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Cancer victim’s art helps carry on the fight

Tara Jeffrey Barb Howarth’s signature character dolls were like snowflakes: no two ever the same.
Paula McKinlay, left, community fundraising specialist with the Canadian Cancer Society’s Lambton branch, and Kathy Sitter, display some of the late Barb Howarth’s ‘teller dolls’ available at Artopia Gallery &Framing this month. Tara Jeffrey

Tara Jeffrey

Barb Howarth’s signature character dolls were like snowflakes: no two ever the same.

“Each one has its own personality and theme; they’re so whimsical,” said Kathy Sitter, sister of the late Howarth, a Sarnia artist who lost her battle with cancer nearly ten years ago.

Howarth was well known for her textile and weaving work, often donating pieces to local galleries and fundraisers.

But it was the handmade ‘teller dolls’ that garnered the most attention, said Sitter.

“Each one tells a story, and people really loved that. This was how she made her income.”

When diagnosed with leukemia at age 50, Howarth told family she wanted to start fundraising for cancer research. But she passed away four months later.

“It was a tough fight. She was even doing her needlepoints in the hospital, while she was dying,” said Sitter, noting that one last doll didn’t get finished. “It was three-quarters done, so I finished it for her. We donated a bunch of pieces to the cancer ward in London.”

Howarth’s remaining dolls -- the last in her collection -- are on display and available for purchase at Artopia Gallery & Framing for the month of April, coinciding with Daffodil Month, the Canadian Cancer Society’s national fundraising campaign for the fight against cancer.

All proceeds go to the CCS.

“They’re taking something that was so difficult in their lives and turning it into such a positive, letting Barb’s legacy live on in her amazing art,” said Paula McKinlay, community fundraising specialist for the Canadian Cancer Society’s Lambton branch. “Every doll helps, and makes a significant contribution to the fight.”

A special launch of the doll collection will take place at Artopia during the First Friday cultural walkabout, held Friday, April 10 this month.

“This way, people can enjoy her work,” said Sitter. “And we’re still able to fundraise, just like she wanted.”

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