BJD dressed in autumn-themed outfit standing in front of a wooden bench with pumpkin decorations.
Maudie, a 12-inch resin BJD by Judy Porter. Her face-up was done by Tanna Beth and she wears an outfit designed by JacQs. Photo by Tanna Beth (Montanna Broyles)

Being able to see the world in a quirky and comical way is a blessing. That was particularly true during these past few years when a global pandemic and its attendant fear circulated across countries and communities. During these isolating and unusual days, doll artist Judy D. Porter looked around, took stock of the situation, and knew that a special brand of protective dolls was called for. Enter her enchanting line of Little Guardians.

Doll in a green floral print dress with yellow netting overlay and headpiece.
In her childhood, Judy Porter envisioned a make-believe woodland populated by fairies and pixies. Her Little Guardian of Spring is a magical addition to her array of designs.

Based on Porter’s childhood interactions with her mother, the dolls are meant to serve as stalwart defenders of everyday flora and fauna. “My inspiration is from a wonderful childhood of believing in fairies that lived in the woods behind my house,” Porter said. “Little notes started appearing in my room. A tiny pair of pink doll shoes! What a great mom! She helped to make it all real for me.”

Doll dressed in fanciful outfit with a tiny snowman
The Little Guardian of the Snowflakes comes with a winter-themed storage case. “I love creating little worlds for the little resin kids,” Porter said.

The belief that a doll can help ward off a bout with the blues and even everyday anxiety is not far-fetched. All doll lovers know that the arrival of a new doll can raise spirits and bring joy into one’s life. Porter’s new Little Guardians are supercharged caregivers: “When I was a child, I knew I had to be the Guardian of the Woods. Someone had to watch out for those tiny creatures. From that memory, my Little Guardian of Dolls and Doll Collectors was born. Each Little Guardian comes with one hand-sculpted doll. Cases representing her room and her doll collection are available. Right now, she’s exclusive to the Modern Doll Collectors Convention (MDCC).”

Ball-jointed doll standing with smaller sculpted dolls gathered around her.
Porter’s Little Guardian of Dolls and Doll Collectors comes with one hand-sculpted doll. Additionally, cases that reflect her room and her beloved dolls are available.

Since many people view their dolls as gatekeepers of their youthful, carefree days or reflections of their current children and grandchildren, Porter’s Guardians are ideal collectible companions. “The good news is that there are two more of these Little Guardian dolls,” Porter said. “There is the Little Guardian of Spring and the wintry Little Guardian of the Snowflakes. I think every sculpt of mine is inspired by the innocence of children knowing that they are the heroes of their own stories!”

Doll wearing a red dress with heart print along with red cowboy hat and fringed boots.
Maisie, 12 inches, is part of the sandbox toddlers line. “She is my little athlete,” Porter said. “Maisie loves all kinds of sports but can look very girly too!”

Even though her completed work touches a slew of admirers, an artist’s life is often a solitary one. Porter works alone in her studio — she’s based in Missouri and Florida — but she has called upon Bonnie Larson of Wee Designs to “do the bulk of my sewing these past years.” Now with the Little Guardians, her inner circle has expanded even more. “I am so excited to have this new collaboration with Montanna ‘Tanna Beth’ Broyles and JacQs Broyles. This is a fabulous team of a face-up artist and a seamstress. I am so thrilled to be working with these lovely ladies!”

Two dolls side-by-side dressed in different outfits but using similar color combinations (green, white, yellow, pink).
“Maudie (right), wanted a matching outfit and playdate with Addy Joy. All my 12-inch toddler dolls can share the same shoes and clothes,” Porter said.

Broyles is the owner of Designed By JacQs. “My first name is pronounced ‘Jax.’ Long story short, my grandpa was Jack, and I got ‘JacQs.’ That is not a typo! There is an ‘s’ at the end,” Broyles said. “I am a self-taught seamstress and have been sewing for many years. I am very passionate about what I do. I pride myself on attention to detail and enjoy sewing for many BJDs. Commissions are always welcome!”

Doll wearing an Asian-style top, black pants and sneakers.
Another new doll has visited Porter’s ever-expanding sandbox of adorable toddlers. Lotus, a little girl from China, is the most recent playful buddy.

Tanna Beth, Porter’s other new colleague, is a face-up artist “for a variety of dollies. You can follow my work on Facebook or Instagram.”

Porter said she’s delighted to be able to work with the talents and skills of Beth and Broyles, and she forecasts future ventures. “The Little Guardian series will have a new addition in 2023. Again, it will come from my very imaginative childhood and my parents, who supported my art.”

Small BJD wearing a pink dress and matching hat decorated with flowers.
Rosie, 10 inches, can swap and share clothes with Porter’s Luna. According to the artist, “I sculpted this happy little face because the last few years, I knew we needed some Rosie in our lives!”

Having a strong and encouraging support network has been crucial in Porter’s development as a doll artist. Initially, she earned her living as an events caricaturist. “I lived in Chicago after high school and attended the Art Academy. Doing serious portraits prepared me for way less serious event caricatures. Interestingly, there was way more serious money in it. People pay well to have you make fun of them!” Porter said.

Doll with white dress over black-and-white striped top, striped socks and red-brown shoes.
Luna is a 10-inch BJD by Porter that sold out quickly, though Porter said she’d consider another edition if interest was there. “She is along the lines of a Blythe, but very much my own style. She can wear an assortment of 10-inch clothing, including Little Darlings.”

“Transitioning to sculpting was a challenge. I had no background in the doll world. I had some great help from other artists, including Jack Johnston, Dianna Effner, and as most know, Pat Moulton. Pat taught me a lot about the doll world. She was my support and my mentor.”

Porter’s email address, Judytoons, harkens back to her work as a cartoon artist for many years. The ability to take reality and filter it into something joyful and humorous still underscores her work. Her dolls embody the freedom and fierceness of little kids who entertain themselves with their own dreams, ambitions, and make-believe adventures every day.

Doll in white and blue outfit pulls a red wagon with a cloth doll similar to Raggedy Ann inside.
“Another 12-inch buddy in my toddler series is Brielle. She loves to play with all the little resin kids in the sandbox,” Porter said.

“My company motto says it all,” she said. “Little kids doing what little kids do. It’s the cute, sometimes crazy things kids do. My toddler series of 12-inch sandbox buddies has been so well received! I have collectors who have the entire series. They get that each one represents something special about childhood. A new one has been added — Lotus, a little girl from China.

“The best compliment of all is from a collector or collectors who say, ‘I love your dolls.’ It just doesn’t get any better than that.” It’s also encouraging that her family stands behind her passion. “My hubby tells everyone about my work. My daughter helps with the cyber fun. My sister and my mom are my cheering section.”

Toddler doll in pink and white dress and sneakers.
Addy Joy, a 12-inch resin BJD. “This very popular little toddler is kind of shy, but loves all her sandbox friends,” the artist said.

Since dollmaking has offered so many opportunities and accolades for Porter, she wants to return the favor in kind. “This coming year, I am hoping to reschedule the workshops I was planning to teach before COVID-19 hit. I love teaching! Plus, I prepared a step-by-step book for my students. I provide all the supplies and the workbook. It is a great doll party!

“The takeaway for me from my work as a doll artist is truly the joy I get from my collectors. They get that it’s all about the wonderful world of endless possibilities that childhood offers. I think that is the appeal of my dolls. I hope that in my work, collectors find the joy and innocence of childhood.”

Judy Porter

Tanna Beth (Montanna Broyles)
Instagram: @faceupsbytanna

JacQs Broyles