Recently I have been working on a number of custom order dolls so I haven’t had many new dolls to post for sale. Because I normally work on several dolls at once, during some parts of the construction process, I have two dolls that are partially finished.
I still have one more custom order doll to complete, but if you would like a sneak peek at the two other dolls that are currently coming to life in my studio, just email me 🙂 at email@example.com .
As you might suspect, I have never met an antique painted cloth doll that I didn’t love. This is especially true for Ella Gauntt Smith’s Alabama Indestructible Babies. They are lovely toys, just the right size and weight to cuddle in a young girl’s arms.
Ella Smith was an art teacher who created her Alabama Babies to be sturdy, unbreakable play things in an age of fragile and easily broken dolls. She was an interesting and enterprising woman, with a fascinating biography.
Early in 2007 I was asked by Doll Crafter and Costuming magazine to write a three part article about Alabama Babies, that included full instructions and patterns for making a reproduction doll. The series appeared in the March, April and May 2007 issues of the magazine.
The following is an excerpt from the March article. I’m running it here especially for Martha, one of my Izannah class members, who is also keenly interested in Alabama Babies and for anyone else who loves them as I do.
Making An Alabama Indestructible Doll
by Paula Walton
Level of Difficulty: High
Alabama Indestructible Dolls were made by Ella Smith and a small group of women employees in Roanoke, Alabama from 1905 until 1932. In 1904, Mrs. Smith traveled to St. Louis, Missouri to show her dolls at the St. Louis Exposition. Her dolls won a first place classification at the Exposition, and the following year on March 31, 1905, she filed an application for her first doll patent. Her patent number 800,333 was granted on September 26, 1905. Mrs. Smith went on to obtain a number of additional patents for improvements and changes to the design of her dolls.
This is the first in a series of three articles that will give you patterns and instructions for making a 22-inch tall Alabama Indestructible doll in the style of Ella Smith’s earliest dolls. The following is Miss Ella’s (as she was commonly known) description of her dolls as printed in one of her catalogs in her own words:
“My dolls are all made of the best white goods – no dyes used, as they rot the goods and cause the dolls to wear out sooner. They are all carefully Hand-made. Hand-painted with pure oil paints and can be washed like children. There is no glue or paste used in them. They are stuffed with cotton and sewed with the best thread. No cheap stuff used in the make- up of these dolls. They do not break from being dropped or thrown about. They have been tested by five years’ use. When they are worn and need new hands or feet or painting again, they may be sent back here to the shop and made to look like a new doll for a small sum. Our dolls may be provided with glass eyes, but we prefer the painted eyes – they look like life, and then there is no possible chance of a child to pick the fabric from around the eyes. If we were to use glass eyes we would have to cut the fabric from over the eyes and that would leave a new edge, and when the dolls faces were washed the edges would become rough and ugly around the eyes: and the glass eyes are only a shell and so very easily broken. These dolls are just what the people want if they are looking for something good and substantial, and every child is so glad to get one of these dolls. They look so much like a baby when dressed in long or short clothes, and when the dear little girl drops one of these dolls she don’t have to cry her little heart out because dolly has a broken head. She can just pick her up and go on happy and gay, because these dolls do not break from being dropped. Any one of these dolls may be provided with a wig, but most all people like the painted heads – they look so neat – and the wigs become tangled after a while; but they may be taken off and the heads painted the same as the others. These dolls are painted to represent all races of people. We mean to try to please all people as near as we can. We want our dolls to give perfect satisfaction.”
Up until now I haven’t sold individual patterns for my Alabama Babies. To start with, just after the articles were published, I didn’t want to infringe or compete with the Doll Crafter and Costuming articles, even though the magazine only had limited rights to the articles and patterns and I retained the copy rights. Later I hesitated to make the patterns available because the dolls and the pattern pieces are large enough that they require printing on oversize paper, which makes producing the patterns more difficult and expensive.
