Hey Doll, You're Pretty Special!
A few months ago, I was searching Facebook and came across a picture of a crocheted doll that was absolutely BEAUTIFUL! So, I clicked on the post and was taken to a page called Off 'D Hook Creations, and needless to say, what I saw left me speechless (and for those that know me...that's a first! LOL!). The pictures of these amazing diverse hand crafted dolls were simply adorable not only because they were dolls, but because of what they represented. I did a little investigating and found the owner Mrs. Dee Bennett who agreed to do an interview for us and let us get the scoop on the "What & Why" behind her beautiful creations.
If you're anything like me, this picture and article will definitely have you spreading the word and placing an order for your own original "Off 'D Hook Creation!" Who knows...you may even get the urge to take up a new hobby and learn to crochet.
MDC: Tell us a little bit about yourself and where you’re from.
ODH: There's not much to tell. My name is Dee. I've live in several different states across the U.S. I love my family, helping others, reading, cooking/baking, crocheting, and making a positive change for today's generation and the next. I have a profession that puts me in contact and requires me to assist others in need. I continue to see and deal with a lot of people that are less fortunate then I am on the daily basis. I see the horrors, injustice, poverty, crime, and pain of mankind. But I also occasionally catch glimpses of some good still in the world.
MDC: What exactly is Off D’ Hook Creations? What inspired the concept behind it?
ODH: I began crocheting at 16 yr old. I always wanted to learn to knit, as my Gran was a knitter, but she didn't have the patience to teach me. So, during my time volunteering at the local hospital ( I started when I was 15) one of the patients was crocheting and I asked her to please show me what she was doing. Well, she had been crocheting forever and crocheted too fast for me. She told me to get the book "Learn to Crochet in just one day" by Leisure Arts ( yes a book long before the Internet and YouTube). I got the book the same day and was hooked. I crocheted all the time and took my projects everywhere. Imagine a high school student sitting at HS basketball and football games with a crochet project in their hand. Needless to say I was the laughing stock. UNTIL they saw my projects. I was making scarves at the time and everyone wanted one. I was no longer the laughing stock but the girl who made really cool things.
I crocheted until I had my daughter then I stopped for years to be a mom and wife.
I picked my hook back up after years of not crocheting when I watched a child being removed from their house by CPS (child protective services) leaving everything behind. My heart was broken! I was tired of looking around and seeing the misery and suffering of people less fortunate than myself. So, I decided to help in some way, no matter how small. I wanted to share happiness, love, & smiles with as many people as I could with my crochet dolls.
"I’d always loved making dolls/toys, so I decided to combine my love for creating and helping others. I began giving dolls/toys to local police/fire stations, children’s hospitals, emergency rooms, domestic violence/ homeless shelters, etc, so the kids would have something comforting to hold on to. Recently, my journey changed direction when I joined Instagram and people began to see my dolls. Soon I had a few requests to make my dolls available to the public. I honored those requests, but still wanted to give to my charities as well. So, I switched the way I gave to charities. This allowed me to donate specific things requested, as well as dolls, clothes, and monetary donations. Then my journey changed again. I found that I was able to create special brown dolls for brown girls all over who wanted a doll that looked a little more like them. Making dolls for little brown girls has become, as big a reason for my dolls, as bringing a smile to a person’s face. It’s been the struggle for generations of little brown girls, to not only have a doll that looks anything like them, but to have pride in and be excited to have a doll of color. For as long as I can remember, brown dolls have been unavailable, limited, or not as beautiful as dolls of a fairer complexion. For generations, little brown girls have suffered with wanting to be something they are not and not seeing the beauty reflected in their mirror. I only hope to make a small difference. Maybe the commercial market will finally get it!
Along with joining Instsgram, there was a brown skin doll with braids and beads, that I made several months ago, that also helped change everything for me and made me see that I ( my dolls) could make a small difference. A young lady that I know to have struggled dearly with her dark brown skin and kinky hair, looked at this doll and said ” she looks like me when I was little and she’s BEAUTIFUL !” She has been proud of her dark brownskin ever since. She has looked at herself and other girls like her in a far better light, even finally seeing her beauty for what it is. FINALLY!!!! It was a POWERFUL and EMOTIONAL moment and one that changed my path forever!
