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10th annual Ellinwood Christkindlmarket
Ellinwood dollmaker shares secret hobby with community
Joyce schulte and dolls
Ellinwood’s Joyce Schulte created three handmade porcelain dolls for the Christkindlmarket event Sunday.

ELLINWOOD — The spirit of Christkindl took to the brick streets of Ellinwood Sunday, as the community celebrated its 10th annual Christkindlmarket downtown.

Along with the shopping that accompanies the holiday season, with food vendors, hay rack rides, gingerbread house decorating, hot cocoa and especially, cookies by the pound at the Ellinwood Senior Center, during the afternoon, were raffle drawings that introduced the evening’s activities at the fire pit sponsored by the Ellinwood Chamber of Commerce north of the business district. After the raffles, there was music provided by the Ellinwood High School Band and carols by the EHS Mystic Blues. Capping off the evening was a lighted cruise up and down Main Street.

Among the prize drawings Sunday were three special little ladies, dressed for the occasion, offered by Ellinwood’s Joyce Schulte.

Displayed on a special table at the front of the Senior Center, the dolls seemed to be watching as pound after pound of cookies — as the Ellinwood Historical Society’s chief fundraiser for the year — disappeared out the door. At least two were watching; one little doll settled in her handmade rocker appeared done in by the activity and was already napping.

They all shared a special secret with Schulte; she had made them special for the anniversary event.

“It’s not generally known, but there was a time when dollmaking was a hobby of mine,” Schulte revealed Sunday afternoon. “I made them when I was younger. After a while, these little dolls were about half-done when I put them in a trunk for the past 40 years or so. I got them out this year and finished them and dressed them because I thought they might be good money-raising projects.”

A passion for porcelain

Schulte, a lifetime resident of Ellinwood, former Ellinwood Hospital administrator and current president of the Ellinwood Historical Society, has a lifetime passion for history, which is known. Her dollmaking hobby, not so much so.

“It’s kind of a hidden talent, I guess. One of those hobbies that you have. Back when I started, in the late 1970s, early ‘80s, there was a kind of porcelain doll craze. That’s kind of gone by the wayside, I guess.”

Not an afternoon project

Porcelain dollmaking isn’t the kind of project that can be done in an afternoon, Schulte said. “It takes about six weeks to do each doll,” she explained. “These dolls are all porcelain except for the body. “After you pour the mold, the parts are fired and cleaned. Then, they are fired, oiled and cleaned again. Each color of paint on the doll has to be fired separately or it will spot,” she said.

Schulte and a girlfriend from St. John sent their handiwork all over the United States. “There were a couple that went to New York,” she said. There was no internet and not any money for advertising. “My girlfriend and I would go to craft fairs, and the word spread around from there.”

Over time, the craze diminished, and now there aren’t many dollmakers around, Schulte noted. “I really don’t know who is around that’s still making them,” she said. Loretta Miller, who crafted the figures for Rosewood’s “Santas Around the World” in Great Bend, got her start making porcelain dolls, Schulte said. “I ended up taking several classes from her.”

The process has evolved, due to hazards from the fine porcelain dust raised during the cleaning process. “They do what’s called ‘cold-firing’ now, where it’s heated to a certain degree,” she said. “There’s not as much dust so it’s safer. It takes longer, because you have to work harder on them.”

Another secret revealed

The napping dolly at Sunday’s event had another secret.

“The chair that she’s sitting in, that was my own rocker,” Schulte noted. “My daddy made it from pieces of an old biplane that had crashed near Ellinwood. Some of the wood in that chair belonged to that biplane.”

Three more dolls of Schulte’s craft were being exhibited in the window of the Museum, which was open Sunday for the event. “We’re saving them for later,” she said. “They might be at next year’s raffle or the year after that.”