However I began to rethink selling copiesof this pattern after I advised Martha to look for back issues containing the articles. I’ve done a little checking around and it doesn’t look like it is easy to find these issues. In the intervening years Doll Crafter and Costuming has ceased publication. A quick look on eBay showed other Doll Crafter and Costuming issues (but not March, April or May 2007) for sale from $9.99 each. Another issue is that the patterns included in the April 2007 and May 2007 issues of Doll Crafter and Costuming were printed at 50%.
So I have updated and revised my original instructions to include an option for making bare feet, as well as the iconic painted shoes that Alabama Babies are so well know for. I’ve added more than twice as many color how-to photos to the step by step guide and had full size pattern pieces printed (so you won’t have to go to the trouble and expense of making enlargements).
Full support and unlimited questions and answers are included with this 30 page tutorial, as they are with all of my patterns and classes. Making a reproduction Alabama Baby is easier than making a reproduction Izannah Walker doll, but it is still a complex and challenging undertaking, so it’s nice to know that you will have some help along the way if you need it:) I have also started a class member only Ning site, with bonus materials, extra photos and the opportunity for you to interact and “converse” with other class members.
Read More About Alabama Babies
The Alabama Baby Indestructible Doll 1899-1932 by Bonnie Gamble Ballinger
Freeman’s Dolls For Collectors – Encyclopedia American Dolls by Ruth S. Freeman
American Rag Dolls – Straight From The Heart by Estelle Patino
A Celebration of American Dolls From The Collections Of The Strong Museum by Dorothy A. McGonagle
A short Alabama Baby love story: As a romantic footnote to this posting I have to add that my husband, Brian, gave me my first Alabama Baby as a Christmas gift. I was so utterly captivated by that original doll that he searched for others, which he presented to me on subsequent Christmases and birthdays, interspersing them with several Martha Chase dolls. Just another reason why Alabama Babies are dear to my heart 🙂
Many articles have been written about Izannah Walker and her hauntingly beautiful, iconic cloth dolls. I have found all of them extremely interesting and well worth reading. However, it occurred to me that none of the articles that I have seen were written by someone who has actually made full size reproductions of Izannah’s pressed cloth heads and has experienced first hand the joys and frustrations of this unique type of doll making. So I’ve decided to join the ranks of doll lovers and historians who have gone before me in writing about this fascinating woman and her exceptional dolls.
It feels like I have loved Izannah Walker dolls for my entire life, although I know that can’t be true. When I look back, I think that I first became aware of her dolls right around the time that we moved to New England, 22 years ago. I do know that I have loved, and always wanted to own, antique dolls since my very early childhood. As soon as I knew that such things as really old dolls existed, I wanted one (or more!).
Izannah Walker and her dolls hold a very special place in doll history. On November 4, 1873, she was the first woman to receive a United States patent for making dolls.
Izannah Walker was born in Bristol, Rhode Island on the 25th day of September in 1817. I have read there is documentation that she started making dolls in 1828. She would have been 11 years old in 1828, the same age that I was when I first learned to sew. Norma H. Robertson, Izannah Walker’s grand-niece, stated that her great aunt began making stockinette dolls in 1845 for friends, and as her business developed, she put her three sisters to work painting faces. Other research and information that I have seen states that Izannah had two sisters, plus several older half-siblings, and that Izannah, her older sister Jane and her aunt Jane Hintz were all three doll makers.
One of my favorite Izannah stories is a reminiscence by Mrs. Helen Pierce of when the Walker sisters were living on Main Street in Somerset Village, MA. Mrs. Pierce tells a tale of the Walkers hanging their dolls out on the clothesline to dry when it was too damp in the house and how the air in the neighborhood was then permeated with the smell of oil paint. I can certainly relate to that, having hung my share of dolls out on the clothesline.
The Mystery of Molds and Lessons Learned About Pressed Cloth Heads
One of the things that I find most endearing about the Walker dolls is their differences. This may be because three individual women had a hand in their construction, either working together or apart. It is also, in my opinion, a very basic fact of life when a doll maker is creating dolls with pressed cloth heads. While all of the original dolls are recognizable as Walker dolls, they do come in many sizes, from 13 to 27 inches* in height, and often have very striking differences from one another. The majority of the dolls are girls, although there are a few boy dolls and even fewer black dolls with lovely, short, nubby black wool hair.
