Words cannot describe the feeling I get when people comment, “Oh my gosh, she looks just like my…!”
My name is Aniqua Wilkerson and I am a crochet artist/designer specializing in doll making. About two years ago I quit teaching in pursuit of a more creatively free career. Art had always been the tool I used to be a more effective teacher, but being a classroom teacher was a bit too rigid for me!
I didn’t have a real plan. I just wanted to be as creative and as innovative as I could possibly be. You see, crochet is an old art form and millions of people do it. I didn’t realize at the time, how important it would be to stand out.
My real journey didn’t start until I decided that I wanted to make dolls. I began by looking in different places for inspiration and discovered something very interesting.
I couldn’t find many African American crochet dolls. I saw lots of white dolls, but brown dolls were scarce.
There were two ladies on Etsy, that made really cute African American dolls, and both designers were white women. I wondered why there were so few brown crochet dolls. I knew there were African American crocheters, so why was it so hard to find African American crochet dolls?
This discovery led me down a path that I hadn’t anticipated when I set out to be artistically free! What do you do when you don’t find what you’re looking for? You create it yourself!
Even though the two designers I found made decent brown girls, there was so much more to be seen. Different shades of brown, and different types of hairstyles; afro puffs, braids, beads, coils, curls, afros, etc. The variations were huge, and the obstacles were enormous!
Artistically, this was an awesome challenge because I had to start from scratch. I had to figure out innovative ways to manipulate yarn to resemble all the different ways little brown girls wear their hair. It became a real project for me. But I learned so much more.
Biggest obstacle, “Is this brown too dark?”
An absurd question, but yes someone really asked that! Would you believe that some people feel that way? My immediate response was “absolutely not!” I have a beautifully brown niece who just happens to be that shade, it would be utter betrayal to say yes, not to mention offensive and untrue! It made me think about the attributes to a “pretty brown girl”. I gained what has become my golden rule for creating these girls, “No brown is too dark!” The shade of brown NEVER matters.
From that point on, I had a mission. A wonderful and scary goal. Being a girl is hard enough when the world shows you imagery of who you should be and how you should look. What happens when you don’t fit the model presented? Our girls not just brown girls are being taught to alter and adjust physically and mentally in order to meet the “standard”. No longer are we taught to love who we are.
Dye your hair, straighten those kinks, enhance this and cut away that… the list goes on. Self hate is on sale every where! There are payment plans for these “enhancements” and some of us have suffered heavily in the name of beauty.
What if we teach our girls that who they are is much more wonderful,
What if you knew, that being you is already beautiful?
When I create these unique dolls, my head and my heart goes into it. My head says, “make it resemble a little girl”, and my heart says, “make her uniquely wonderful!”
And so begins a conversation between the creation and creator:
Only make her once. I never use patterns so they’re always different.
In that way, she won’t ever have competition.
Keep in mind the person she is created for, her purpose, because my dolls have been gifts of love, comfort, healing, support, and encouragement.
I know it sounds funny but yes, we talk! And by the time I am done she is a whole 360 degree depiction of someone who is beautiful because she was created with a plan and a purpose. She goes to her new home with a hand written note that says so. If this is true about my dolls, couldn’t this be even more true about you?
I create these dolls because I want to encourage pride and confidence in girls. Show them that they are beautifully and uniquely made, like my creations, only much much better!