A Journey for Miss Ruby, Chapter Seven: A Connecticut Kind of Summer

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Everything about Ruby’s journey had been delightful! Yet, she couldn’t think of a better reason to travel than to visit family. Even though she was “born” in Connecticut, she was now a “West Coast” girl. How fortunate she was to have an “East Coast” clan to welcome her back! Ruby thought that Oregon City where she lives was incorporated a long time ago, in 1844 (as the first incorporated town west of the Rocky Mountains), but the town where she was staying, Colchester Connecticut, received its charter in 1698–almost 150 years before Oregon City. My, that is old!

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This house has been sold since this photo, and is no longer a shop. Miss Jennie wishes she was the buyer!

Of course many of the houses and buildings in Connecticut are older than in Oregon, too. Ruby liked looking at all of these old buildings.

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A historic Colchester house, facing the town green.

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This interesting Victorian is near the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam.

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Connecticut is also noted for its beautiful stone fences; even like this one that is unused and hidden away now along Judd Creek.

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After shopping for awhile, Ruby stopped for a rest on this stone wall in Old Mystic Village.

Shopping is always interesting in Connecticut. Everyone likes stopping at Nature’s Art along the way to Old Mystic Village.

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Ruby was quite taken with this large malachite stone. She found that it soothed her spirit.

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“This room with dinosaur skeletons is a little bit scarry–it gives me the shivers. But I still like the fish.”

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“What do you mean, we already have Citrine at home? I want to put THESE in my suitcase!”

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Harry’s Place doesn’t look quite like this any more, but it’s still THE place to hang out on summer evenings in Colchester! (Photo by Dave Stewart)

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Burgers, chili dogs, and onion rings were the favorites with all of these Stewart girls. (Photo by Dave Stewart)

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And of course ice cream for the whole family is the perfect ending for a summer evening. Coneheads had Miss Jennie’s favorite–espresso bean! (Photo by Dave Stewart)

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Ruby liked dressing up in her white summer dress for church in Manchester.

Even this delightful journey eventually came to an end. The dolls in her bedroom were beginning to miss Ruby most dreadfully. When she came home, she petted the housecats, then she sat on the little Windsor chair next to Little Davie. Now all the bedroom dolls could sit or stand for days and days listening to Ruby share story after story about her journey to the East Coast.

THE END . . . is just another beginning!

Red dress girl with flag circa 1850s

East or West, Home is Best

 

 

 

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A Journey for Miss Ruby, Chapter Four: Tall Ships on Casco Bay

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Miss Ruby on board The Wendameen, July 5, 2018

After a busy morning seeing all the lighthouses, Ruby and her family rushed back to the hotel just in time to catch the shuttle bus to downtown Portland. The bus was definitely the way to get there because there would be nowhere to park the Salsa Red Pearl van. The bus driver was from Boston Massachusettes and now lives in Portland Maine. Miss Jennie told him the story about the coin flip to name the new (in 1845) Oregon town Boston or Portland. Then he said, “That is a fabulous story! I’m going to tell it to my friends!”

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“What do you mean I have to share!”

Once they were in Portland, there was plenty of time to have lunch at Flatbread Company, right beside the dock where the big ferry boats chugged in and out of the bay. The oven fired pizza was delicious, but Ruby liked her bottle of Maine Root Blueberry soda best of all.

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One of the ferry boats on Casco Bay

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Then they went out to the dock where the schooners were moored to get their boarding passes. Ruby was so excited about going on the ship, she could hardly be still in line. “I thought a schooner was a wagon that took people on the Oregon Trail to Oregon and California,” she said. Miss Jennie told her that she was right; Prairie Schooners did roll across the prairies on the Oregon Trail. Those wagons were smaller than the great Conestoga wagons, and with their white canvas covers or bonnets, they looked, from a distance, like smaller tall masted schooner ships, sailing across a sea of grasses.

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Timberwind (1931) in Casco Bay as seen from Wendameen, July 5, 2018

The Portland Schooner Company sails three tall masted schooners for two hour tours and charter trips. Ruby and her family would sail on Wendameen, the oldest of the three ships. “Goody, goody, I like old things,” said Ruby. Wendameen is a two-masted schooner, built in 1912 by the noted naval architect John G. Alden, and is 67 feet in length. She is the 21st recreational schooner built by Alden, and is one of the oldest to have survived. She sailed on the Great Lakes for 20 years, then languished on land until 1985 when she was fully restored and began her life of “windjamming” cruises in Maine. Wendameen was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.

