The Heart of the Tree: A Wooden Doll Luncheon with Rosalie Whyel

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This doll dates to 1690 (yes, that is three and a quarter centuries old–quite old for a doll!) and is one of only two glass-eyed dolls known to exist from this period. This Queen Ann wooden doll was on display at this luncheon event. Though she was purchased by Rosalie Whyel without her original dress, providence, and the corroboration of three parties with seperate agendas, worked to reunite her with her original dress.

Wooden dolls are some of the oldest known dolls in history. On April 4th, I was fortunate to have attended The Heart of the Tree, a luncheon with program by Rosalie Whyel celebrating early Queen Ann dolls and wooden dolls of all ages. This lovely event was hosted by the Eugene Oregon Doll Club at Shadow Hills Country Club.

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The photo of this ancient Roman wooden doll is found in the book, DK Smithsonian History Year by Year. A date is not given for the doll’s age in this source; however, further research reveals that it dates to the second century AD.

A Doll Club special luncheon event is a delightful way to spend an afternoon! There were so many intriguing aspects of this event, from the tables set with doll delights that transformed to favors, the delicious food, fabulous displays of wooden dolls of all kinds, the interesting program by Ms. Whyel, the sales tables, the company and companionship of so many others who appreciate dolls, and finally, the raffles for the “Helpers,” dolls and items that were donated, then won and taken home by their new owners. With high regards, I share photos and impressions of my attendance of this Doll Luncheon.

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The tables were set with a placemat of paper dolls featuring a German wooden doll. Also visible in the center are the wooden artist’s models wearing white shifts.

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The table centerpiece main attraction was a fully clothed wooden artist’s doll wearing an 18th c. style dress and a cap. Our place settings included a pattern for the dress so that we can complete the toilet for our own dolls. One lucky guest at each table took home the clothed model and her screen.

We were encouraged to bring wooden dolls from our collections for the display tables. I brought three displays, which really included five wooden dolls. The variety of wooden dolls was tremendous!

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My wooden doll displays in preparation for transport to the luncheon.

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What a rare delight to own, or even to view in person, an antique Queen Ann doll. Even reproduction dolls are lovely.

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This antique wooden doll was not at the luncheon, rather, she was offered for sale by Valerie Fogel at the January 2018 Portland Crossroads Doll Show.

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Grodnertal dolls, also known as peg wooden and penny wooden, were made in the area of Germany. This one has intricately painted hair.

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This antique lady’s shoe filled with peg woodens and pearls is irresistable!

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Adorable peg wooden dolls are still being made today.

 

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The wooden dolls made in Springfield Vermont, including those by Joel Ellis, are intriguing. I intend to eventually add at least one to my collection.

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The variety of Schoenhut dolls was grand! My girl on the far right seems a little shy in this large grouping. She is holding a small glass jar that contains a tiny 3/4″ vintage peg wooden doll.

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Peddler dolls never fail to delight, and an Ettrennes presentation Hotte basket is a treasure indeed! Ettrennes is the French New Year when children were presented with wonderful gifts in the most beautiful presentations. The Hotte basket is just such a presentation item in a peddler style full of charming miniature toys. This one, in my collection, is 19th c. I placed it in a display case to secure the little items. It was brought to our attention during Ms. Whyel’s presentation at the luncheon. She included a slide of a Hotte basket with just peg wooden dolls in it. This Hotte basket was “hotly” photographed at this event!

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The Theriaults auction photo of my basket shows the details so well, including the two penny wooden dolls at the top, one with a tuck comb.

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This Appalachian doll, also in my collection, was carved by the famed Polly Page in Tennessee. This doll is known as “Aunt Jenny,” which of course further endears her to me. She is circa mid 19th century.

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Japanese Kokeshi ningyo also made an appearance on the display tables.

Almost as exciting as the display tables were the sales tables.

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Rosalie Whyel’s table held many delights. She had available a DVD tour of her now closed Museum of Doll Art that is a much mourned wonder previously located in Belleview Washington. Also available were copies of her book, The Heart of the Tree, and a beautiful selection of high quality dolls.

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I was so surprised to see this astoundingly rare china doll, which is featured in her book, The Rose Unfolds, on Ms. Whyel’s table! This doll’s maker has not been identified at this time. She dates to 1850 and is quite different from the Thuringian china dolls; however, she is also unlike those china dolls known from Danish or Italian porcelain factories. What an enchantment to have the opportunity to see her in person! Of course, even though she is for sale, this is a doll for which I cannot entertain even the dream of owning.

