Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Dollmaker

I had an interesting experience as a songwriter the other day.

Some ten or so years ago, my mother-in-law was approaching her 60th birthday. At that time, my wife and her sister (among others in the family) were planning a big celebration for her. They came to me and asked me to write a song for her. I was intrigued by the idea and jumped right to it.

I started by brainstorming a lot of ideas of things that, in my mind, identified her. One of these was that she was very involved in making porcelain dolls. She and her husband operated, at the time, a shop where they not only sold the supplies, but also taught the skills. They poured the slip into the molds, they taught people how to clean the greenware, and how to paint it after the firing. They helped them to assemble the doll bodies, and helped them to get the costumes.

As I was contemplating the song, it occurred to me that the way she worked the dolls was very similar to the care and attention she gave to her kids as she was raising them. So, that became the focus of the tribute song. Here’s the lyric:

The Dollmaker

She cradles the delicate head in her hands with so much care
With the skill of a master she smoothes out the lines in the greenware
Later when she takes it out of the kiln
She'll paint it and bake it all over again
'Cause she knows it's the fires that make the clay strong
And give the doll beauty to make it last long
As she shapes it and turns it and works it all day
In her dollmaker's masterful hands

She cradled the delicate head in her hands with so much love
And she knew down inside that this sweet little child was sent from above
Later when this one was feeling the pain
She smiled and gave laughter all over again
'Cause she knew what it takes to make children grow strong
And help them stand tall and know right from wrong
As she shaped them and turned them from year to year
In her dollmaker's masterful hands

The seeds that she's planted
Have blossomed and grown
Because of her sacrifice
And the love she has shown
Can one life make a difference with the good it imparts
It can if that someone gives straight from the heart
Like she does when she turns you and holds you so safe

In her dollmaker's masterful hands

In her dollmaker's masterful hands

I worked up an arrangement, and the family got together and performed it at her birthday party. I recorded the song and released it on my site at the time. You can download a copy of it here, but only if you promise not to cringe at the singing. It’s been ten years since then, ya know?

So, last week, after a long and grueling fight with Parkinson’s, my mother-in-law passed away. Yesterday, the family gathered again at the funeral and one again sang the song.

Afterward, many people commented to me how beautiful the song was, and what a fitting tribute it was to the lady herself. I might not sell a lot of CD’s, or get a lot of song downloads, or have a screaming throng of fans. But once in a while, I like to think I got a hit!

Mark Hansen


  1. In all her 60 years, I'm betting this is the best present she has received. Wow. Well done.

  2. Thanks for the kind words!




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