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Wendameen (Stock Photo)

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Miss Ruby at the helm of Wendameen

When Ruby leaped on board Wendameen from the dock, she went right to the helm. “Can I steer?” Then the captain came aboard and said to her, “What kind of voodoo is this?” Ruby just looked at him with big eyes and said, “No voodoo, sir. I’m just Miss Jennie’s travel companion.” That seemed to satisfy the captain, and he paid her no more mind on the cruise.

They followed Bagheera as Wendameen’s motor pushed them away from the dock. Then they were in the bay and the sails were unfurled by the two-woman crew. What a lovely evening to be out on the water on a tall masted ship!

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Portland skyline from Wendameen on Casco Bay

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Miss Jennie especially loved being on this historic tall ship, and sailing! (Photo by Dave Stewart)

There were lots of things to see out on the bay. There was a Civil War fort named “Fort Gorges” that is on an island, and they could see the other two schooners, Timberwind and Bagheera, sailing around the bay. Ruby looked and looked at the varnished wood, tall masts, sails, and rigging, on the ship she was on. She was amazed at how the crew members climbed right onto the mast to adjust the sail! “I want to do that!” she said. “Can I have a schooner for my birthday?”

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Octagonal shaped Fort Gorges, finished in 1864. No troops were ever stationed there because it was obsolete before it was completed, being replaced by iron clad ships and long-range guns.

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Bagheera (1924), as seen from Wendameen

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Spring Point Ledge Light as seen from Wendameen

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The captain and one of two crew members aboard Wendameen, July 5, 2018 (Photo by Dave Stewart)

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Mast and rigging, Wendameen

Ruby was sad as the sun sank lower and Wendameen followed Bagheera back toward the dock. She thought she could sail aboard a tall ship for days and days. This had certainly been an experience that she would remember for all of her life.

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When Ruby was home again, she took out her copy of Avi’s The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, which is a Newbery Honor high adventure story about a tall masted ship and a 19th century girl who sailed on her. This helped keep Ruby’s sailing adventure alive for her.

This beautiful Thursday evening had been the perfect time for Ruby’s sailing adventure. Now it was time for dinner (grilled scallops! Yum!) and another cozy night at the hotel. The morning would bring rain–the perfect day for shopping!

To be continued . . .

Nautical girl antique print

So much to sea!

 

A Journey for Miss Ruby, Chapter Three: Four Lovely Lighthouses

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Miss Ruby at Portland Headlight Lighthouse, Cape Elizabeth, Maine on July 5th, 2018

The hotel room had a soft bed with lots of pillows for resting on. Everyone woke up in time to have a delicious and nourishing breakfast, including custom-made omelets made by Max, the professional omelet chef. Most of Ruby’s family appreciated coffee to start the morning, but Ruby declined.

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Ruby liked the stack of soft pillows, too.

This would be a full day of touring, including visiting three lighthouses in Portland, and a schooner cruise! The first thing that Ruby noticed along the seacoast was the wild beach roses. Unlike the cultivated roses in Portland Oregon, the petals of these roses grew in a single layer around the flower. They were bright and beautiful with the sun on them.

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Beach roses at Portland Lighthouse

A little way down the path, though, the roses were all but forgotten as the most iconic lighthouse in the world came into view!

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Such a clear, sunny, day, the sailboats don’t need the light right now.

Portland Head Light was first lit on January 10, 1791. It is taller now than it was then, and no longer burns whale oil as did the original 16 lamps in its tower. Ruby had to look up and up and up to see the top.

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Miss Jennie enjoyed walking all around the lighthouse park just as much as Ruby did.

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Miss Jennie at Portland Headlight, July 5, 2018

After looking at seaglass earrings and a whale shaped mirror in the gift shop, it was just a short drive to the next lighthouse, the Springlight.

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Spring Point Ledge Light in South Portland Maine, constructed in 1897

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This is what the breakwater looks like with the gaps between the stones. (Photo by Dave Stewart)

Spring Point Ledge Light in South Portland Maine, constructed in 1897, is listed on the national register of historic places. It is called a sparkplug lighthouse because it’s structure rests on a concrete or metal caisson. People can walk out to it on the breakwater made up of very large stones with big gaps between them. Ruby decided to just look from the shore.

