Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Black Debutante Walker by American Character

Debutante Walker, a 28-inch full-body composition doll with brown eyes was made in 1939 by American Character.

Debutante Walker by American character has never made an appearance here on the blog.  She and I both felt a blog about her was long overdue.

This 28-inch-tall, full-body composition walker was purchased during the late 1990s/early 2000s from an online seller through an ad placed on one of AOL's then-free doll message boards.  The seller was the daughter of Debutante Walker's former owner.  The daughter was liquidating the mother's collection.  I was snail mailed photos of this lovely doll along with photos of two other black composition dolls.  I purchased all three.  Of the three, Debutante Walker, because of her beauty and rarity, is my favorite.

Her black curly wig that extends below her waist replaces her original wig, which was probably short and curly.

Debutante has been rewigged and nicely redressed in a yellow Dotted Swiss dress.  Her composition had been repainted prior to her arrival and I was uncertain at that time if the doll was authentically black.  This uncertainty was documented in my first book, The Definitive Guide to Collecting Black Dolls.  Some years later, I was able to verify that black versions were made.  At this time, however, I do not recall the source of the verification.  I initially thought Comp Dolls Identification and Price Guide, book 1 by Polly and Pam Judd was the source; however, Debutante's name and description are only listed in this book along with other American Character dolls.  After I locate the source that documents black versions, I will update this post.

Debutante is a very heavy doll with chunky legs.

While recently taking updated photos of this lovely doll, I noticed the elastic in her yellow Dotted Swiss undies was stretched. As I was adjusting the waist, I felt a piece of paper, which was a folded note tucked inside all these years! The note documents the doll's name and maker.

This note was found tucked inside Debutante's undies.

The note is labeled, Compliments of PENN/NY Doll Club. The handwriting reads:

Page 42 Modern Collector’s Doll II white on [white one]. American Character 28 inch Debutante Walker. All composition. Unusual walking mech. Spring. Cryer in tummy.” 
The "white one" indicates a white version is shown on page 42 of Patricia Smith's Modern Collector's Dolls Second Series.  I immediately retrieved my copy of this book and scanned the page on which two white versions appear.

Scan from Patricia Smith's 1975 book, Modern Collector's Dolls Second Series, page 42, documents two white Debutante dolls, a blonde (upper right); and an auburn-haired version, lower left.

Note that neither white version shown in Smith's book has brown eyes.  Their eyes are blue and gray-blue for the blonde- and auburn-haired dolls, respectively.

My doll's Ma-Ma voice box or cryer has a label onto which is written “35 AMC Negro.” This was probably an auction sticker.

Debutante is with a variety of other dolls.

Debutante is one of the dolls that keeps Layla company.  Debutante and Layla (my Russian-made beauty and the first doll purchased in 2018) can be seen (again for some) in the above photo.

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Monday, January 29, 2018

Luvabella's Malfunction

You might think she's asleep, but she's not; her eyes will no longer open!

Less than two weeks after her box was opened and batteries inserted, Luvabella by Spinmaster malfunctioned! Her eyes now remain permanently closed.

Wanting to know if others had experienced a similar malfunction, I visited YouTube and Amazon to search for videos and to read reviews.  On Youtube, there was a video of another doll whose eyes would not open and the child's parent asking what should be done.  While reading the reviews on Amazon dot com, I was horrified by some of the things parents experienced. When one 5-year-old's doll stopped working, she ran to her mom and exclaimed, "Luvabella died!" She pleaded with her mother to make the doll come back to life. Mom purchased new batteries; the doll worked for a while but unfortunately, "died" again. How terrible!  That child will never forget that.

My experience was not as devastating, but I was as disappointed.  You can hear the disappointment in my voice when I recorded the following video on the evening of January 14, 2018, when the malfunction was discovered.

I called Spinmaster the following day to report the issue.  I was emailed instructions on how to get a replacement.  This included X-ing out the left-hand side of the doll's back, placing my initials in the center of the doll's back, and writing the last three digits of my claim number on the far right of the doll's back.  A permanent marker had to be used for this.  Afterward, I had to photograph the doll's back, "handwrite" the claim number on a piece of paper, and include that in the photo.  A video of the doll's malfunction was also required to be submitted along with photos.  I created a second video of the malfunction (which is not included in this post because it also contains the piece of paper with the entire claim number visible.)  The described photo, along with the first one in this post, and video were emailed to Spinmaster.

I had to use a permanent marker to X out the left-hand side of Luvabella's back, place my initials in the center, and the last three digits of my claim number on the far right.  Instead of handwriting the claim number on a piece of paper, I typed and printed it.

I followed all instructions, except, instead of handwriting the claim number on a piece of paper, I typed it using a large font (this was to ensure legibility -- not that my handwriting is poor because it isn't.  I just prefer typing and printing over using pen and paper.)

