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WHAT A DOLL (MAKER)

Sue Parnham’s bears, hares and cats are made to thrill and touch the heart

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WHAT A DOLL (MAKER)

Sue Parnham, the 34th annual Manteca Quilt Show’s featured doll artist, is pictured with some of her original creations. She is shown holding her teddy bear which will be given as an opportunity-dr...

ROSE ALBANO RISSO/The Bulletin


POSTED March 2, 2013 1:55 a.m.

Sue Parnham is a prolific dollmaker, and an award-winning one to boot.

Her 20-year menagerie of bears, hares, cats, plain folks, and character caricatures bear that out. And the soft-cloth sculptures’ Parnham-given names are also quite a hoot, they are an entertainment by themselves.

As the cafeteria manager at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic School and Manteca Quilters’ featured Doll Artist this year explains it, each cloth creation has a story behind it that served as the genesis for its identity. Just a few examples, to wit:

• Luigi Grigio, described by Parnham as someone who “is in the witness protection program. After living many years on a corn farm in the Midwest using the name Spencer Weatherbee, he unknowingly became involved in a ‘corn for moonshine’ scheme and turned state’s evidence against his co-shiners. He now lives in a quiet vineyard making wine!”

• Cata Harry is Parnham’s “version of Mata Hari, the exotic dancer/spy. This was a President’s Challenge for our Guild and the (doll’s) fabric was the challenge fabric. I used every inch of fabric! There was not even one scrape left! She placed third in the competition.”

• Hossible Horatio Hare “is just that. Oh, the mischief he has gotten into!”

• The Fairy God Mother-in-law. Parnham said this doll was from a sculpting class given by Sally Lampi. “This doll hung in my kitchen window for ever until an ex-daughter-in-law told me that seeing that doll always made her feel welcome so I promptly removed it!”

But many of Parnham’s creations have stories that truly warm the heart like the crackling flames of a wood-burning fireplace on a cold winter night. A few samples of these:

• Bear Hugs, a teddy bear she made “for my mother when she experienced ‘empty-nest syndrome.’ I told her to hug this bear every time she missed a kid or grandkid. Since my youngest (Sam who attends Manteca High) will turn 18 this year, my mother thought I needed him more and sent him back to me!” Parnham’s two older sons with husband Scott – Danny and Matt – are both U.S. Army service men. Danny spent 12 years in the Army and served in Afghanistan. Matt, who served in Iraq, just signed for another two years after his original three years commitment.

• The Von Shuebears, “a tribute to my great-grandparents who emigrated to the United States from Germany in the late 1800s. Franz Jacob, Suzanna and Katerina won a Best of Show ribbon in the San Joaquin County Fair and went on to win a 1st place ribbon in the California State Fair’s Best of Show competition.”

• Weally Worn Wabbits, Wiley and Wilbur were “created from two of my late father-in-law’s wool scarves. Whenever I look at the wabbits, I think of Walt and smile,” said a smiling Parnham.

• Clementine is a doll “made from an old worn-out tablecloth that belonged to a beloved nun/teacher that taught my brother (me),” Parnham said. “Her name was Sister Clementine, a very small, quiet nun that swung a mean ruler when needed! I made this doll an angel because I have no doubt that Sr. Clem is one.”

• Zee was made by Parnham for an auction “to benefit a friend whose son developed lupus at the age of 13. The bear sold for over $300 and the buyer then gave him back to me several years later!” The friend’s son is doing fine, she said.

The most amazing thing about these cloth sculptures is that everyone was made by Parnham out of recycled materials. Some were found at dollar stores. Several of the wool fabrics were discovered at the Salvation Army store. And still others came from family and friends who have outgrown their wool shirts and sweaters and were about to be given away to charity. For example, Diamond Li’l which was a doll that Parnham made for friend and fellow Guild member Janet Dyk, was made out of Dyk’s father’s wool sweater and her mother’s wool suit.

About 50 of Parnham’s cloth creations are being shown in the Cloth Doll Creations display at this weekend’s 34th annual Manteca Quilt Show being held at the MRPS Hall on Grant Street in downtown Manteca.

One of Parnham’s original teddy bears will be one of the prizes given away at a drawing to be held on Sunday. Two opportunity quilts also will be drawn – the first one, a king-size bed cover, and the second one smaller in size. Tickets to these drawings are $1 apiece or six for $5, and will be sold both days. This year’s featured quilter is Pat Kilpatrick.

Nearly two-dozen vendors are featured, in addition to the dozens of original quilts on display made by members of the quilters club. In addition to the Opportunity Quilt and Opportunity Cloth Doll offered in the drawing, there will be several theme baskets – mainly quilt-related items and chocolate – that will be drawn also. These are all donated by members of the club. One need not be present to win any of the prizes.

Admission to the show is $7 apiece, or $10 for both days. Children under 12 are admitted free.

There will be lunch available as well for those who want to browse the whole day without leaving the show premises.

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