I’ve always made diverse dolls, this just showed me how powerful a doll could be! Now it’s my goal to make each one more beautiful and diverse then the last".
Dolls are so important to a girls development in so many ways. They can help with self-esteem issues, especially when the doll looks just like you and has all the similar characteristics (including a hated feature) They can help a young child internalize and cope with various issues she/he may be experiencing. They help with exploring imagination. Doll play has long been utilized in the healing arts, and has been known to assist in significant ways.
A doll is usually a girl's/child's best friend when they are young. They are a cherished doll, best friend, and confidante. Someone to share our joy, happiness, success, secrets, goals, ambitions, and aspirations. And sometimes they share our inner demons, pain, suffering, sorrow, and possibly tragedies. Our dolly is there through the good times and bad with constant love and support that may not be provided elsewhere. Dolls/best friends won't tell our secrets or let us down. So often people ask me why I don't add a smile to my dolls. Well I leave that up to their owner. Not everyday is a good day. And as a young girls feelings and emotions change she can decide what look or mood her dolly should have. Basically, the dolls mood and facial features are left up to the imagination and interpretation of their owner. I believe dolls can have healing power and make a world of difference in the life of a young girl that wouldn't ordinarily confide in others.
MDC: How long has Off D’ Hook Creations been in existence?
ODH: I don’t really consider myself a business because my dolls are for adoption not sold. I want my dolls to find their forever home and be loved. I mixed the Build-A-Bear and Cabbage Patch kids concepts together. My dolls are what I call cuddle size, so are 18" approx the size of Amercian Girls Dolls. They come with a heart inside because they bring love to their new owner and have a set of Adoption papers. However, I started this new journey in Oct 2014, opening an Etsy store so that it was more professional.
MDC: How would someone go about ordering a doll for themselves or a special young lady in their life?
ODH: I actually make dolls for both boys and girls. Ordering is as simple as contacting me on my FB page or Etsy store with a request and specifics. All of my dolls are custom made for the person requesting the doll. I find out pertinent information about the person such as likes and dislikes, favorite colors, the doll type they are looking for, etc. But I also do look-a-like dolls or personalized dolls based off of a photo. I love a challenge! So people can feel free to contact me with new ideas and concepts. I'm not restricted to doll looks. I utilize the world around us and often look at fashion to create a doll. I do not duplicate dolls though. Each one of my dolls is one of a kind, therefore I will not remake a doll, however I will do something similar.
MDC: Do you believe that it’s important for girls and women alike to identify with themselves and recognize how special and unique they are?
ODH: Absolutely! To often woman and even young girls are the head of the household. There is a tremendous amount of pressure and responsibility placed on women today and in order to rise to the occasion girls/women have to have pride in themselves, be extremely focused, and driven to succeed.
MDC: Is this the message you try to convey with each doll? Do you think this is what sets your dolls apart from others?
ODH: The message I try to convey with each doll is first and foremost helping others, sharing love, a smile, happiness, changing lives, promoting and introducing beautiful brown dolls to the mainstream, being a roll model for young girls, and overall making a difference in the lives of others!
MDC: What advice would you give a young girl or woman who wants step out on faith and pursue their passion/purpose?
ODH: You can do anything you set your mind to. Strength, passion, and perseverance are necessary to achieve any goal.
As well as, have the drive to get the job done no matter what. The word NO isn't even in my vocabulary!
MDC: What’s the one thing that encourages you to make dolls day after day?
ODH: The fact that I can give things to others less fortunate gives me a tremendous sense of satisfaction. I help others on the daily basis any way as a profession, but now I'm able to help financially in a way I've never been able to help before. For example: Every week I buy several of the $10 grocery bags at the local grocery store. They then donate the bags to various local food pantries. Monthly, I obtain the list of items most needed at the homeless shelter and provide the necessary items. Each school year I provide needed school supplies for those children that are going back to school who will be without them. I sssist with community organizations to help with the needs of the lower income community. Most of my donations are done anonymously, I don't want credit or recognition for the things I do. Knowing they are done is gratifying enough. A sort of Guardian Angel. I come across people daily, in which I identify basic, personal or emotional needs and then work diligently to assist where or however I can.
-Dayatra N. Towles