Valentine’s Day is the most romantic day of the year. Or — and I can say this without fear of contradiction — it’s meant to be the most romantic day of the year. Women receive dozens of roses, enormous boxes of chocolates, and sometimes even engagement rings or marriage proposals. Cupid is busy on that February day, but there’s another less loving connection to that holiday. Does the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre ring a bell? How odd that a special day designed to memorialize pledges of affection coincided with one of America’s deadliest gangland slayings. Rather than exchanging kisses, machine-gun fire was exchanged. It’s this kind of bizarre double-sidedness that distinguishes the dolls made by Exstasie Harvey of Dolly Dames. At first glance, her creations look like soft toys and baby dolls. Take a second, longer look, and they’re visitors from a very different, sometimes darker, world.
Harvey, a Las Vegas resident, acknowledges that she loves these scary contradictions. A fan of horror movies and supernatural novels, she lets her inner demons come out and play when she fashions her soft-bodied originals. “I have always liked to sew, even as a little girl. I learned how to sew a dove when I was in sixth grade. I have loved it ever since,” Harvey shared. “I’ve really taught myself. I draw the body of the doll and sew it with a sewing machine. I do some parts by hand. My favorite part of the process is the sewing and stuffing.”
The intrepid doll artist, who marches to her own drum, said she began her foray into dollmaking about 15 years ago. Ironically, for a person who admits to being mad about frightening films and movie maniacs, she started her business for a very good, selfless reason. “I did not have a lot of money for Christmas, and I wanted to make something for my children that I knew they would cherish.” She tried her hand at dolls, and she was very pleased with the result.
Since then, there’s been no slowing down. Just like a heroine in one of her favorite edge-of-your-seat flicks, Harvey knows that she can’t stop and look over her shoulder. She loves the chance to work nonstop on her Creepy Dolls (that’s her description) and also on the occasional fairy or realistic character.
Working under the name Dolly Dames, Harvey tackles characters that combine her love of on-screen carnage with her own internal visions. She adores fashioning dolls that can be both hair-raising and heart-pounding.
“I truly appreciate my loyal customers, and not because of the money. It brings me great joy to be able to have these visions, create something from that, and then put a smile inside of someone,” she related. “I believe my business has flourished so long because of its originality, and I stay true to my visions. It doesn’t matter to me what anyone says. I have my collectors, and we are of a like mind.”
Besides her self-identification as an ultimate horror fan, Harvey also describes herself as a woman of deep faith. She’s a Christian, and she stands behind her belief in the Golden Rule with her business. “My customers mean so much to me. I believe in being honest, kind, prompt, and listening to what my customers want,” Harvey stressed. “I believe in being nice to people and treating people right. It goes a long way.”
Apparently, there are many collectors who want to journey into the dark side with Exstasie Harvey. They respond to her dolls that combine different portions of her life. Some of her characters have a sort of Vegas nightclub vibe to them — they’re showghouls, not showgirls! Others manage to seem sweet and in love, despite their deceased state. I imagine those dolls have taken their marital vows very seriously — until death do they part and beyond!
Learn more about this artist’s connection to the world of movie monsters and cinematic chills in the April issue of DOLLS (available in late February). More of her dolls will be shown, and she’ll share her favorite scary flicks and onscreen bad guys.