Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Wax Dolls Part Two

Found the time to work on the hair and head of the wax fashion doll today.  The hair was an interesting project that evolved as I worked.  Though the photos of the wax head make it appear there was a good bit of hair at the forehead line, there was really very little.  When I pulled it away, there were thin strands - app. 1/4 inch wide - and they did not really cover the head beneath.  All of the hair had been incised originally as I thought, so there was no wig or wig cap.  Once I had separated out the strands, I bravely opened the lighter fluid, poured out a small measure, and went to work.

The lighter fluid did 'dry clean' the hair, brightening it a bit, though very little dirt actually came out.  I was careful not to get it on the head.  Still a bit bled up into the scalp and some of the incised hair came loose, but that was okay as I had intended to do that anyhow in order to re-position what remained of the original hair. Once I realized how little hair there actually was, I decided to do a Grecian style bun rather than let the hair hang down loose, so the main thing I needed to do was add some additional mohair to pad out the 'do.

At first I considered dying the newer mohair to match the old - which would have worked - but I decided to use the lighter tone as a base and then pull the older over and work it into it.  In doing so I would create multi-toned hair that, to me, would look more realistic.  I pulled the old hair down into a sort of crown and then began to insert and, at times, glue the new mohair to the head in order to fill out the crown area.  Once that was done, I worked it into a bun.

When the bun was finished and pinned in place I put a net over it for good measure and then set about applying the original braids.  One was still attached and in place, but the other was damaged at the top and loose.  After careful study, I decided to remove the loose braid and then to apply it and the other braid over the forehead area to hide the work I had done on the scalp while applying the new and old loose hair.  Then I added a few flowers to hide the edges of the net and -voila!  Looking at the finished product, I really like the mixed tone hair.

After finishing the hair, I moved on to inserting the eyes.  The doll's eyes fell out in transit from the seller and one snapped off the rocker.  I had already glued those.  When I went to inset them, the old plaster would not allow the eyes to fit.  Again, after study, I decided not to remove the old plaster (the wax is very thin around the eye sockets).  Instead, I scraped away at the plaster until the eyes would fit, got them in place, and then simply stuffed the head to hold them there.  Someday I may attempt to set them to rock, but that is not a priority now.

Once the eyes were in place, I worked on the features, adding a ring of brown around each eye socket.  I have studied many wax dolls and this seems to be a constant.  I then painted the lips, added a touch of lip color to each nostril and corner of the eye, and then finished it off with a pair of delicate brown brows.  I am always amazed when I restore these old dolls.  I never know what their personality is going to be until they are completed.  This one doesn't want to smile and seems a bit coy!

Well, there you have it for phase two.  Phase three will be to put the head on the body and attach the new arms.  Then comes the costume.  Now that her hair is done, I think she is definitely a fashion lady.  I'll have to use that dress on some other faded beauty.....

Oh, by the way, I couldn't find any Woolite to clean the doll head.  I got to thinking and decided to try to Orvus I have that I use to clean antique textiles.  I used a VERY old, VERY worn 3M scratcher to apply the cleaner to the wax 'skin'.  After first wetting the scratcher, I put a tiny bit of the Orvus cream on it and gently scrubbed. You can see the result!  It worked wonderfully, leaving even the soft original layer of what I believe is paint intact.

You learn something every day....

Wax dolls

Ah, yes, one of the loves of my doll collecting life - but WAY out of my price range.  Until the internet, that is.  Of course, it's fortunate that I can repair dolls too....

Here is my most recent acquisition.  I purchased this little beauty on layaway from a very kind and helpful doll dealer named Carla on Ruby Lane.  Go to www.rubylane.com and check out her shop 'Oldeclectics'.  She has the most wonderful dolls, at reasonable prices, and is just a sweety.  

This wax or wax over (which I believe she is, though the wax coating is very thick and makes her appear to be a poured wax) is a fashion doll.  (Note the tiny waist.)  I am not certain yet whether she was meant to be a lady fashion or a child fashion doll.  More study is indicated.  At the moment I am going to dress her as an older child, say around 12 or so.  (And yes, the child fashion dolls had that teeny, tiny waist like their corset-wearing mommies.)  

She looks a bit like something out of a horror movie right now.  At least, that is what my granddaughter tells me!  The doll has sleep eyes, which came loose in transport and will have to be reset, and as you can see - no arms.  I purchase a china head body on EBay (sans head).  It had a lovely pair of leather arms, and I will eventually act like Dr. Frankenstein and take parts from both and put them together. Her body is finely made.  It is weighted so she can sit and pretty clean for its age, so it will require little work.  She even came with her little linen shoes that I am going to attempt to restore.  

 Her hair is going to be a challenge.  It is incised, or pressed into the wax and not a wig, and the original wired braids that went around the sides are still intact (if filthy!).  This is an indicator that this was a fine, more expensive doll such as those made bu English firms like Pierotti and Montonari, as the maker would not take the time to press the hair in unless they were going to make more money.  (Think today's retail!)  This is a wonderful thing - except it means that I have to clean the hair on the head!  You clean old mohair with lighter fluid or paint thinner.  Now, think about that - lighter fluid on a wax or wax covered head.  Yep, you can see the dilemma.  I know how I am going to tackle it and will document as I go along so you can see whether or not it works! 

Then, of course, the head itself has to be cleaned.  I have done some research on this and where one restoration artist swears by non-acetone nail polish cleaner, another shouts 'Don't use that!'  Woolite is recommended by one and nixed by another.  So is cold cream.   Hmmmm...we'll see.

Anyhow, enjoy the 'before' pictures.  Hopefully I will post some of the 'after' soon.  I am dying to have her completely restored!