I recently received an email from Tansy Roberts, the business manager for Pendlerook Designs - the home of Deepings Dolls - inviting me to look at their historical line. I checked out their website and was enchanted by their intricately painted wood dolls.
"Each Deepings Doll is unique. Far more detailed than the historical wooden dolls that inspired them, such as the Russian Baboushka or the Gypsy peg doll, they are hand-turned figurines of Tasmanian White Sassafras, their historical costumes individually hand-painted by a range of Australian artists. "Deepings Dolls were first created in 1984.
I couldn't resist their Henry VIII and have ordered him to add to my English Tudor collection.
"The Deepings Dolls began in 1984 as simple shapes turned from celery top pine by Adrian Hunt at his Nicholls Rivulet studio, “The Deepings,” in the Huon area of southern Tasmania. These turned pieces were then decorated with simple lines in sepia ink by a young German woman, Friedericke Schmaltz, detailing seams, buttons, collars, locks of hair and ruffles of fabric. Friedericke developed the concept with Adrian from the early European wooden dolls with which they were both familiar. Adrian and his wife Roslyn marketed the Deepings Dolls through their studio, and introduced them to a variety of retail outlets around Australia and worldwide. The only examples of these early dolls still remaining at Adrian’s studio are three or four in the family's own collection.
Since those early years, there has been steady evolution of style, range of design and process – from added touches of colour to the mostly painted surfaces seen now. A change was made from celery top pine to white sassafras in 1988, it proving a more amenable surface to work, both for turner and Doll Artist.
These changes have been largely attributable to the imaginative flair and technical expertise of each new Doll Artist who has worked with Adrian Hunt through the years. Two of the current five Doll Artists have been painting the Deepings Dolls from the very early days, and are still enjoying the challenge each new batch brings.
Currently, the individual figures are hand-turned by Adrian Hunt and Christine Baker. The five Doll Artists are Marie, Margaret, Anne, Ineke and Jilli.
In 2006, Adrian and Roslyn Hunt retired from the Deepings Dolls business, passing the Deepings Dolls brand and product to Jilli and Tansy Roberts of Pendlerook Designs. Jilli has been painting Deepings Dolls for twenty years, and her daughter Tansy has taken on the role of business manager. Pendlerook Designs is continuing in the tradition set by the Deepings Woodturner, with the same Doll Artists and woodturners as before, and the same commitment to a special, quality product."