This story originally appeared on The Philadelphia Tribune.
You might recognize Mark Ruffin’s work from Sesame Street where he worked as a doll maker and set designer, or maybe you’re familiar with him from his days as a music journalist and editor covering shows and artists for Chicago Magazine. But if you’re the parent of a small child, prepare to be familiar with Mark Ruffin, founder of Black Dolls Matter, the organization providing Black dolls and dolls of color to children and collectors.
West Philly resident Mark Ruffin found his passion for doll and puppet-making with the unknowing encouragement from his family and an interest in the arts.
“Around the early 70s when ‘Sesame Street’ hit, I saw the work of Jim Henson, and I was really inspired by those puppets. My father, who at that time was [an] art teacher, brought me home a book on simple puppet making and encouraged me to make my own puppets, which turned into me, building puppets, writing scripts, and performing puppet shows at the library up the street.
“Never did I imagine, that puppet building and my sewing lessons from my mom and my grandmother, would turn into me becoming a puppet builder at the Jim Henson Company, and primarily for Sesame Street.” Ruffin said.