Director of Culinary and Nutritional Services
Mason General Hospital
Born in: Long Beach, Calif.
Education: B.A. in hotel and restaurant management from Cornell University and a CIA graduate
Married to Claudia. Two children: Kyle, 17, and Drew, 13.
Some people collect stamps; others seek out baseball cards. John Cruse collects Kachina dolls, wood carved spiritual figures from the Hopi tribe in Arizona. For Cruse, the dolls are not only beautiful, but they also help him learn about the Hopi culture.
“Kachinas are woodcarvings from the Hopi tribe in Arizona. They are carved out of cottonwood. There are several hundred types of dolls. They represent different parts of life like corn, squash, cougars, mountains, clouds and rain. They use these dolls to teach their children about the Kachina dances, which are ceremonial dances for the harvest of their crops. They take the dried roots that they find in riverbeds or ravines, look at the shape and carve the doll out of that. They think the spirit comes into that piece of wood when they carve it. Then they paint it and decorate it with feathers, furs and shells. On average the dolls are around nine or 10 inches tall.
Each one of the Kachinas represents a different part of the dance. They represent different things they are trying to achieve for the crops or tribe during each season. It’s a belief system based on being in touch with Mother Nature. All these dolls are carved and given to the girls and boys in the tribe to teach them about spirits, the earth and nature. Over the last century they have become collectables.
My parents lived in Arizona, and my mom gave me my first one a long time ago. I fell in love with them. I read up on them and ever since then I’ve been collecting them. They are very rare. They are beautiful, colorful and there is a lot of history.
I have around 125 dolls. I’ve got a cabinet that is full of them. They are hand carved and one of a kind. They are signed and dated by the artist. Depending on the artist, they go from about $125 to up to $3,000 for a doll.
There are shows that I go to to purchase dolls. Also there is a wood carver who I know in Arizona and he buys dolls and e-mails me with information and photos, and I select dolls from him. I also buy on eBay. Sometimes I pick up dolls that are broken and I have a guy who restores dolls in Arizona.
The artists do get commissioned to do dolls, but they are extremely expensive. Even some of the old dolls that are from the 1890s, they go for $10,000 to $20,000 depending on the condition the dolls are in. My oldest is from 1940 or 1945. I don’t have deep enough pockets for anything really old.
I enjoy it. You learn about the people and how they live, how they worship and the culture. It’s an amazing culture. Some of the dolls come with a story or a description of the doll and what it represents. There are books that you can buy that have paintings of the dolls so you can identify the dolls.
My favorite one is the eagle because the dancers open up and down the arms are feathers.”