A doll doctor is a new kind of job in the United States. There are none in Korea right now. Doll doctors are people who treat ‘dolls’ professionally. For example, they repair a doll’s broken arms and legs and repaint a doll’s skin when its color has faded. There are no exact employment figures about doll doctors, but about 200 members have joined the Doll Doctors Association. Many Korean students have little understanding of doll doctors, so the Post interviewed one, Gary Sowatzka. My fellow Donggukians, welcome to the world of doll doctors.
The Post: Would you tell me about yourself?
Gary: My name is Gary Sowatzka. I’m a self taught artist, and have just turned 60 years old. I have been doing this type of work for many years, close to 35 years. I have a few hobbies, photography, and bow hunting for big game animals.
The Post: How many dolls have you repaired?
Gary: I have done over 7500 doll restorations since I began helping people with their dolls.
The Post: What are important attributes for a doll doctor?
Gary: The art of ‘Doll Restoration’ can be learned through intensive study, and trial and error, and persistence. The restoration that would be needed on any doll must be determined. Some antique dolls should not be repaired, and only given very light, tender loving care, others need extensive restoration to bring back their value. The other reasons would be personal as these dolls belonged to someone we loved, and want to pass that doll down to the next generation. To determine what actions needs to be taken would be determined by its value. The more the doll is valued the more time must be taken. The goal is to leave the doll the way the original manufacturer or artist did in their creation of it.
The Post: Where do you work?
Gary: We had a 2000 square foot store in DePere Wisconsin for many years. We had many customers that became close friends over the years. We were very busy. 12 years ago I built a doll studio in Lake Tomahawk, Wisconsin. My father had passed away, so I moved back home to help my mother. Now I do my restoration work, in a large "Timber Framed" building that I built myself with the help of my daughter Stephanie, and loving wife, Louise. It is a very special area to work, and I enjoy working there every day.
The Post: Tell me about how you became a doll doctor.
Gary: The best approach would be to get a degree in Art, then search out good "Doll Doctors", and take special classes, to learn from these experts.
The Post: What is the biggest thrill of your job?
Gary: I get extreme satisfaction in seeing the joy in the doll owner’s face when they receive their doll back. They are very happy, and it shows in their being.
The Post: What advice do you have for Donggukians (Dongguk University students) who would want to become doll doctors?
Gary: You really need the desire to help people. I work for private people and museums restoring not only dolls but many other items. I was once told that you should do what you like and you will be happy. I have found that to be true. We are all curators with what is given to us. The more respect we have for these items, the more we respect we have for our culture, and the loved ones around us.
Doll doctors comfort a child’s wounded heart and help adults return to the innocence of their childhood. They receive constant requests from around the world for doll repairs. If everyone is looking for the same job like a teacher, a government employee and a business person they will have a hard time finding jobs. Rather than follow what others do, open up to new possibilities. Unusual jobs like doll doctors are in demand.
Kim Yu-young firstname.lastname@example.org
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