Friday, December 26, 2008

Colorful OOAK rice paper Geisha Dolls present interesting look at Japanese history

I think I could spend days doing nothing but exploring so many beautiful artist creations up on Etsy! These beautifully detailed geisha dolls created from polymer and colorful rice paper captivated me as soon as I saw them. I have several traditional geisha dolls that I purchased in Kyoto, Japan when I had the wonderful opportunity to visit there as a member of one of the first trade teams for alfalfa products (my husband and I were ranchers in eastern Oregon at the time) in 1982. Although my dolls have the traditional brocade silk kimonos, I loved the kaleidoscope of color and artful folding of the rice paper costumes of these dolls. Each of these dolls is produced as a OOAK made to each buyer's specifications. I also collect historical samurai warrior figures. I wonder if the artist has ever had a request for one of them?

"The 18th and 19th century produced in Japan an art, Ukiyo-e, representing the "floating world" --ephemeral, this was the world of the Kabuki theater, with its favorite actors and their fans, and of the Geisha.

Dolls were certainly loved by the geishas themselves, and were as fashionable as all their other pastimes. The name now given to a doll representing a child, Ichimatsu, comes from the name of an actor, and the first dolls of this type represented a male actor in his checked ("ichimatsu") costume.

As the floating world floated away in the 20th century, doll art still commemorates the beauties and beloved dramatis personae of the Ukiyo.

This is my lovely geisha, inspired by the traditional japanese 'paper dolls' and kimono dolls.

Her head, torso, hands and feet are sculpted of polymer clay. Her body is a wire armature, wrapped in cotton.

The geisha's kimono is entirely created from beautifully printed chiyogami rice paper.

Her face is handpainted, and her hair is made from rolled black velvet. She wears a 'comb' in her hair and a lacquer butterfly. "

A San Francisco artist, BlossomandWillow, works with clay, fabric and beautiful Japanese papers to create her geisha dolls.

"I find the art of Japan and the world of the geisha - what they call 'The Floating World' or 'Flower and Willow World' fascinating and drew the inspiration for my shop from that lovely concept. Here you will find original art and sculpture, as well as fine art supplies, lovely Japanese paper,and authentic vintage kimono and accessories from Japan."

Painted tintypes source of inspiration for this doll artist

Yet another Etsy artist, Photopaint, that caught my eye offered this interesting little cloth doll created from a painted tintype.

"This little darling which I have named Matilda, sits atop your table or dresser amongst treasured items and is flat on the bottom. She is solidly stuffed and reinforced on the bottom with a stiff piece of cardboard. I triple stitch this doll for durability.
She measures 5.25" tall and 3.00" at the base and is very 3D.
The bottom is hand stitched with a beautiful black cut away velvet cotton piece of cloth.
I have sewn on little beads into her neck where her necklace is in the photo to give an added touch.

I am going to be making more in different sizes and types so keep an eye out for my little unique cloth dolls.

Doll comes with a beautiful hand made tag with her name and number as these will be a limited edition doll."

An artist from Sedona, "Photopaint" loves to paint in all mediums but especially photographic/mixed media with paint.

"I also love to paint over photos that I take after I print them on canvas or another paper. I love flowers and circus and theater images and also love to draw and paint out of my head with no reference to just be in the creative flow."

Most tintypes I have seen usually feature Civil War soldiers but now I will have to keep my eye out for the more endearing ones like the little girl that was the subject of the tintype used to create this doll. I attended a workshop on "painting" digital images with Photoshop using a Wacom digital art tablet down at Photoshop World in Las Vegas in September. As a digital photographer I am always looking for ways to use my images in artistic ways. This example gave me lots of ideas!!

