Monday, July 30, 2007

South Africa home to Miniatures' Artist Debbie Dixon-Paver

This morning I was pruning my e-mail inbox and came across a message I had almost forgotten that arrived while I was in New York. Debbie Dixon-Paver is a miniature doll artist living in South Africa. She had come across the website featuring the historical figures of George Stuart and had emailed the contact address asking when more of his figures were scheduled to be added to the website. As the programmer for Mr. Stuart's website, I am copied on emails sent to it so I replied to her that we are presently working on the addition of figures of the Bourbon Dynasty to the website and should have them online by September.

Debbie emailed me back when she realized I was the doll enthusiast with the extensive historical collection she had seen online and included images of some of her wonderful miniature groups. They are part of a collection she calls "Songbook" because she used song titles as inspiration for them. I found them meticulously detailed with realistic faces. Even the puppetmaker's tiny creations had finely detailed features and costumes. I was able to instantly recognize Henry VIII! The gentle face of her peddler woman as she gazes at her sweet little apprentice is quite poignant. The two little girls in their early 20th century beach suits are also quite winsome as they look up at the "medicine" man hawking his latest potion.

Debbie also depicts a brigand of the high seas to satisfy the customers who may be suffering from the latest craze of pirate worship stirred up by the series of films, "Pirates of the Carribean".

She also offers a salute to the "Free Love" generation of the 60s with her offering "Flower Children". I had to smile when I saw them since they still sport the trademark tie-dyed clothing but have gray hair and aging faces like so many of us from that period of time. Of course, seeing their colorfully decorated microbus and living here in Eugene, the home of one of the hippies' old icons, Ken Kesey, I couldn't help but think of his old flower-painted bus "Furthur" that trekked all the way to New York all those years ago.

"THE PUBLICATION OF Kesey's second novel Sometimes a Great Notion demanded his presence in New York, so Kesey bought a 1939 International Harvester school bus that he and the Merry Pranksters painted in day-glo colors, and outfitted it for a cross-country trip. With Neal Cassady at the wheel, they left La Honda in June 1964 and began their now legendary journey across the country, smoking marijuana, and dropping acid along the way. The top of the bus was made into a musical stage and when it detoured through some cities, the Pranksters blasted a combination of crude homemade music and running commentary to all the astonished onlookers. They arrived in New York in July after an arduous journey, whereupon Neal Cassady introduced them to Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. Ginsberg embraced the new legends immediately and arranged for them to drive to Millbrook to meet the other psychedelic pioneer, Timothy Leary." - Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, © 1998 by the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia.

I understand "Furthur" is being resurrected by Kesey's son, Zane. The local annual salute to the 60s, The Oregon Country Fair, was just held last week.

When I emailed Debbie to let her know I was featuring her work in this article she thanked me and included a link to her website. I was thrilled to see that she had produced a set called "Just The Two of Us" featuring Marc Antony and Cleopatra! As a Roman history buff I couldn't help but love them!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Realistic felt dolls created by Maggie Iacono

Today as I was researching some dolls I purchased on Ebay I came across a website with pictures of beautiful felt dolls created by doll artist Maggie Iacono. Her dolls of children were so lifelike I could hardly believe they were made of felt. Then I noticed that she has started a "fashion doll" series with women dressed in early 20th century fashions.

The first of these was 15" Olivia featured in a turn of the century felt dress with an embroidered bodice and a straight skirt. It is accented with a textured silk overskirt, lined with a matching fine woven silk. Her coat is decorated with hand made felt pastel flowers on a painted and embroidered background. Two silk covered buttons hold her coat closed. Black suede pumps complete the ensemble. Her hair is turned up in the traditional bun style of the day. She is fully jointed and poseable, with wired fingers, elbows, shoulders, hips and knees. Only 100 pieces were produced and retailed for $895.

Evelyn is this year's addition to the new line. Evelyn is 17 1/2 inches tall. Her blonde hair is cut in a bob style and she wears a 1920s-style felt dress, matching hat with a felt flower on the side and a silk scarf. She is wearing black suede pumps and carries a black handbag. Evelyn is available from fine doll retailers for a suggested retail price of $925. Only 100 pieces were made.

