If your holiday season wish list includes a guardian angel, Gloria Doxtader of the Spalding Garden Club can put you in touch with one.
Doxtader, a late-blooming artist who lives in the Sandy Springs-Dunwoody area, has been creating angels since 2008. At last count, she was at 300.
Many of these angels are designed to withstand the elements and are ideal for gardens, outdoor pots or porches. Others are made from materials that won’t tolerate the weather and are intended to hang in homes. All have a similar style and feature various kinds of decorative elements on a long slender body with wings at the top just below a head made from a deck spindle.
Doxtader makes her angels from a variety of antique materials, an interesting array of knick- knacks, a few items easily found at box stores and a heavy dose of creativity.
Her favorite materials to make the body of the angels are old barn wood or poplar bark siding she finds during getaways to the North Carolina mountains or pretty wood she finds at box stores. Discovering sources of barn wood has involved some interesting adventures.
She has fond memories, for example, of spotting a pile of barn wood in Highlands, N.C. As she drove up to the house to ask about it she realized that several generations were gathered on the porch. She asked if she could buy the barn wood and recalled that the people looked at her like she was crazy. She said an older man pulled out some barn wood for her and she later took the family an angel as a way of saying ‘Thank you.’
She makes the wings from aging tin or copper she finds at antique malls or at off-the-beaten path places, although she says these materials are becoming increasingly harder to find. Embellishments such as little iron bells tend to come from the same places.
Her way of making the heads that top off the angels shows that Doxtader has a sense of humor to match her creativity.
“When I started making the angels, if it didn’t go together well,” she explained, “I decided it must be male, and it got a macho head.”
That would be a square deck spindle. She uses round deck spindles for the heads of her female angels.
“That’s part of my fun process,” she says with a chuckle.
That process started in 2006 when she and her sister were at Scott Antique Market. She spotted some antique tin that caught her fancy and brought it home, not sure exactly what she would do with it.
It sat in her garage awaiting its fate. Eventually, she took it to a second home she and her husband, Boyd, have in Cashiers, N.C. For reasons she still can’t explain, early in 2008 she decided the tin would make interesting angel wings. So she set about creating her first angel. A neighbor saw her working in the garage and came over to see what the clatter was about.
Spotting the angel, she said the last thing Doxtader expected to hear, “I want to buy it.” When Doxtader recovered from her shock, she agreed to sell it to her.
Sufficiently inspired, Doxtader began making more angels. It didn’t take long before word about her creations began spreading.
“All of a sudden,” she said, “people started calling me an artist.”
They couldn’t have said anything that would have made her more proud. She had been in a structured environment as a registered nurse for 25 years and had held a number of important positions in the nursing profession. During those years when she was so closely associated with healing, she had collected angels. She still has fond memories of acquiring angels as Christmas tree ornaments and Lladro porcelains, for example.
Now, looking back on those years, she says that “I think I was meant to do angels.”
And to be an artist.
After retiring from nursing, she took courses in art. And she joined the Art League of Highlands (N.C.), which she says, “made me feel like maybe I am an artist.” She’s competed in juried shows in Atlanta and Highlands, and compliments she’s received from a long-time artist leave no doubt that he certainly regards her as an artist.
She’s also a businesswoman, turning her creativity into Architectural Angels. She creates her angels in several sizes:
• Economy, just 22 inches high.
• Cherubs, suitable for displaying on table tops.
• Garden Angels, medium sized.
• Grand Arc Angels, the largest size.
Doxtader says she loves making her angels, no matter the size, “because they are all dramatic and people appreciate my creativity.”
She makes the angels in her workshop in her Sandy Springs-Dunwoody garage where she keeps boxes and boxes of angel parts near a large power saw. A neighbor, John Gannon, cuts the wings for her now because she has Carpel Tunnel Syndrome in both wrists.
On one side of the garage there is display of large, finished Arc Angels. Massed together, the angels give a visitor the impression that surely this is the only garage in Sandy Springs or Dunwoody that has the feel of an ancient cathedral.
Her angels, Doxader admits, do have a feeling of spirituality. The garden angels, for example, are definitely not your typical yard art.
Angels in all sizes will be available at shows or by commission in the coming year. She’s still deciding on which shows.
But if your garden needs a guardian angel before then, let Doxtader know. She’s used to getting requests like this during the holidays and, no doubt, could put you in touch with an angel or two.