Sunday, September 24, 2017

Guest Post by Brains and Beauty Dolls

Malia is an 18-inch talking doll by Brains and Beauty Dolls

Niya Dorsey, the creator of Brains and Beauty Dolls contacted me about her new line of 18-inch dolls. I invited her to share the inspiration behind the dolls.

"One day my one month old daughter and I were at home in the bed cuddling, as I stared at her beautiful face and started to talk to her. I told her how beautiful she is, how I couldn’t wait to have tea parties with her, get a mani-pedi together and how I want her to grow up and follow all her dreams, become a leader and so on. Suddenly, I got an epiphany, a doll is a girl’s best friend. I didn’t remember seeing or having a doll that had the beautiful features of girls of color. 

"I wasn’t big on the Barbie dolls and the other dolls I had as a child.  I would just feed, change their diapers and comb their hair. It wasn’t always easy styling their hair either. I decided I don't want a doll that teaches my daughter how to be a good mom, I want a doll that encourages her to believe in herself and to achieve her goals no matter what. At that moment I decided to create a doll for girls of color all over the world. 

"I created an 18-inch doll whose look was based on my daughter's features. First, I reached out to other mothers and asked, 'If you had to say something encouraging or positive to your daughter, what would you say?' I took my time and read every response and created a list of twenty empowering words. As a result, I created a doll that speaks encouraging words. I believe the right words are powerful and encouraging and have a positive impact on our little girls' lives.

"Today, many young girls suffer from low self-esteem due to society’s negative perceptions, bullying, and lack of encouragement. I want to help develop self-awareness and positive self-esteem in the lives of little girls with the help of my dolls.

Made of vinyl with a cloth stomach that houses her voice box, Malia is a perfect companion doll with comb-able human hair.
"I designed the doll to have real human hair to allow little girls to play with hair that is similar to their own, that is fun and easy to style. I named the company Brains and Beauty Dolls because our dolls represent intelligent and beautiful young girls everywhere. Our tag line is:  believe, empower and achieve in style. I want them to believe in themselves, empower one another and achieve their goals in style. 

"Our goal is to inspire little girls to embrace their uniqueness, individual beauty, intelligence, culture, and leadership abilities.

"Brains and Beauty Dolls aspires to create different dolls and accessories.  This September, we will run a kick starter campaign for our first doll Malia, and hope to unlock some other dolls as well."


Brains and Beauty Dolls Contact

Currently the Brains and Beauty website shop includes T-shirts, a girl and doll pajama set, and a book entitled, You can Be Whatever You Want to Be.

KickStarter Campaign
The Early Bird Special Pledge price for Malia for the first 100 contributors is $80 and the first 100 contributors at this level will receive an autographed doll!  After that goal is met, the campaign price will be $90 for the doll. Go here to preorder Malia or to otherwise contribute to the Brains and Beauty Dolls Kickstarter Campaign, which will run for 33 days. Let's help Ms. Dorsey make Malia a reality by contributing and/or sharing the link to the campaign.

Once again, here is the link.

PLEASE NOTE:  If the campaign is not fully funded, your credit card will not be charged.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

From One Arm to Three

27-inch one-armed transitional mama doll and her replacement arms

First seen here in a post about mama dolls (dolls with voice boxes that make the ma-ma sound when the they are tilted or otherwise positioned), this 27-inch doll arrived to me during the late 1990s missing one of her composition arms.

A closer look at the missing arm area
A couple of years ago I was gifted an identical white version of this circa late 1940s/early 1950s doll for the sole purpose of using the white doll's arm to replace the black doll's missing arm.  I could not bring myself to destroy an otherwise well-preserved doll to restore another. So Lynn, the black mama doll, remained in need of an arm while Jane, the white doll, was spared.

My husband suggested that I make a mold of Jane's arm, which I did.  He then sculpted, on his own, what looked like the perfect replacement arm for Lynn.  Unfortunately, he used a mixture of old and new polymer clay which did not properly bond.  The arm was also very heavy.

So I created a papier-maché arm using the mold of Jane's arm, which has served Lynn well.  I never was content with the way I painted the fingers, which could have easily been repainted, but deep down I really wanted her to have a composition replacement.