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My dear friend and accomplished doll saleswoman, Teri, was enjoying herself. Her antique cage doll, on the back left side of the table, had already sold early in the day. Her partner’s Schoenhut dolls and toy piano took center stage here.

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Thanks to the creations of Susan Dunham, and a doll artist for whom I did not catch a name, I do now own these two sweet reproduction bisque dolls. Susan made the 7″ Simon Halbig mignonette, and the other doll with the molded bonnet is a Baby Stuart. They will both eventually get new clothing.

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Of course I bought raffle tickets for the “Helpers.” I ended up with twice as many tickets as I thought I had purchased. For some items, I put many tickets in their bag because I really wanted them. For other items, I dropped one ticket in the bag to use up my surplus. These are my raffle wins. For each item here, save one, I placed one ticket in the bag, and all of these came home with me! My daughter, who is collectiong vintage toys and likes glamour, does appreciate the sparkly red dress doll.

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I did put many tickets in the bag for this vintage carved wooden doll. She is from the Netherlands, carved in 1981. I am now researching and planning a dress for her. I’m sure that you will see it on this site when it is completed! (Oh, no! more projects than I can keep up with!)

Thank you for joining me on this little tour of a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon at a Doll Club Luncheon. May all enthusiasts of “Dolls as Art” have the opportunity to attend such an event.

1750s Francis Cotes English Painter 1726 to 1770 Lady Ann Fitzpatrick - Copy

1750’s. Francis Cotes, English. Lady Ann Fitzpatrick.   Before the mid 19th century, wooden dolls were hand carved, often as a sideline by cabinet makers, or joiners. They were expensive, and available only to the wealthy, as represented in this painting. After the lathe was invented, the peg wooden dolls became readily available, affordable, and inevitably, of much poorer quality.

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Kling to Simple Delights: The Restoration of a Kling China Doll

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Author’s restored and dressed King shoulder-head doll

One of the most delightful simple pleasures for me is the creative act of restoring and dressing a dilapidated antique doll, and then basking in her new countenance. This is the story of the re-creation of Jasper Anne, a little Kling shoulder-head doll.

Mary Krombholz, the definitive authority on Thuringian porcelain factories that made china dolls, tells us that “The C.F. Kling & Co. porcelain factory made porcelain products in the Thuringian [Germany] town of Ohrdruf from its founding in 1834 until the early 1950s.” The production of dolls by this firm probably began in the 1850s with bald head glazed porcelain dolls. “From the simple bald heads made in the 1850s, the Kling factory artists designed a group of shoulder heads with elaborately decorated hairstyles and shoulderplates that are unequalled in modeling and facial painting.”

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Page 206, 207 from Mary Krombholz’ book, A Pictorial Reference Guide for German Chinas, illustrates the two Kling dolls in my collection on the lower right.

By the late 1860’s Kling was making Parian shoulder heads that were worthy of display in any fine Victorian home; however, the dolls were intended as toys for children. (Note, a Parian doll is not from Paris, rather is so named because the porcelain is very white like Paris clay. The porcelain on Parian dolls is not glazed, as it is for china dolls.) Kling continued to develop the style of their shoulder heads, following current fashion, and by the 1880s they were making black and blonde haired Kinderkopf, or child dolls, as modeled in these two dolls in my collection. Kling also made bisque dolls (unglazed flesh colored porcelain) with glass eyes, yet the facial painting is consistent through all of these doll variations.

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I currently have two Kling china dolls in my collection. They portray the Kling painting style of almond shaped eyes with large round irises. The lips are heart shaped on top, but unlike Hertwig dolls, the lower lip is a half-circle rather than an elongated oval, and has an accent line the same color as the lip paint.

My little Jasper Anne, the black haired Kling, started out as two parts. The factory made body, that had seen much play and child-made repairs, was found at the very end of a Portland Doll Show, hidden in a box on the floor, years ago. I liked its folky charm, and purchased it for next-to-nothing. I purchased the shoulder-head on eBay several years later, as I sought to add a Kling doll to my collection. The face has firing “pepper spots” which look like uneven freckles. I thought the doll would be a boy, and I named him Jasper.

