Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Crafty Mark Heskin

Posted by Brooklyn Bill

My friend Mark Heskin's doll-making business took off in a pretty gay way. He made dolls of the Wizard of Oz characters and put them in the window of a laundromat along with a sign that provided his phone number and his services as a creator of custom-made soft-sculpture dolls.

His next marketing move was placing eyeglasses-wearing dolls in the store windows of various opticians on streets with high pedestrian traffic. The stores gained a cute way to show off their frames, and Mark got more and more customers.

That was back in the mid '80s. Mark had moved to the city from North Dakota after graduating high school in 1978 and getting a job as a nanny. He also worked on the side as an extra in TV shows and movies being shot in the city. When, at the age of 26, he felt confident he could make a living from the dolls, he quit his live-in childcare gig and bought his apartment on West 72nd Street, a very short walk from Central Park.

The dolls were made entirely of recycled and found materials starting with the nylons he stuffed to create the bodies. "I went to the wardrobe people for the Rockettes, and they were thrilled to have something done with them besides throwing them away," he says. "And that became a marketing device: worn by the Radio City Rockettes."

The dolls had no arms or legs and stood 3–4 feet tall. They wore adult-size shoes and had bigger-than-normal heads. "It was my distinctive look," Mark says. "And they were very cute."

He created dolls of billionaire investor Warren Buffett and buyout dealmaker Henry Kravis, and he was commissioned by Jayne Klein, designer Calvin Klein's first wife, to make a doll of her daughter, Marci, who's now a producer of 30 Rock.

Mark received publicity in a few magazines and, in 1992, in the Sunday New York Times.

He stopped making the dolls in 1996, when he moved back to his hometown of Portland, North Dakota, while renting out his apartment in New York. He bought a house for himself and some rental properties and busied himself with beautifying his home and garden.

Mark moved back to the city in 2003 and continues to work as an extra. He's always posting on Facebook about the celebrities he's working with and the quality and quantity of the food offered on the set. Earlier this year, he worked on a spy thriller called Salt that stars Angelina Jolie and is set to be released in 2010.

Mark said he's very proud of his dolls but he doesn't miss making them. "It was such a mess," he says. "I needed to keep so many things on hand," in case they might come in handy as an accessory for a doll, and Mark is a man who hates clutter.

Mark got to peek into the lives of high society since many of his customers were wealthy. "When the doll was finished, if they were in Manhattan, I'd deliver it," he says.

One customer in New Jersey was disappointed that Mark hadn't put everything she had expected to find on the male doll she'd ordered. Mark often asked whether the customer wanted a doll to be anatomically correct. In this case, the customer hadn't requested one and so he left it off. After she called to express her disappointment, "I had to mail her a cock in a box," he says.

Mark hasn't totally abandoned his crafty past; he's the longtime host of a public-access TV show called "My Craft Show." Check it out Sundays at 2 on the Manhattan Neighborhood Network, which is channel 56 on Time Warner Cable in Manhattan, or at


  1. and I'm sure I speak for many when I say a simple "Woof".

  2. Yeah, Mark's a fuzzy hunk. And in a relationship. *sigh*

    1. My Friend...Being in a relationship does not mean going through life with Blinkers on &/or being guarded in a locked cage...A person can be in a relationship and have Platonic associations by the hundreds...

  3. Watched the show.......cute idea from a cute guy....I am Italian and appreciate crafts.......There have been some famous ones in the past that created certain aspects of crafts and they were Italian of course...

  4. Mark is a cutie.....Watched the show first time after 20 years...Interesting

  5. I suggest airing a show that was tapped recently.Old Shows can be interesting but it takes on a new meaning when it is fresh off the shelf..Try to accomplish this and I am sure the viewers will be vastly increased......Thanks (An Italian)

  6. I watched your show as a boy on public access. I remember your shows about Twin Peaks. I remember your show at the pagoda in central park. I remember Rhubarb pie.

  7. I remember your Twin Peaks contests. I remember your shows at the lake pagoda in central park. I remember running into you at the mouth of Central Park by the Dakota, you were so sweet to me.