Maggie explains her journey to becoming an award winning doll artist on her website:

"I became interested in doll making soon after the birth of my first child. I began by making simple cloth rag dolls. I took these to craft shows and then later to doll shows. This was great for earning some extra money while still being able to be home and care for my children. As my skills progressed, the "flat" faces of my cloth dolls frustrated me, and I knew I needed to achieve something more realistic. I discovered a felt doll at a show one day and thought this might be the medium for me. Discovering a method for pressing the faces was a huge challenge. After much experimenting, I discovered a technique that gave me the results I was looking for. Adding dimension to their faces breathed new life into my dolls.

My work progressed and became more and more refined. Eventually, demand for my work grew to such an extent, that my husband quit his job and came to help me full time. Together we came up with a jointing system for the dolls that gives them a full range of motion. This was something I had always wanted for my dolls, the ability to pose them in many positions. At present our studio is at home. We produce an average of five editions of seventy dolls each year, with the help of several outside assistants. I also produce a few one of a kind dolls during the year that I will sell directly to collectors, and maybe one very small edition.

The costuming for my dolls is very important and is the one area that I spend a great deal of time on. I enjoy playing with all the different textiles that I use and inventing ways to transform them and embellish the fabrics in different ways. Many collectors have referred to my doll costuming as "art on art".

Friday, July 13, 2007

Actress Jane Seymour Produces Elizabethan doll of English Namesake

Several years ago I read an article about actress Jane Seymour's passion for dolls and the line of dolls designed by Robert Tonner she now offers for sale on her website and through quality retailers. These wonderfully delicate porcelain dolls, released in a limited edition of 500 pieces, resemble Jane in historical fashions she has worn in her various film roles.
The collection is based on four themes from Jane Seymour's home, St. Catherine's Court in England, and her most notable characters. Based on this primary theme, the four selections are inspired by Elizabethan, Victorian, Edwardian and 1950's roles brought to life by Jane Seymour. The four 14" porcelain dolls feature lavish fabrics, including stunning silks, velvet, and lace; and hand details are evident in the face painting and costume beading. Even Jane Seymour's signature eye-coloring is captured (one is hazel, the other is green!).- Jane Seymour Official Website.

I thought the dolls were beautiful but, at a retail price of $250 considered them out of my price range at the time. However, several years later I was excited to see that The Doll Market had them on sale for a fraction of their original price. I was able to order Jane in Elizabethan costume and Jane in a fashion gown of the 1950s. I would have loved to have had her in her Victorian gown and Edwardian gown as well but those were not available. However, I feel fortunate to have been able to add at least two of these beautiful dolls to my collection.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Shining Knight and Fair Maiden Added to Collection

Today, I won the bid on a couple of interesting antique medieval character dolls on Ebay. The knight, standing 8 1/2" tall has a suit of armor constructed of metallic fabric. His face is painted on fabric stretched over what the vendor believes to be a papier mache form and was reportedly produced in England.

His companion, a nicely detailed maiden in medieval costume carefully stitched of felt with beaded accessories is 8 1/4" tall. She too has a nicely detailed face painted on fabric over a form also believed to be papier mache.

Although the vendors says they were produced in England, their facial style reminds me of the Russian porcelain dolls I have purchased from Russian Dolls of St. Petersburg. I was surprised that no one bid against me as I found the dolls well made and a nice example of craft art. I also appreciate the fact that they are small and won't take up a lot of display space.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Polymer clay can be used to produce realistic historical dolls

I received an Ebay alert yesterday about a polymer clay OOAK Henry VIII doll by artist Jackie Seaman. Jackie appears to be a very talented sculptor as her Henry VIII is an excellent representation of the 16th century king.

Today I noticed that several more of her dolls were put up for bid. I particularly like the troubadour although her other dolls of a herald, a Tudor-period princess, and a Dutch matron are all nicely done as well.

I will probably need to learn the fundamentals of sculpting polymer clay so I can replace the face of one of my applehead dolls that the mice gobbled up. I have it displayed in an upstairs bedroom that I don't enter very often and when I was up there freshening the sheets for a visitor, I noticed that there was nothing left of my Viking applehead doll's face except a stub of wire that had secured his head. I'm glad I stored my applehead Henry VIII in a glass fronted cabinet!

In my research about polymer clay dolls I also stumbled across a website featuring the beautifully detailed Native American dolls created by artists Marge and Bud Bielefeld called "The Ancient Ones."

