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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