I created and saved an eBay search for "composition doll parts" and received daily updates for years, but arms in the length and shape needed remained elusive.  One of these search results included two composition arms from a child-size store mannequin that I purchased.  Unfortunately, they were not the correct size.  I listed these on eBay for the same price I paid and they sold.

Recently, my eBay search notification included a buy-it-now or make-offer auction for "a pair of baby arms for repair of German bisque head baby" that measure 8 and 8-1/2 inches.  An 8-inch arm is what I needed.  I made an offer which the seller counter offered and I accepted.  My plan had been to use the arm I needed and resell the other.

Seller's photo of replacement arms
The arms arrived as described and shown above and in the first image.  The circumference of the biceps area, however, is larger than the doll's original arm should be.  I discussed the dilemma with my husband and showed him the doll and the replacement arm. He agreed that the potential replacement was too large.  The following conversation ensued:

Him:  "Why didn't you buy the other arm?"
Me:  "I did.  I have both arms."
Him:  "Then you can just replace both arms and you'll have a match.  You didn't think of that?"
Me:  No.  I was focused on just replacing one arm, but yeah... I can do that.

Geesh!  Why didn't I think of that?  Probably because my intent was to keep the doll's original arm intact and because it would be so much easier to replace just one arm.  He gave a several suggestions on how the repair should be done.  I said, "Nope, you're going to have to do all that.  It's just too much."  He said, "No, you need to learn this!"

So... I (we) did it!

Original arm after removing
First the doll's original arm and rotational disk to which it was attached was removed.  This required slitting open the cloth upper arm area by gingerly removing a few stitches.   (My husband did this part with an Xacto knife while I held the patient.)

Patient post amputation
For the replacement arms, using a wire clothes hanger, the doll doctor created a fastener for each that looks like an inverted U with laterally extended arms that insert into the inner arm.

Fastener centered inside replacement arm with tissue paper stuffed around it
With the fastener in the center-most area of the arm, my husband used tissue paper to fill in the gap between the arms of the fastener and the inner arm.  Over this was applied air-dry clay to permanently hold the fastener in place.  I worked on the other arm simultaneously completing the same steps except the inner arm was filled in by me with polyfill before covering with air-dry clay.

Both arms with fasteners centered in place and air-dry clay molded around to permanently hold the fastener inside

New rotational disks for new arms
I created two new arm disks using cardboard.  These were made firm with several coats of Mod Podge, which was applied after the above photo was taken.

Flawed ring and pinky fingers
As the seller had described, the hands of both replacement arms had flaws.  A fracture of the ring finger of one hand had been previously repaired. The pad of the pinky finger of the other hand was worn down.


I used wood filler to create a new finger pad for the pinky finger and to reinforce and smoothen the fracture line of the ring finger.  The wood filler applied to the fingers and the air-dry clay molded around the fasteners were allowed to dry overnight before additional work proceeded.


After everything hardened, the disks were placed onto the fasteners and a metal dowel was fashioned from a metal clothes hanger to hold the disks in place.  Not shown in the above photos, but Epoxy was added to areas where the inserted dowel and the fastener meet to secure the dowel in place permanently.


The arms were painted using a combination of nutmeg brown and real brown acrylic paint as base coats and a top coat of toffee brown.   The final coat  was a mixture of toffee brown and matte varnish to seal and add a slight sheen.  A few drops of dark red acrylic paint were added to the toffee brown and acrylic mixture and dabbed onto the elbows and the dorsal surface of the hands and knuckles to add blushing.

Painted arms

New arms attached to body (one is a little lower than the other, but Lynn doesn't mind).
Before inserting the new arms into each cloth armhole, the bottom opening of each armhole was reinforced with a few stitches.  Next, the arm disks were inserted into each cloth armhole and the cloth at the top stitched closed.


With two arms now, Lynn is happily redressed and back on her doll stand.

Lynn rejoined her friends and Jane, the doll that was willing to sacrifice one of her arms for her.

After nearly 20 years of being here with only one arm, Lynn now has three.  Two are attached replacements and the third (her original arm) has been stored in the event that another left-arm-only doll is in need of an arm that size.

(Note:  The arm replacement process wasn't as difficult as I had imagined.  Doc Garrett was right, I needed to learn to do this myself.)