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Kling china with pepper spots. Author’s collection

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The doll parts in process of restoration. The right leg has been re-covered in muslin to stop the sawdust leakage.

 

Eventually I realized that this shoulder-head and body needed to go together. The body had no arms and was leaking sawdust at the child-made repairs on the legs, and through the original dark brown, coarsly woven, fabric of the lower legs. It took me another year to find the appropriate arms to complete the body. I gently removed the old repairs which were made with wool yarn and bits of homespun fabric, then re-covered the original brown lower legs with muslin. I re-incorporated the dark yarn and homespun fabric in the repair to keep its authenticity. After making muslin upper arms and filling them with sawdust, I attached them across the shoulders, and then put the shoulder-head on the body, sewing it in place under the shoulder tabs.

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The back of the restored body showing the wool yarn and homespun fabric from the original child-made repairs. Jasper Anne is wearing her new felt boots in this photo.

Next came designing the costume. I wanted it to retain the “play doll” flavor, and to have a pastoral charm. I chose a piece of fine antique knitted lace to edge the petticoat, which is attached to a bodice rather than a waistband. I did not make drawers since the body incorporates lace at the bottom of the upper legs, as seen in the above photo. I added burgundy ribbon beading in the lace of the petticoat to match the dress. The lace on the petticoat makes it a little too fine for play, but what a lovely effect, and after all it is protected with her pinafore.

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Jasper Anne in her new petticoat with antique knitted lace. She is just shy of 9″ tall.

The dress is made of burgundy linen with a cotton calico pinafore. Sewing techniques included machine and hand stitching.

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The linen bodice is lined with the calico print. Setting the sleeve in the armhole was a careful proceedure, and it was hand-sewn in place. The length of the finished sleeve is just 3″.

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The dark burgundy linen dress works well with Jasper Anne’s bright face painting. The bobbin lace (I think) on her cuffs echos the petticoat lace and is set off by the dark dress, which has two “growth tucks” above the hem.

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The pinafore was based on an antique style which had red embroidery worked on white fabric. I hand-drafted the pattern based on the photo of the antique pinafore, and hand stitched all the way around to finish the edges.

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Next came a bonnet in a Kate Greenway style to coordinate with the dress and pinafore. I used a little antique Staffordshire dish as a template for the circle of the bonnet crown.

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Finally, to complete the outdoor ensemble, Jasper Anne needed boots for her muslin feet. Again, I hand drafted the shape for the wool felt boots. Her feet are stub shaped, so no sole was needed.

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The boots have glass bead buttons, and the bonnet ties with a silk ribbon.

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All of the garments fasten with metal snaps, and glass and mother of pearl buttons were added to finish the outfit.

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Jasper Anne is completely clothed and ready to play on the prairie or walk to town.

From conception to finished doll, this project took me close to two years, including much wait time between finding parts, gathering materials, and the calling of life’s necessities. Jasper Anne is another example of how a lovely antique doll can be restored and created from inexpensive parts to become a true simple delight.

Reference:

Krombholz, Mary Gorham. A Pictorial Reference Guide for German Chinas, 2009.

 

Antique photo English curly blonde girl with lowbrow china doll

A doll to be played with.

 

 

Beyond Oceans and Decades: In Search of Ningyo

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Author’s collection of ichimatsu ningyo

The pursuit of a doll can lead to quite a journey sometimes, in search of the doll itself, and of knowledge about the doll. A journey of this sort can take decades, and can encompass talismans that aid in finding that which is sought. This is the story of one seeker’s journey.

In 1984 I had the unique opportunity to move from Indiana to Okinawa as my husband graduated and accepted a teaching position with University of Maryland Asian Division. Another life-changing event occured in the Spring of 1985 when, after three years of impaired fertility, I birthed my first son. Just five weeks later, in late June, the three of us embarked on a cultural tour of Japan with a U of M study tour. At this point, I didn’t think that life could get much better!

 

1985 7 July 19 Himeji Shinkansen Station Jonathan Jennie

Himeji Shinkansen Station, July 1985

The tour did include a visit to a doll factory, the Hakata ningyo factory in Fukuoka. While I found this visit interesting, I was not too excited about these dolls which, though beautiful, are stationary and all in one piece, more like figurines.

