Brent Berry Arts

LeCri © Dolls

Victorian  -  Historic  -  Cultural  -  Patriotic

A collection of hand made dolls created by Leah Cardwell, 1927 - 1987



   Mom was a talented and creative woman who loved history, culture, art and people.  She did artwork in various forms as a hobby, mostly ink and pen or pencil drawings and later, oil paintings.  She was pretty handy at making things too!  She's worked with leather, wood and other assorted things including quality sewing and making of garments.  She was always making something and her work was always creative and stylish!   
These dolls were her last project.

  In 1980 she was diagnosed with cancer.  After her surgery and chemo treatments were finished, she decided to start a new project.  She needed something to keep her mind occupied.  Something to help her stay positive while facing a possible reoccurrence, but she also had a need to express herself too, possible more than ever.   As a form of healing therapy she decided to direct her thoughts and energy into making a her own original assortment of antique styled dolls.  She copyrighted her dolls under the name "LeCri" Dolls.

  She had researched and collected many things in her life including antique dolls.  She especially liked the old Victorian, ceramic and bisque dolls.  She decided to take on the task of designing and producing her own Victorian type dolls completely from scratch all by herself.  She did 100's of drawings patterns, clay figures, molds and castings.  She bought a kiln to fire all the finished ceramic parts. She made 100's of patterns and perfected them into each piece of clothing including most of the hats, undergarments, equipment and shoes.  She spent hundreds of hours on research in order to make everything authentic looking.  She made all the doll parts herself including each unique set of plaster molds for heads, hands and feet, each doll had it's own set.  Everything was designed and hand made by her.  The only things she didn't make was the human hair, glass eyes, buttons and a very small amount of accoutrements.  

  These dolls represent people from different times and places but many of them were influenced by people in her life and so they were very personal to her in many ways.   Her plan was to make a prototype of each character and then later, produce more of them to sell.  She was off to a great start!  As a person who had never made a doll before, she took them to a public doll show where her "LeCri" dolls stole the show.   Everyone was astounded at her work and at the authenticity of these amazing little people.  She won most of the best awards of the shows that she entered them into and she already had people wanting to buy some ofher dolls.   She only had the first originals and had put so much time into them that it was impossible for her to put a price on them.  

These dolls are the result of real passion, not only for art but for life.   The real value of these dolls is the love, caring, and a lifetime of personality that was put into each one them by their maker.   Mom wasn't able to accomplish her goal of producing more of her dolls as we lost her in 1987.   When you look into their eyes, you will see a part of my mom.   These dolls are honest evidence of the wonderful person she was.  She has always been a positive influence and I miss her.   I wanted to make a page to show some of what she has done in her life.  Life is too short and we all have a chance to give something back to the world before our time is done.

  Most of the dolls  vary from 13 to 22 inches tall.  The characters her dolls portray, included Native Americans, a Viking, a Napoleonic soldier, a WWI doughboy, a fortune teller, several Victorian women, a Victorian ice skater, a Civil war Buffalo soldier, Lady Liberty, a WWI sailor, a Buffalo soldier, a WWI, a WWI pilot, an American revolutionary soldier, Victorian ladies and more.  

October 2011 - Mom's Dolls Come Home

Shortly after mom's death in April 1987, my dad built a wooden trunk to store the 36 dolls that mom had made.  He placed all the dolls inside the trunk and put them to storage.  We had considered donating them to a doll Museum or to an art museum but there was no guarantee that they wouldn't end up in some storage room somewhere or worse.  We didn't know what to do with them at the time, we only knew that they had to be preserved.  Several people have expressed interest in buying some of the dolls but we couldn't stand the thought of them being separated and it would be impossible to part with any of  them.  All we knew is that they had to be kept safe and preserved.  Knowing that they probably wouldn't be seen for a while, I photographed all of them to the best of my ability just before they were put into storage.    

For over 20 years now they have been hidden away out of sight.  I had taken a lot of photographs of them before they were put into storage so I've always had the photos to look at but the photos are nothing compared to the real thing!  Mom put so much time and creativity into these dolls.  She poured her heart into them!  Each one of them has something to say about the way she thought and the things she understood and appreciated. Mom appreciated all people for who they were.  Each one of them tells an anknown mysterious story from mom's imagination.  Each one of them represents a part of her personality, who she was, what she thought and cared about.  No one can understand just how much work and care she put into each one of these little people.  She literally worked hundreds of hours on each one!  

 Each one of these little people truly have soul in them, I know, because it was my mom who created them and put soul into them.  Although I photographed all them 24 years ago, I didn't have a digital camera back then so I had to re-photograph them.   I can now show them to the world in all their true glory!   They are so unique and beautiful and my mom deserves credit for creating all these beautiful little people!  The word doll does not describe what these are, they are truly art, art in the form of a doll.   I feel these dolls should be seen and appreciated by others.  She created them over 24 years ago and almost no one has seen these little masterpieces since.  I've had this section on my website featuring some of mom's dolls but the old photos just didn't do them justice at all.   Now I can really show their beauty!  

This page is a way for me to honor my mom for her amazing personality and character and creativity.  These dolls were the last thing she created before she had to go.  These dolls need to be seen, their beauty should be celebrated and enjoyed.  Sharing these images with the world is the least I can do.


Mom during  the depression of the 1930's


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