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JIS News

Doll maker Beverley Robotham is creating waves in the local and international doll market, through her unique culturally-inspired Island Dolls collection.
In addition to supplying several local souvenir shops and hotels and the Jamaica Business Development Centre’s (JBDC) ‘Things Jamaican’ stores located at both international airports, Camp Road and in Port Antonio; she also supplies huge markets in Grenada, St. Lucia, Antigua, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands as well as a large distributor in the United States.
“I recently worked on stuff for Barbados.as you know they celebrated their crop over, so I sent off three huge orders,” the doll maker says proudly.
The Island Dolls collection range from the traditional cloth dolls, which are known as the ‘up-side-down’ or ‘two headed’ doll to the vinyl or the Barbie-type. Ms. Robotham informs that for the Barbie-type dolls, “we get the bodies from overseas and then we dress the dolls in the traditional outfits like the bandana.we use the flag colours, the Rastafarian colours as well as some in the tropical prints.” The two-headed doll, she explains is made from cloth and when flipped over, reveals another head.
The doll maker states that her huge collection includes the popular ‘school girl/boy dolls, which represent the various prep, primary and high schools in the island. She notes that these dolls are given as gifts at Christmas or as souvenir items to mark past student’s days.
She tells JIS News that she has made dolls for more than 50 schools and recently supplied dolls to St. Hildas in St. Ann and Excelsior High in Kingston, to mark their 100th and 75th anniversaries, respectively.
Apart from the school dolls, Ms. Robotham says that those attired in the rastafarian and flag colours are in high demand and are bought primarily by tourists. The bandana dolls are purchased mainly by locals, since they know and appreciate what the bandana represents.
Among her most prized collections are her Miss Lou dolls, which she says is in high demand especially during the summer period, when a lot of people come home for Independence and with the recent passing of the cultural icon, the demand for the dolls has become even greater.
Also in her collection are Reggae Boyz dolls and the netball dolls, which she made for the World Netball Championship held in Jamaica in 2003.
In carrying out her mass production, Ms. Robotham works from home with approximately 12 persons, who assist her in getting the products on the market.
“I have seamstresses and other people making the straw and crochet hats and the baskets,” she says. There are other persons who work on assembling the dolls. These persons braid the hair, add the beads and do all the necessaries to complete the doll’s look.
Ms. Robotham’s lucrative career in dolly-making is the result of more than a decade of hard work, from just selling “one and two dolls” to now taking orders for between a dozen and 500 dolls from her huge clientele. “How I started is almost like a fairytale story,” she reflects, adding that it all began over 13 years ago while she was living in the United States and working in the banking sector on completion of an accounting degree.
“I was working at a bank and one Christmas they asked us to dress a doll to give away for charity purposes. I had the bandana fabric so I dressed the doll and took it to work and everybody liked it,” she tells JIS News.
With the success of her first effort, she then began making “one and two dolls for friends and relatives” and upon her return to Jamaica, the orders picked up when she realized that there were only a few black dolls on the market.
“I have been making dolls since 1993, and at that time, we actually made one type of doll.now in the collection, we have about 12 different types,Ms. Robotham says proudly adding, “we have grown and every year we try to do at least one new product to add to the collection.”
She gives high praise and credit to the JBDC for giving her both the technical and financial support to establish her business. The company provides development assistance for micro, small and medium size enterprises.
“They (JBDC) have assisted me in my packaging, labeling as well as giving me financial support through some grants.so over the years, they have been a tremendous help to my business as well as buying the products to sell in its Things Jamaican stores,” Ms. Robotham tells JIS News.
Through its retailing arm, Things Jamaican, the centre provides a marketing outlet for over 300 small business operators, who supply the various shops with authentic Jamaican products.
The future is looking even brighter for Ms. Robotham, who is working on dolls of international figures. But that was all she would reveal about her ‘top secret project’. She is also in the process of working on dolls for the ICC Cricket World Cup to be held in Jamaica next year.
“I will be doing the male dolls in the cricket uniforms of the 16 participating nations for Cricket World Cup 2007,” she reveals adding that she had applied for and was granted the licence to carry out this significant task.
“We also did some carnival dolls for Cricket World Cup.these are dolls attired in knee pads and the carnival outfit with a bat and a ball in her hand,” she explains. Before the end of the year, these dolls should be available on the market.
Turning to copyrighting, the doll maker notes that her licenced products are protected. These include her Miss Lou, personality and cricket dolls.
For the other items, she explains, “because I get the bodies from overseas, they are not my bodies.so I cannot have them patented with trademarks or anything like that.”
Her advice to business interests is: “starting a small business.you have to be dedicated and put your all into it. Don’t think that you are going to make it overnight.but if you have a product that you believe in, you should stick to it.”
“You have to put a quality product out there.which to me is more important than quantity,” she further advises.
For more information, contact Ms. Beverley Robotham at 978-8604 or P.O. Box 638 Kingston 6 or email: islanddolls@anbell.net.