Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Gladys Boalt soft ornaments range from Richard the Lionheart to Buffalo Bill

A collectables article about Gladys Boalt and her wonderful soft sculpture ornaments By © 2013

Richard the Lionheart from the
Robin Hood collection of
's soft sculpture
ornament creations
Although my own historical doll collection has long sing overflowed all of my available display space, I still get updates from Ebay periodically about creations made depicting some of my favorite historical characters. This morning I saw in my e-mail a notice about a Richard the Lionheart soft sculpture Gladys Boalt  ornament.

As I am no longer actively searching for historical dolls to add to my own collection, I had never encountered one of her beautifully detailed creations before.  So, I was intrigued and did a web search and found her official website, the Boalt Gallery.

As I browsed her collections, I was intrigued by her attention to detail and variety of characters she has created.  Of course I had to find out more about her.

Gladys and her husband Lowell, a talented watercolor artist, live in the Hudson Valley in New York state.  According to their official website, the couple opened their own gallery in 2006 but Gladys has been crafting ornaments for over thirty years and selling them through distributors.

Each of her creations, averaging 7" tall", are hand sewn and sculpted with carefully detailed hand painted faces and each is signed and dated.  The ornaments have evolved over the years from simple designs to the more complex with some ornaments now using an internal armature for positioning like many fine handcrafted dolls. The Ebay listing also pointed out that Gladys' ornaments graced the 1981 White House Christmas tree. Prices range from $30 - $115.
"Her selection of topics for the designs has grown, over time, to include many areas- some traditional to the Christmas holiday season, some historical in nature; others relate to nostalgia, childhood memories, fairy tales, nursery rhymes, even dogs and cats. There are several governing ideas behind her designs. In the area of historical figures, for example, Gladys began with classic, well-known figures: Washington. Lincoln, Jefferson etc. But, in time, this category has expanded to include Betsy Ross, Marie Antoinette, Eleanor Roosevelt, Queen Victoria, Elizabeth I, Josephine, Abigail Adams and others who reflect Gladys Boalt’s interest in the role of women in history. " - Weedhouse, distributor of Gladys Boalt creations
Soft sculpture Colonial-era drummer
 from the Williamsburg Foundation collection
created by .
I see Gladys has also produced special ornaments for the Williamsburg Foundation including a colonial drummer and fife player, Ben Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington on his horse.  I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Williamsburg back in 2004 and have supported their organization ever since.  If that period of history is of particular interest to you, Boalt Gallery also offers Martha Washington, John Hancock, Abigail Adams, Samuel Adams, Betsy Ross and Patrick Henry.

Alan-A-Dale ornament from
the Robin Hood collection

of 's ornament
For those whose interest focuses on the Civil War period, Gladys offers several ornaments that closely resemble some very famous southerners from the popular novel and film "Gone With The Wind" and Abraham Lincoln.

Of course, my interests are centered on the ancient to medieval period. I love her ornaments depicting King Arthur and famous characters from Camelot.    I searched eBay for more of her work and found this little medieval musician, Ala-A-Dale from the Robin Hood collection. I'm afraid I had to bit on it!

This past spring I visited a little village in southern France named Puivert and explored their marvelous little Muséum of Quercorb with its instrumentarium displaying beautifully reproduced medieval instruments.  The room where they are displayed is a reproduction of the musicians' room in the keep of Puivert Castle. The medieval stronghold was originally built between the 11th and 12th century but was destroyed when the Cathars were defeated by Catholic crusaders during the Albigensian Crusades. The fortress was then rebuilt in the 14th century.  It's remains stand on a hill overlooking the village and have appeared in a number of modern documentaries and feature films.

