CHRISTIAN AVARD / STAFF PHOTO
Bonnie Watters of Bonnie’s Bundles Dolls is celebrating 45 years of doll-making from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at her home and business in Stone Village in Chester. Watters is seen here holding “Andro,” a doll made from a design she developed in the late 1970s.
CHESTER — Bonnie Watters was beaming Thursday at her doll-making store and gallery in Chester. This weekend, Bonnie’s Bundles Dolls will celebrate 45 years of doll- making, an achievement that went way beyond Watters’ expectations, which started out as a hobby.
Asked what kept her going, Watters said it was making long-lasting connections with people who appreciate her craft.
“People keep coming back. It’s amazing, but they do,” she said. “I’ve had funny things happen. A lady who bought some my dolls in the 1970s and came back to me recently and said, ‘I want a fairy doll for my garden.’ She came back after 30 years. They don’t forget.”
Watters’ doll-making career began in 1968. She worked as an executive assistant at a search firm in midtown Manhattan and a Jesuit seminary in Morningside Heights.
She learned about doll making from her mother who worked as a seamstress and her aunt who worked as an embroiderer. Watters sold her first homemade doll clothes 45 years ago to a Bronxville drug store owner who sold them as party favors.
Watters said they sold out quickly and the store owner wanted more. That led to the beginning of Bonnie’s Bundles Dolls.
Watters’ first doll was Raggedy Ann made from a commercial pattern. From there, she made her first original doll, “Eliza,” which was “a big-eyed, long-legged girl” made of gingham fabric.
Watters quit her day jobs to raise her family and focus her energy on doll making. She sold her dolls to friends and at craft fairs, boutiques and other events.
In 1974, her family moved to Chester where her business continued to grow. By 1976, she had as many as two dozen employees.
Dolls were manufactured in the back of her house and her husband, Lew Watters, built a showroom in the front of the house in 1980. At one point, Watters said, they were making up to 850 dolls a year.
She said her dolls have distinctly embroidered faces, which is a selling point. The eyes in Watters’ dolls come in a variety of designs. They come in rainbows, animals, bugs, flowers, sports teams or they are custom made.
Watters is now retired and she now manufactures up to 450 dolls a year with one embroiderer and two dress makers. Despite the slowdown in production, Watters said she will never outgrow the hobby that made her business a success.
“It’s just very satisfying,” she said. “Forty-five years is quite a benchmark.”
There will be a celebration from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday at Bonnie’s Bundles Dolls on Route 103 in Stone Village in Chester. Several activities are planned and there will be a special carrot cake with designs of Watters’ dolls and her cat Silvio.
For more information call 875-2114 or visit www .bonniesbundlesdolls.com.
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