"We began making the 'ANCIENT ONES' over nine years ago. We had been enjoying the pow wow circuit crafting shields, hand carved talking and walking sticks, handbags, jewelry and more. During a pow wow someone asked if we had any dolls. Remembering Bud had sculpted and sold caricatures as a child, I suggested he try to sculpt some faces for me to "play" with.

Recently I joined Bud in the scuplting of the hands and faces. After a little encouragement and some trial and error, we began our line of the 'ANCIENT ONES'. We work as a team, as we enjoy and cherish the time we are able to spend together, giving birth to our creations."

I was also pleased to see they live right here in the Willamette Valley of Oregon!

Creating Doll Fabrics with your Computer

I happen to be up on the NIADA Doll Artists site today and saw an interesting article on making fabric designs with your computer. I was particularly interested in the author's use of freezer paper as the backing material. You can actually purchase fabric already prepared for the printer in packets but it is terribly expensive. I succeeded in mounting fabric to printer paper by using 3M mounting adhesive that is designed to allow multiple use so the fabric can be pulled off. However, the artist quoted in the article simply used the heat of an iron to cause the fabric to stick to the waxed side of freezer paper:

"I like to use unbleached, non permanent press muslin. The inexpensive kind you get at chain fabric stores. I’ve tried nicer muslin purchased at quilting shops but it tended to be a little heavier and so caused more printer problems. You can use bleached muslin if you want white in your finished fabric and light weight smooth silks. Avoid any fabrics with slubs or thick and thin places or very course weave.

Purchase freezer paper designed for craft work in 8.5 x11 or 12x15” sheets from or search C. Jenkins freezer paper sheets from other suppliers. I prefer to use the sheets rather than freezer paper on a roll because once on a roll it never flattens out causing more printer problems.

I stumbled accidentally on the technique of using the fabric on the bias. This turned out to be important because the edges of the fabric do not fray so stray threads are not a problem to the printer. Lay the smoothly ironed fabric on a firm surface like Masonite or plywood, place a piece of freezer paper on top, shiny side down, and iron to the fabric with a hot dry iron. Trim, leaving about 1/2" of fabric all around. Turn over and press again making sure that any air pockets are pressed down and that the edges are firmly stuck in place. Use sharp scissors to cut away the excess fabric right next to the edge of the freezer paper. I prepare both 8.5 x 11 sheets and 8.5 x 14 sheets. If you have a larger format printer you can use the 12x15 sheets full size!" - Kathryn Walmsley, 2006.

She goes on to describe her successful efforts at creating unique fabric design by scanning natural materials like leaves and birch bark. She also emphasizes the importance of using at least 300 dpi images. If you find an image on the web that you would like to use but it is only 72 dpi, you might try resizing it in Photoshop Elements using the "Bicubic Sharpen" function. If you are trying to upsize an image, it is usually better to increase the dpi a little at a time. So try increasing it to 100 dpi then 150 dpi then 200 dpi, etc. The quality of the original image will determine how much resizing you can do before image quality deteriorates significantly.

Photoshop Elements is advertised as a "light weight" version of the professional image editing program Photoshop but I have found Photoshop Elements version 5.0 to include most editing tools I used in Photoshop on a regular basis. I have a copy of the full version of Photoshop but have found the intuitive interface of Photoshop Elements to be so easy to use and efficient that I now do most of my editing with Photoshop Elements. It can be purchased for only $99 or less ($72 new on Amazon ) - a real bargain compared to the full version of Photoshop CS3 that sells for over $600.

Historical figure artist George Stuart once commented to me that one of his biggest challenges is finding fabric with an appropriately scaled print. Printing your own fabric using computer graphics programs lets you scale a print to whatever size is needed.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Shallowpool Henry VIII Joins My Collection

This weekend I won the bid on a Shallowpool Henry VIII doll. Shallowpool dolls were created by three ladies who started the cottage industry in the early 1950's in a workshop in the small village of Shallowpool, near Looe in Cornwall, England.

You can see other examples of Shallowpool dolls at:

I paid a premium for Henry - $100 - but he is in mint condition and relatively rare. I also have a particular affection for dolls of Henry VIII. I just finished reading Margaret George's "Autobiography of Henry VIII" and I found it gave me a lot of insight into the King's character. I have much more sympathy for him now than I did when all I had ever heard about him was that he had six wives and executed two of them.

