Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Sculpted Fingers for Calypso Jill

Allow me to introduce you to Calypso Bill.  Bill was added to my collection well over a decade ago.  He is a 15-inch tall vinyl doll made in 1960/1961 by the Dee an Cee Company  of Canada.  With faces that are quite similar to Horsman's 1950s dolls, Pete and Polly, I believe Calypso Bill and his sister Calypso Jill were fashioned after Horsman's pair.

After a decade without her here, Bill finally has an opportunity to enjoy his sister, Jill's presence.

Found on eBay for an exceptional price (based on another seller's $350 buy-it-now price), I knew Jill would need work upon arrival after seeing the seller's photos of her left hand, which was missing three fingers!  I knew she would arrive with surface scratches to her body and other imperfections described by the seller. In spite of her flaws, I was prepared to roll up my sleeves and give her the attention she deserved.

Take a look at Jill's first photos after arrival:

Jill arrived dressed in a handmade dress and white socks, no undies.  I removed the white ribbon the seller had used as a headband for Jill.

Jill's thumb and middle finger were the only digits on her left hand.

Scratches covered the front and back of her torso with a few on the back of her arms and on her legs as well.

An animal bite mark mars the back of her right leg.  Not shown is the caved in heel of that foot, which has additional bite marks.  Poor Jill.  Someone or something took her through the wringer!

Before Jill arrived from Canada, I saw my husband using wood filler to make a minor household repair.  I tested the consistency of the wood filler and initially decided to use it to make replacement fingers for Jill.

All, except the wood filler, are some of the items used to create Jill's new fingers.

The wood filler was too soft for me to form the fingers.  I opted to use air dry clay instead.  First, I needed to make stents for the fingers, something around which the clay could be molded.

I opened up and straightened three small paper clips, measured and cut them the desired length of the fingers, and bent the tips under slightly.

Jill's finger stents have been inserted into the center of the missing fingers.

Before inserting the "stents," the tip of a pushpin was heated with the flame of a candle.  The heated tip was then pushed into the center of Jill's nubs to create a hole for the stents. The straightened and trimmed-to-size paper clips were inserted into each hole and the tips bent under slightly (as described previously and illustrated in the above photo).  Next, small pieces of air dry clay were rolled into the shape of fingers, which looked like small earthworms, and cut to size for the three missing digits. The clay fingers were slid onto each stent, which created a small hole in the center of the clay fingers.  While on the stents, molding each into the desired finger shape was done next.

In the above photo, the fingers have been molded, but the clay is still moist.  They are not visible, but fingernails and finger creases on all except the pinky have been etched in.  The clay was allowed to dry overnight, but it would be several days before work on the fingers resumed.

In these photos, above and below, the clay has dried and SuperGlue applied to the areas where the new fingers meet the nubs.

Jill's body scratches have been masked with Karelen Dry Oil, a fast-drying/non-greasy moisturizer designed for human bodies, faces, and hair.  Lemon Pledge can be used to mask scratches in vinyl, too.
Before painting the fingers, I used a regular Emery board to complete the finger shaping and to smooth out any rough edges.

Without having to mix colors or by new paint, an on-hand bottle of Folk Art coffee bean acrylic paint was the closest match to Jill's complexion and is what was used to give her fingers color.

The fingers have been painted with one or two layers of paint in the above photo.  I etched the fingernail and finger creases of the pinky with the tip of a sewing needle before applying additional layers of paint. 

Before she put her dress on, Jill was given a pair of undies and a pair of shoes.

With her dress back on and her left hand whole, Jill shows off the palmar and dorsal surfaces of her painted fingers.  (Oxy-10 is the white area on  Jill's arm, which I was using in an attempt to remove a black mark.)

For over 10 years, Bill had been waiting patiently for his sister's arrival.  He did not mind having to wait a little while longer for her new fingers to be completed before the two were finally photographed together.

Jill insisted on having ribbons added to the ends of her braids.

The two compare fingers to fingers and are both quite pleased. (Bill has some paint on his arm that I never bothered to remove after he arrived.)


More about Dee an Cee's Calypso Bill and Jill
On page 121 of Black Dolls an Identification and Value Guide 1820 through 1991 by Myla Perkins, Jill's inclusion on "the Dolls in Canada series of stamps issued by the Post Office, Canada Post, to celebrate the memories of past childhood," is documented.  Jill is shown in the same book wearing a patchwork print dress.

An image of the postcard mentioned in the previous paragraph is included on page 158 of Black Dolls an Identification and Value Guide Book II, a scan of which is shown above.

Calypso Bill and Jill are documented in The Charlton Price Guide to Canadian Dolls, First Edition, by Evelyn Strahlendorf on pages 66 and 67, photos of which are shown below:

Page 66 of The Charlton Price Guide to Canadian Dolls illustrates Jill wearing the same dress the doll wore on the Canadian postcard featured in Black Dolls an Identification and Value Guide Book II.

Dressed as islanders, Calypso Jill and Bill are described as 16 inches tall on page 67 of The Charlton Price Guide to Canadian Dolls, First Edition.

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  1. They're certainly an adorable pair of siblings. I'd never seen them before. It was great to get a bit of Canadian history as well:D. I love the detailing of her hair: someone really knew what they were doing.

    Thanks so much for the tutorial on finger replacement. I did this for various dolls years ago but I had no idea it could work-and look so good- on plastic. :D

    1. The head sculpts and the hair are authentic, which are two reasons I wanted this pair.

      I had not done finger sculpting prior to this, but I am always willing to try something new. Where there is a will, there is a way. If someone else can do it, I can, too. These are just two statements that motivate me to use my own resources or tap into those I have not yet utilized.



    2. I'm very much the same way. You always learn something from trying. Besides, nothing ventured, nothing gained. You had a choice between a doll with fingers or one without. No matter how they'd turned out, with fingers is better :-)


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