Photos courtesy of Moonlight Art Dolls
When I showed Barbara Felts’s idealization of the Little Mermaid, folks were understandably impressed. The doll is an aquatic stunner — part Esther Williams/part Rita Hayworth. She’s a lovely pinup character, just minus the million-dollar Betty Grable legs!
What’s interesting about Felts as an artist is that many of her offerings celebrate the reality of life, not the more mythological, fantastical elements. Though she has done fairies and cherubs, a mermaid or a pixie, she finds the most satisfaction by creating dolls that honor everyday affection, everyday elegance, everyday attitudes.
With her respect for meticulously mirroring the ordinary — the intricate realities of our world — she has proven that imagination doesn’t have to be reserved for the imaginary alone. She brings creativity and believability to the world she sees.
“I strive for realism. I love it when people say they thought the doll was real when I post a picture online,” Felts told me. “I strive for realism whenever I begin to sculpt, and I try to capture innocence and joy in my babies and my children creations. My hope is that my dolls will bring joy and happiness to my collectors. I want them to see themselves and their family members in my dolls.”
Much of Felts’s success as a doll artist can be attributed to her supportive family. When I had the chance to interview her, she made sure to give heartfelt thanks to her mother for her seamstress skills and companionship at doll shows; her husband for his patience regarding her time away from home at shows and her at-home time spent creating and finishing up doll projects; and, lastly, her sons for always speaking encouraging words about her efforts.
“However, I have to admit that their friends were not too excited about all the dolls and doll parts scattered around when they came over for visits!” Felts admitted.
Many of Felts’s pieces focus on the world of children. When she first began in the world of doll artistry, she created a one-of-a-kind series of dolls replicating children at play. She has always been attracted to the chance of holding children and babies up as examples of God’s finest handiwork: “I believe babies and children are gifts from God. Being around them brings me such happiness and joy. I believe my talent is a gift from God, too. Every day, I thank God for giving it to me. When I am able to use my gift to make dolls that depict babies and children, I feel I am using my gift — my talent — for what it is meant to do.”
Felts is committed to her faith, and her piece Choose Life received many doll-industry awards. It was inspired by her work with the organization First Choice NC. “It is a group that helps women in crisis choose life by working with them to overcome the many obstacles that they face,” she explained. “For me, inspiration can come from so many different places. I collect photos from online or I find images in magazines that spark an interest. Sometimes it is just the pose that will influence me. Other times it is a beautiful face. I never know where or how an idea will strike.”
The North Carolina resident has always been drawn to the arts, studying both with private classes before high school and with art teachers during her high-school days. When her interest turned to the field of doll art, she attended sculpting classes, read books, watched videos, and joined groups where her skills and talents were supported and encouraged. Recognizing the important role that teaching and educating can play in fostering talent, Felts has committed herself to sharing her knowledge and expertise with aspiring doll creators. “I think it is vital for artists to mentor new artists. It is the way of the future,” she stated. “I love to learn as well as to teach. Because of this, I am a member of several groups that have mentor/apprentice programs. I love to participate in those.”
An award-winning artist, a devoted mother, daughter, and wife, Felts also found time to carve out a career in the computer industry. It was that split shift that gave the name to her doll business. “When I first started out, I had a website that was called ‘feltsdolls.’ It made sense to me, but people kept thinking I was making and selling dolls that were made of felt!” she laughed. “So, I felt I had to change the name of my website and my doll company. Because I had a day job as a computer programmer and was moonlighting at night as an artist, I called it Moonlight Art!”
The name has stuck, and now Barbara Felts’s moonlighting role as a skilled and talented original artist has reaped multiple benefits and applause. She is enjoying her well-deserved acclaim and happy days in the sun!