As the second son of Henry VII, Henry was never groomed to be king. His older brother Arthur was the heir apparent so Henry grew up relatively ignored by his parents and other members of his father's court. Since he was not to be king, he was actually educated to be a churchman. Therefore his knowledge of scripture was quite extensive and he was a formidable scholar with a passion for astronomy, music, and poetry. I didn't realize until I read George's book that Henry VIII wrote the song I memorized as a young piano student - Greensleeves.

When the sickly Arthur died just months after his marriage to Katherine of Aragon, Henry was suddenly thrust into the role of heir although he realized he would never supplant his brother in his parents' affections. He tried diligently to learn the art of Kingship from his now ailing father and ascended the throne at the relatively tender age of seventeen. Soon after, he married his brother's widow, Katherine of Aragon.

According to George, the couple loved each other and it was not until they had endured the birth of seven dead offspring, the last being a malformed "monster" along with the unwillingness of the French monarch to betroth one of his offspring to Henry's only surviving child, Mary, did Henry begin proceedings to end the marriage. The French were the first to claim that Mary was cursed as a daughter born of an incestuous marriage, citing Leviticus' warning about a man marrying a brother's widow. As a learned churchman, Henry, faced with the mounting evidence of what he perceived as God's disfavor, sought the means to rectify what he probably truly perceived as a mistake on his part.

Of course, this action was complicated by the fact that Katherine, already quite a bit older than Henry, bore the physical deterioration of someone who has endured eight pregnancies in relatively short order. She suffered from arthritic hips and could not share in her young vibrant husband's passion for riding and dancing. As was common during the period, Henry had taken mistresses to expend his physical appetites. However, when Anne Boleyn caught his eye, he soon found himself in a relationship where she ( or actually, her father, the ambitious Earl Thomas Boleyn) dictated the terms rather than the King.

The Boleyns capitalized on the King's "Great Matter" and, through the relationship with Anne, pressured the King to do whatever it would take to make it possible to make her Queen. That would eventually include separating the church in England from the control of the Pope in Rome. This was ironic since, at one point, Henry had been named defender of the faith when he wrote a rebuttal to the charges against the Catholic church posed by Martin Luther. Even after Henry became head of the church in England, he viewed himself as Catholic and a member of the true faith, not an adherent to Protestantism. Despite this, however, his appointed ministers, Thomas Cromwell chief among them, moved to dissolve the remaining monasteries in England and eliminate any allegiance to the Pope.

"Cromwell was the most prominent of those who suggested to Henry VIII that the king make himself head of the English Church, and saw the Act of Supremacy of 1534 through Parliament. In 1535 Henry appointed Cromwell as his last Vicegerent in Spirituals. This gave him the power as supreme judge in ecclesiastical cases and the office provided a single unifying institution over the two provinces of the English Church (Canterbury and York). As Henry's vicar-general, he presided over the Dissolution of the Monasteries, which began with his visitation of the monasteries and abbeys, announced in 1535 and begun in the winter of 1536. As a reward, he was created Earl of Essex on 18 April, 1540. He is also the architect of the Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542, which united England and Wales .Although the Dissolution of the Monasteries often has been portrayed as a cynical money-grabbing initiative, Cromwell and his supporters had genuine theological reservations about the idea of monastic life, specifically on the nature of intercessory prayers for the dead." - Wikipedia

George points out numerous indescretions by Anne Boleyn who loved to be doted upon by swarms of courtiers. Although the question of her incestuous relationship with her own brother George may have been a case of overzealous prosecutors, you are left with little doubt that she deserved her fate. There is even a suggestion that she was engaged in a poison plot against Katherine of Aragon. Apparently when Katherine died, an autopsy revealed nothing pointing to a cause of death except a black growth or section on her heart. The physicians told Henry it was evidence of poison although it could have been simply heart muscle damaged by a clot. Anyway, the end result, his ordering Anne's execution, was hardly capricious or due simply to the fact that the only son she bore him was stillborn.

His marriage to Jane Seymour was apparently a love match. Although she too had ambitious family members, her affection for Henry and his for her appeared to be genuine. He mourned her loss for the rest of his life.

Another interesting point George makes in her book is that Henry, although physically repulsed by Anne of Cleves, calling her the "Flemish Mare", actually learned to love her wit and intelligence. The scene of their wedding night is portrayed as both comical and tragic. Henry attempts to caress her but finds her body sagging and less than maiden-like. When he leaps up partially exposing himself, Anne points and roars with laughter at his apparent impotence.

