EVANSTON — For 30-plus years, Janis Smith created beautiful china dolls and taught others the intricate skill. It was only after back surgery several years ago that she was forced to give up the craft — she could no longer lift the heavy molds into the kiln.
Smith learned the skill in 1985, when she lived in Boulder, Colorado. A friend told her about a class, and she had always wanted to learn how to make china dolls from scratch. She loves dolls and loves creating different period outfits for them. After moving to Evanston, she began to teach doll-making classes at a local craft shop called “Weezie’s.” When that shop closed, Smith continued the classes in her home.
If you are lucky enough to visit Janis Smith’s home, you will see china dolls ranging in size from 2 inches to life-size. She has created different scenes throughout her home with doll-sized furniture and period clothes. Some of the dolls sit at a tea party; there is an old doll-maker himself holding and painting a tiny china head in his hands; a leprechaun; a doll on a prancing horse; and a life-sized woman doll.
Selections of Smith’s dolls are currently on display at the Uinta County Library. In the western reading room in two glass display cases are different scenes created by Smith. One is a delightful tea party with dolls in Victorian clothing sitting in wicker chairs around a small table with a tiny tea set. The second display case in this room has a Christmas scene with two Victorian Saint Nicholas dolls.
In the main lobby of the library in a glass display case is another lovely set of four dolls surrounding a small Christmas tree. They are dressed in silk and satin Victorian period dress. Smith creates scenes down to tiny details with decorations on the tree, a small rug on the floor and the intricate lace and accessories on the dolls.
Before her surgery, Smith traveled to doll shows and competitions across the country, including places like Louisiana, Texas, Colorado, Utah and California. At those shows she could attend seminars, workshops and purchase doll supplies and fabric. The first time she ever entered one of her dolls in a competition in California she won a blue ribbon.
She sent a “lady” doll to a competition in New York and won another blue. Another doll, a little boy doll that she dressed to look like her father-in-law as a child in the 1930s, won her a “Best of Category” in a competition in California.
Smith displays her dolls periodically at the Uinta County Library, and at one time she had a large display at the Uinta County Museum. Her current doll display will be in the Evanston library until the end of January.