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Portland Breakwater Lighthouse with Corinthian columns

The third lighthouse that Ruby visited that morning was the Portland Breakwater Lighthouse, which is also called The Buglight. Built in 1875 of curved cast iron plates, it is decorated with six Corinthian columns. Its design was inspired by the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates in Athens, Greece.

Ruby was quiet and thoughtful in the van after visiting these lighthouses and learning about their history. Before leaving Maine on saturday, she visited one more lighthouse with Miss Jennie.

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The Cape Neddick Light or the “Nubble” at York, Maine

Driving south to return to Connecticut was more summertime splendor as they meandered past Old Orchard Beach and Wells Beach. The sun was beginning its late descent in the summer sky as they pulled into the lot at Cape Neddick. They felt fortunate to find a parking spot. The nearby ice cream shop was just as popular as the lighthouse on this day! Cape Neddick Light, also known as the “Nubble,” was built in 1879 at York, Maine, and is still in use today. It is on an island which can be reached by boat or by cable car.

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Miss Ruby’s artwork of “Portland Headlight” by Kris Kristiansen

Lighthouses, as Ruby learned, have a very important purpose to protect ships by warning them to stay far enough away from the coastline, which can be dangerous for them. She would have much to contemplate and share with the other dolls when she returned home. Yet the adventures of this vacation Thursday were just beginning, for Ruby had booked passage on The Wendameen, a 1912 schooner with tall masts and sails!

To be continued . . .

Blake Henry Lighthouse Keeper nantucket museum

Blake Henry, Lighthouse Keeper. Nantucket Museum

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!

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

 

 

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!

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“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)

 

Nuances of an Art Recapitulated

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A reproduction Lydia china doll with well done face painting

Antique dolls are an art form. It is easy to see the art in the beautiful French bisque dolls of Bru, Steiner, and Jumeau, yet the less complex porcelain china dolls exhibit their artistry in the design of their face and shoulder mold, in the purity of the porcelain from which they are made, and in the beauty of their hairstyles and face painting. As one who collects and studies antique dolls, I often come across reproductions of the antique dolls in my searches. The durability of the one piece porcelain shoulder-heads renders them quite attractive for making new molds from the antique heads.

In all fairness though, molds, or copies,  were being made of the old doll heads when they were still contemporary. Old papier mache heads have been found that are copies of German china dolls, and not all have a known maker. Martha Chase modeled her cloth dolls after French or German bisque dolls of the time, possibly using a bisque doll as a mold for her oil painted dolls. Even the Schoenhut “Miss Dolly” was modeled after a German doll owned by a child in the company’s family.

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This Schoenhut wooden Miss Dolly doll in my collection dates to about 1915.

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Schoenhut, an American manufacturer, found it profitable to add the Dolly Face doll to their line of character dolls at a time when dolls could no longer be imported from Germany during WWI.

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Here is an antique German bisque dolly face by Heubach. The Schoenhut doll above is quite similar with fat cheeks and pretty, but non-descript, features.

Many antique china dolls (as well as other antique dolls) are so rare now that a well executed reproduction can be a blessing for collectors like me who may never see one of these older revered dolls, much less ever expect to own one.  For this reason, a few artistic reproduction dolls, as well as a reissue doll, have gained entry with respectable status into my collection of antique dolls.

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I have already introduced you to my reproduction Izannah Walker doll, Miss Ruby. She is a faithful and artistic rendering of an antique doll, made by Paula Walton. She is very close in her production to an antique Izannah Walker doll, and very likely as close as I can come to owning an example of this highly sought after and extremely expensive example of American folk art at its’ best.

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Miss Ruby is my reproduction Izannah Walker doll

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Cordelia, a reproduction china doll, has pleasant face painting, but it is not the same as an antique German china doll. Also, the glaze on her porcelain causes the crisp lines of the detailed braids to be lost. She is not signed by the artist.

Another reproduction doll in my collection is my first china doll, Cordelia. She was most likely molded from a Parian doll, a porcelain doll that was not glazed, but made from white bisque. This hairstyle was also reproduced by Emma Clear and named “Toinette.” I have not yet found an antique doll with braids like Cordelia to add to my collection.

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This antique Parian doll has the same hairstyle as Cordelia, but with added flowers in the loop of the braid. She also has molded lace around her shoulders and glass eyes. Her braids are crisp with individual brush strokes in the hair. She is much more exquisite, and better artistically rendered than Cordelia.