1985 3 July 14 Fukuoka Japan Hakata doll factory 1

Hakata ningyo ready to be placed into the salesroom

While it was relatively seamless for me to tote my young baby around and enjoy the tour (breastfeeding, of course!), it was necessary for me to spend a little extra time with him in our room each evening. On one of these evenings (as I found out the next morning), some of the other tour group members visited a nearby antique shop. One young woman had found an antique boy doll at the shop and was toting it around in her arms, as I toted my baby. I must say, I had more than a little envy that I did not have the opportunity to have found that doll! Yet, I consoled myself with my real little boy for whom I had waited so long.

1985 9 July 21 Ryoanji Kyoto Jennie Jonathan

Ryoanji, Kyoto, July 1985

After this tour, back on Okinawa, I was able to take a kimekome doll making class. These dolls, similar to the Hakata dolls, are stationary dolls to be admired rather than to be play dolls. I worked on several dolls in the evenings, in the seemingly few minutes that my son slept. This way, along with in-class time, I was able to complete several dolls for myself and for gifts. I also bought several more of the kits, which I still have, still in kit form.

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A kimekome ningyo that I made as a gift for my mother-in-law. After her death, it came back to me, and now belongs to my daughter.

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I am proud to have made this detailed kimekome geisha with the help of my sensei.

I never forgot the little antique boy ningyo that I saw in the arms of another, and continued to watch for one of my own. In 1987 we moved to the Tokyo area, and I had another son. Even though there was a doll district in Tokyo, I never made it there. Overall, dolls were not a big priority in my life at that time, and my presumption was that the dolls I would find there would be new rather than antique, and more of the stationary type I had already seen, like those above, or like the wooden kokeshi which are also commonly given as gifts.

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Kokeshi ningyo are regional dolls from Tohoku in northern Japan. Those shown here are of the made-for-tourists variety. These dolls have the kappa hairstyle (defined below). Author’s collection

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Here is a selection of small kokeshi that were made for the Japanese market. I found them at the weekly Salvation Army sale. They all have wobble heads. The tallest pointed hair kokeshi is 4″ while the tiny pair is a mere 3/4″. Notice the fabric-wrapped bun hairstyle on the mid-sized girls, and the shaved hair with hair tufts by the ears on the boys. This is Meiji era, or late 19th, early 20th c. and is earlier than the ichimatsu dolls shown below.

I did find some interesting second-hand shopping while I lived in Tokyo, including a weekly Salvation Army sale. One time I watched a worker unpack a whimsical small scale kimekome set of Dolls Day Hina Matsuri dolls in muted colors. As soon as she unpacked it, I bought it and she had to immediately pack it up again! (This set is still in Connecticut, so I cannot show you photos at this time.)

Japan Hina Matsuri display

Hina Matsuri, or Dolls Day festival on March 3rd, displays a replica of the court, and is perhaps the most well- known of Japanese dolls.

My life in Tokyo continued to include travel, in which I delighted. In 1989 I visited Nagoya and went to the famous Nagoya Temple Market. At one of the stalls there, I found a girl doll with moveable limbs and real hair. I didn’t know what kind of doll she was (a Bunraku puppet doll, I speculated, but there were no strings). I bought her.

1989 8 March Nagoya Temple flea market 2 Jennie Jonathan

Shopping at the Nagoya Temple Market in 1989. I am on the left with my first son.

The doll was not in the best condition, and I set out to restore her, even though I had no idea how. She smelled of moth balls and the crinkled satin-like fabric that connected her hard parts was deteriorating. Her right arm was hanging by a thread, showing the cotton batting stuffing inside. She was also missing her obi (the belt around the waist of the kimomo). I decided to hand wash her kimono in cold water, and realized that was a mistake! The fabrics began to bleed! I removed them from the water and spread them to dry, but the beautiful floral design on the dark blue kimono was permanenty damaged by my ignorance about how to restore the doll. I did patch the fabric on her arms, then admitted temporary defeat and packed her away in a wicker basket. Luckily, I had the foresight to buy a pink girl’s soft obi to replace the deteriorated one my doll had, and a vintage narrow obi as a substitute for the missing one.

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This is the doll as she came out of her basket when I brought her home to Oregon from Connecticut in 2014.

This ningyo hibernated in her basket on her trip moving to the United States, in Washington for ten years, then in Connecticut where she was initially left behind, and finally came home to Oregon in 2014.