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Monday, September 18, 2017

Book-Featured Bratz Dolls on eBay


After receiving several email inquiries regarding regarding the possibility of my selling the Bratz dolls featured in my third book, The Doll Blogs When Dolls Speak I Listen, and with years' long plans to sell the entire lot, I decided to photograph the dolls and list them on eBay.

If you're interested in never-removed-from-box Bratz dolls that were on the market in 2008 and 2009, please check out my current eBay listings.

Stock photos of six of the eight dolls listed are shown below:

Wintertime Sasha


Nighty-Nite Sasha

Campfire Felicia

Fashion and Fragrance Designed by Sasha
Tokyo a Go-Go Dylan

Bratz Boyz Kids Dyla

These dolls were on the market during the time Mattel and MGA Entertainment were involved in a back-and-forth lawsuit with Mattel alleging Bratz designer worked for Mattel at the time the dolls were designed.  It was a several-year mess with MGA temporarily having to halt sales of the dolls.

The Bratz Wikipedia entry touches on the battle between the two toy makers.


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Friday, September 15, 2017

BéBé Bain Discovers Other Bathing Babies

2017 UFDC Convention Souvenir Journal, Une Journée de la Poupée is a beautiful 238-page, hard cover book with gilded pages.

In September 2016, I received an email from the editor of this year’s UFDC Convention Souvenir Journal inquiring if I would write an article for one of the chapters.  Kathy Monier, wrote:

I recently visited your blog site and I am very impressed with your knowledge and passion about black dolls. Your comprehensive and interesting blog site has prompted me to ask you if you would like to join my team of authors.
Next year's Orlando convention is titled Une Journee de la Poupee (A Day in the Life of a Doll), based on two books by French Illustrator Adrien Marie, Une Journe d'Enfant and L'Education de la Poupee. Both books follow a child with her doll throughout her day, from morning to night.
The chapter I have in mind for you is "Le Bain", the bath. In this chapter there are several pages of text and photos devoted to bathing-type dolls and their bath accessories, tentatively titled "Bathing Babies". I am not sure what the scope of black baby (bath) dolls there were back in the day...or today...but I am certain it would be most exciting to see and learn about in the pages of our journal.

With a January 15, 2017, submission deadline, I accepted the offer and immediately conducted the necessary research using my own doll reference library and additional books purchased to determine if a sufficient amount of black bathing dolls had been manufactured throughout the years to write about.  It was my determination that unfortunately a limited amount of black bathing dolls exist, past or present.  The article, therefore, incorporates both black and white bathing dolls.

Stock photo of BéBé Bain (Bath) Graceful courtesy of Corolle Dolls

Using Mattel/Corolle's BéBé Bain Graceful, readers follow the doll on her journey of learning about other bathing dolls made from the 1920s to present.  BéBé Bain Graceful increased her bathing doll knowledge exponentially and so did I.


Page 1 of "BéBé Bain Discovers Other Bathing Babies," courtesy of Vicky Hoff Forbes

Fellow doll enthusiast, Vicky Hoff Forbes, is one of two conventioneers with whom I confided about the article.  Since I would not receive my journal until long after the convention ended I asked Vicky and doll artist, Goldie Wilson, to look for the article in the journal. While at the convention, Vicky shared with me the above photo-preview of page one of the article. Goldie Wilson confirmed the article's inclusion in the journal and commented on how pleased she was with the journal's overall appearance.

Pages 66 and 67 of "BéBé Bain Discovers Other Bathing Babies"

Because of space limitations, scaling back article content and the multitude of associated images was required.  I am pleased that much of what was written was included in the full-color, 8-page article.  

Many thanks go to the following people:

  • Kathy Monier for asking me to write the article
  • Photo contributors
  • Judith Izen, author, who helped with identification of black bathing doll by Ideal Toy Corp.
  • Customer Service at American Girl and Corolle/Mattel
  • Liza Marques Grando of Moss-Tucker Group for arranging my ownership of Bébé Bain Graceful

Souvenir journals from past UFDC Conventions are available in the UFDC online shop under the books link.  At the time of this writing, the 2017 journal is not listed for sale under that link, but if interested,  you may call UFDC to secure your copy for $29.95 + $5 shipping to any US address.  Their main number is: 816-891-7040.  