There has been a great deal of speculation in the doll world about the number and origin of the molds Izannah Walker used to make her dolls. I can’t offer any clues about how the molds were made. Did she sculpt her own prototype heads and then have them made into metal molds? Did she hire others to create both the original sculpt and molds? Or did she commission molds from commercially available European dolls? Her patent information shows the use of a metal mold and dye, but did she always use metal molds? Is it possible that her earlier dolls were created using plaster molds, which were long established in the doll making industry at that time, and would wear out and need replacing more frequently?
What I can say with some confidence is that it is very likely that she used fewer molds than many people think. Obviously, she had to have a variety of molds for the different sized dolls that she made and it is equally obvious that her early dolls used very different molds than her later, patented dolls. What I have found when making pressed cloth heads is that heads made using the same mold will turn out quite differently from one another. When making pressed cloth heads, you do not get the same consistency as you do when casting materials, such as bisque, papier-mâché and wax, that can be poured into a mold and hardened. Izannah’s pressed cloth heads were made in sections that had to be joined together, a process that sometimes causes individual heads to come out a bit larger or smaller than each other. After the front and back sections of the head were sewn and or glued together, the head was stuffed with cotton, horsehair, sea grass or other materials. The pressed cloth heads are not rigid like the heads of a china or porcelain doll. They are somewhat flexible and their shape can be altered by how tightly the stuffing is packed into the head. All of these factors can and will change the appearance of the finished pressed cloth head.
Another point that I would like to mention here is that when studying photographs of Izannah Walker dolls, it is important to remember that the photographs do not always look the same as the doll does in person. I am by no means a professional photographer, but I am a person who takes an inordinate number of doll photos, using several different cameras and lenses. The type of lens used to take a photograph will have a big impact on how the doll looks, as will the lighting and angle from which the photo is taken. People who have only seen Izannah Walker dolls in photographs are often very surprised when they first see one of the dolls in person. The dolls are smaller and much more delicately proportioned than they often look in photos. Their eyes are not as large and their foreheads aren’t quite as curved and pronounced as people expect. I am fortunate enough to have been able to visit several museums and view dolls in person that I had previously only seen in photos and I can attest that there is a real difference. I see this same difference when I photograph both my antique Izannah Walker dolls and the reproductions of them that I make. So some Walker dolls may look more similar in person than they do when compared in photographs. Especially when they are photographs taken by different people, using different cameras, lighting, etc.
The painting style is another variable from doll to doll. Again, this may be due to more than one person wielding her brush, or it may be because when a doll maker paints a doll, each one is slightly different from the next. Even if you have never made a doll in your life, I’m sure that you can relate. Think about your signature. It is something you do over and over again. Is it exactly the same every time? When you make your favorite recipe, the one you know by heart and don’t have to look up, does it turn out just the same every time? Izannah Walker’s dolls were made over a long period of time. Even if a single person painted them all, it is natural that they would change. When I paint my dolls, the colors will vary a bit since I don’t use a “recipe” to mix my paints. Some days, I paint finer lines than others, paint better curls, make more blushing cheeks and crisper bootlaces. Such is the nature of hand made artistry and it is why Izannah Walker dolls are so well loved and enduring. The hand of the doll maker shows in each and every one of them. They are similar and yet individual works of artistry.
I like to think that the women all worked together, even when they were separated by distance (which they were during different periods in their lives). My sister and I make reproduction samplers together, even though she lives in Nebraska and I live in Connecticut. Both of us work on every sampler that we make, each doing our own part to create the final product. It would have been possible for the Walker sisters and their aunt to do the same, and I hope that they did. My sister and I enjoy working together and I’d like for the Walkers to have had the bond that shared goals and joint work brings about.
Construction Features of the Walker Dolls
Like any other reproduction-sewing project, making an Izannah Walker doll is an eye opening experience to the difference between 19th century and 21st century sewing construction. People in the 1800’s obviously viewed pattern making and sewing construction differently than we do today. The shapes of many of the pattern pieces used to make these dolls and their clothing are unfamiliar to modern seamstresses.