Although Anne feared for her life, knowing the fate of Henry's other Ann, Henry, because of his affection for her, adopted her as his sister when their marriage was annulled because Henry was incapable of consumating it. This allowed her to retain court status and a comfortable stipend. It even gave her a certain degree of independence she would have never had if she had returned to the duchy of Cleves. She subsequently enjoyed visits to court as an honored guest and even participated in family gatherings during the holiday season.

Henry's next marriage to Catherine Howard was again, one engineered by ambitious relatives, with Henry blinded by his lifelong need to feel loved by someone. Catherine herself was far from innocent and apparently had a long history of licentious behavior. Her involvment in a plot to eliminate the aging king was certainly justification for her execution. I got the impression that although Henry realized that she had to be eliminated, he hesitated to order it, not unlike the Roman Emperor Claudius when faced with the treachery of his beloved Messalina. It was this execution that seemed to haunt him for the rest of his life. George portrays Henry tormented by visions of a headless Catherine running through the hallways of his palace and sitting at his dinner table.

His last Queen Catherine was portrayed as a kind and sensitive woman. I was saddened to read that as Henry's health deteriorated with symptoms that sound very much like kidney failure (severe bloating, headaches, etc.) he would have episodes of insanity where he would order the imprisonment of those closest to him. Catherine suffered one such imprisonment. However, when Henry's symptoms eased he would regain control of himself and release the unfortunate targets of his previous paranoid episodes.

Henry actually had a son by Katherine of Aragon that appeared healthy but died after just a few weeks of life. I sometimes wonder how much different history would have been if the boy had lived and the "Great Matter" had never arisen to split the faithful in England away from the Catholic Church and thereby reinforce the Protestant Reformation.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

"Ultimate" Figures from Dragon In Dreams

When I was a child my parents took us to see one of Oregon's tourist attractions called Sea Lion Caves. As a little girl, all I remember about the sea lions was that the sea cave where they lolled about really stunk. [The facility has since improved its access to the sea caves and the views are actually quite spectacular. They have also installed a wonderful bronze sculpture of a group of sea lions on the observation deck behind the gift shop now.] However, I remember vividly some beautiful horse statues in the gift shop that were covered with real horse hair and had real leather tack. I even remember the price, $125, which was a fortune back in the mid-50s.

Now, after all these years, I have added a horse covered with real horse hair (I think- at least it looks real) to my collection along with a magnificent 12" figure of Samurai Takeda Shingen spectacularly equipped with beautifully detailed armor and real metal weapons.

"Shingen was a Japanese warlord of great domestic skill and competent military leadership. He was a complicated figure, at times utterly cruel. Earlier in his life, he had forced the Shinano warlord Suwa Yorishige, to commit suicide (or had him murdered) after the two warlords had signed a peace treaty, and then proceeded to take Suwa's daughter as a mistress, ignoring the fact that she was techincally his own niece. In 1565, he ordered his own son, Yoshinobu, confined to a temple and evidently made him commit suicide for treasonous activity, as well as the man who had once been his guardian, Obu Toramasa. His domestic policies demonstrate the duality of Takeda Shingen. On one hand, he kept two iron cauldrons on hand to boil alive certain criminals (a practice considered sufficiently cruel enough to provoke Tokugawa Ieyasu to have the cauldrons destroyed years later). On the other, he did away with corporal punishment for most minor offences, instituting in it's place a system of fines - an act that earned him considerable praise from the peasants and townspeople of Kai. Shingen's law was not considered overly harsh, and his was one of the few Sengoku Period administrations prior to 1582 to tax most of his subjects evenly (most exempted powerful samurai families and/or religious establishments) and with the option of payment in either gold or rice (a forerunner, in some ways, to the later Kandaka system).

