in the likeness of themselves or people they know, and I have a few people come here. First-timers almost always wind up doing dolls that look like themselves, because they’re feeling their own faces for an understanding of the bone structure. I usually keep my classes small, less than six people, because you get a big group and you can’t give them enough attention. It’s exciting to see somebody develop their creativity.

I give demonstrations at grade schools, too. I take 50 pounds of clay and let them each dig in, and I show them how to sculpt a leg. Some of the littler ones, I let them make a snail, which is easier because all they have to do is make a worm and roll it up.

I also started writing poetry a few years ago. I thought I’d never written a poem before, but I went back to my high school yearbook and saw a poem of mine published there. I don’t know what happened in all the years in between--I think I got so bogged down in having a family and doing things that I forgot to be creative. It took getting out of my marriage to start my creativity again.

Now, I’ve had a couple of hundred poems published, and I have a women’s poetry workshop over here. I’m the editor of a literary magazine too, called Crazyquilt, which is the title of a poem I wrote. The magazine has been going for about three years now, and I’ve been with it since the very beginning.

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My interest in poems started when I went back to school in 1980 and took a class in English, and the teacher started teaching poetry. I wasn’t even sure what a poem was. I went home and wrote a complex poem within a poem and I didn’t even know it was supposed to be hard. It was wonderful to be creative again. I also took physics, figuring I was going to be Madame Curie. Then, I saw I had to get out of my marriage, so I started taking business classes so I would at least have some skills to work with.

After my divorce, I was truly a displaced homemaker. I went to get a job so I could stay in school, but I couldn’t even find a job for $3.50 an hour. So I decided I’d start a business and give myself a job. One of my daughters loaned me the money to open a shop in Spring Valley, “Dolls by Jacqueline.”

I had my shop six years, and I loved it. Then I got sick . . . and I had to close down. Now, I’m back on my feet and looking for a shop again.

I’d like to open up a shop here in Chula Vista, and there’s a lovely area I have my eye on near a lot of craft and gift stores. I want to also get back into designing little girls’ dresses because I feel that’s my very top field. It’s so much fun to make a little girl’s outfit. They’re so delicate.

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I just enjoy creating. I think that’s part of what’s wrong with a lot of people, they’ve forgotten how to be creative.


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