Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Deepings Dolls Offers One-of-a Kind Handpainted Treasures

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.

"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."

I couldn't resist their Henry VIII and have ordered him to add to my English Tudor collection.

Alpha Farnell Historical Dolls

Once again I have stumbled across a historical doll on Ebay produced by a company I have not encountered before. This George VI doll was produced by the J.K Farnell Toy Company as part of their Alpha Farnell line.

Starting in the mid 1800's, Farnell made an assortment of items, including pincushions and tea cozies. But with the death of John Kirby Farnell in 1897, the toy company changed its product line. Perhaps its most popular product was Teddy bears that were first produced in 1908.

It's most popular line, Alpha Bears were introduced in the 1920's. They were made of Yorkshire mohair and are thought to be the original inspiration for Winnie the Pooh.

The company was eventually sold to Action Toycraft Ltd.
in 1968 and renamed Twyford Works. Eventually, the company closed its doors in the mid 1970's.

Monday, December 04, 2006

R. John Wright Teddy Roosevelt doll crops up on Ebay

Today, my eBay alert for Teddy Roosevelt character dolls sent me a notice of a beautifully detailed Teddy Roosevelt doll produced by R. John Wright. I had never heard of or seen one of these dolls so I was intrigued and looked up his creator on the web.

"Naturally artistic, R. John Wright always felt his path would lead to a creative career. Born in Michigan, John attended Wayne State University in a liberal arts program with an emphasis on art and literature. Following college, John traveled to New England and settled in New Hampshire.

While browsing in a bookstore, John came across a book The Doll authored by Carl Fox. Intrigued with the profusion of photographs featuring antique dolls, and having recently made the acquaintance of porcelain dollmaker, Gail Wilson, John began to contemplate the possibility of a career in dollmaking. Two years later he met his future wife and creative partner, Susan, who was a recent graduate of the University of New Hampshire with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree. Little did she suspect that her meeting with John would redirect her talents and destiny to doll making. The couple settled in Brattleboro, Vermont in 1974.

First Doll In 1976, when he was abruptly laid off from his job as a clerk in the town hardware store, John decided to try his hand at dollmaking. That afternoon he began to sew a crude figure - his first doll - out of the only fabric at hand, a piece of pale yellow flannel. John had never sewn anything before, but this first effort came quickly and the process seemed to hold much potential - he could only get better! Before the first doll was completed, he was already thinking of the improvements he would make on the second one.

Sewn Face Doll
Hillbilly Dolls
Within a few weeks of having been employed as a clerk in the hardware store, John made a group of six similarly constructed men dolls out of flesh-colored felt. These dolls featured rudimentary rustic-style clothing and sheep's wool hair and beards.
He took these first dolls to a crafts gallery downtown where they were purchased on-the-spot to retail for the price of $28 each. During the next six months, John made and sold over a hundred of these primitive felt dolls to area craft stores. Susan increasingly helped John with the production and together they embarked on an intense period of research. Within six months the dolls advanced beyond the primitive stage and featured joints and more sophisticated clothing and accessories. Paddy and Kate

Working now as a creative team, the couple's doll work soon overtook their small ground-floor apartment turned into a makeshift doll factory. Exhibition in juried craft shows throughout New England provided the expanding wholesale and retail orders for the dolls. They soon began hiring assistants to come and help with the ever-increasing work load. One year after making his first doll, John sculpted the faces which would become his first molded felt dolls. Designs soon followed depicting Character Dolls with ethnically-inspired costumes and accessories. Lillian, Jesse and Peter

The delightful Little Children Series premiered in 1980 around the time of the birth of the Wright's first child. The child dolls introduced a new look from R. John Wright, and the demand from collectors increased. The business moved to Cambridge, New York in the early 1980's where a highly skilled work force was trained and specialized machinery developed to increase production.

In 2004 R. John Wright Dolls returned to Vermont moving their innovative and enterprising company to an idylic 17-acre setting on the outskirts of historic Bennington. The Wright's continue to oversee all phases, always stressing the highest quality materials, craftsmanship and integrity of design which for over twenty-five years have formed the cornerstones of all R. JOHN WRIGHT collectibles. - Official R. John Wright website.