Now a lot has happened, any way you look at it, since I brought this ningyo out of Japan in 1991. At that time, I could not identify the type of doll she is, I did not know about her materials or construction, and I did not even know how to dress her or tie an obi. Over twenty-five years of internet innovation and doll research have made it possible for this sweet Ichimatsu ningyo to come out of hibernation and “breathe” again!

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The doll parts in partially restored condition as I had left her since 1989. The wooden box on the lower right is her squeaker that is now in her tummy. It still works by compressing the front and back together.

The first “talisman” that I found with exciting clues about the nature of my doll was Antique Doll Collector magazine, October 2015, which offered an article on “Japanese Ningyo.” Finally, I was able to identify my doll as an ichimatsu ningyo with gofun (crushed oyster shell) covered parts. Thank goodness I didn’t try to clean her face, or it would have disolved! Other magazine articles, most notably by Japanese doll and antiques expert Alan Scott Pate, followed. Books on Japanese dolls, written for English speakers, which didn’t exist 25 years ago, and internet sources on kimono and tying an obi, are my next talismans, and have given me the confidence to finish restoring my ningyo.

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The water damaged kimono and other parts of the doll’s original clothing, including the little pink soft obi that is faded and shredded.

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The vintage orange adult narrow obi is at the top. Below is the padded cord that goes on top of the obi, then the doll’s faded soft obi. At the bottom is the new girl’s size soft obi that I bought while still in Japan.

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The red fabric is an underskirt that goes on the doll before the kimono. The bottom shows the signature (of the doll’s artist) papers that are wrapped around the doll’s torso before she is dressed. I cannot read the kanji, so I don’t know her artist.

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Here is my restored ningyo with new muslin fabric parts. The original pale green crinkled satin-type fabric is still on her arms.

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My ningyo, restored and dressed. She is 20″ tall.

My ichimatsu ningyo is of the Showa era, or circa probably 1930’s. Her hairstyle is called kappa, meaning “cap” and is similar to western bobbed or pageboy hairstyles of the 1920’s and 30’s. Although she does not measure up to Alan Scott Pate’s “good” condition, I love her dearly because I found her, and I brought her back to life after all these years.

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The boy ningyo. He is 14″ tall. Though Showa era, he may be later than the two girl dolls.

Although eBay has been around for many years, to my knowledge, it is much more recent that dealers in Japan have been offering items for sale internationally on eBay. There is a wide selection of ichimatsu and other ningyo now available to choose from. And choose, I did! I found a small boy doll who is at least similar to the one I saw in 1985–it has been so long, I can’t remember that doll’s details very clearly. And I brought one more girl, perhaps in the “better” category, and two babies into my family of ichimatsu ningyo.

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My newest girl is also Showa era from the 1920’s or 30’s. She may be considered a “better” ningyo because of the quality of her kimono and facial detailing, and because her nails have indented detailing. She is 19″ tall.

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These are gofun dollhouse size play dolls that come in a little basket with a lid. The okasan and otosan are 4″ tall. Author’s collection

The Japanese dolls or ningyo that I have shown you here are the ones that have touched my life the most, while I lived in Japan and afterward. There are many more types of ningyo, and ningyo feature prominently in many aspects of Japanese life, not just for children. I have shared my story with Japanese dolls here, yet I have not told you much about the history or characteristics of the dolls. Perhaps that will be another story . . .

For More Information:

Kaonis, Donna. “A Visit with the Herrings.” (Japanese Dolls) Antique Doll Collector, October 2015.

Kita, Terry. The Sun Shines For Us All: The Friendship Dolls From Japan. Valparaiso, IN: Valparaiso University, 2015.

Pate, Alan Scott. “Good, Better, Best: Evaluating Japanese Ichimatsu Dolls.” Antique Doll Collector, March 2017.

Pate, Alan Scott. Japanese Dolls: The Fascinating World of Ningyo. Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing, 2008.

Pate, Alan Scott. Ningyo: The Art of the Japanese Doll. Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing, 2005.

Stern, Itske and Anthony. “Wonderful Japanese Kokeshi Dolls.” Doll News, Winter 2015.

 

Japanese girl in kimono with Ichimatsu ningyo 1920

Japanese girl in kimono with kappa hairstyle and ichimatsu ningyo on her back, 1920

 

 

 

Knarls and Twists

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My restored ningyo, found in Nagoya, 1989

Sometimes the knarls and twists of life just keep me from writing and sewing for the dolls. The past year has been full of twists, mostly good, that have kept me occupied away from my blog. It included a won trip to Hawaii, a move to a new apartment in a new city, a short trip to visit my son and his wife in St. Louis, and most recently, a 3 week bout of that awful flu.