After a couple of days passed, I received an email from Spinmaster indicating my claim could not be proven because I did not follow the steps outlined.  In bold text, they explained that I did not "write" the claim number on a piece of paper.

"What?" I thought.  So I called Spinmaster and spoke with a very nice man named, John, who reviewed the photos and video and said, "You're fine."  He explained that they are not "used to people typing the claim number because writing it is easier."  Okay, I thought.  I jokingly told him that my [undiagnosed] OCD took over making me think it would be better to type and print the claim number.  He chuckled and proceeded to initiate the replacement.

The replacement doll arrived directly from Spinmaster in a Spinmaster shipping box inside her own pristine box.  The first doll's box was banged up around the edges, not taped at the opening flaps like this one was, and the first doll had a tiny black mark on one leg, which I ignored thinking it was a manufacturer's flaw.
Luvabella #2, shown above and in the photos and video that follow, arrived in less than two weeks. 

Replacement doll is still secured to her box in more areas than the first doll had been secured.  This doll also had a piece of plastic placed on the back of her head between her head and the headband.  The first doll did not have that.

She's free with all her interactive items and waiting for batteries to be installed.

As illustrated in the video, she works well, even better than the first doll. 

Luvabella #2 now wears the curly Afro wig (size 15) that I used for Luvabella #1.  I think she looks so much better with hair.
Here's hoping there will be no issues with Luvabella #2.

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Friday, January 26, 2018

Preorder Buy Links A Wrinkle in Time Barbies

Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Whatsit (shown above) are now available to preorder at Barbie.Mattel .com. Currently, the site offers free shipping for purchases over $39; so these dolls, individually or purchased as a trio qualify for free shipping. Holding steadfast on my doll-buying fast, but for those of you who are buying, go get 'em!

Mindy Kaling as Mrs. Who (uses the Curvy body, which is fully articulated).

Oprah Winfrey as Mrs. Which  (also uses a fully-articulated Curvy body).

Reese Witherspoon as Mrs. Whatsit (has an articulated body).

Note to those who might happen upon this post months after it was published:  Please make note of the date this was written.  If you are here weeks-to-months from the date of publication, this will be old news and the dolls may or may not be available.

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Thursday, January 25, 2018

First Look at A Wrinkle in Time Barbies

Internet-captured photo from an Ava Duvernay tweet (see tweet below) of Barbies made in the likeness of A Wrinkle in Time movie characters, Mrs Who (Mindy Kaling), Mrs Which (Oprah Winfrey), and Mrs Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon).

On January 25, 2018, Ava Duvernay, the director of A Wrinkle in Time, tweeted:

The dolls are designed by Carlyle Nuera, Senior Designer - Barbie Signature Label, who shared the same photo in a Facebook status update on January 25, 2018, and wrote:

The three Mrs of @wrinkleintime are here! This was suuuuuch a fun project to work on, high key one of my favorites of my entire Barbie design career. To be the designer of these Barbies and recreate these amazing costumes by #pacodelgado and hairstyles by @kimblehaircare was an honor. I even got to visit the set in LA, see the costumes in person and meet @ava 😱. And working with the Disney Team has been fantastic, a true partnership. And of course, the Mattel ‘atelier’ of highly skilled sculptors (all three Barbies are sculpted in the likenesses of @oprah, @mindykaling and @reesewitherspoon!!), face paint designers, hair designers, soft goods engineers, pattern makers, and more, always kill it!
I can’t wait for this movie. It’s going to be epic. #beawarrior 💥
A Wrinkle is Time is the film adaptation of the 1962 children's book of the same name, written by Madeleine L'Engle.  In the movie, three interesting characters help Meg, her brother, and a school friend, find Meg's scientist father who had disappeared into space.  It is scheduled for theater release on March 9, 2018, (which happens to be Barbie's birthday; she'll be 59 this year!).  Watch the trailer here or below.

The Oprah doll (Mrs Which) has been added to my Doll Genie Magic Carpet Club wish list (I will be notified when the doll is in stock).  I hope Mattel or someone will also manufacture a Skipper-sized doll in the likeness of Storm Reid, who plays Meg Murry.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Addy's New Shoes

Last month American Girl discounted Addy's school dress, which I ordered for my doll.  I expected it to include boots or another pair of period-appropriate footwear, but it did not.  Until the order for a pair of black boots that are similar to her original black boots arrived, Addy temporarily wore the outfit with more modern black flats, as shown above.

Before trying the boots on her, I decided to undress Addy and redo the lower row of weave that I had given her a few months ago (she has a total of three rows of added hair).  The ends of the last row were a little thin looking.  The new weaved row would eliminate that and add length.

Photo sequence of what was done:

Original Kanekalon hair crocheted onto a horizontal cornrow.
The original Kanekalon crocheted hair was removed and Addy's horizontal cornrow taken down.  This is how thin and straggly the lower portion of her original wig is, which is the reason for her weave.