Beaded doll artist produces stunning OOAK

Another stunning doll I found on Etsy is this hand-beaded Ahotep Ancient Egyptian Doll produced by JuliesBeadedElements. The diamond-patterned turquoise gown overlay looks very similar to actual beaded burial shrouds I have seen in the Egyptian galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

"This doll was formerly a Tonner, Jac doll. I have removed all of her original face paint, and re-painted her face with artist quality, Golden, paints and sealers. I carefully sectioned, and braided her hair in the ancient Egyptian wig style, however, it is her rooted hair that I braided, and not a wig. Each braid is fully knotted with fireline thread that will not degrade over time.
The layered gown is constructed completely with beads, treated thread, and fireline. The beads that are used in this garment are gold plated brass, glass Czech beads, Delica seed beads, and gold plated seed beads. This gown is not removable, it has been woven to fit her body, and does not stretch at all. This also means that the weight of the beads will not stretch out the garment. The base of the gown was created with a right angle weave, and the outer layer was woven in a netting weave. The bottom panel is constructed using a peyote stitch, done in a traditional, ancient Egyptian, geometric pattern.
The headband is removable, and has an Egyptian, Phoenix symbol on it that is gold plated. The woven bead bracelets are not removable. The arm band is made of gold filled wire. The beaded shoes, doll and stand are all included with this sale. Also included is a signed, ceritificate of authenticity."

Julie, a mother of five, has worked as a jewelry designer in Chicago as well as a clothing designer and manager of a custom clothing store:

"Ever since I can remember- I have been creating something. I studied different forms of art expression, and majored in fashion design in college. Being juried into a national gallery exhibit when I was 16 gave me the motivation to continue as a serious artist from a young age. My work profile includes working as a jewelry designer for a prestigious jeweler in Water Tower Place, Chicago. My additional experience includes working as a custom clothing designer/trainer (also on the magnificent mile) and as the manager of a custom clothing store.
Currently, I teach beadwork techniques, and jewelry-making techniques in my small bead shoppe. My experience with expecting, and presenting quality has lead me on to be very concerned with making a work of art that is nothing less than beautiful, durable, and unique.

I have won design contests for my beaded art, most notably a gold medal win in a recent international beading contest. "

UneekDollDesigns offers detailed peg doll miniatures

I was reading an article about the retail success of craft outlets despite the current economic slump and it mentioned the Etsy website that featured handcrafted gifts. I had never heard of it and thought I would go up and look around. Naturally I spotted the dolls category and the miniatures category under it. To my great excitement I saw they have a historical miniatures category.

The first vendor I looked at, UneekDollDesigns, offered small 4 3/4" peg doll-style creations with wonderfully detailed costumes. Some of my favorites included:

Mary Boleyn (mistress to King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn's sister):

"Mary is dressed in royal blue velvet accented in silver and rhinestone trim. I hand painted her face and she has soft, golden red hair topped with a beaded head piece. Mary would be a perfect collectible for any Tudor history lover, or a very pretty addition to a doll house or shelf display.She stands only 4 and 3/4 inches tall."

Queen Mary I (Bloody Mary - daughter of King Henry VIII and his first wife, Katherine of Aragon):

"Mary I (18 February 1516 – 17 November 1558), was Queen of England and Queen of Ireland from 19 July 1553 until her death. The fourth crowned monarch of the Tudor dynasty, she is remembered for restoring England to Roman Catholicism after succeeding her short-lived half brother, Edward VI, to the English throne. In the process, she had almost 300 religious dissenters burned at the stake in the Marian Persecutions, resulting in her being called Bloody Mary. Her re-establishment of Roman Catholicism was reversed by her successor and half-sister, Elizabth I."

"She is fashioned in her royal Tudor costume designed in black and white underskirt with crushed black velvet overskirt. Decked in glittering silver trim and pearl accents, she's an eye catching royal in spite of her not so pleasant reputation! Mary stands about 4 and 3/4 inches tall."

Cleopatra VII, Queen of the Nile (and seductress of Julius Caesar and Marc Antony!):

"One of the most famous ,yet mysterious rulers of Egypt, Cleopatra has intrigued historians for many years. She was known not just for her seductiveness and beauty, but also her ability to rule. She had a child with Julias Caesar, and later had 3 children with Marc Antony, whom she was married to. She met an unfortunate end when she found out Marc Antony was dead and tradition says she died by purposely letting a snake bite her.