Of particular interest to me were the museum's moldings of the cul-de-lamps, architectural elements used in Gothic architecture that support the ribs of a vaulted ceiling, from Puivert castle depicting medieval troubadours playing instruments ranging from unusual looking medieval bagpipes to a psaltery, a medieval equivalent to an autoharp that is depicted on this cul-de-lamp:

A molding of a cul-de-lamp from the musicians' keep in
Puivert Castle depicting a medieval troubadour playing
a psaltery.
 Photographed at the Muséum of Quercorb in
Puivert, France
by  © 2013
The museum also had an audio studio where visitors could listen to reproductions of medieval music and the chants of monks who once inhabited the local abbey.  I enjoyed listening to several of the selections although we didn't have a lot of time to spend there because of other stops on our itinerary that day.

For those of you who might be interested in reading more about my trip to France, I am in the process of posting articles about each city and historical site we visited, including Fontainebleau, Napoleon's fantastic palace, and artist Claude Monet's incredible gardens at Giverny to my blog Incredible Journeys.

A number of years ago I started collecting machine-made soft sculpture Christmas ornaments whenever the gift shops of places I visited offered them.  On my trip to France I found ornaments of Napoleon and Josephine that I added to my collection at Fontainebleau.  I've visited England several times and have found Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, William Shakespeare and a Roman legionary there.  When I visited an exhibit about ancient Egypt at the British Museum I picked up a little blue embroidered hippo that symbolized good luck to the ancient Egyptians.  But I see now that I'm definitely going to have to keep an eye out for these wonderful creations by Gladys Boalt!  At least they don't take up much room!

To read more on soft sculpture dolls and creating their costumes and accessories:

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Thursday, October 04, 2012

Andrea Miniatures branches out to Native American-themed products under Black Hawk brand

I noticed in my newsletters from Michigan Toy Soldiers this morning that Andrea Miniatures has branched out with a new subsidiary named Black Hawk Toy Soldier.  The new company will feature 54mm pewter figures including a new line of Native American-themed miniatures.  The one that caught my eye was a collection representing a Native American Sundance ceremony:

The Sun Dance (or Sundance) is a religious ceremony practiced by a number of Native American and First Nations peoples, primarily those of the Plains Nations. Each tribe has its own distinct practices and ceremonial protocols. Many of the ceremonies have features in common, such as specific dances and songs passed down through many generations, the use of traditional drums, the sacred pipe, tobacco offerings, prayingfasting and, in some cases, the piercing of skin on the chest or back for the men and arms for the women.  - Wikipedia
Other American history-themed miniatures in the Black Hawk lineup include The Northfield Minnesota Raid, The Overland Stage Coach and Custer's Last Stand.  They also offer Napoleonic, Templar and WWII figures as well.
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Friday, February 26, 2010

Historical characters to join the lineup of Xenis jointed wooden dolls

I received an email from Xenis, a family-owned company in Aldergrove, British Columbia, Canada that creates stunning jointed maple wood dolls.  The company was founded by artist Marlene Xenis in 1994 who was later joined by her daughters Tania and Jesse.  In 1996, sculptor and painter Ross Adams joined the team.  Since then, most of the wonderfully detailed faces of the dolls have been applied by Ross.

Tania trained talented carver Young Ho who now does some of the original sculpts directly from wood.  Two more ladies round out the team.  Seamstress Marjorie creates the doll costumes and, along with Sarah, handles the logistics of doll assembly.

Each doll begins as a beautiful pencil, charcoal and watercolor sketch by Ross Adams.  Then a sculpt is made of the head, hands and feet.  When all adjustments have been made, a resin cast is made for each piece and the carving process begins.  Each doll is carved from maple that is harvested from West Coast forests then dried for up to 12 months to ensure proper moisture content for optimum carving.

The actual carving is done by a carving machine that follows the resin cast of each part like a key cutter, producing a duplicate from a mounted maple block. The rough cut maple duplicates are then smoothed with dremel tools, files and hand sanding.  Artists then seal, stain and paint the pieces to add the final details before assembly and costuming.  To allow the beauty of the wood to show through, faces are applied using very thin coats of acrylic paint.

