Bronx Doll Maker Brings Fairies, Elves and Goblins to Life
MORRIS PARK — Scarlet Rockefire, clad in black and red satin, likes the company of sad poems and her favorite novel, “Frankenstein.”
Elerya, a skilled cartographer with hooves for feet, bounds about the land of centaurs drafting royal maps.
And Mama Gumbe, in her flaming orange dress and wooden beads, shuts her eyes and furrows her brow, trying to will the world into harmony.
These are a few of the creations of Alba Garcia, 37, a graphic designer for the government by day and a professional doll maker by night. An award-winning artist who lives in the east Bronx, her figurines sell for as much as $2,500 each.
But as she sees it, her craft is more spiritual than commercial.
“I believe in my dolls,” Garcia said. “I believe they bring out the deepest expression of human nature.”
Garcia left her native Puerto Rico in the late 1990s to study animation at Manhattan’s School of Visual Arts. Her senior thesis, a stop-motion animation adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s “The Happy Prince,” earned her a Student Academy Award nomination.
After college, she briefly sculpted miniature Sylvester Stallones and Jean-Claude Van Dammes for the MTV show, “Celebrity Deathmatch.” Then she moved into education, teaching Bronx middle schoolers how to create their own animations.
Today, she works for the Justice Department in Manhattan, along with her husband, Julio Garay, 41, a fellow artist who builds robotic creatures in his spare time. This month, Garcia will launch a weekly workshop on sculpting faces from her home studio, which she calls Fantasiation.
Her dolls — a mixture of pale-faced vixens, medieval mystics and bearded fawns — draw from the worlds of fantasy, science fiction and goth. They bear complex expressions that, occasionally, veer on the menacing.
“Not all fairies are beautiful,” Garcia explained. “You have to go to the dark side sometimes to find beauty.”
Real human emotions, even values and beliefs, are etched into a doll’s face and molded into its shape, Garcia said.
A 16-inch tall, ball-jointed doll that Garcia created, called Sia’ Lorna, sports a “gracious and bodacious” figure, as an ad for the doll puts it, paying homage to full-bodied Latina women. Another doll in the works will become a strapping warrior woman.
“I don’t like my females too wimpy,” Garcia said, "especially with politics today in this country.”
Garcia sells her dolls, which require a few days to several months to make, at conventions around the country and online to international collectors. She also custom builds dolls to resemble newlyweds or deceased loved ones.
Beginning Sept. 15, she will offer a series of four-hour Saturday classes, with sessions for teens in the morning and adults in the afternoon, on sculpting busts out of clay. The course costs $175 per month.
Jackie Escalona, a Bronx clothing-store owner, and her 10-year-old daughter, Vicky, took a one-week doll-making class with Garcia in August. Jackie made a miniature ballerina that morphed into a Greek goddess; Vicky produced a goblin.
“This is a very good activity for kids and adults,” Escalona said. “I’m spending time with my daughter, while we’re both learning and sharing our feelings.”
Garcia pushes her students to channel their own emotions when crafting figurines, but also to commune with the dolls themselves, letting their tiny spirits guide the process of their creation.
“It makes my students step into another dimension,” she said. “And into themselves.”