Little Souls are completely handmade by Gretchen Wilson. Each is a one-of-a-kind unconventional creation featuring accessories made from recycled, reclaimed and reborn treasures. All Little Souls are designed, handmade and personally signed by Gretchen.
Gretchen’s first dolls were made as toys for her own children. While in line at the supermarket, with children and handmade dolls 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. When her business took off like a whirlwind with an initial order of 1,000 dolls, Gretchen quickly realized her passion could become a sustainable business. Her dolls combine unexpected materials, colors, patterns, and objects, thus illuminating the beauty of the disorganized and uncontrollable nature of life. The quirks and idiosyncrasies which we identify with loved ones are essential to her designs. Each creation shows that anything can go with anything, and how seemingly random pairings create a natural and appealing image that reflects human nature. Little Souls dolls are symbols of the imperfection of humanity. Each Little Soul has a story to tell and each communicates a different emotion.
Gretchen Wilson was born and raised in the South, where she spent her early years in a small town in Tennessee. After witnessing the injustices of segregation and Jim Crow, Gretchen was determined to do her part in creating a more just and gentle world. She believes, as Maya Angelou said, “People are more alike than different”, and so she has chosen to view people in a way that focuses on their likenesses while appreciating their differences. As a result, when Gretchen started Little Souls in 1986, with business partner and dear friend, Colleen Charleston, she was determined to create a workplace that shared her beliefs. She would treat all employees equally and focused on creating a diverse, safe, and open work environment with principles which she would not compromise.
In 2001, Sak’s Fifth Avenue’s flagship store in New York, chose One Enchanted Christmas, a book written by Colleen Charleston exclusively for Saks, as their famous Christmas window display. With that came tremendous exposure in the Saks Fifth Avenue stores across the country. 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 her 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. Sadly, Gretchen has witnessed brutal poverty in her travels. Amazed by the brilliance and resilience of the people with whom she worked, Gretchen always returned feeling stimulated, rejuvenated, and inspired. The specialized dying techniques, handmade felts, and glass beads are now an integral part of the design process…creating unique and unexpected touches to each one of a kind design.
Gretchen has been on the front page of The New York Times Business Section, featured in People magazine and made appearances on CNN and The Oprah Winfrey show.