I have long dreamed of finding a late 18th century doll to live here with us in our 224 year old home. Last year, more or less by accident, I happened across a c.1790 English Wooden doll for sale on Mary Ann Spinelli’s website. I had an immediate crush on her! She was just what I was looking for, a plain everyday English wooden that could have been found in a New England farmhouse such as ours. Mary Ann is gracious enough to offer lay-away, so I have been paying her off over the intervening months since I first saw her photo.* Today I finally got to meet her in person!
When my life calms down a bit, after I host a meeting of my doll club in May and return from selling at the UFDC convention in July, I’m really looking forward to pulling out my tiny stash of 18th century fabrics and sewing a new wardrobe for my English wooden doll. I’ve decided to name her Sophronia after Sophronia Guild Ferris the first woman known to live in our house. (You can read more about the original Sophronia and the history of our house here.)
Here in New England 2014 has begun with a clean slate of swirling white snow. Today’s high temperature was 9 degrees, which made it a challenge to keep the studio stove stoked with enough wood. You know that winter has the world firmly in it’s grasp when the kerosine in your oil lamp turns to ice!
Today would have been my mother’s 84th birthday. Happy Birthday Mom!
I have always loved dolls, and as far as I can tell my mother did too, although I don’t think that she had an abundance of dolls when she was growing up. As a child of the depression, born just 10 months prior to the stock market crash of 1929, she had a somewhat stark childhood. I have the Shirley Temple doll that was the last doll she received as a child and the only one she kept. Later in life my mom began collecting dolls. She had one large bisque doll, quite a few composition dolls and a whole armful of vintage dolls in international costumes. She even bought a fair number of hard plastic dolls.
When I was five, Mom bought me a composition doll at Goodwill for a quarter. She was my very first vintage doll! I was only allowed to play with her in the house, because my mother was afraid I would drop her on the concrete driveway or sidewalk and break her. I still have that doll, who survived my childhood and remained unbroken until my husband stepped on her and cracked one of her legs. If I was especially good I was permitted to play with Mom’s Shirley Temple!
The dolls that I love best are older than my mother’s favorites. I rather think that she wouldn’t have liked the antique painted cloth dolls that have captured my heart and I’m positive that she didn’t share my passion for early wooden dolls. But in the best motherly tradition, she was happy to go with me to doll shops and was excited for me when I bought my first true antique dolls.
I don’t have much time these days to work on doll projects of my own, but one of the things I have wanted to do for several years is to make a pair of reproduction 18th century wooden dolls. I’m hoping that 2014 is the year I get to make this dream come true. I plan to name one of the dolls after my mother and make her wig from some of my mom’s hair that she cut off when I was a baby (she got tired of me pulling on her long hair ). The second doll will be smaller and her wig will be made with my hair that I’ve cut and saved (doll makers don’t throw anything away). Working on the dolls will be a nice way to spend time remembering my mother and all of the things we liked to do together and a keepsake that reflects our shared passion for dolls and memories of long ago childhoods.
On Friday I spent a wonderful day at the home of Peggy Flavin, who is a very talented doll maker and good friend. I got to know Peggy last year when she attended my Izannah retreat and from the very first moment we met I felt like I had known her forever!
Visiting Peggy was such a treat and definitely one of the highlights of my year. This was the perfect season to drive up to Cape Ann, as the leaves are just starting to show their true glory. Autumn deepened the further north I went. However even a fall drive through New England can not compare to the joys of visiting a true kindred spirit. Not only does Peggy make and collect dolls, but she lives in a beautiful 18th century home. Every bit of her house is filled with wonderful treasures, remarkable details, and love.
An added pleasure of my visit to Peggy, was getting to meet and spend time with Edyth O’Neil, extraordinary rug hooker, antique dealer and doll collector. The three of us spent all afternoon talking about dolls, dolls and yet more dolls! Listening to Edyth brought back memories of my mother, aunts and grandmothers, as they all shared her soft Texas drawl and expressions. In the evening we had supper at the remarkably cozy pub that Peggy and her husband Dennis own. Both the food and the company were amazing.
On Saturday morning we were all up early, so that Peggy and Edyth could attend a meeting of the Doll Collectors of America and I could head to Sturbridge to pick up some of my furniture that Angel House has been reupholstering.
I had a splendid visit to Gloucester and can’t thank Peggy and Dennis enough for making me feel so welcome!
** Peggy and Edyth both have wonderful blogs. Peggy is just getting hers set up. What she has so far is excellent. Edyth’s blog is long standing and always an interesting read!
I’d like to say thank you to all of the wonderful members of the Jenny Lind Doll Club who made me feel so very welcome yesterday at their meeting! I have been thinking for some time of joining the UFDC and I was finally pushed into action by all the glowing accounts of doll club meetings and conventions that I have been hearing from some of the members of my Izannah Walker class 🙂
I went to the UFDC website and contacted Margaret Vitale, who is the Regional Director in my area, and among other things helps interested people find a local club. Margaret was great. She put me in touch with the Jenny Lind club, one of the oldest clubs in the UFDC. Shelly, the Jenny Lind member in charge of membership has been wonderful and I can’t thank her enough. She has been very attentive, welcoming and even arranged for me to car pool to my first meeting!
I greatly enjoyed the afternoon spent in the home of Jenny Lind president Pixie, and her interesting program on Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls, plus the delicious lunch she served. I could not have asked for a better beginning in the UFDC!
🙂 As a footnote somehow I wound up agreeing to host the May meeting at my house!!! It should be fun, as Pixie is planning to speak about Izannahs!
– Savannah is slaving away on a very special heartfelt letter to Charlotte.
– Ruthie is on her way back home to Brooklyn after visiting for a “spa day” to have the damage caused by the post office repaired. She says that she is ever so much better now and that she feels beautiful again. Plus she loves her new warm flannel petticoat and can’t wait to show it off to Paula C.!
– I’m getting ready to go on a double date with my husband and our very dearest friends Joy and John…