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Dollmaker puts sew much into her work

Dollmaker puts sew much into her work

May 16th, 2018 by Neil Abeles in Texarkana Region

Arene Patten's assisted living room is filled with the 92-year-old's creations—dolls. She's holding a favorite. With her are, from left, daughter Kathy Endsley and friend Linda Ward.

Photo by Neil Abeles /Texarkana Gazette.

The brightly colored handmade dolls fill Arene Patten's room at Wesley House Assisted Living in Atlanta where she is temporarily located.

You can adopt one. This is Arene's passion, and she's been at it for more than 50 years. And just because she's 92 now, she's not ready to stop seeking homes and families for her dolls.

She keeps her giveaway ones in a basket called Arene's Adoptions and goes around the neighborhood to see "if the older ones want to adopt."

"Most do," she said.

If anyone needs a good, long-lasting hobby, Arene's example indicates this might be it.

For 25 to 30 to years, Arene had a doll shop at her home in Doddridge, Ark. She didn't just depend on the locals. Customers would drop in from U.S. Highway 71, which passed close by.

She never charged quite enough for her dolls, friends and relatives say. But that was her.

"Probably made $50 a month," she said.

Of course that wasn't her point. She felt best about rescuing a doll from some yard sale, giving it new clothes and maybe a new face, and then giving it away.

She did that with Cornerstone Baptist Church in Texarkana, Arkansas, and a program they called Crafters On Mission. People in need certainly need a doll, too.

Arene doesn't get to go there monthly as before, but she still has dolls to take when she does.

She had begun with the Raggedy Ann dolls and later added the popular Cabbage Patch dolls, which Arene she said she has always thought were ugly.

Her shop and home would be filled with dolls, quilts and material because Arene simply likes to sew.

Once her husband of 71 years, the late Warren Patten, made her some shelves from floor to ceiling in a big room. They were soon filled, top to bottom.

And on the family's twice yearly camping trips to the Jefferson Ridge Campground on Dierks Lake, Arene would take fabric to sew.

But more, she began taking food materials as well to make her famous fried pies. She would walk around the campground giving them out freely. Pretty soon a whole group of families began meeting regularly at the same time and place for a six- to eight-week stay.

Raggedy Ann and dolllmaker Arene Patten.

Raggedy Ann and dolllmaker Arene Patten.

Photo by Neil Abeles /Texarkana Gazette.

Husband Patten called the high hill they camped upon Arthritis Ridge and pretty soon got himself elected mayor.

But the person the crowd really voted for was likely Arene.

"The sweetest person I ever knew," said friend Linda Ward, who was recently helping Arene dust and arrange her living room dolls and quilts.

Arene doesn't just give away her dolls, even to friends just across the hall. No, that would be too easy. She wants the person to "adopt" the doll. That means to take some time and give it some care.

After all, a lot of sewing has gone into her creation. Even the doll's face has been imaginatively reborn and freshly painted. Never mind that she may be working on five dolls at a time, starting with outlining the face, adding the hair yarn and then beginning the creation of clothes.

It may be that when finished, the dolls themselves may remember or recognize their owner/maker. No wonder Arene is careful about giving them away.

She may even ask you to sign papers.

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