Izannah’s earliest dolls had heads that were made of molded and pressed cloth joined to the bodies at the neck. This is different than the later patented dolls that had molded and pressed cloth heads and shoulder plates that were glued onto the bodies. I think the early dolls are prettier than their later sisters, and they are the type of Izannah Walker dolls that I prefer to reproduce. The front of the pre-patent doll’s head is joined to the back just in front of the ears. The back of the head has a partial center seam.
Often you will see that the dolls have repaired ankles. This is because they have a seam at the ankles that connects the foot to the leg. Modern cloth dolls are seldom made this way. The dolls have narrow waists, with wide shoulders and hips. The unpainted portions of their bodies are covered with a “second skin,” which gives them a neat, finished appearance, and points to the care with which they were made.
I find all of these details intriguing. They are part of what draws me to study Izannah Walker’s dolls and have kept my interest in them so strong for many years.
Izannah Walker dolls were made using molds. That does not mean that they took less work or are less desirable than a doll that has a one-of-a-kind sculpted face. For me, understanding how the Walkers made their dolls and using those same techniques to make dolls of my own gives me an even deeper love and appreciation for the originals. Through years of experience, I know exactly why some of the dolls have that characteristic crease at the hollow of their throat, why the paint on the earliest dolls cracked and peeled, why the hands have such a wonderful shape and how to make that slight curve at the wrist. I treasure the experience, the knowledge and the insight and I would urge you to try your hand at making a doll using Izannah’s methods. It will give you a wonderful glimpse into her world and her art.
Izannah Walker managed to capture an evocative moment of American history and very firmly convey a sense of her time and place in a child’s toy. These toys continue to be treasured, loved and marveled at today.
* There are rumors of a “life-size” doll that was owned by members of the Walker family.
Sources for some of the information used in this article and additional reading:
American Folk Dolls by Wendy Lavitt (Knopf 1982)
American Rag Dolls Straight From The Heart by Estelle Patino (Collector Books 1988)
“An American Master of Cloth” by Helen Nolan, Dolls, February 1995 (this article is about Martha Chase and only has a brief mention of Izannah Walker)
“The Art of Dolls 1700-1940” by Madeline Osborne Merrill, Doll Reader, April 1985
Cover Photo by Dorothy McGonagle, Doll News, 1989
“Dolls by Izannah Walker” by Donna C. Kaonis, Antique Doll World, September/October 1993
The Doll Collection of Helen Gage, Auction Catalogue by Marvin Cohen Auctions, December 1984
“Dolls of Rhode Island” by Carolyn Guise, Two Hundred Years of American Dolls, The New London Doll Club United Federation of Doll Clubs Region Fourteen Meeting, May 1977
Early American Dolls in Full Color, by Helen Nolan (Dover Publications 1986)
“Early American Stockinette Dolls: Part 1- Izannah Walker and Martha Chase Dolls” by Judy Beswick, The Cloth Doll, Fall 1998
Encyclopedia American Dolls by Ruth S. Freeman (Century House 1952)
“The “Holy Grail” of Early American Dolls” by Catherine Riedel, Yankee magazine, November/December 2009
“Izannah Walker – Godmother to Cloth Doll Makers” by Susan Hedrick, Soft Dolls & Animals, Summer 1998
“Izannah Walker’s Iconic Dolls” by Edyth O’Neill and Dixie Redmond, Early American Life, Christmas 2011
“An Izannah Walker Reunion” by Carol Corson, Antique Doll Collector, August 2011
“Izannah Walker: The Mystery Deepens” by Helen Nolan, Dolls, August 1994
“The Little Doll With The Little Curl” by Maurine S. Popp, The Jenny Lind Doll Club of Southern Connecticut Region 14 of The United Federation of Doll Clubs, April 1968
Made to Play House: Dolls and the Commercialization of American Girlhood, by Miriam Formanek-Brunell (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998)
“The Mystery of Izannah Walker” by Helen Nolan, Dolls, September 1993
“The Search for Izannah Walker” by Monica Bessette, Doll News, Spring 1994
“Stitches in Time” by Diane Goff, Doll Reader, July 1993
Summer in Marseilles at the Turn of the Century Auction Catalogue by Theriault’s 1993
“They’re Just Down-Home Folk” by Wendy Lavitt, Dolls, May 1993
The Treasury of Beautiful Dolls, by John Noble (Weathervane Books, 1978)
“Walker Dolls: A Family Affair” by Monica Bessette, Doll News, Summer 1998
This article and the accompanying images, like all posts and photographs on this site, are copyrighted by Paula Walton and may not be published or reproduced in any form without the express written consent of the author.