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An antique  Hertwig “Curl on Top” china doll is shown next to a reproduction of the same doll.

The Hertwig “Curl on Top” china doll is uncommon, but not rare. I purchased the reproduction of this doll, on the right above, while waiting to find an antique one to add to my collection. I was not happy with the reproduction. In comparison, the porcelain quality is inferior, the hair color is a bit garish and lacks crispness, and the face painting has no depth. I am happy to have found my antique Hertwig doll. Notice that the reproduction shoulder-head is slightly smaller than the original. This shrinkage occurs when a mold is made of an existing head. The new head is molded from the antique and shrinks when fired in the kiln.

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The face painting on this 13″ Hertwig doll is typical for this manufacturer, circa 1900. The hair is nicely molded with brush strokes.

Another doll on my wish list is an 1840’s Lydia china doll. Unfortunately for me, this antique doll is quite rare, and well out of my price range when she is to be found. I have, however, seen a few good reproductions of this doll, and I was fortunate enough to have added one to my collection.

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An antique china doll with Lydia hairstyle circa 1840. The face painting on this doll indicates that she was made by the A. W. Kister Porcelain Factory. Note her pink tint with whites of eyes.

The reproduction that I purchased has an appropriate reproduction body with flat soled shoes and spoon hands. Her face painting is well done. She cost me 1% of the $5000 to $6000 that an antique Lydia sells for.

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This is the reproduction Lydia, marked “Rossi” on the back of her shoulder-plate. She may have been molded from a doll like the one above. Her coloring is not as high as the antique doll pictured above, and her lips are painted differently, yet her painting is good. As with the antique Lydia, she has a pale pink tint and the whites of her eyes remain white.

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The little doll in the pocket of the antique dress is an antique “baderkinder” or Frozen Charlotte with a Lydia hairstyle.

“Curly Top” is another uncommon, though not rare, china doll that is often found reproduced. This one with black hair is marked “P S” on the back of her shoulder-plate.

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The painting on this 3″ reproduction Curly Top is well done, but not quite like the originals. Again, the hair is not crisp through the thicker applied glaze. Some antique Curly Top dolls have delicate wisps of hair painted at the tips of the curls.

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This circa 1880 antique Curly Top in my collection, with Cafe Au Lait hair, is larger than the reproduction above, with a shoulder-head that measures 5 3/4″. She is beautifully painted in the style of Alt Beck & Gottschalck dolls. The accent line painted between her lips has a very slight V dip in the middle which gives her an introspective smile.

Almost all of the newer china doll copies are reproductions; however, there is one that is a re-issue of an antique doll made by the original company. This is the Royal Copenhagen porcelain doll with a brown bun that was originally made in the 1840’s. Royal Copenhagen re-issued this porcelain shoulder-head from their molds beginning in 1977 with production lasting into the 1980’s. This doll (along with a larger lady and a boy doll) is well made and artistically rendered from the original company. It is difficult to tell the difference from the original antique doll. She is a work of art, beautifully sculpted with her long lady’s neck, mature face, pale pink tint, and face painting details.

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The smaller re-issue Royal Copenhagen Bun Lady doll in my collection is also known as “Amalie” by collectors.

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This antique 1840’s Royal Copenhagen doll, from the collection of Kirsten Johansen, was featured on the May 2015 cover of Antique Doll Collector magazine for their article on Royal Copenhagen Dolls.

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“Denmark” and the Royal Copenhagen waived blue lines are clearly visible on the back of the shoulder-plate of the re-issue doll in my collection.

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I recently found an appropriate body for this doll with low heeled shoes and lady-like hands, but she has no clothing yet.

With much of what we consider as art at its’ finest, we must visit a museum to see it in all of its’ splendor. It is the rare and wealthy collector who can hope to own a Degas sculpture or a Carl Larsson painting. We may decide to bring home a small reproduction of a favorite sculpture, or a print of a painting we admire. Likewise, some of the most lovely antique dolls are so rare that bringing one into our personal collection is just not possible. Of course an oil painting will be much higher quality than a print of that painting. And so an original antique doll will be superior to a reproduction. With this maxim in mind, it is best to bring the antique doll into a collection whenever possible. Yet a good quality reproduction of an antique doll can bring the art of the doll recapitulated into our space, and bring joy to our collection when the original doll is out of reach.

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Antique photo of girl holding a Covered Wagon style china doll

May you surround yourself with art that speaks to your heart and soul.