Monday, June 24, 2019

Art & Wonder & Saint Dolls- Marcy from Marzipantz {Guest Post}

In a world that craves the true, the good, and the beautiful, is a joy to host the fourth Why Make Beautiful Things series here at Look to Him and Be Radiant. You can read the original post with my thoughts on beauty here and read all the guest posts in the previous series here. Today I have the honor of sharing the work and reflections of Marcy from Marzipantz. maker of incredible, heirloom quality Saint and literary character dolls, I think you'll enjoy reading her wisdom about the WHY behind her creativity. We'll be featuring guest posts all week, and a huge giveaway of beautiful things on Friday, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart. We'd love to hear from you here or on Instagram why YOU make beautiful things- Chime in on today's post!!

There’s a moment while I’m making dolls when everything’s assembled – the limbs, the face, the whole body – all put together, but I don’t know what it looks like because it’s inside out, and in that moment I feel a lot of uncertainty, anticipation, and sometimes a little nervousness. I assemble the dolls inside out so that the seams are not visible when it’s finished, but I leave a little section unsewn, just a small hole, easy to sew by hand when the doll’s completely finished. And I pull the rest of body through that hole to flip it right side out, but there’s a lot of fabric that has to fit through. (I admit I sometimes think about the pangs of childbirth when I’m performing this operation, especially if I have a particularly stubborn doll!)

There is something about the whole process of making dolls, my little handstitched people, that makes me think about the formation of a new person in the womb. I have an idea of what I hope the doll looks like, but I can’t see it yet. Step-by-step the doll gradually comes together. Then the moment of truth, the “flip”, and I can see how it all fits together. It’s a teeny bit like the nervousness and anticipation of an expectant mother. Is it a boy or girl? Whose eyes will she have? Whose nose? Each creation is different and unique. Each one put together with care. Each one eagerly awaited, anticipated, hope for. And each one – at least this is my prayer for all my dolls – an artful reflection of the wonder God has made.

I am a mom to six. I stay at home with the children. My husband is a high school teacher. So, as you can imagine, there are limits to our budget, and I am always looking for ways to save or make money from home. And I’ve tried almost everything: babysitting, online tutoring, couponing – like extreme, full-time job couponing! – knit-and-crochet shop, break-of-dawn paper route, miscellaneous direct sales gigs. Like I said, almost everything. While all these things allowed me to stay at home and it was a boon for our family financially, for me it often left me drained and worn out.

Several years ago, I discovered some beautiful handmade dolls on the internet and thought how wonderful it would be to have similar dolls, just as beautiful and appealing, but of saints. But, I couldn’t ever find exactly what I had in mind, and even if I had, I was sure we wouldn’t be able to afford it. Then, one Christmas, after years of drooling over Instagrammed heirloom dolls, I received a sewing machine and decided to take the plunge and try my hand at this doll-making thing.

At first, I was excited just to make something fine and beautiful for my children, but I discovered just how much I enjoyed the creative process itself. I had always enjoyed crafting, but sewing was an entirely new endeavor for me. The only other times I had been around the sewing machine was cutting up fabric for my mom when I was eight and making a couple pairs of curtains for the boys’ bedroom on a machine borrowed from a neighbor. As it happened, sewing dolls turned out to be my “blue-flame passion.” (To borrow Jennifer Fulwiler’s apt phrase from One Beautiful Dream.)

After making the first few dolls for my children, I started wondering if I could do this to help with the family finances. I already knew I loved the work. It left me full and happy, complete. And it certainly fed my soul more than cutting out coupons. Thus, Marzipantz Shop was born.

As I mentioned above, I did not have a lot of previous experience with sewing, so I had to learn by studying how my own clothes were constructed, and I am still learning to this day. Each new doll design requires a new pattern with new challenges. I’m always tweaking, trying out different ideas and techniques. I’m always picking up tips from others with years more experience than I. For me each new design is like a puzzle that I am trying to solve in order to capture that unique look or feel I’m hoping for. Sometimes it’s a different clothing article that I need to create a pattern for. Other times hunting down that perfect fabric choice to match the saint or character. Or it might mean a new measure of hand-stitched details and embroidery.