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My daughter and me on Hawaii, 2017

My apologies to my faithful followers for my inconsistent posting over the past year, and thank you to my new followers for your vote of confidence in my blog as a whole.

I have worked on a few doll projects over the year, and have taken some photos along the way. So now I am preparing a new blog post about a personal story and a long journey (literally and figuratively) to learning about Japanese dolls, or ningyo. I am hoping to have this post ready for you within the week–we’ll see if I can get some good photos in our near sunless Pacific Northwest climate at this time of year. Additionally, the Portland Crossroads Doll and Teddy Bear Show is tomorrow, so perhaps I will find a story there. Then, I have another doll restored and waiting to be dressed that I would like to share with you soon.

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Doll restoration with a Kling shoulder head

I am offering my gratitude for all of your interest in my blog, and blessings for your health and prosperity in the coming year. Take joy in the beauty of antique dolls!  ~Jennie

Antique photo may 24 1927 Japanese dolls for American children

Ningyo being prepared to send to American children, 1927

 

Synchronicity and Art

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Women in Japanese woodblock prints at Mussee Guimet. Miroir du Desir

I am constantly astounded by synchronicity in the way ideas present themselves into my sphere of being, even though I know that is how the universe works. I inevitably am reading three or four books of varying types at a time. Today, while resting my legs, I picked up Between Form and Freedom by Betty Staley,  which I have been reading for spiritual and practical ideas for working and living with my late-teen-years daughter. This book is written with the perspective of Rudolf Steiner’s philosophy or anthroposophy. It was serendipitous, after just posting about art, that the chapter I came to in my reading was about art. I want to share some excerpts that were particularly meaningful to me:

We live in a world that is splintered. The spiritual life is separated from scientific and artistic life. We classify knowledge and experiences into neat compartments, but the soul of the human being fights against such fragmentation and cries out for unity, for interrelationship. . . . Art is the healing remedy for fragmentation. . . .

Art becomes the saving grace for human beings cut off from their spiritual origins and suffering from the loneliness of the human condition. . . . When human beings feel whole once again, they are able to use their energy to enliven and transform social life. . . .

When we engage in artistic processes, we have a conversation with our inner being. We are not so concerned with the product of our work as with the process, which puts us in touch with the spiritual in us. In most activities of daily life, we respond to the outer world, but art allows us to awaken our inner eye and inner ear to imagination and inspiration. It helps us understand our thinking, feeling, willing and to gain insights into who we are and who we are not. It helps us explore the qualities as well as the quantities of life.

As [we] experience the many-textured levels of artistic process, the diverse ways of coming to an answer, the richness of metaphor in language, of rhythm and melody, of the living quality of form and space, [our] capacity for imagination deepens and [our] inner soul-space expands. A transformation of the common place stimulates [our] consciousness and sense of existence. . . .

When we create something artistically, we stand before a mystery, something unknown. We feel that  something alive is present and that we are the means for it to come into physical form. . . . [We] experience the artistic process as a time of quiet contemplation and communication. It resembles a conversation between lover and the beloved. This is the power of art. . . .

When the artistic approach is applied to the everyday world, to the dishes we eat from, the clothes we wear, the furnishings in our homes, we imbue our surroundings with beauty and care. . . . To make a well-formed plate of clay and take it though the entire process until it is ready for the table; to card, dye and spin wool, and then use it for knitting or weaving an article of clothing or household item; to make a bookcase or a chair; to print calligraphic invitations; to bind a book; to make a stained glass window; or to do any one of a variety of other crafts is a major accomplishment. . . .

The word craft once meant power or magic. It is not surprising, then, that those who take hold of a craft develop power in their lives.

Staley, Betty. Between Form and Freedom. Stroud, UK: Hawthorn Press, 1988.

writing by candlelight

These observations from Rudolf Steiner’s worldview that Betty Staley so aptly lays out illustrate the meaning of art and craft in my life. My home is significant and spiritually satisfying because I have infused it with artistic beauty. Antique dolls and Depression Glass are a considerable part of the heart and soul of my home. I have a deep sense of satisfaction, and perhaps of power, when I create something artistic; a handmade dress for an antique doll, a crocheted shawl made from soft natural fiber, a delicious and nourishing meal, a poem, a well written blog post. And I usually spend time in contemplation and communication with the physical form of what I have brought to life.