Perhaps the greatest praise paid Shingen was by Tokugawa Ieyasu himself. Following the defeat of Katsuyori in 1582 and the death of Oda Nobunaga, Ieyasu assumed control of Kai, and borrowed freely from Shingen's style and techniques of governance, which he later included in his model for the Tokugawa Shôgunate." - The Samurai Archives

The figure is so beautifully detailed that I'm almost afraid to take it out of the box. I won't until I get a special display case for it as I don't want it to be subject to dust or any other contaminant. I was able to get the limited edition figure for $139 less a 10% preferred customer discount from Michigan Toy Soldier. The horse was only $64.99 less 10%. I seldom buy figures at the time of their release but this one is so special I didn't think supplies would last long and with all of the wonderful accessories, I wanted one mint in the box, not a secondary market offering with half the accessories gone missing.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Lady Jane Grey: A Royal Tragedy

Some collectors become particularly passionate about a specific historical personality. Such is the case with collector Sonja Marie and Lady Jane Grey. Sonja's interest in this tragic figure from English history (see her execution painted by Paul Delaroche at left) began as a young girl:

" I collect everything on Jane that I can get my hands on, and barring that at least an image of something I don't own. I became interested in Jane when I was 13 (almost 21 years ago). I was already interested in the Tudors and British History and I came across a children's book about her in my Junior High library and her story just touched my heart. At the time there really wasn't much for me to find on her other than books through the library system. It wasn't til I found Ebay in 1999 that I really started to collect. I started my website 2 1/2 years later to share my collection and the other images I've found of her.

I went to England for the first time in Sept 2001, Sept 3rd to be exact. I was in Derby for most of the trip, including Sept 11th. While I was in Derby I contacted the Evelt store that was in Windsor at the time and ordered their Jane doll that they shipped to me while I was still there.

The last 3 days of my trip I was in London, and I found this Brenda Price doll at the Tower of London. It wasn't cheap, but I had to have it! I saw another Brenda Price Jane doll with differences the next day at Hampton Court Palace, but couldn't afford to buy it. Getting them home posed a bit of a challenge as they wouldn't allow anyone to carry anything but meds and stuff on the plane as it was just a week after 9/11 that I flew home. So I had to use all my sweaters and shirts and such to wrap them safely and put them in my luggage and thankfully they got home safely, though the base on the Evelt doll came off.

The rest of the dolls I own I've found on Ebay, with the exception of my Madame Alexander doll which I ordered through a Doll site."

Sonja's website includes this image of a particuarly elegant one-of-a-kind doll of Lady Jane Grey by artist Melissa Wyatt. She is made of fimo and has glass eyes. She's approx. 15" tall.

Since Lady Jane ruled for only nine days, contemporary portraits of this 16-year-old queen were thought to be nonexistent until a London art dealer researched a portrait found in a south London house with the title "Lady Jayne" faintly painted in the top left corner.

"The picture, on which the words "Lady Jayne" are faintly painted in the top left corner, has been in the family of the anonymous owner since it was acquired by his great-grandfather, a collector of 16th-century antiques, a century ago.

Christopher Foley, a prominent London art dealer , said that analysis of the pigment and the oak panel on which the portrait is painted confirmed it as a 16th-century work and costume experts at the Victoria & Albert Museum had dated the figure's striking red dress to between 1550 and 1555.

Additionally, painting analysis at University College, London, confirmed that the inscription had been painted at the same time as the portrait and research at the College of Arms came up with only four possible "Lady Jaynes" of the period. Allowing for birth dates and marital status, Mr Foley believes that Lady Jane Grey is the best candidate.

Web sources about Lady Jane Grey:

Monday, April 09, 2007

Teddy Bear Maker Turns to Biblical Character Dolls

I see a manufacturer of Teddy Bears has opened a new division that is producing multimedia Biblical character dolls that include over 60 seconds of recorded Bible verses. Initially introducing a talking Jesus doll, the company, one2believe, now includes Peter, Paul, David, Moses and Mary.

The 12" dolls have 18 points of articulation including hands that can grasp and hold. Their cloth outfits are hand sewn and some come with additional accessories like David's slingshot. The dolls sell for $19.95 each with free shipping for orders over $100.

The company's vision:

"Messengers of Faith dolls are designed to help parents and educators teach children important Bible stories. These dolls are a 3D teaching resource, featuring recorded Scriptures at the push of a button.
By introducing Bible characters and their stories to children" one character at a time," children can begin to grasp an overall view of Scripture.

Messengers of Faith dolls can be used to help children:

a. Learn Bible stories.
b. Understand Biblical survey and the chronological history of the Bible.
c. Learn the cultural background surrounding the Bible characters and their stories.

