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THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan.
THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan.
North Shore Towers resident Sylvia Landau creates fabric dolls. To view more photos, see the North Shore Towers Courier's January issue.

Three women — donning deep purple-hued feathery dresses and gossipmonger smirks — make themselves home in Sylvia Landau’s apartment.

The trio has spunk and attitude, only their stories are fiction and they’re made of fabric.

“It’s where your imagination takes you,” Sylvia said. “When you’re in that mode, you just want to try everything. What can you lose, right?”

The North Shore Towers resident’s passion for creating fabric art dolls stems from her early love for arts and crafts as a teenager. Sylvia’s first stint with sewing slowly grew into making jewelry — before her love for creating fabric dolls took over full force.

“I love these dolls and I love doing this. I just have to. I don’t cook or clean, so I have to do something with my time now that the children are grown,” she said.

Sylvia — who also dabbles with sculpting — even taught a few fabric doll making classes at the Adult Education Center in Great Neck, but she said she wasn’t able to recently because not enough people signed up.

“There are not too many crazy people out there who want to do this,” she laughed. “It’s a little kooky.”

Still, the pleasure that comes from making dolls come to life is enough for Sylvia to continue creating every single day.

“I’m obsessed,” she said. “My eyes are always open for things that will give the doll a story. It’s just something that is always with me.”

Sylvia works on at least three to four dolls at a time, and it can take a couple of weeks to finish one piece, she said, “depending on how the motor is going.”

To this day, Sylvia has fashioned at least 50 fabric dolls, most of whom live in the nooks and crannies of her husband Herb’s and her cozy Towers apartment.

“It’s getting crowded in here,” she joked, taking a step back to look at the multihued hodgepodge of dolls that line the walls and tabletops — each with its own individual story, telling of a different “ah ha!” moment.

“I don’t always know what I’m going to do or where I’m going with it, and sometimes it will lie around for months when all of a sudden, it hits me with what to do with it,” she said.

And the studio to produce these soft figurines is located right in Sylvia’s very own apartment.

The doll making fanatic dedicated an entire workroom with enough fabric inside “to take care of the entire world.” It’s overflowing with fabric, lace trim, paint, shoelaces, tassels, string, yarn and polyester-filled blank doll heads.

“My grandchildren laugh and laugh, but they usually go along with me,” she said, adding that the doll’s face very often dictates the end product.

In fact, Sylvia’s “Are You Shopping or Just Looking?” doll — prominent for her sour face — won an Artists Craftsmen of New York honorable mention in 2009.

“It’s the way her face turned out. She just didn’t look like a nice person,” Sylvia said, adding that the doll — holding a pencil and writing pad — was an angry shopper totaling her bill. “She looked nasty, and once I put the apron on her and filled the paper bag with merchandise, I knew what she was going to be,” Sylvia said.

“Your imagination just starts to run.”

To view more photos, see the North Shore Towers Courier’s January issue.


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