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Hand sewing Mary Morgan’s 1860’s style dress.

Much more observation and contemplation could be written about the spirit and meaning of art and craft in our lives (and indeed has). I welcome your observations and comments here.

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Spice Mice cookies on a Ruby Red plate.

Ruby Red

In the shop fluorescence frames

Substance of years past

In shades of daguerreotype

Until on a shelf, on paper doilies,

Gleaming abreast of crystal twinkle lights

I behold a red glass cup

Shimmering in that clutter of decades

Like a garnet embedded in a cavern wall

Millennia past compressed of primordial vegetation

A gemstone hiding in darkness

Facets beckoning to be sought.

The cup flows, curves like a womb

Lifeblood of grandmothers and great-grandmothers

Immutably setting tables with gossamer lace,

With Ruby Red glass

Boasting warm cookies, hot tea,

Tinkling sounds like echoes of laughter.

Rotund glass glows within from twinkle light

Embodied like an embryo

Fecund with viability, filial love, felicity

Apposing danger red, war red, depression red.

I take the red cup from its insipid shelf

Exchanging only a few paper bills and clinking coins

For its florid rubescence.

I take it home

To hold my hot tea, my laughter,

My flame

To glimmer like a garnet

On cotton lace.

~~ Jennifer Anne Stewart 1997

Royal Ruby cup Anchor Hocking

Aesthetics and Whimsy: Thoughts on Dolls and Depression Glass as Art

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Miss Oita is one of the 58 Ambassador Dolls sent to the US from Japan in 1927 after US children sent 12,739 “Blue Eyed” dolls to children in  Japan. Miss Oita represents Okayama Prefecture and resides in the Springfield Museum of MA.

A whole weekend off work is a rare pleasure for me. Last night I was reading my newly acquired book about the Japanese Friendship Dolls, especially the chapter on “The Japanese Doll” (so much new and useful background information for me!), and the subsection entitled “Why Ambassador [Friendship] Dolls are Art.” In a nutshell, this essay points out that one of the Friendship doll makers, Hirata Goyo II, signed his dolls on the back of their heads indicating that he viewed himself as an artist. All of the 30″ high Friendship Dolls were made by hand to the highest standards of craftsmanship and consistency of style. Because they were hand made, the dolls of each of the six makers had slight variations in their style. Goyo most likely signed his dolls because his way of thinking was leaning toward the new way of innovation and individuation, while the other artists were thinking in the more traditional Japanese style of working collectively.   After much reasoning, examples and details, this essay concluded that all 58 of the friendship dolls, not just those of Goyo, are indeed works of art.

Miss Kyoto-fu by Hirata Goyo II

Miss Kyoto-fu was made by Hirata Goyo II and resides in the Children’s Museum of Boston. Note the variation of her smiling mouth with teeth showing.

This essay on dolls as art has helped me to crystalize my thoughts on German china dolls as art. To point, can factory made objects intended for play be considered as art? I believe that they can, especially when we are considering the earlier dolls where careful attention was given to individually hand painted features. While the dolls of each factory had to conform to consistency standards of production, there were still small individuations in the dolls, such as wisps in the hair along the hairline, and slight mouth and eye variations that lend differences to expressions or moods for the dolls. Even though the German chinas were not signed by individual artists, they were painted by doll makers, and many (though not all) do reach the standard of art.

Early German Meissen China Head Doll

This early Meissen German china doll has the most beautiful and serene expression that I have seen on a doll of this mold.

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A variety of green Depression Glass in my collection. Some think that green is more desirable than pink glass. I’m glad that I have some of each.

Today, the second day of my full weekend off, I unpacked my last box of Depression Glass to fill out my collection displays. And doing so, I pondered this question of art further: Can mass produced objects like this glass be considered art? Perhaps this is pushing the definition of art too far, yet there are definitely artistic qualities to this glassware that I hold so dear.

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Here is a bowl in the “Oyster and Pearl” pattern in my collection viewed from above to show the lovely symmetry of its design.

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The same “Oyster and Pearl” bowl from the side.