When I’m making a saint doll, I don’t always start out knowing a lot about that saint, so preparing to make a saint doll isn’t just a design project but also a research project. I like to look at the traditional representations of the saint and read a little about their lives. It has been so special to learn about all the saints I’ve made. Or to use the language of iconographers, all the saints I’ve “written.” But usually at some point in this process, I catch a vision of how the doll should look and then it is just a matter of bringing it into existence. I love how Madeline L’Engle puts it in her book, Walking on Water:

"The artist is a servant who is willing to be a birthgiver….I believe that each work of art, whether it is a work of great genius, or something very small, comes to the artist and says, ‘Here I am. Enflesh me. Give birth to me.’ And the artist either says, ‘My soul doth magnify the Lord,’ and willingly becomes the bearer of the work, or refuses."

Sometimes the vision presents me with something difficult, that I haven’t tried before, that I don’t have a pattern for yet, and I know how much work that will mean. But part of the process is accepting that work and moving forward faithfully.

My goal with my shop has always been to create items that help cultivate a beautiful childhood and encourage a greater love for the things I love: the saints and inspiring literary characters. At least where the saints are concerned, I would love if the dolls could be a sort of child’s version of an icon – to encourage a devotion to those saints, and a rich sense of the communion of saints that are cheering us on our own walk of faith. There are so many toys readily available that, while fun, aren’t especially appealing to look at. Loud colors and cartoonish characters. My goal has been to make dolls that represent the saints beautifully and artfully and would be something even the adults enjoy looking at.

But I have learned over and over again that those sparks of inspiration, while they can be overwhelmingly beautiful, feel impossible to bring to fruition. Despite all the compliments and praise I received from others, which truly humbles me, I have never felt that I crafted something that perfectly reflects my original vision. I wonder if all makers and artists feel this way. Always a little too self-critical. But for me, it feels like my work is just falling short, almost but not quite. It reminds me of St. John Paul II’s “Letter to Artists” when he writes:

"All artists experience the unbridgeable gap which lies between the work of their hands […] and the dazzling perfection of the beauty glimpsed in the ardor of the creative moment: what they manage to express in their painting, sculpting, their creating is no more than a glimmer of the splendor which flared for a moment before the eyes of their spirit."

That “unbridgeable gap” can feel disappointing, but it is part of the artist’s struggle. To acknowledge that all artists and makers experience this provides some bit of a consolation.

My other consolation is the joy my dolls bring to others. I love to hear the individual stories of my customers. I love when they tell me about their devotion to a particular saint. I love seeing the pictures they share of their children at play or hearing stories about how their little one can’t sleep without their saint doll. Every time I learn that one of my dolls has somehow inspired or comforted or moved a child, I am filled with gratitude. For me, it is a privilege to play some small role in creating beauty in this world and encouraging beauty in childhood too. As someone trying to make beautiful things, the joy comes not only in the creation but also in sharing beauty with others.

Beauty touches the heart in a special way. It is always pulling us further, deeper, higher, even if it does fall short. Perhaps even because it does fall short. For it still points our eyes and hearts upwards to God who is the source and summit of all beautiful things, who is beauty itself. That longing in our hearts that we feel when we see or hear something beautiful pulls us towards God and is only ever satisfied in Him. Our restless hearts echo with beauty’s call.

I'm honored to get to share Marcy's words of wisdom with you.  Please go visit Marcy's shop and social media, and join the conversation here in the comments or on today's Instagram post about why you make beautiful things. And don't forget to come back every day this week for more creative wisdom from a set of beautiful women makers!

Find Marcy:

Instagram- @Marzipantz
Facebook- Marzipantz

And on Friday I'll be hosting the Beautiful Things Giveaway, an amazing collection of lovely items to bring the beauty of the Creator into your daily life.  Marcy is generously giving away a $55 credit towards the purchase of one of her dolls AND a coveted guaranteed spot in one of her releases in 2019.  You'll be able to enter to win here on the blog and on Instagram, so check back Friday, 6/28/2019, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart!


  1. What a lovely post, Marcy! That L’Engle quotation is so fitting too. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and Katie, I look forward to reading the rest of the posts this week! :)

  2. Thank you! Her book, Walking on Water is excellent!