After a lifetime creating ductwork for heating and air conditioning systems, roofing, gutters, and "anything else that could be made from metal," Irving Dominick began to create the objects he calls his "art." Marla, [SAAM 1988.74.13] with her permanent wave hairstyle, eye-catching lashes, and snappy shoes, is the best surviving example of the whimsy and care that inspired his metal figures.
Dominick began working in the sheet metal trade with his father after school and on Saturdays when he was fourteen, and soon thereafter entered into a formal apprenticeship with a firm in Brooklyn. As an advertising attraction, his father crowned the roof of his shop in the Bronx with a larger-than-life figure called "Tiny Tin," a self-portrait by the shop foreman. After his father's death, Dominick and his brother moved the family business and its mascot, "Tiny Tin," to Spring Valley, a suburb of New York. Dominick, pleased to have a reason to create nonfunctional, imaginative forms, made two replacement "Tiny Tin" figures after collectors bought previous versions. A collector who owned one figure asked Dominick to produce a female companion for "Tiny Tin." Dominick used his ten-year-old granddaughter, Marla, as his model.
Lynda Roscoe Hartigan Made with Passion: The Hemphill Folk Art Collection in the National Museum of American Art (Washington, D.C. and London: National Museum of American Art with the Smithsonian Institution Press, 1990)