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Dollmaker honours Gombeys

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A dollmaker whose Gombey creation won a hat-trick of awards at an international convention has attributed her victory to a deep reverence for the Bermudian art form.

Penny Sampson entered her Gombey into last month's event, held by the Doll Artisan Guild in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where it picked up Best in Category (Dances of the World), the Arti Award for Best Theme Doll and the People's Choice prize.

“I poured my heart into that doll because I love the Gombeys so much and I wanted to honour them,” the Warwick resident said.

“They're unique and wonderful, and I think every Bermudian has to be proud of them.”

Mrs Sampson began making her 20-inch-tall doll in July and finished it in early October, after receiving advice on outfit design from local Gombey Dancers Roddy and Tyrone Nesbitt.

“A competition doll takes about 200 to 300 hours to make,” she said, adding that her Gombey's porcelain head and decorative cloak took two weeks apiece to finish.

“The head took about nine firings in the kiln, and I made all of the cloak's fringing by hand with a crochet hook,” said the retired primary schoolteacher, who still substitutes at Warwick Academy.

Mrs Sampson moved to Bermuda from England in 1975 and married Bermudian Tyrone Sampson the following year.

In 1998, their son Ewan died in a motorcycle accident at the age of 17.

To help her deal with the grief, Mrs Sampson decided to build a dollhouse, having collected dolls since childhood.

“It took my mind off it,” she said. “And I was buying all these miniature dolls, which were terribly expensive. I thought, ‘This is daft, I'm sure I could make these'.”

After looking online, Mrs Sampson discovered the DAG and became an active member of the international organisation — travelling everywhere from Japan to South Africa, and making many new friends.

“It's a really enriching hobby. It's a passion really,” she said.

Mrs Sampson has made around 70 dolls overall, to add to the 100 antique dolls she owns. “My husband's only rule is the dolls can't intrude on his study, but I'm afraid they intrude on every other room in the house,” she said. Although she has won prizes in previous DAG conventions, Mrs Sampson said that her victory last month was special given the cultural significance of her doll.

“It meant so much to me to do well, because I revere the Gombeys and didn't want to let them down,” she said.

“I didn't expect to win, because some of the dolls were just beautiful, so to be recognised by my peers and the instructors was wonderful.”

Intricate creation: Penny Sampson from Warwick won three awards at a convention in Tennessee last month for her Gombey doll(Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Hat-trick of awards: Penny Sampson from Warwick won three awards at a convention in Tennessee last month for her Gombey doll(Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Work of art: Penny Sampson's award-winning Gombey doll (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Great surprise: Penny Sampson from Warwick won three awards at a convention in Tennessee last month for her Gombey doll.(Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Island icon: Penny Sampson from Warwick won three awards at a convention in Tennessee last month for her Gombey doll.(Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published November 23, 2016 at 8:00 am (Updated November 23, 2016 at 6:47 am)

Dollmaker honours Gombeys

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