Born in New York City, Lorna Paris is known for crafting one-of-a-kind (OOAK), handmade leather dolls made from the finest hides. An only child of two artists, her father, Ernest, was a jazz musician and her mother, Jewel, was a jazz singer. She began collecting dolls early in life — they would later become some of her best friends. Lorna was initially inspired to work with leather by her best friend Gregory who specialized in designing leather hats. She would assist him by sewing the leather seams on his eclectic hats sold on the streets of New York in the 1980’s. In 1989, she was faced with a number of challenges. Unemployed and having difficulty finding work, Lorna began praying to God for help to find her way in life. During this time, another special friend, Ka, encouraged her through his spiritual practices. Ka sent Lorna a little cloth doll resembling herself and told her, “Lorna, this doll will change your life.” This doll gave Lorna the motivation and inspiration to design her own dolls. Ka continued sending her inspirational cards and positive notes. It was at this time that Lorna decided to embark on her leather doll making journey.
“From that time onward, I used Gregory’s leather materials to improve my craft.
Once I’d completed the doll that made me proud of my toil, I felt encouraged that I’d accomplished my goals and dreams. My dolls continued to be my primary artistic focus and are now like my family.”
Lorna’s first doll sale was at a flea market at the Fashion Institute in New York. Following that, she sold dolls on 125th Street and Lenox Avenue in Harlem. There, she met another vendor who invited her to accompany him to a doll show in Connecticut. It was on this trip, in 1990, that she met her representative, Bernice Gasaway. Bernice offered to act as her promoter and sales representative at different shows around the country. The minute Bernice displayed the dolls at the shows, numerous dealers would buy them before the show would even began — the demand surpassed Lorna’s supply.
Once Gregory realized she was serious, he regularly gave her his spare leather and mud cloth material to use for the launch of her doll-making project. Amina, Lorna’s first leather doll, was completed in 1989 and Baheja was her second leather doll crafted soon after.It’s often said that Lorna’s dolls are spiritual and convey a lifelike appearance. Her doll collectors have been known to cry if they lost or missed an opportunity to view an exhibition of her work.
“People have told me my dolls resemble persons they know.
Some recognize friends or relatives in the faces of my dolls.”
In the mid 1990’s, a New York toy manufacturer saw Lorna’s dolls on display at a Hong Kong toy show. Lorna eventually met the manufacturer and entered into an agreement to produce dolls for 3 major accounts: Wal-Mart, Venture Department Stores, and Toys”R”Us. These dolls were made of vinyl and were sold throughout the U.S. and abroad.
Lorna’s vinyl dolls are no longer sold in retail stores, however, she continues to make one of a kind leather dolls and other collectibles at her design studio in New York City. Her dolls were recently on display at the 2010 NY Black doll and art show and received rave reviews! Lorna is the proud mother of two sons Royston and Hafis.Several of Lorna’s dolls are featured in the following books “Black Dolls: A Comprehensive Guide to Celebrating, Collecting, and Experiencing the Passion” by Debbie Behan Garrett, and “Black Dolls: Proud, Bold & Beautiful” by Nayda Rondon.