Monday, March 2, 2015

I Am a Doll-Collecting Doll

Black yarn was used to fashion the curly hair of my mini me doll-collecting doll.

Fellow collector, Julia Bush, shared images of several delightful clothespin dolls purchased from Etsy seller, Peggy Spackman.  I fell in absolute love and had to have the seller's contact information after Julia shared that some of her dolls were custom made. 

I sent Peggy the following message through Etsy:

Hello - Can you make an African American clothespin doll that is a doll lover -- she has at least one African American doll? She and her doll have natural textured hair (not straight). I am not in a hurry for it? Thanks!
 Peggy's interest was conveyed in her immediate reply:
I do make African American clothespin dolls. Happen to be sold out of all but one fireman. I only make the hair out of yarn, mostly curled.
Would this be a doll or ornament?
Would the doll maker be African American?
Would you want the " dolls" to be African American?
Could I see a picture of this person?
A picture of this person?... Hmmm, I thought.  I wasn't really thinking of a particular person, just a generic doll (not ornament) that loves dolls.  But since she asked, I clarified that the person was not a doll maker, but a doll lover/collector and sent a picture of myself taken with dolls in the background.  I also shared my favorite color with her.

This is the photo I sent Peggy that inspired my clothespin doll's creation.

What happened next was pure magic!

Approximately a week later, the doll was ready and I was given the following preview photo (the background of which is modified). 

Clothespin doll collector doll inspired by a photo of me.

Peggy sent another message asking if I wanted the doll to hold the dolls. My answer was, "Yes." Within another week, my too cute little mini me clothespin doll collector arrived clutching three dolls:  a wooden nesting-style doll, a queen with scepter, and a cleverly crafted bride.  Her metal doll stand was also included.

She and her dolls are just too darn cute!

In her right hand arm she cuddles her wooden doll and queen with scepter.

She holds a bride doll in her left arm.

I smile each time I look at my little clothespin doll-collecting doll. 

Visit Peggy Spackman's Clothesline Cuties Etsy store to view current stock of dolls and ornaments.  Send her a message if a custom clothespin doll or ornament interests you.



Friday, February 27, 2015

Marian Anderson and WSJHS's Dolls for Democracy and Diversity

The Marian Anderson doll is made of a polymer clay for the head and lower arms/hands.  The upper arms, body, and legs are cloth with wire armature. 

In January, I found this unsigned-by-the-artist, Marian Anderson doll on eBay.  The seller was asked to share information, the name, if known of the doll’s prior owner and replied, “the late Frances Reedy from North East Ohio…I had her for a few years stored in my trunk but if you Google Frances Reedy you will find she was quite an artist and doll collector in the 1960s to 1980s, I was impressed.”
Dressed in an off-white lace dress and pantaloons, the doll wears tan stockings and white painted-on shoes with soles added.  The feet are permanently attached to a wooden base.

I conducted an extensive search to gather additional information about this approximately 10-inch tall doll, permanently attached to a square wooden base, clutching a songbook to her bosom.  By the handwritten name on the bottom of the base, the doll is identified as Marian Anderson, who was the first African American to perform at the New York Metropolitan Opera in 1955.  During my online search, I found an identical doll owned by the Washington State Jewish Historical Society, which is part of their Dolls for Democracy and Diversity exhibit.  The exhibit is described on their website as follows:
These realistic dolls were made to be used by the B'nai B'rith around the U.S. and Canada as an inspiration to children proving that fame and success in life do not depend upon race, religion, family origins or money. B'nai B'rith Women utilized this collection of 38 handcrafted replicas of famous humanitarians in a unique program conducted in public and parochial schools from the 1950's through the 1970's. The women visited classrooms and, using these dolls, fostered dialogue about celebrating differences and overcoming adversity. In an era when diversity was a term found only in the dictionary, this program became popular among educators and volunteers alike.
Through the “contact us” link on their website, I wrote the WSJHS organization and inquired about the artist of the Marian Anderson doll.  Before my inquiry was answered, I located a link to their database listing of all 38 dolls, which includes the name of the artist, Cecil Ruth Bullard Weeks.  My doll’s history was becoming more and more interesting.  She has traveled to classrooms in the United States from the 1950s through 1970s to educate non-black children on the potential for greatness of all people, regardless of race, religion, and/or other categories many humans tend to lump others into who do not share their ethnicity and/or beliefs.
As indicated by the list of dolls in the exhibit, dolls by Weeks in the likenesses of baseball great, Jackie Robinson and scientist, Dr. George Washington Carver, accompanied Anderson and the 35 others to classroom exhibits.  
Ms. Jessica Hyde, communications coordinator for WSJHS answered the inquiry sent through their website regarding the artist of the dolls.  She confirmed that all 38 dolls in the exhibit were made by Weeks with the exception of one and that, to her knowledge, of the 38, the three I have noted were the only African American dolls.  Jessica provided this link to the Jackie Robinson doll.  I found an additional image of Weeks’ Robinson doll here.  In addition, Hyde provided a WORD document about the exhibit and the dolls’ artist, a portion of which is copied below:
The Dolls for Democracy and Diversity
This collection of thirty eight dolls [is] actually miniaturized three dimensional portraits of important figures in history.  Most of the dolls were hand made by portrait doll artist Cecil (Ruth Bullard) Weeks during the 1940s to early 1970s.  Only one doll, Wing Luke, was made in the Northwest by a doll maker from Portland, Oregon in 1992.  Women from the B’nai B’rith Society in King County and throughout the U.S. and Canada used the dolls to teach students about tolerance.  This is the first time that this doll collection is being shown to the public in their beautifully restored condition.  The dolls were recently restored by expert doll restorer Lisa Pepin of Shoreline, WA. 
The dolls represent many interesting figures in history some famous and some less known.  Wing Luke, a King County resident, was the first Asian American to hold elected office in the Northwest.  Other famous figures include Eleanor Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy and the first President of Israel Chaim Weitzmann .  Even more interesting are some of the lesser known figures such as Haym Salamon a Polish born Jew who helped finance the American Revolutionary War.
The birth of the Dolls for Democracy program
After World War II the Dolls for Democracy program was created by the B’nai B’rith Women’s organization (now known as Jewish Women International) in Kansas City, Missouri.  The program brought the hand- made portrait dolls of famous people in history to elementary classrooms throughout the United States and Canada.  The “Doll Ladies” gave talks to students about democracy.  They also had dolls representing individuals of different ethnic backgrounds to teach students about the concept of   tolerance.
About the Artist
Ruth Cecil Bullard Weeks (1894-1984) was an established portrait doll artist in 1951 when she was asked to make dolls for “The Fellowship House Doll Collection” as it was originally called.  She continued making the dolls when the program expanded and became known as the “Dolls for Democracy” program of the National B’nai B’rith Women.  Weeks and her husband made dolls for over 90 BBW Chapters across the country. There were at least 95 subject figures used in the program.  Not all were made by the Weeks who stopped making the dolls in the early 1970”s.  It has been estimated that Weeks and her husband James (J.S.) made over one thousand dolls for BBW Chapters around the country. 
Weeks made more than one of each doll for the Dolls for Democracy and Diversity exhibit.  The total sets of dolls made is unknown.  I know of three Marian Anderson dolls:  the one I own, the one the WSJHS website links to, and one owned by the collector who informed me about the eBay auction I won.  (Thank you D.S.)
The high cheek bones of the real Marian Anderson are captured in the doll by Weeks as shown in the above close-up image of the doll and the singer.

