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elinor peace bailey


“A walking advertisement for fun” is how someone once described elinor peace bailey. With her bright clothing, outgoing nature, and lively sense of humor, it is obvious that elinor is not your “typical” sewing teacher. A globe trotting teacher of dollmaking who designs fabric and exercises her talent as a graphic artist on any stray surface she can find, elinor travels about 200 days a year, teaching and sharing her unique designs for dolls, toys, and other stuffed creations.

elinor said, “I have been drawing since I was old enough to smear paint on the wall. Color has always given me tremendous joy, and I’ve always been creative at heart.”

Coincidentally, today elinor is an icon in the sewing/quilting world because of the unique twist she took with her creative spirit and her love for color.

Thinking back to her childhood, elinor remembers standing where the carpet met in her Aunt Isabel’s apartment in New York. The bright orange and fuchsia came together between the bedroom and the living room.

“I resonated with that vibrancy,” said elinor. “When I was 14 years old that same aunt took me to the Museum of Modern Art to see a Van Gogh exhibit. The painting staggered my imagination, and from that day on I knew I wanted to become an artist.”

New York City was where elinor obtained her education, along with Tyler School of Fine Arts at Temple University, Parson’s School of Design, the Art Students League and finally four years at Brigham Young University where she graduated with a year of graduate work.

“My parents were so supportive and generous,” said elinor. “They did everything they could to expose me to great art. That art has fed my soul for all these years.”

elinor’s conversion to the Mormon Church took her across the country to Provo, UT, where she met and married Gary Lee Bailey and welcomed his two children into her life. This was just the beginning of their family of 10 children and 25 grandchildren.

elinor lightheartedly shared, “I always wanted a to be part of a large family. I’m just not sure I should have been the parent, but it has been a great journey.”

By the time elinor reached the age of 35 she was desperate to find an outlet for her artistic life. That outlet became “The Bird Land Boutique” which she participated in for seven or perhaps eight years in Pleasanton, CA. During that time she developed an audience for her multi-media crafts which included the dolls that became her companions into the quilt world.

“They drew a response peculiar to the doll form,” she said. “That form changed my relationship with the world. After all, who can be threatened by a character with a doll?”

elinor went from selling her dolls to creating patterns and teaching others to make them with the help of Dianna McLund, one of the owners of Empty Spools in Alamo, CA.

“Empty Spools is a fabulous quilt shop which made me quiver with creative inspiration. I began to teach there and gradually increased my circle of shops and guilds who hired me,” said elinor. “I learned to define myself with my clothing and by wearing my dolls. Being spotted in a crowded room is always a plus when you are in the entertainment business.”

As business grew, elinor’s husband, who had retired, began to work for their company, which today is known as epb dolls. He was always supportive but as they worked together, he became indispensible. As for their children, elinor said they became part of her team as well.

She added, “We also hired a gal from Hayward High School where the kids went to school, who has since become both my treasured friend and business partner, Beth Shumate Watts. She is now the proprietor of Fabric-Chicks Creative Oasis in Minden, NV, as well.”

elinor’s list of accomplishments is lengthy. She has written Mother Plays With Dolls, The Rag Doll From Plain to Fancy, and recently Two Doll Makers Meet In The Middle, published by Krause Publications. elinor has self-published 65 doll patterns and seven books which cover dollmaking from the simple to the complex. She has illustrated books for Bernina of America and Fairfield Processing and has designed fabric for P&B Textiles, Daisy Kingdom, and Concord Fabrics. She has acted as consultant for Crafts Magazine, Prym Dritz Corp. (who has manufactured her dolls), Fairfield Processing, and Spring Mills.

elinor is a writer and is presently experimenting with journaling and altered books, in addition to creating art to wear, which she shows off by wearing it herself.

It is not possible to make a success of this business without being fluid, so elinor has enjoyed being a creative consultant, a fabric designer, an illustrator, a publisher, an author, an idea person, a teacher and lecturer. She has traveled as far as Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and 49 of the 50 states. She has yet to teach in Vermont.

elinor has enjoyed great kindness from her friends and audiences wherever her career has led her. Students who have taken elinor’s classes say it’s her sense of humor that make her events memorable and fun. Her love for the people she teaches sifts through her dolls, giving them each a bit of comic relief, making them excellent examples of her trade.

“My business managed to support my family for several years, but more than that, it brought me a way of life in a community that has continued to nourish and encourage my artistic nature,” said elinor. “For this I thank The Lord, my parents, my siblings, my dearest husband (now no longer with me), my children and my grandchildren. I love this industry. The exchange of ideas, the mutual support, and the community are amazing.”

elinor, who now resides in Vancouver, WA, figures as she slows down and watches her children and grandchildren become the leaders, the circle that expanded will begin to contract.

She related, “Old icons can not stay in charge not even of themselves. I’m still creating, still innovating, still opening doors and learning new things. I shall do that until I no longer can. My art is woven into my life and is very much alive.”

If you would like to have elinor teach at your shop or speak at your guild, she loves to travel and present classes and workshops. You can e-mail her at elinor@epbdolls.com, call 1-775-267-0204, or visit her Web site at www.epbdolls.net.

Reprinted from SQE Professional, July 2009