Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Dolly days

Meet Louisa. Isn't she a sweetie? She's the oldest member of my little doll family and dates from the 1860s. I found her on Ebay a few years ago. She was seeking a good home and my heart was lost as soon as I saw her.

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Her head is wax over composition (hence the hairline cracks) and her eyes are glass. I adore old dolls but perfect condition is never important to me. I prefer the loved and played-with look and Louisa would surely have lots of secrets to share if only she could talk.

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She has a cloth body stuffed with straw and carved wooden hands and forearms that adjoin cloth upper arms attached to her body at the shoulders.

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Her boots and lower legs are also made of wood and are attached to upper legs made of cloth. Her pretty muslin dress and underwear are in excellent condition.

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Over the years I've spend many happy hours reading about old dolls and have a varied collection of books about them.

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Vintage prints of little girls and their dollies appeal to me greatly. This gorgeous woodcut dates from the 16th century. I often dream of owning a REALLY old doll but they are exceedingly rare and if by chance I ever found one I know I wouldn't have sufficient funds to acquire it, so I dream on.


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By complete contrast let me show you a doll I made at school when I was eight years old. Funny little thing isn't she! All the children in my class were asked to bring 'scraps' from home to create a dolly from a wooden peg (clothespin). Just look at her funny little blue arms! They are wire from a vintage TV my dad was repairing at the time. And guess what! My little peg doll won 'first prize'. The teacher gave me a silver sixpence which she said was 'for luck'. In England sixpences have been given as tokens of good luck for over 400 years.

Being given a silver sixpence must have ignited my love of doll making because I've been making them (large and small) ever since .

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I like making small things best so peg dolls have always been a favourite.

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Recently I experimented with polymer and paper clays as I wanted to try putting larger heads onto the pegs and give each face a tiny nose. I wanted to try making tiny arms as well.

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And here is the new head viewed from the back. You can see it is quite a bit larger than the original peg head. After several coats of paint and varnish I added...

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.... the eyes and mouth.Then came the hair and the tiny clothes.

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And here is the finished dolly enjoying a cup of tea in the dolls house. I'm very pleased with the way she turned out. She has a pert little nose and her little (sculpted) arms are attached to thin wire so they will bend. Her legs remain 'peg-shaped'. I made her a Kate Greenaway style dress, petticoat, pantaloons and apron plus a mop cap to protect her curls.

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Here she is again with a tiny lace bag in which she keeps.....

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 .....a shiny sixpence 'for luck'.

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