The costuming of each doll has been researched to reflect fashions typical of the time period in which the Bible character lived.
Discussing the costume on each doll will add to children's understanding of Biblical culture and history.
Provided with each doll is an easy to read story detailing the life and accomplishments of that character, along with the "script" of the featured recorded Scripture."

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

"300" sparks new figure releases.

I received an alert from Ebay today about this fantastic OOAK doll of Gerard Butler as King Leonidas as he appeared in the newly released film "300". This California doll artist, using the name Viktoryia, has produced a truly remarkable repaint of an original long-haired Ken doll. She states in her auction description:

"All my dolls are limited to one edition WORLDWIDE.The costume is very time consuming and detailed, as the pictures show. The doll got the full facial repaint and body shades.

You can see the picture of the original Ken. He's got full repaint, his hair was died black, braided, then he's got a haircut (Greek style). I applied black hair to create a beard and mustache. He has a braid on the back, the mouth was resculpted. He also has a braided hair band around his head. I sculpted and painted his breasts then shaded his body.

There were used combinations of materials to create the Greek warrior-king such as genuine leather, foam, aluminum, wood, plastic, stone, hair, fabric. His boots (leather), his hand bands (leather+aluminum), pants (leather), scabbard (leather) are hand sewed.

King Leonidas comes with a spear (plastic+aliminum), a shield (composition), a helmet which I carved using a combination of materials (foam, aliminum and plastic), a sword with a scabbard. The sword was cut to look as a miniature replica of the sword from the movie."

As a one-of-a-kind, however, he is bringing a hefty price. As of today the bid is $399 plus shipping. The doll artist's Ebay ID is divine-dolls-creation.

I see Ignite Figures is also preparing to release two Spartan figures, Leonidas and a Spartan Hoplite. Ignite Figures retail for $79.99. I see they also have Roman Murmillo and Retiarius gladiators on their prerelease list as well.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Little Thinkers bring great minds to plush dolls

I received an ebay alert about some Elizabeth 1 dolls offered on Ebay and noticed a listing for a really cute and nicely detailed plush doll of Elizabeth termed a "Little Thinker". I did a little more research and found that this whimsical line of dolls, targeted towards college students, is being produced by a company called the Possibility Center:

"Little Thinker Dolls from the Possibility Centre are plush dolls of famous intellectuals such as Buddha, Marx, Dickinson, Nietzsche, Ghandi, and Mozart. The antidote to Barbie and Bratz this Christmas.

Little Thinkers stand six to eight inches tall and although the likeness is limited to something of a simple caricature, (Mozart could easily be mistaken for Count Dracula and Nietzsche bears an uncanny resemblance to Groucho Marx), they'll make an interesting accompaniment when partnered with corresponding prints or written works and hopefully inspire children with more than an interest in hair and make-up or Action-Man's gun."
The going rate at present seems to be about $16.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Liberty of London produced exquisitely detailed dolls

I was up on Ebay this morning and came across an outstanding example of the Liberty of London dolls produced from the 1930s to the 1960s. These hand-crafted cloth dolls, along with accessories, depict the history of Great Britain from the caveman through Queen Elizabeth II's coronation.

"The dolls consist of history-making men and women, including royalty, political reformers, military notables, innovators in the arts, and contributors to natural and physical sciences. These hand-painted soft sculptured dolls are costumed in authentic period clothing.

The dolls were hand-sewn by two sisters, Ada and Kathleen Peat, from their Brighton, England home for the Liberty of London department store." I was surprised to see in my internet search that Liberty of London is still in business and serves upscale clients with a high fashion line of clothing and accessories.

This particular doll of Queen Elizabeth was apparently purchased in England and kept nearly pristine over the years by a loving collector. Even the deep vermilion of her dress has not lost its luxurious color over the years. I bid on her but she apparently has a hefty reserve.

The only Liberty of London dolls I presently have in my collection are King George and Queen Margaret both a bit faded I'm afraid.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Harmony Kingdom Pot Bellies Combine History and Whimsy

I first encountered Harmony Kingdom's Pot Belly Historicals on a visit to Victoria, British Columbia in 2004. I loved the combination of history with 3D political characture of these small English figurines.

"Harmony Kingdom's U.K. headquarters, Wimberley Mills, is privileged to be located in one of the most beautiful rural areas in England, the South Cotswolds. Designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Cotswolds is famous for its honey-coloured stone cottages, grand manor houses and impressive churches.