Some of the dolls are equipped with music boxes while others may sport accessories imported from Europe.  All are wonderfully endearing.  I particularly like their "Anne of Green Gables" with her trusting eyes and liberal sprinkle of freckles.  When my sister and I visited Victoria, British Columbia several years ago, I noticed that "Anne of Green Gables" dolls and books were particular tourist favorites.

Xenis is now branching out into historical dolls as well.  Their 26" Abe Lincoln is scheduled to be available in Spring 2010 along with this Mark Twain to be followed by some of Mark Twain's literary characters like Huckleberry Finn.

Xenis dolls are priced for serious collectors.  Some of their more intricate dolls are priced well over $1,000.  [Images courtesy of Xenis Fine Wooden Dolls]

The Hand-Carved Marionettes of Gustave Baumann : Share Their World   Dolls in Motion

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Kimport Dolls a legacy of award winning artist Ruby Short McKim

Queen Marie Antoinette is a popular personality for doll artists and I have an Ebay alert that checks the latest auctions for dolls that depict her.  Today, I received a notice of a nice example of a Kimport Doll designed to represent the famous French queen.

Kimport Dolls were produced by McKim Studios, founded in Independence, Missouri by artist Ruby Short McKim, 1891-1976.

"Ruby Short McKim, 1891-1976, was the prototype for today's modern woman. Artist, author, businesswoman, wife and mother - she excelled in all areas. A graduate of the Parsons School of Design in New York City, Ruby returned to Independence to become the Art Supervisor for the Kansas City Public Schools. After her marriage to Arthur McKim, she began her work as an advisor to Child Life Magazine and created a continuity strip that was one of the first in syndication. This feature in the Chicago Daily News ran for many years. As a couple, the McKims opened a mail-order outlet, McKim Studios, which specialized in needlecraft items and in antique and foreign dolls. At this same time, Ruby was Art Needlework Editor for Better Homes and Gardens." - McKim Studios Revival: Ruby Short McKim 

[Image (right) courtesy of McKim Studios]

Her artistry was also expressed in water colors and oils as well as quilt designs that she syndicated to newspapers and eventually incorporated into the book One Hundred and One Patchwork Patterns.  Her talent was formally recognized after her death when she was posthumously named to the Quilters Hall of Fame in 2002.

McKim Studios still offers many of her award-winning patterns for sale on their website.

Marie Antoinette: The Journey    Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution   The Private Realm of Marie Antoinette   Marie-Antoinette and the Last Garden at Versailles   Marie Antoinette   Marie-Therese: The Fate of Marie Antoinette's Daughter

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Cleopatra OOAK by Joe Bourland victim of recession

Sadly, another collector is forced to part with some of her more treasured dolls because of the recession.  I saw this nicely done OOAK Cleopatra repaint by Joe Bourland in my Ebay alerts today.

 Joe's MSN website is closed and I could not find any replacement. But, I found a brief bio for Joe (a woman) on another collector's website.

Joe was born and lives in west Texas. She started designing dolls in March of 2001 after being encouraged by her sister who is also a doll designer. She says her first attempt with a used Barbie and a few scraps of material from a nearby Wal-Mart was a nightmare but after several months and many scrapped designs later she really began to enjoy it. She is purely self taught and has no degrees or formal training but has garnered some impressive awards including the BMAA Reader's Choice and the Custom Dolls convention Best of Show. 

In addition to the Cleopatra offered for sale on Ebay, I also found images of several more of Joe's designs with a historical flair:

[Image: "Empire's Queen" OOAK by Doll Artist Joe Bourland]

   ["Emperor's Treasure" OOAK by doll artist Joe Bourland]
  ["Promise" OOAK by doll artist Joe Bourland]

If you're still out there, Joe, I hope you haven't stopped having fun with your doll designs.  You are obviously very gifted! 

Creating Fashion Dolls: A Step-By-Step Guide to Face Repainting   Creating Fashion Dolls: A Step-By-Step Guide to One-Of-A-Kind Dolls