I know a lot of people turn to familiar movies, dog-eared novels, or even big bowls of mac and cheese to find comfort. For me, I love seeing the familiar faces of beloved dolls. Over the years, I’ve been lucky to get to chat with an array of talented men and women. One of the most earnest and empathetic is Elizabeth “Liz” Cooper of Elizabeth Cooper Studio. Cooper is primarily known for her roughly 6-inch-tall figures that are small in stature but huge in nostalgia. Her dolls frequently reflect happy moments from childhood, and all of our long-ago youths, are sweet, adorable, and wholesome.
“Memories of childhood, family pets, people, places, and fashions are all themes that eventually make their way into my work,” Cooper shared. “What I try to convey is a feeling of warmth, kindness, and the simple pleasures of childhood. What I decide to create has to come from inside. If I can’t feel it in my heart, it is probably not going to come out from my hand.”
This pledge to create dolls that hold a special place in her heart isn’t just boasting or idle chatter. For nearly 30 years, Cooper has been doing just that. Her creations key into her own Kodak moments; they are the story of her life!
“My first success in life was being born into a loving family. My father was an art and photography teacher, and my mother was a businesswoman who was loving, determined and devoted to family. Our house always had projects going on, mostly art-related. We were never without paper, crayons, paint, or clay, which kept us creatively busy,” Cooper reminisced.
Her home was located in Medina, New York — the town that she still calls her own. Situated outside of Buffalo, Medina was noted for its sandstone, which was quarried in the town for over a century.
“Growing up, I felt Medina was like a combination of the television shows “Mayberry RFD” and “Lassie.” We had sandstone sidewalks, maple trees, blue morning glories, and a downtown where everyone really did know your name,” Cooper stated. “And we had a collie named Rex! People sat on front porches, parades were big, snowfalls were heavy, and summer was hot and beautiful.”
Cooper’s youth sounds as it were spent in a Norman Rockwell painting. I suppose that’s one of the reasons why her artwork is so relaxing and joyful. It centers on a common motif (a carefree childhood) and then sets it against an idyllic backdrop. Even if we all didn’t emerge from a Rockwell illustration, we all crave that warmth and sentimentality that his drawings suggest. Elizabeth Cooper’s dolls do that same trick. They make people relate and they make people smile.
This is an accomplishment that Cooper is pleased as punch to achieve. A lifelong doll lover, she is thrilled to be the conduit of pleasant memories and shared joy. “Throughout the years, I’ve been fortunate to have the support of friends and family to help me lug boxes of dolls hither and yon to shows. I have assured them that they would be rewarded in the afterlife, maybe before,” she joked. “I’ve had so many twists and turns in life, and it’s remarkable. Thirty years ago, I started with eight pounds of clay, a 1954 Singer sewing machine, and an idea.”
Lucky for all of us, Elizabeth Cooper’s idea burgeoned into a booming, successful brand. Her dolls never go out of style! And, coming up in the April 2020 issue of DOLLS magazine (coming out in late February), Cooper shares more of her life lessons and glimpses at her classic dolls. She also gives readers a look at her larger, more contemplative designs. It’s a studio visit that is well worth taking!