This glassware, produced in a variety of jewel-like colors, was made from the late 1920’s until about 1940 (hence its name). It was often given, or sold at low prices, as premiums for purchasing products such as oats or laundry soap. Therefore, it was quickly produced without much quality control, so rough edges and seam lines, and other imperfections are often found. Oh, but the array of patterns, shapes, proportions, pressed designs, and colors are delightful! There had to have been designers to come up with the patterns that were put into production–were they not artists in their own right?

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“Aunt Polly” is a most extraordinary shade of blue!

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A “Mayfair” cup and saucer in a different shade of blue. Note the beautifully pressed floral motif.

In his book, The Re-enchantment of Everyday Life, Thomas Moore makes the point that useful and utilitarian objects and tools can be so much more delightful and whimsical, as well as useful, when we give them creative and artistic form. This is exactly what Depression Glass does with otherwise utilitarian objects such as dinner plates and refrigerator boxes.

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“American Sweetheart” is made from thin milk-white glass that takes on the color underneath it around the pattern edges.

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A Royal Ruby berry bowl in “Coronation” pattern stacks fine ribs on top of wide ribs for an elegant design.

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Even the handle is elegant.

Of course, one’s sense of the aesthetic is colored (pun intended) by one’s time and place of being. By the 1940’s, people considered that colored glass to be old fashioned (which they thought was a bad thing; imagine that!) and the new clear, or crystal, glass with modern straight lines and geometric shapes was in fashion. Oh dear, I just don’t understand. I will stay with the whimsical jewel tones!

Manhatten Candle Holder

“Manhattan” candle holder. This pattern was made from 1938 to 1943.

References:

Kita, Terry. The Sun Shines For Us All: The Friendship Dolls From Japan. Valparaiso, IN: Valparaiso University, 2015.

Florence, Gene. Collector’s Encyclopedia of Depression Glass (14th Ed.). Paducah, KY: Collectors Books, 2000.

Moore, Thomas. The Re-enchantment of Everyday Life. New York: Harper Collins, 1997

Woman at sink 1930s farmhouse kitchen

I think she finds joy in washing her colored glass in front of her sunny window. (circa 1930’s)

 

A New Home for the Old Dolls (and for me as well)

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Four antique china dolls and one well-made reproduction doll.

The old china dolls are able to stretch their legs, er limbs, in front of lace curtains in our new home–still an apartment–in Oregon City, a place with enough history for them to feel right at home! This grouping of cabinet sized ladies (14″ to 16″) presents a nice array of some of the oldest hairstyles for china dolls. The doll on the left in the wine colored dress is my newest aquisition and my oldest doll. She is from the A. W. Fr Kister factory and dates to the mid 1840’s with a braided bun hairstyle. (Oh what a luscious find!) Next, in the black dress,  is a doll from the Kestner factory with a covered wagon hairstyle dating to the 1850’s. She is all original, and also precious. The middle doll with the cream floral blouse is very rare with curls falling down to her shoulders, and a mound of curls in the back. She is probably made by Kister and dates to the 1860’s. The doll in the red dress has the Lydia hairstyle, with long sausage curls falling onto her shoulders. She is the reproduction, though the original dates to the 1840’s. Finally, on the right, in the indigo blue dress is a Greiner-type china made by the Kloster Vielsdorf factory. She dates to the early 1850’s with a hairstyle similar to the covered wagon, but her ears are exposed. She is a child, or kinderkopf, with her short neck and wide eyes, while the others are damenkopf with long ladies necks and mature faces. The covered wagon hairstyle was common for girls and women in the 1850’s, and the covered wagon doll shown here could be a child, though her original dress is that of a grown woman.

DSC02970This photo shows the hairstyles from the side.

DSC02971The little blonde girls like their perch under the lamp. They are in the range of about 12″ and date from the 1880’s to about 1900. First, in the light blue dress, is an Alt Beck and Gottschalk factory little Highland Mary with bangs and curls in back. In the middle with the pink dress and apron is a Hertwig factory doll with the high curl on the top of her head. And on the right in the white dress with lace is a shy Kling factory girl with a center part and wavy hair with brush strokes.

Thank you for joining us for this little house-warming gathering. We hope that you join us again for more history and inspiration with the dolls.

Antique CDV Little girl with corkskrew curls and her china doll

This girl wears an 1850’s style dress and has her hair in the long corkscrew curls fashion of that time. Her doll may be china or papier mache–hard to tell.