Photos by Charlene Fertel
Berdine Creedy has carved out a one-of-a-kind niche for herself in the doll world. Her creative efforts have provided her with an income, an artistic mission, a great abundance of joy, and a global coterie of friends. Because of her multiple accomplishments in the doll world — as an artist, an advocate for charitable concerns, and a woman who embodies the spirit of creative camaraderie — Creedy will be this year’s recipient of the Jones Publishing Lifetime Achievement Award, to be presented at the International Doll & Teddy Show held in Asheville, N.C., June 23 and 24.
“Besides being an incredibly talented artist, Berdine Creedy is one of the bright lights of the dollmaking world. Not only does she share her creative whimsy with the delightful body of work she does, but she has always shared her warmth and passion for this wonderful hobby,” said Robert Tonner, the 2016 Lifetime Achievement recipient. “There is no one that deserves this honor more. I offer her my deep congratulations.”
Earning the respect of her professional peers has always been a significant part of Creedy’s life. She always looked to other doll artists for encouragement and approbation. “I have been doing dolls since the early 1990s, back then in South Africa. It was a great journey from then until now. Meeting doll artists like Hildegard Günzel along the way was a fantastic experience,” Creedy said. “I learned from Hildegard, and she became my friend and mentor. Nothing can beat that.”
Berdine Creedy Dolls | Early Career
Creedy started by creating dolls using other artists’ molds. In 1991, she saw the photo of a doll sculpted by Dianna Effner in a magazine and was impressed. A talented potter, she purchased the mold and created her own version of the doll. Satisfied with what she achieved, Creedy bought more molds and worked at her craft for a year. “In 1992, I decided to sculpt my own,” Creedy said. “I entered my first doll in a competition in 1993, won a blue ribbon, and the rest was history!”
Having received that accolade, Creedy felt she had wandered upon the path she was meant to follow: “My story is a God thing. He walked beside me all the way and gave me strength to pursue my dreams. I could not have done this all without my faith in Him.”
Emigration from South Africa
One of Creedy’s riskiest ventures was her emigration from South Africa to the United States in 1996. Arriving on the shores of a new nation presented a host of challenges for Creedy and her family. However, she was determined to build a life for herself in her adopted homeland.
“It was not easy at times,” Creedy said. “There was no credit in a new country. The language was different from what we were used to — we spoke Afrikaans. Driving on the other side of the road was something to get used to! I was determined to survive in this new country — being the breadwinner; looking after my four kids: Charlene, Michael-John, Kevin, and Keith; and working hard to make it here. Getting the Lifetime Achievement Award is the applause from the doll world for my success. It is the cherry on the top of my cake!”
Kaye Wiggs, the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, said she’s an admirer of Creedy’s work ethic, life story, and resilience: “This award signifies the recognition of a lifetime of dedication and passion, the joy of creating, and at times disappointments in the careers of us as doll artists. It is the recognition of our achievements and the impact we’ve made on the doll world. I have always admired Berdine’s adventurous spirit and her fun-loving personality. These qualities are visible in her lovely dolls.”
For 25 years, Creedy has invited collectors into her personal dreams and imagination. She has used her dolls as a way to express her innermost feelings and her preferences. Many of her dolls are akin to a decoder ring or a painstakingly kept diary; her dolls reveal portions of her autobiography.
“I love dancing. I have always joked that if I were to choose a different career, it would have been as a dancer. That is why I have a lot of ballerinas in my dolls. By making them, I have lived out my dancing career!” Creedy said. “My dolls represent me as a person. I think a collector might fall in love with an artist’s style, and then they actually see the artist in that doll that they chose.
“I have a European look in my dolls that might attract my collectors, too. Also, I am a mother to four children, now grown. I think my maternal nature is in my dolls. The motherly instinct will always be there in all of us. When my collectors are drawn to my children and toddler dolls, they are filling that empty-nest syndrome. They are responding to my motherly side.”
One of the reasons Creedy decided to retire this year is because of her motherly and grandmotherly desires. Creedy was exceptionally close to her own mother, who worked alongside Berdine in the doll business until she passed away in 2015. “Mum was a huge inspiration in my doll career, being a watercolor artist herself. I learned the word ‘love’ from her. She loved every person unconditionally. She only saw the good in people and she lived gracefully every day, giving her life and time to others. She worked with me until her end,” Creedy said.
When her mother died, Creedy’s children began to reminisce about all the activities and experiences they’d shared with their grandmother. It was obvious that Creedy’s children adored and honored their late grandma. “Listening to them telling all the memories they had, I realized that now was the time to make memories with my children and grandchildren,” Creedy said. “I worked so hard to keep us all alive in America and let them pursue their dreams that I have not made memories yet. So now it is my time to do that.”
Creedy has other goals that she can tackle in her retirement, as well. “I love hiking, so that needs to be done while I am still healthy and can still hike mountains. Time will tell what my next adventures will be!”
The 2012 recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award, Maggie Iacono, regards Creedy’s 25-year tenure as a remarkable and positive accomplishment: “The doll world has been truly enriched by having her as a part of it. She is a cherished member of the doll world by her many fans and, naturally, by fellow doll artists around the world. I know she will take great pleasure in the recognition of her many talents and achievements as an artist when she receives this award.”
Looking back on her endeavors, Creedy said she feels that she rose to her many challenges and always labored to make dolls that she could be proud of and would want to share with the people she loves. The doll industry has evolved and has shifted since 1991, and Creedy always managed to find a way to stay relevant and collectible.
“In my career, I really went full circle. I changed three times in three different mediums,” Creedy said. “I am one of the first artists who did that in her career — porcelain, then vinyl, then ball-jointed dolls (BJDs). That is also why I am retiring. I see where the industry is heading. There will be 3D machines and more technology. Before it gets here, I am not learning a fourth medium! Both of my sons have 3D machines, and I refuse to learn. I am done!”
After all of her satisfying years in the business, Creedy is confident that she has left behind a legacy of love. “God sent me to this beautiful country for a reason. Now I know why. I had to meet all you incredible people. Thanks to my collectors — without you, I would not have been here today. I love you all, always and forever. And to my artist friends, thanks for your continuous friendship and love in the industry. We showed each other there is a place for each and every artist in the world. We inspired each other with costuming, face-ups, and the love for what we are doing. I am so blessed to know you all.”
Find out more at www.berdinecreedy.com
Stephanie Finnegan blogs about Berdine Creedy’s career.
Also see the all-time list of Lifetime Achievement Award winners here.