On this day, February 27th, of my 2015 wall calendar, in observation of her date of birth, Marian Anderson is described as:  “one of the 20th century’s most celebrated singers who became a symbol of the struggle to overcome discrimination in the arts, born, 1897.”  Happy birthday, Ms. Anderson, may you continue to rest your body and beautiful contralto voice in peaceful paradise. 
For additional information about the WSJHS and/or the Dolls for Democracy and Diversity Exhibit, please visit their website.  For more information about Marian Anderson, visit her official website

In case these links were missed:
Dr. George Washington Carver doll by Cecil Ruth Bullard Weeks
Jackie Robinson doll by Cecil Ruth Bullard Weeks  



Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Maya's New Fashion, Shoes, and Exciting News

Maya's new handmade shoes

First seen here, where the steps taken to transform Big Beautiful Dolls Dasia into a one-of-a-kind Maya Angelou doll were shared, Maya now has a better fashion and sandals.  I was never happy with the sock dress I made for her originally.

Let's begin with the sandals.  The sandals that came with the fashion Maya now wears are too long for her feet.   So I made replacement sandals using tan foam, white elastic painted to match the foam, and brown beading cord, which was used as piping around the soles of the sandals.  Aleene's Tacky glue holds everything together.   See the side view of the sandals below:

The side view better illustrates brown piping used between the innersole and the bottom of the sandal, which also has a low heel added for the doll's not flat and not high-heeled foot.  The elasticized back band creates a nice ankle strap to hold these on securely, as illustrated next.

Maya models her new sandals.

A few weeks ago, while searching through my 18-inch doll clothing to find fashions for Little T, I stumbled upon Hearts 4 Hearts Rahel's original fashion (Rahel now wears her own school uniform).  I immediately visualized Maya wearing the Ethiopian inspired fashion that had been stored for years along with clothing of similar size.

Rahel's fashion and the handmade sandals suit Maya much better than the red sock dress she originally wore. 

I was amazed at how well the fashion fits her full-figured body.  The multiple beaded necklaces work well to shield the area between her face and neck.  (Creating a better face for the doll using the same process as before, but with a full color ink cartridge, is still a plan.)

In the above photo, Maya poses with my autographed copy of Maya Angelou's book, Mom & Me & Me & Mom.  I won the book (as described in the original post about Dasia-turned-Maya) in a contest held by author, Jo Maeder.  Dr. Angelou originally autographed the book to Jo.  Below Dr. Angelou's autograph and inscription are Jo's autograph and inscription to me.


The Exciting News
I maintain a small collection of Black Heritage stamps issued by the US Postal Service and stamp lapel pins featuring African American leaders.  On February 23, 2015, the US Postal Service announced its plan to honor Maya Angelou with a Forever Stamp! Read more about their plan here.

News of the Forever Stamp makes me as equally proud as it has obviously made Dr. Angelou's family who posted the following Facebook status update on 02/25/15:  We are extremely grateful of the honor that is being bestowed upon our matriarch as the U.S. Postal Service prepares a stamp in recognition of the life work of Dr. Maya Angelou. More details to come, we’ll keep you posted. The Angelou Johnson family.