Michele Tibbetts and husband Dave

I was born in 1946 in Reims, France to a French freedom fighter from Brittany and an American Army officer. Much of my growing up was done in France with some time living in other parts of Europe and the US. Being a military family we moved a LOT. My fondest memories are of times spent living with my French grandparents, who were marvelous characters. They had been freedom fighters in both WWI and WWII. Add to that the fact that much of my Mom's family were still wearing their traditional costumes for everyday and living as people had for hundreds of years and you can probably figure out that my childhood was "different". I guess you could say my childhood in post war France was almost like having one foot in the middle of the 20th century and the other in a much earlier era.

My Dad was from upstate New York and was 11th generation American. Most of his family still live in that area. His Mom and stepfather were farmers and visits to their places were a lot of fun for a child. It was there that I made my first doll. I was three or four and found some fence slats, old clothes, and rope. They became a crude figure with unbraided rope hair after some nails and a hammer were appropriated from the barn!

Two of my Mom's aunts had a doll shop for some years. They specialized in regional costuming, mainly for tourists. At any rate, I learned a love of sewing and all kinds of handwork from them and my Grandmere. At that time we girls were started out learning these things while still quite young.

We were in the US for my high school and university years. That was when we came to Arizona where my Dad retired. When learning that we were going to be here my Grandmere burst into tears at the thought of us being in such a dangerous place as the Wild West! She was sure we'd be killed!

While in high school I pursued my love of the dance, singing and many sports. By then I was way too tall to continue in ballet so I learned some modern interpretive and jazz for the stage, but by the time I attended the Uof A my Dad had put the kibosh on art, dancing, singing, and the stage (not to mention clothing design). He was very forward thinking for his daughter and wanted me to achieve an education which would allow me to make a decent living. By majoring in speech and heaing therapy I at least could participate in readers' theater. (Hah--you just knew I had to sneak that in there right?) Somewhere along the line a local rock band, whose lead guitarist I was dating, recruited me as a singer. Many of the "dates" I had were actually to sing with the band! Between my sophomore and junior years, a part time job as an instructor at a ballroom dancing studio resulted in the manager connecting me up with an executive for the Sands. Now I was a choreographer! Whee! Small potatoes but a joy for me. You can probably see this coming BUT I never worked a day in the field my U of A training was designed for.

By 1970 I had married my David. He was in the service while we were dating but was a police officer when we married. Two years later our only child (a son) came along. He had some developmental disabilities and required a full time "someone". That was when I became a full time Mom. I thought that was it for me forever but not so Red Rider!

A neighbor invited me in to see the porcelain dolls she had painted. Wow! It all came together for me. My love of dolls, designing clothing, embellishment, ceramics. All of my real interests except dancing were there. The best thing was that I could make dolls the way I wanted them made and dress them as dramatically as I wished. That was in 1983 and I've been in the doll business as a professional since then. Most of that time was spent making dolls for the high end collector. I produced every facet of the doll from beginning to end by myself and wholesaled them to shop. In the end, I was making about 200 dolls a year---whew! By then sculpting was also something I was starting to do with an eye toward starting a doll factory here in Tucson..

Several years ago, a good friend who was working with some of the Ashton-Drake people as a free-lancer convinced me to talk to AD about doing costuming for them. She felt that my costuming was something they could use. When the dust settled, I was working with the Gene team as a free-lancer. What a friend! I still thank her.

Once having worked for AD I found work for other doll companies as well. I design clothing, of course, and accessories. Sometimes I paint porcelain dolls. Currently I am trying to get some sculpts done for a company which is thinking about producing some of my doll designs. Then, too, some of my work is as a "ghost". That means I do the painting and/or designing but someone else's name is on the product. Under this type of contract we aren't supposed to tell anyone the particulars so I can't tell you who but there are a lot of dolls out there with my work on them. By the way, David is a talented designer of miniature things and since retiring from the police department has done a few things for AD too.

A little while ago (a year?) I heard through the HLAYG group that Marsha was having a guest designer do a pattern for a Scottish kilt outfit. Hm-m-m, guest designer, that sounded like fun to me so I contacted Robbin Runtas (who at that time was a partner) and "volunteered" to do a few things for Perfect Patterns. I was familiar with Marsha's patterns and really loved them. Robbin put me in touch with her and now I do an occasional design for Marsha when time permits.

Well, here I am, a middle aged lady who still plays with dolls. It doesn't get any better than this. Except playing with my granddaughter and dolls. After all these years with a son we got a granddaughter who was born screaming "Quick, give me a doll". Ah, now there's a reward to soothe my heart!

Michele Tibbetts

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