Today I spent the whole morning painting curls. It occurred to me while I was painting that not everyone has had as much experience with long curls as I have 🙂 I think that it is much easier to paint curls if you think of them in terms of real hair. So here is a quick how-to hair styling lesson, with my my personal tips gleaned from a lifetime of ringlets!
As soon as my hair was long enough to brush around my mother’s finger, she started rolling my hair in what she called “long curls”.
After shampooing and brushing out all of the tangles in your hair, section off a small amount of hair and catch it between your two middle fingers, at the point where you wish the curl to begin. Use a soft bristled brush to start brushing the hair around your first two fingers (for tighter curls brush it only around your index finger).
Continue brushing the hair around your fingers until you reach the end of the strand. To hold the curl in place while it dries, slip a long bobby pin in one side of the curl, from the bottom up. If you plan to sleep on the wet curls or do anything very active while your hair dries, use a hair clip that will fasten closed instead of bobby pins.
When your hair is dry, remove the pins and the curls should naturally lengthen and fall into place.
Doll Town is a new website opening Sunday night February 27th at 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. The idea behind the site is for a large group of doll artists to come together in one place and offer their dolls for sale to collectors. The woman behind the site is Jane DesRosier.
Please come join me and a host of wonderful, creative doll makers for the grand opening tomorrow. I have two dolls available for sale on the site. I hope to see you there!
Recently, Margie Herrera, one of the students in my Izannah Walker Reproduction Doll Making Class, finished her first Izannah. Margie is an extremely talented doll maker and her doll is beautiful. I feel just like a proud mother. So in the tradition of Moms everywhere, I am posting photos of Margie’s doll here for you all to admire.
One of my very favorite things about teaching is “meeting” all of the wonderful people who take my classes. Being able to chat with each other online via my Ning site exclusively for students is the next best thing to having everyone all together in one big classroom.
Margie, just like all of my students, has been a joy. She keeps assuring me that she had a lot of fun working her way through the class – even on the day she re-made her shoulders three times 🙂 ! Now you can see why I love the people who take my classes!
I thought I would share some of Margie’s kind words about her experiences with the class.
“I can only say that even though I have been sculpting and making dolls, I didn’t have the information about Izannah Walker doll design that your class has offered, as well as your other sewing information, and ongoing online assistance with the challenging areas of sculpting and mold making too. It’s a lesson as well as the real up close information, like patterns, body design and history. Those of us who never saw a real Izannah doll can get a closer look from this class. Much enjoyed! Thank you Paula.”
Are you as stunned as I am that Thanksgiving is on Thursday and that Christmas is only 33 days away? This year has just flown by. Last December, just after Christmas, I started this blog (www.izannahwalker.com) to give dollmakers additional information about using my Izannah Walker Doll clothes pattern and to chronicle my adventures while working on a set of patterns and instructions for a class on Izannah Walker Reproduction Dolls. It’s been a crazy year and I haven’t gotten as many blog posts up as I would have liked, but I have made quite a bit of progress on my pattern drafting and instructions. This is a project that has been in the planning stages for five years, so I am quite thrilled to be able to say that I am finally close to completion.
Normally I would just wait until the class was ready to go before putting out any type of announcement. However something happened last week that made me change my mind. I received several orders for Spun Cotton Ornament Classes that people happened to mention were Christmas presents. Every year, quite a few husbands buy the classes for their wives. I suddenly realized that maybe some of you, who have been waiting patiently for me to finish the class, might want to put it on your Christmas List this year.
