For 35 years, Kathleen Taylor of Clinton dreamed and dreamed about a sea of tiny painted faces peeking through a picturesque village window.
This past fall, her dreams came true inside a little shop on First Street in downtown Langley.
“I’m doing what I love,” Taylor said Monday. “It’s been fun, fun, fun.”
Taylor, an avid doll maker and collector, is the owner of Once Upon a Time, a doll store she opened this past October, with the help of her husband, Laddie.
The cheerful shop features more than 1,000 antique, modern and restored dolls of many sizes, outfits and demeanors in an atmosphere dripping with nostalgia.
There is a wide assortment of high-end dolls from makers such as American Girl, Madame Alexander and Kathe Kruse from Germany, along with several handmade creations by Taylor, and dolls belonging to local makers and collectors which Taylor carries on consignment.
Taylor said the dolls in the shop range from less than $20 for a modern baby doll into the hundreds of dollars. A 34-inch-tall Shirley Temple doll is priced at $900.
The shop also offers other collectables and an assortment of doll accessories.
In her personal collection, Taylor even has a replica she made of a rare collectable doll that sold at a Las Vegas auction for $250,000.
“Knowing I couldn’t afford it, I made my own,” she said.
Taylor started crafting in 1975, painting on china plates, and doll making quickly followed.
“The instructor bought a few doll molds to experiment with,” she said, “and we all became addicted.”
A Washingtonian for most of her life, Taylor entered the first doll she made in a ceramics show at the Monroe Fairgrounds and won the top prize.
Then came a series of seminars and classes that led to her master’s proficiency in doll making. She intends to learn even more, and is continually honing her skills.
“I’m kind of a perfectionist,” she said.
Born in New York and raised in Oregon and Washington, Taylor said she’s always had a fondness for dolls, even though as a child she was part of a large family and had only a couple of dolls of her own.
“I’ve had a love of dolls forever,” she said. “I feel that this is my calling.”
Through the years, several relocations and the raising of five children, Taylor nursed her dream, but was hesitant to make the leap.
Four years ago, she and Laddie moved to Whidbey Island, and her children convinced her that the time was right to follow her dream.
“I said OK, that’s it, I’m doing it, and it all fell into place,” Taylor said. “But it was scary.”
Her husband, a veteran of the communications industry, retired from Whidbey Telecom to focus on the business end of the operation. He also helps out at the shop, when Taylor is busy restoring dolls in her garage.
“So many dolls need restoration on the island, it’s amazing,” she said. “I enjoy it. It’s my cup of tea.”
Taylor’s sister Virginia Thornton of the Bothell area rides the ferry on Thursdays to mind the store.
The shop isn’t the only venture Taylor has launched. About 15 years ago, while living in Battle Ground in Southwest Washington, she raised Angora goats, figuring to make a pile of money selling the fleece for doll wigs.
“I wasn’t a breeder, and it was too much work,” she said. “I found myself with too many goats, and had to take them to the auction. But it was a good adventure.”
Looking ahead, Taylor said she may expand her business. But right now she’s content to run the store, make and restore dolls and conduct classes.
She said business has been steady, despite the downturn in the economy, but she expects to do even better as the financial climate improves.
“Doll people just have to hang in there,” Taylor said. “I’m pretty sure it’ll come roaring back.”
For now, she’s focusing on her 10 grandchildren, and her love of little-people look-alikes.
“It’s been a wonderful ride so far,” she said.
Once Upon A Time is at 202 First St. in Langley. It’s open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For information, call 221-1167 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.