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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

6th Annual Detroit Doll Show Announcement


Announcement from Sandra Epps of Sandy's Land regarding the 6th Annual Detroit Doll Show:
"We are OVER the TOP Excited to announce that the Phenomenal Ms. Stacey McBride-Irby will be joining us for Sandy's Land Doll Show on Saturday, November 11, 2017, at our NEW LOCATION: DoubleTree by Hilton, 5801 Southfield FWY. Detroit MI 48228.


"Stacey worked for Mattel Inc. for over 14 years where she designed for the Disney Princess, a few Career Barbies and she created the 'So In Style' African American line of Barbies released in 2009. This collection consists of dolls in a variety of skin tones with fuller lips and noses, distinctive cheekbones and different hair colors and textures.
"Stacey also designed the first African American Greek Sorority doll, the Alpha Kappa Alpha Barbie celebrating their Centennial year.
"This dynamic woman has been featured in Ebony, Essence, Heart & Soul, LA's Beauty Beat, Upscale, on the front cover of Wall Street Journal Personal newspaper, and a host of television shows and news programs throughout the World.
"Join us for this EPIC event, the 6th Annual Detroit Doll Show! We will see you there!!!

"Sandy's Land 6th Annual Detroit Doll Show will take place for three days.

"Friday, November 10, 2017 - Masquerade Party from 6:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Award Presentation, Delicious Food, Caricature Artist, Decorate Your Mask, Mini Exhibit, Photo Fun, Music and Dancing.

HONOREES:  Myla Perkins (author), Natalie Durham (sponsor of arts and crafts dollmaking at past Detroit Doll Shows), Robin Hickman (founder and creative director/artist at A Celebration of Soulful Dolls)

"Saturday, November 11, 2017 - Exhibit Day from 12 noon to 6:30 p.m.
Doll Look-A-Like Contest, Arts & Craft, Coloring, Shop with over 30 Vendors, Speaker Ms. Stacey McBride-Irby, Doll Making Workshops, Raffle, Photo Fun and Pamper Pillow Paint Party.

"Sunday, November 12, 2017 - Workshops and Farewell
EVERYTHING WILL BE HELD AT: DoubleTree by Hilton, 5801 Southfield FWY., Detroit MI 48228
Near Fairlaine Shopping Center."

View a video narrated by Sandy and imagine the fun and excitement that took place at last year's show:




For more information and to purchase advance tickets for the 6th Annual Detroit Doll Show, navigate here (www.detroitdollshow2017.eventbrite.com).

Information about this and other upcoming doll shows is also included under the Doll Events tab of this blog.



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Monday, September 11, 2017

Urban Street News: The Shani Story


This 6-minute, 21-second video by Urban Street News, circa 1990/1991, covers the roll out of Mattel's Shani Collection. In addition to creating this post for the video, it is now embedded in my previous post about Shani dolls.


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Friday, September 8, 2017

2017 WLBDA Club Dolls by Sue Sizemore

A variety of cloth dolls by Sue Sizemore

In April of this year, cloth doll artist, Sue Sizemore, was commissioned by my doll group to create our 2017 club dolls.  Annually, we either buy an identical manufactured doll or commission a doll artist to make dolls for us.  Before asking Sue about the possibility of making our dolls, I created the above collage of past smaller dolls she has made.  The collage was shared with group members to allow them to vote their preference.  The 10-inch doll on the far left was the doll they elected to have our dolls fashioned after.  Sue's dolls are all one of a kind, and it was understood that our dolls would be based on this doll's appearance.  

Sue began working on the dolls and completed the project in August.  She made a total of 17, 10-inch dolls that she dressed in a variety of different cotton print dresses and white pantaloons.  They each have beautiful painted faces that are almost identical; black mohair, hand-applied wigs accented with one white ribbon, and they wear painted-on, high-top, old-fashion boots.  Each club doll has a wooden hang tag that bears Sue’s signature on one side and 2017 WLBDA LE 17 on the opposite side.

As a surprise for the group members, I asked Sue to make each doll its own mini doll because “we love black dolls and our dolls do, too.”  The adorable minis have painted hair with a painted white bow.  They wear painted-on white clothes trimmed in brown.  Their black high-top boots are painted on as well.


2017 WLBDA Club Dolls by Sue Sizemore; Sue found the vintage hat the 3rd doll from the left on the front row wears and thought it was perfect for that doll.  Photograph courtesy of Sue Sizemore.