The name Cotswolds' refers to rolling hills and broad river valleys. These wooded hills and valleys are especially suitable for grazing, particularly for the native Cotswold sheep, which in medieval times were responsible for the growth of the wool trade. For centuries Cotswold wool was used in more than half of England's cloth and was exported to the continent, bringing great wealth to the wool merchants who donated large sums to the local churches and built themselves magnificent houses.

The river valleys form the setting for the towns and villages, which nestle snugly amongst the hills. The market town of Stroud is the central point where the five valleys meet. Cirencester, the capital of the Cotswolds, was known during Roman times as Corinium Dubonnorum and was the second largest city in Roman Britain."- Harmony Kingdom website

I can attest to the beauty of the Cotswold area, having visited there this past Spring.

Harmony Kingdom was founded by Martin Perry:

"Martin is the founder and owner of Antiquark Ltd., the company responsible for manufacturing English-made Harmony Kingdom pieces. He is also the artistic director of Martin Perry Studios, a consortium of English carvers who sculpt the figurines. He and his wife Corinna live in the Cotswolds region of England near Wimberley Mills, which houses Antiquark Ltd., Martin Perry Studios, and Harmony International Ltd.

Martin Perry left school at the age of 14 and began his professional career in London as a gofer for his uncle, a film producer. At the age of 22, feeling disenchanted with the film industry, Martin moved to Snowdonia, a mountain region of North Wales. Here he adopted a puppy, the runt of a litter, which seemed to have a natural calling for sheep herding. Since Martin didn't have any idea what he wanted to do with his life, he followed the dog's lead. Martin found a romantic-looking mountain and offered his services as shepherd to the local farmer. Because Martin had no experience he offered to work for free, a proposition the farmer couldn't refuse.

For the next five years Martin and his dog tended sheep in the Welsh mountains, living a decidedly rustic life. Martin had human contact only once a week but kept occupied by walking an average of 20 miles a day. After meeting his future wife Corinna, he knew they could not continue to live such a secluded life, and they moved to the lowlands near Chalford, England, where Martin continued shepherding for a large farm. Martin did not like the rigidity and demands of business farming, yet he stayed with it for four years until he injured his back shearing sheep which ended his shepherding career forever.

While she was growing up, Corinna listened to her mother speak French, German, Italian, and Spanish around the house. Corinna, too, became quite a linguist and eventually a teacher of language. Her father was an illustrator of children's books, an animal lover, and an early conservationist, and her brother is a sculptor. At university Corinna studied art history and travelled extensively, spending a year in India. On a visit to her father in Wales, Corinna met Martin. During Martin's shepherding years near Chalford, Corinna taught English as a second language to corporate and military personnel. After their daughter and son were born, Corinna began working with the children of the village.

It was Corinna who introduced Martin to the owner of History Craft, a company that manufactured replicas for art museums around the world. No longer shepherding, Martin got a job in History Craft's packing department, sending out everything from large marble statues to tiny Roman coins. Sometimes items were needed that were not yet made so Martin would make the replicas himself. Martin says, I can still remember the satisfaction from making that first thing. I was so pleased with it. I've still got it - it was a rabbit, a replica of Japanese netsuke [the traditional, intricately carved ivory miniatures from Japan used primarily as toggles for kimonos].

For the next decade, Martin created replicas of museum artworks, including 18th and 19th century netsukes. He developed a special process that gave marble resin an antique, ivory look (later to be further refined and used in Harmony Kingdom box figurines). As he discovered and honed his artistic skills, he began to grow tired of copying other works. Eventually he left History Craft and began sculpting a Westerner's idea of a netsuke.

In 1989 Martin decided to form his own business, Antiquark Ltd., and developed the current finishing process. He cast his new pieces from netsuke and oriental ivory moulds, as well as crafting scrimshaw reproductions." - Harmony Kingdom website
Our local Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon has a small collection of netsuke pieces and I would venture to say Harmony Kingdom's pieces are as beautiful and intricate as they are.

Although my current collection is modest it presently embraces Henry VIII and his six wives, Queen Elizabeth I, William Shakespeare, Marie Antoinette, the Queen of Sheba, and Queen Victoria. Over the holidays, I found Mozart, George Washington, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan at a collectibles shop that was closing and managed to get them for half price ($6 each). I normally wouldn't bother with modern personages but at the price I couldn't pass them up.