Cleopatra is designed with a full Egyptian queen regalia. Her white robe is accented with gold trim. She is showing off her cloak trimmed in silver and gold trim. Cleo wears a gold head dress studded with a blue jewel stone. She stands a petite 4 and 1/3 inches tall. "

UneekDollDesigns also creates commissioned miniatures on request such as this wonderful William Shakespeare.

"My trademark I am most known for is not using a pattern for any of my designs on anything. I guess I just prefer to picture it, then try various techniques to get what effect I want!

My miniature dolls were actually made when I needed some characters to put in a couple of fancy dollhouses that were being designed as a special gift. Not finding any characters that I liked, I started making my own, starting with a basic wooden clothespin. The rest is using my imagination, lots of fabric, and other creative materials!

My greatest pleasure in doing my hand crafted items is seeing other people derive pleasure from them, too!"

I know I derived a lot of pleasure just looking at all of the different people from history, hollywood, and literature that she created! The dolls are also reasonably priced averaging $20 each (some a little more and some a little less).

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Gene dolls reflect their glamorous Hollywood origins

When I first began collecting historical dolls and focused on dolls representing people from ancient history, I successfully bid on a Gene doll dressed as the "Daughter of the Nile". She remains one of my favorites but I really didn't know that much about the history behind this particular Gene incarnation until I read a vendor's description of another "Daughter of the Nile" offered for sale recently on Ebay:

Gene was the conception of fashion illustrator Mel Odom and produced by The Ashton-Drake Galleries.

Gene is 15-1/2" of poseable, collector-quality vinyl with a finish that mimics fine porcelain; hand painted features, hand-applied lashes, period coiffure rooted and styled by hand; wardrobe crafted of quality fabrics like those worn by real Hollywood stars of the era; Impeccable tailoring details - hand-sewn fastenings, fully lined dresses, seamed hose; fabulous accessories designed precisely to scale.

"Daughter of the Nile" is dressed in an exotic Egyptian gown, reminiscent of the alluring costumes creased for the historical epic movies so popular in their time, circa 1952.

The gown is hand-beaded with faux gold, turquoise, coral and lapis lazuli on a sheath dress of silk crepe, lined in pale silk. Finely pleated, the sheer turquoise chiffon robe ripples as fluidly as the Nile.

Includes gold metallic sandals, dangle earrings, and hand-beaded bracelets, headdress and arm bands.

Her raven hair spills in soft waves past her sholders. Two braids woven with gold cords cast an exotic allure - designed by renowned fashion artist Timothy Alberts.

The story of Gene is that of Hollywood star Katie Marshall, who, after she was discovered by a famous Hollywood producer, adopted her beloved grandfather's name, Gene - because he had always encouraged her to follow her dream to stardom.

In a bid to lure back audiences from television, Monolithic Studios poured millions of dollars and an all-star cast of thousands into a stupendous historical epic called, "The Daughter of the Nile". They cast Marshall as the female lead, the number one box office draw, and it became one of Monolithic's greatest successes."

I did a little more research and found a "Gene chronology" supposedly compiled by doll producer Mel Odom. Gene was "born" April 17, 1923. Her "career", as represented in her various costumes, spans from 1941 - 1962. The "Daughter of the Nile" doll is supposed to represent her costume from a film produced in 1952 in which she plays "a priestess torn between the Pharaoh’s will and her destiny of love." The doll, designed by Timothy Alberts, was released in 1998. It was officially retired 2/12/2000.

I bought another Gene doll dressed in a 194os-era army-style uniform at a local doll show. I looked through the list of Gene dolls on the chronology website and I think it must be the Gene USO doll representing the year 1944. I found this picture on an Ebay auction that looks like my doll except I don't have the USO arm band. The doll was not in a box when I purchased it so it could have been mislaid. It was designed by Doug James and released in 1999. I display her with my Effanbee General Douglas MacArthur.

I also bought a Gene as the Blue Goddess [right] in an Ebay auction. I especially liked it because it reminded me of the goddesses of Greek mythology. It was designed by Tim Kennedy in 1996 and represented Gene in one of her first color films, about the stolen Blue Goddess diamond. Audiences knew the real Blue Goddess was Gene. This doll was retired in June 1999.