Prior to placing the dolls in their individual white organza drawstring bags along with her business card before shipping them all to me, I asked Sue to take the above group photo.  Before then I had not seen any of the completed dolls, and because the group photo includes the surprise mini dolls, I was not able to share it with the group members (this post will be the first time they have seen this group picture). 

After the package of dolls arrived to me and before boxing each doll up separately to ship to the 16  different group members (it’s a good thing I save boxes!) I took the following group photos, leaving the dolls inside their drawstring bags.

Ten little dolls and their minis, ready to travel to their new homes

Seven little dolls, six of which would travel to new homes
Before the dolls arrived, I had decided I would pair them up with members whose favorite colors I knew, choosing the dolls' dress colors to do so.  I used the closest color available for dolls that were not dressed in a member's favorite color.  

After receiving their dolls, all members expressed how very pleased they are with them and their surprise minis.  One member, whose sentiment is shared by others, wrote:

Club doll 2017 by Sue Sizemore has just arrived! That was extremely fast Debbie!?! She is absolutely beautiful and what a treat for her to arrive with a little doll of her very own!❤️ I've waited a long time to own one of Sue's creations and she was well worth the wait.😍 Many Thanks to Sue Sizemore... -- MB.

The members who were able to share photos did so.  Some also shared the names they chose for their doll.  Their photos in member's first-name, alpha order follow:

Barbara has elected to keep her doll inside the organza drawstring bag for a while.  Her dolly wears a brown checkered dress.  The handwritten note Barbara received from me explains the mini surprise.  Each member received the same note.

Bonnie, whose favorite color is purple, received the doll with the vintage hat Sue found.  Before I mailed all dolls out, Bonnie posted a photo to our group of  her Madam C. J. Walker doll and reminded us that purple is her favorite color.  That sealed the deal for me... she would get the doll with the hat, I thought.  Bonnie named her doll Iris.

Iris has settled in nicely with other Sue Sizemore dolls Bonnie already owned.

Brenda's doll, Dolly, looks right at home in this lovely photo.

Cathy's doll, Mary Louise, sits on a special shelf with other dolls, most of which were gifted to Cathy by special friends and mentors.  The doll in the green and tan gingham dress is Cathy's 2015 WLBDA Club Doll.

Because she feels her doll is precious, Precious is what Cheryl named her doll.

This doll's sky blue dress color influenced Dawn to name her doll Skye.

Purple is a favorite color of Debbie V., whose doll sits pretty with her mini doll.
Margaret's doll and her mini posed for this photo...

... and Margaret's doll's sweet little mini took this close-up photo.
Here is Maria's adorable little lady and her mini.
This is Phyllis's doll, Kelly Anne.  Phyllis's favorite color is dark green.

Phyllis shared this close-up photo of Kelly Anne and her mini doll's faces...

Doesn't Kelly Anne look doll-lightful with her teddy bear and rocking horse?
From a host of other dolls, Shawatha's club doll and mini received a warm welcome to their new home.
Vicky's darling little lady is dressed in Vicky's favorite color, yellow.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~

In one of our final Messenger chats about the dolls before they were shipped, Sue informed me that there was something extra in the box for me.  Oh boy, I thought!



Sure enough, at the very top in the box that contained the club dolls was a doll with a note from Sue and a hang tag that identifies it as the prototype doll.  

Note from Sue, the prototype of the 2017 WLBDA Club Doll, and her mini in matching dress
It was very kind of her to send the prototype to me.  As Sue indicated in her note, the prototype is the only one with a mini doll with painted-on clothes that match the color of the larger doll’s dress.  Beyond blessed is how I felt then and now. 


The prototype poses with my 2017 WLBDA Club Doll by Sue Sizemore.
It was easy for me to determine what I would name my doll.  Because the print of her cranberry dress has tiny white stars, I named her Star.  For now, because of the color of the prototype’s dress, I have named her Goldie.  

Goldie and Star and their mini dolls pose for the final photo of this post.
Sue's doll artistry is impeccable with great attention to detail given to all her dolls.  I have always been blown away by the beauty and realism her dolls possess.  Our club dolls are excellent examples of her ability to transform cloth and paint into three-dimensional works of doll art. 


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