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Gretchen's first dolls were made as toys for her own children. While in line at the supermarket, with children and handmade creations in tow, a stranger asked Gretchen where she had bought her children's dolls. At that moment, a seed was planted in her mind...a seed that would become a life long, passion filled roller coaster business ride.
Gretchen started Little Souls in 1986, with her business partner and dear friend, Colleen Charleston. Together they shared an artistic sense and created whimsical, hand-made cloth dolls with gentle spirits, all in a workplace embracing the values of respect, tolerance, and diversity.
These unique, textile design dolls could be found dressing the windows of upscale boutiques, on the pages of Holiday Gift guides, in celebrity nurseries, and in the homes of the design conscious adult.
In 2001, Sak’s Fifth Avenue’s flagship store in New York, and home to a vibrant collection of our finest, funky, and holiday dolls, chose One Enchanted Christmas, a book written by Colleen Charleston exclusively for Saks, as their famous Christmas window display.
Three months later, at the height of their success, the 17,000 sq. ft. workshop (home to Little Souls and all of the wonderful treasures collected throughout the years), literally burned to the ground.
Forced to rebuild and change, the principles that inspired her work, such as a commitment to community and a compassion for disenfranchised women, remain central tenets in Gretchen's vision.
Gretchen’s strong commitment to equality has taken her to communities and villages in Ghana, Brazil, Mexico, Guatemala, Sri Lanka, Romania, the Caribbean and Honduras. Through these international projects, she would help to design and create saleable products, in addition to working on product development with crafts people in Armenia, India, Nepal, Peru, and Haiti.
Here at Gretchen Wilson Designs, we offer you not only Little Soul dolls, but many one of a kind creations, showcasing similar style and flavor, often incorporating recycled and interesting objects of all sorts.
Little Souls dolls, with their glorious differences, celebrate the quirks and idiosyncrasies of children and the child within and are loved by both adults and kids.
Whether lounging in an heirloom chair, on a bookshelf in your favorite room, or just "visiting" for the holidays, Little Souls dolls are the perfect gift for the person who has everything!
Each soul has a story to tell....the possibilities are endless!
Gretchen and Colleen continue to collaborate artistically and remain the best of friends.
Gretchen has been on the front page of The New York Times Business Section and has had a feature written about her in People magazine. The "Dollymama" has also appeared on CNN and The Oprah Winfrey show too