So I am announcing the class now for February release and taking preorders. In order to stretch Santa’s shopping dollars a bit further, preorders placed before January 1st will receive a special 10% off deal. I’m sending out very special sweet certificates and vintage Izannah postcards (while my supply lasts) with each pre-January 1 early bird purchase, so that Santa has something to wrap or slip into your Christmas stocking. (Sorry, but this part of the offer has now expired.)
For those of you who aren’t dollmakers, I also have some wonderful new items about which you might want to drop hints to Santa. They will be up on my website in the next couple of weeks and will include new teddies, an adorable sock monkey, a C.W. Parker c. 1930 carousel horse and some very intriguing Victorian folk art wool balls.
Best wishes to all of you and yours for a truly bountiful and memorable Thanksgiving!
Please scroll down to read details about my Izannah Walker Dollmaking Class.
Izannah Walker Reproduction Doll Class by Mail Pre-Order Offer
To the best of my knowledge, this is the only comprehensive tutorial on how to make an authentic Izannah Walker reproduction doll and her clothing. I based this class on Izannah Walker’s original patent and drafted my doll and clothing patterns from two dolls I own that were made by Izannah Walker.
This is not a corner-cutting compromise approach, yet if you know how to sew, sculpt and paint and are willing to invest the time, you could end up with the best reproduction Izannah Walker doll in existence!
What is included in the class:
Booklet full of step-by-step instructions with numerous detailed photographs
Patterns for doll body and one complete set of clothing (dress, two petticoats, chemise, drawers)
Detailed instructions for sculpting head and shoulder plate with accurate measurements taken from my antique Izannah Walker dolls
Paint swatches and formulas to match colors from original Izannah Walker dolls
Source list for all required materials
Additional instructions for those wanting to take a short-cut approach
Lifetime question and answer support at no additional charge
Additional information provided via my Izannah Walker-themed blog, izannahwalker.com.
An optional material kit is also available at an additional charge. It includes historically-correct fabrics, antique notions (buttons and lace) and stuffing, enough to make one complete, fully-dressed doll. You will still need your own sculpting, mold-making and painting supplies.
Why this class is ideal for serious doll-makers
With the detailed instruction booklet, you don’t have to be connected to the internet or be limited to working in front of your television screen.
The open instruction book will lay flat on your work table
You can make notes right in your booklet as a permanent record
The instructions are infinitely reusable
Why should you buy from me?
Dollmaker for 24 years
Author of numerous magazine articles on dolls and doll-making
Free-lance designer for national craft publications
Restoration artist of antique dolls, bears and textiles
Izannah Walker doll owner
Patterns are drafted and sculpting measurements directly taken from two original dolls plus extra original Izannah Walker clothing
Teaches at nationally-known arts and crafts schools including stints as artisan-in-residence
Consistently highly-rated by students for knowledge, enthusiasm and encouragement
Sold hundreds of patterns and Spun Cotton Ornament class kits via mail and supported these satisfied customers for many years
Nationally-recognized historical artisan
Early American Life top traditional craftsman 21 times in nine years, including clothing and accessories, textiles and needlework, toys and dolls categories
Museum director and curator
Availability and pricing
To take this class in person, it would be a five-day session, with a cost of $700 for tuition and all materials, not to mention your travel expenses.
The regular price of this class will be $250. The optional material kit may be ordered for an additional $115. 75.
Take advantage of this special pre-order offer:
Early ordering is now available at 10 percent off the regular prices above.
Pay a deposit of 25 percent of the discounted price now with the balance due upon shipment. This deposit is non-refundable.
Special pre-order certificate for gift-giving provided (see paper doll below)
Free vintage Izannah postcard (while supplies last – see below)
(While orders are still being taken, the above special offer has now expired.)
The above offer will be good through January 1, 2010 only. After that date, pre-orders will still be taken, but will be at full price and may not ship on the initial release date of end of February.
In addition to the 10 percent savings, a benefit in buying now is that you will be assured of being in the first group to receive your class when they are ready. As with all my products, the Izannah Walker Doll Class by Mail includes free shipping.
