Monday, May 28, 2012

Miss Dolly and her re-do

I give doll talks and my subject matter is '100 years of childhood'.  In the talks I cover the history of both dolls and the children who loved and played with them from app. 1830 to 1930.  Years ago my doll collection consisted of mostly bisque Bebes.  As I began to do these talks, I found I needed examples of other types and times of dolls.  Over about 5 years I sold some and bought others until I felt I had dolls that hit most of the major important moments in doll history - with a few exceptions.  One exception was that I lacked an American made doll, and specifically, a Schoenhut.  Albert Schoenhut began to produce dolls and toys in 1911. Schoenhut's wooden art dolls were made completely of wood and spring-jointed so they are incredibly lifelike. There are many types and faces, so when I finally decided to get one, I had to make a choice - go with what I liked and buy a character type, or find a 'Miss Dolly'.  I finally opted for Miss Dolly for one reason - she has quite a story to go with her!

During WWI dolls were no longer imported from Germany and little girls in America still wanted dolls.  Albert Schoenhut's character dolls were available, but  - unlike adults - most children did not like them.  They were too realistic.  So the Schoenhut company decided to introduce Miss Dolly, whose face was based on the standard German bisque dolly face little girls loved so much.  In fact, I think she is a direct 'steal' from Armand Marseille's 390.  Miss Dolly actually sold for a higher price than her artistically designed brothers and sisters and was a hit with children everywhere.

Of course, I had to buy a little Miss Dolly who needed the doctor's touch. This example was in good shape with the appropriate scuffs and scrapes to her toes, body, and nose that showed she had been loved.  However, somewhere along the way someone decided she needed some new 'make up' and her wonderful Schoenhut subtlety was completely undone with bold black eyelashes and thick brown brows.  Fortunately her decal eyes were intact and untouched.  

First step, of course, is to remove the wig and see what all needs fixing.  I did have to chip away some old paint, but not too much.  As I have said before, my goal is NOT to make a doll look brand new.  I often preserve some of the marks of time, leaving behind some missing paint, etc.  I hope to have people look at the doll and ask, 'Do you think that was repaired?'  So, for Miss Dolly, I did very little filling, but only repainted a few places and concentrated on her face, first removing the bad feature painting and then, after filling and sanding to take care of the missing top surface on her face, repainting her brows and lips.  I left off any eyelashes, though I may add them later.  Again, in most examples time has worn the lashes away to practically nothing.

Once I had the painting done, then it was time to give her a little 'shine', which I did with a paste wax.  I used to use fixatives, but I rarely do anymore.  They are too shiny for one thing and also, not 'period' correct.  I prefer natural materials whenever I can use them.

And then I get to the fun part!  With the bare slate of a bald head and face above, the doll doctor gets to play, trying on wigs and clothing until they find the 'spirit' of the doll.  This little girl is actually awaiting her future outfit - I haven't found it yet.  For now, I have put her in an aged silk jumper and blouse I bought on EBay.  I like her in it, but it is not really correct for the type as it is more of a lady's than a child's dress.  I chose a brown wig for her after trying several other colors.  From what research I did, brown and blond seem to have been the most common colors.  I may change the hair color with the new clothes - who know? - but for now I think the medium brown mohair suits her well.

Next - Wax dolls and wax over composition

Alice is fit for Wonderland

My papier mache or patent washable type 'Alice' came to me via EBay.  I search the doll items there for needs for clients, but also for dolls that only a mother...or doll doctor could love.  I enjoy rescuing dolls that would seem to most to be hopeless cases.  Alice was certainly one of those!  She arrived with 2/3 of her head missing, but her face intact, a good deal of damage to her breastplate, and no body.  In April's post I showed the first few steps in her restoration, which included repairing her plate, creating a new base 'head', and then sculpting and modeling her missing hair and headband.  The last pictures posted showed Alice with her final skin tone and underpainting for her hair.  I have now completed her and am posting photos of the rest of the process.  She has a new dress on order for the Hatter's tea party that will match her burgundy headband, but for now is wearing a nice white dress with a little black sash (perfect for shrinking and growing in!).  Alice is 28 inches tall and turned out to be a really sweet little girl.

In order to age the hair color, I applied a brown and then a white wash over the deep golden hair paint.  The skin tone has not been changed from the previous post.  An appropriate body was obtained from EBay and the head attached.  Alice's features were created with a mixture of paint and professional colored pencils.  I find the pencils work best for eyebrows and lashes.  I used photos of several similar dolls from this period to base the features on.  I did not add lashes to Alice as I noted that most of the dolls did not have them, or had lost them to time.  My aim is to make the dolls look as original as possible and, if possible, to maintain an illusion of age even though I have just freshly painted and completed them.  No 19th century doll should look brand new!



Next post - Miss Dolly gets a re-do.