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Doll-making suits Greer lecturer's creative curiosity

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Alice Watterson has been making extraordinary dolls – of both human and animal forms – for the past 20 years.

On Thursday, Nov. 6, Watterson, from Santa Fe, N.M., will present a slide lecture “Being human … through the eyes of artists” as part of Bethel College’s annual endowed Greer Lecture Series. The event is at 7:30 p.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium of the Fine Arts Center and is free and open to the public. A reception for the artist will follow.

On Friday, Nov. 7, Watterson will teach a drawing class exercise on “interior personas” from 2-3:50 p.m. in Room 13 of the Franz Art Center, which is also open to the public. For more information about the lecture or the class, call 316-284-5222.

Watterson says she finds making dolls to be a good fit for her creative curiosity and accumulated skills. A native of the American Southwest who has lived in Santa Fe for the past 12 years, Watterson revels in the bright light of the desert, which suits her use of intense saturated color. Her figures incorporate many ethnic influences, including the native peoples of the American West, Asian nomads and African tribes – any groups who enrich their lives through lavish personal adornment.

Watterson’s process of doll-making is distinctly her own from start to finish. She describes some of the steps as follows: “I use my own fabrics as the basis for the figures because I enjoy the process of weaving (the fabrics are thus unique to me) and also because the grid structure is ideal for assembling and embellishing the pieces. The hands and feet of the figures are cut and carved from willow branches harvested along streambeds outside of Santa Fe.

“When I begin a figure, there is an initial stage of charging ahead, sure of certain forms and colors. Then – kerplunk! – I land in unknown territory where I’m challenged to discover the figures’ own rules of ritual, dress and being.”

A recent design venture for Watterson was creation of a full array of circus figures, complete with ringmaster, trapeze artists, riders on horseback, lions, elephants and more.

When time permits, Watterson teaches creativity workshops, an abbreviated version of which will occupy Bethel’s drawing class on Friday afternoon. After a brief discussion of what an interior persona might look like, students will use familiar art tools and techniques to bring their individual visions to imaginative life.

Watterson has received national recognition and awards for her fiber work and has been published in Fiberarts Design Book 5 and 500 Handmade Dolls (Lark Books, 2007). She made a historic figure doll that was exhibited in the Holiday Treasures show at the White House.

Her studio is her ultimate refuge, she says. “It’s a peaceful work space that I enjoy retreating to, any time. I’m an introspective person, so there’s never enough time for just being. Being alone. Being thoughtful. Being observant.”

The late Dr. Robert C. Goering, a native of Moundridge and a 1948 graduate of Bethel College, and his wife Amparo Goering, Wichita, initiated the Greer Fine Arts Endowment at Bethel College in 1979 in memory of Milford E. Greer, Jr., a native of Geuda Springs, Kan., and a close friend of the Goerings. Greer was interested in literature and music and excelled as an artist. He died in an auto accident in 1972 at age 45. The Greer Lecture Series brings visiting artists and scholars in the areas of music, visual arts or theater to the Bethel campus.

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and was the only Kansas private college to be ranked in Forbes.com’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2008. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at www.bethelks.edu.

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