All sales are final. Returns are not accepted. The doll pattern is not for sale separately, nor would it be possible to reproduce the doll without the rest of the class.
During 2010, I plan to offer additional clothing patterns drafted from items of original Izannah Walker doll clothing from my collection. Those who pre-order the class prior to January 1, 2010 will receive the same 10 percent off on every new Izannah Walker doll clothing pattern I release in this coming year during their first month of availability.
Watch for the announcements and your special limited-time ordering instructions!
For professional doll artists
Dollmakers who sell their works may sell a limited number of dolls made from the patterns included in this class as long as the dolls and advertising materials clearly credit Paula Walton/A Sweet Remembrance for the patterns and techniques used to make them.
I am quite fond of antique hooked and shirred rugs.I enjoy working on rugs because it is a very peaceful occupation.Although to be honest, the thing I like best about rug hooking is that it gives me a great reason to dye wool.
Last night I was reading a book that one of my sons gave me for Christmas, entitled Creating an Antique Look in Hand-Hooked Rugs by Cynthia Smesny Norwood, ISBN 978-1-881982-59-3.It’s an excellent book that I highly recommend.As I was reading, I was reminded again how very scrupulous rug hooking books and magazines (in particular Rug Hooking Magazine) are about copyrights.
Cynthia Norwood has written a very detailed, yet clear and easy to understand definition of what copyrights are and how they pertain to you as a craftsperson, whether you sell your work or not.She also discusses copyrights as they apply to antiques.Page 17 of Creating an Antique Look in Hand-Hooked Rugs should be required reading for any and everyone who creates any type of art or craft.
By now, I’m sure that you will have noticed that I am very careful to only sell patterns and finished dolls that are based on antiques that I own, or my original designs.This keeps me out of the murky waters of possible copyright infringement. Even though antiques no longer have copyright protection, you should give credit to the original artisan.Also be aware that the current owners of the antique item do have rights as well.
Speaking of antique reproductions, another thing I should mention is that you need to sign and date your work.Obviously it would be a miracle if we were able to perfectly recreate an antique doll or antique doll clothing.Knowledgeable collectors are going to be able to immediately tell the difference between a newly made doll and a genuine antique.Even so, you want to make sure that you very clearly mark your work.People that do not know as much about antiques could be deceived, especially if your work should ever be sold on the secondary market. The more hands an item passes through, the more chance there is that information concerning it will be garbled or lost. Remember what happened when you played “Telephone” as a kid?
My husband Brian and I run into this all the time with antique carousel horses.We find reproduction horses that are being sold by people who honestly believe that they are antiques, due to their inexperience in the field.
I recently received a call from Christine P. from Michigan.It was great to have a chance to chat with Christine about several of my classes.Among other things, we were talking about painted cloth dolls.Christine has become interested in trying cloth doll making and has been researching it a bit.She mentioned that she had learned that she would need to gesso the fabric before painting it.I told her that gesso is good, but Helen Pringle’s “Miracle Messy Mixture” is better.
For those of you that aren’t familiar with “Miracle Messy Mixture”, it is a blend of equal parts of Liquitex Acrylic Gel Medium and Liquitex Modeling Paste.If you can’t find Acrylic Gel Medium you can substitute Acrylic Matte Medium.Mix up only a small quantity at a time, as it is fairly expensive and it begins to harden as soon as it is opened.Use the “Messy Mixture” instead of gesso, making sure to sand smooth between coats.
The advantage of “M.M.M.” over gesso is that it does not crack and dent as much if your doll is dropped, squeezed, or attacked by a heavy blunt object.Dents will very slowly raise back up.Your paint may crack, but the doll itself will survive rough treatment much better if you use this method rather than gesso.Paint can always be re-touched.
If you would like to read more about Helen Pringle and her dolls, look for these magazine articles:
The Cloth Doll, Spring 1988 issue, pages 8-11.
The Cloth Doll, Summer 1988 issue, pages 6-8.
DOLLS The Collector’s Magazine, March/April 1990, pages 75 & 76.
Better Homes & Garden’s Special Interest Publications Dollmaker, 1992, pages 53-57.