Odom also produced a male companion for Gene named Trent. I bought a Trent styled in a costume of historical India from the 20th century Fox film "The Rains Came". I think he looks very dashing in his brocade frock coat and his rakish satin turban!

Vintage 1967 Williamsburg Paper Doll collection comes up for bid on Eby

I noticed this interesting box of Williamsburg Paper Dolls came up for bid on Ebay:

8 paper dolls and 8 sets of costumes that are die-cut with introduction to 18th century costumes. The figures are from the film, “Williamsburg—The Story of a Patriot,” a film they must have shown to visitors at Williamsburg. The names of the paper dolls are John Fry, a young planter and legislator; his mother; his wife, Anne; their children, Robert and Caroline; their Negro servants, Cato and Virginia; and a pre-Revolutionary officer, Captain Nicholas.

The box says: Trademark of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1967, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, No. 8-171.

The "buy it now" price was listed at $19.99.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Don't miss "A Child’s Eye View" exhibit at Williamsburg if you're nearby during the holidays

Doll in gownMy husband and I had the pleasure of visiting Williamsburg for a day some years ago and since then I have supported the work of the Williamsburg Foundation in preserving history and creating learning opportunities for all ages. So, I receive email updates each month and the update for this month mentioned that Williamsburg is hosting a marvelous exhibit of historical dolls and toys at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. You enter the museum through the Public Hospital of 1773.

What a doll. She's a tall, slender beauty with flowing tresses and shining eyes and a Mona Lisa smile. She's got it all: gently arching eyebrows, shapely legs, petite fingers and feet. And what a wardrobe—a lace-trimmed dress of watered silk, a satin petticoat, two white undercoats, whalebone stays at her tapered waist, fancy silk socks inside brocaded shoes, and a robe in rainbow hues with sleeves turned back for a flirty glimpse of forearms. A doll indeed. She's carved of wood with a face of gesso and languid eyes of glass that would steal Ken from Barbie any day.

Not to be catty, but Barbie is, after all, in her fifties—all the more galling to lose a boyfriend to a rival in her 200s. Barbies by the thousands stare through plastic on the crowded shelves of today's cacophonous super toy stores. Her colonial counterparts may have sat among the bonnets and purses on a shelf of the millinery shop in Williamsburg, whose proprietor, Margaret Hunter, advertised "a variety of Toys, dressed and undressed Babies, Green Silk Purses etc." in the Virginia Gazette of October 15, 1772. Lucky was the little girl—and well-heeled her family, no doubt—who was given this stylish lady as a toy.

[Left - Bewigged and begowned in lace and embroidered silk, this doll, now
in Colonial Williamsburg's collections, must have been the treasure of some eighteenth-century girl. Photo by Hans Lorenz.]

The Williamsburg website has a wealth of slides shows, videos and podcasts about their living museum, costumes of the period, daily life in Colonial America, and politics of the Revolutionary Period. I particularly enjoyed their interactive slide show on colonial fashion. It includes a range of clothing from elaborate silk gowns of the wealthy elite to the rather risque attire of a bar maid (or prostitute I wasn't quite sure - she looked very much like a 21st century teen decked out in Gothic dress complete with black lipstick)

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Historical Biblical Dolls

I was checking for an address for the Hamilton Collection today and noticed that their latest offerings include a "Little Drummer Boy" porcelain doll in 1st century dress. This 11 1/2" porcelain doll was created by award-winning artist and sculptor Titus Tomescu. I thought he looked very endearing.

I have several other dolls in my collection that include the Biblical characters Ruth (right), Judith and Mary Magdalene. They are each 22" tall and were produced by World Gallery. I also have the character dolls that were sold in conjunction with the release of the animated feature film "Prince of Egypt". That group includes a young Moses dressed as a prince of Egypt, Tzipporah, the shepherdess who became his wife, and an older Moses in desert robes. They were produced by Hasbro. I bought mine on Ebay and paid less than $20 each for them but I see they are now being offered on Amazon for $49.95. Apparently they were not produced in great numbers and have passed into the realm of "collectible".