While I was taking pictures, I decided to document that Addy is a Pleasant Company doll. Her numbers are 148/18.

A new cornrow was created with the lower weft of Addy's wig.  A bent paper clip was slid underneath the far right side of Addy's cornrow.

About 20 inches of Kanekalon hair that is about 1-inch wide has been crocheted onto the cornrow using the "hook" end of the open paper clip.

A second piece of Kanekalon was folded in half...
...and a loop created in the center of the hair.

The looped hair was inserted into the hook of the paper clip, which had already been slid underneath the cornrow.

The paper clip was pulled down to lead the hair down and underneath the cornrow.

After the paper clip was removed, the tail end of the hair was inserted into the looped hair and the ends pulled tight until the looped area formed a knot.  The two loose ends were then pulled apart to further tighten the knot.

Tightened knots of the two crocheted sections.

Full view of the two crocheted sections of hair.

The above-described process was continued until Kanekalon braiding hair had been crocheted onto the entire width of the cornrow.

As was done with the first "weave," using regular brown sewing thread and a regular-size sewing needle, I tacked each hoop of Kanekalon onto the cornrow.

The two top rows of crocheted hair and the top of Addy's own hair were blended in with the third row of weaved hair and the ends of the bottom row were trimmed.

Profile view:  Originally, the plan was to extend the weave only to below Addy's butt, but I decided to keep it floor length for a while.

Addy was redressed and given a faux fishtail braid.

Additional views of the faux fishtail braid

These are Addy's new boots which were ordered from an eBay seller.

With ribbons in her hair, boots on her feet, and her doll, Ida Bean by her side, Addy is ready for a productive school day.

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Monday, January 22, 2018

A Dark Beauty From Russia With Love

18-inch papier mâché doll made with love by Svetlana Lukina

Before going on a self-imposed 30-day doll-buying fast, the opportunity to own a one-of-a-kind Izannah Walker/Martha Chase-inspired doll presented itself on January 2, 2018.  Made by skillful doll artist, Svetlana Lukina, my first doll purchase of 2018 arrived from Russia on January 16, 2018.

One corner of the doll's shipping box was covered with Russian postage stamps

As always, I waited for the perfect box opening moment so my new-doll bonding and photographing time would not be interrupted by anything or anyone.  Because of the Russian postage stamps, which my husband was fascinated by, I photographed the box prior to opening and cut away the stamps, still attached to the cardboard box, and gave that part of the box to my husband.  He wanted one stamp of the three different monetary values, but was only able to remove one.

Close-up of her beautiful face

I removed the bubble wrap that had been carefully wrapped around the 18-inch doll, gazed upon her delightful face, and thought, "She is more beautiful than I had imagined."  With painted brown eyes, full nose and lips, brown hair made from sheepskin with texture that mimics that of natural Africanoid hair, papier mâché head, arms, legs; and firmly-stuffed cloth body, she is perfect from head to toe.  The main color of her exquisitely sewn dress is peach, which is also my favorite color.  There is a matching head wrap, shown below. The overskirt of the dress is multicolored.  She wears an off-white undergarment.  Accessories of beaded earrings and beaded anklet complete her costume.

She can stand with the assistance of a doll stand or sit as shown in the first and final photos of this post.

Her dress buttons in the back and has a brocade ribbon waistband.

Off-white undergarment is lace trimmed.  A portion of her beaded anklet is visible in this photo.
Fingers and...

... toes are separately stitched.  A better view of her anklet is shown here.
The back of her breastplate bears the artist's name.
Her beautifully designed hang tag provides the artist's contact information.
The soft hair has a nice curl pattern.
Sculpted ears are adorned with earrings.
Fabric used to create head wrap was neatly folded inside the shipping box.

Original turbin fashioned by Svetlana
I could not recreate the turban Svetlana created, so I opted for the more modern head wrap illustrated here and in the following photos.

The head wrap almost completes her look.

Before introducing her to a few new vintage-to-modern doll friends, I added a multicolored beaded necklace that picks up the colors in her dress.  This necklace is only temporary until one that better matches her earrings and anklet is found.
As illustrated in this final photograph, she has settled in nicely with friends who have welcomed her warmly.

Unnamed by the artist, I have chosen the Egyptian/Arabic name Layla, which means dark beauty.


I "met" Svetlana Lukina online in 2017 after learning of her generous two-doll donation to the National Black Doll Museum of History and Culture in Mansfield, Massachusetts.  We communicated about the dolls on Facebook and I offered to share her artist profile with the readers of Ebony-Essence of Dolls in Black.  That profile can be read here.

Svetlana maintains a blog about her doll art and beautiful doll photography.  Her blog is written in Russian but can be translated into different languages.

She sells her one-of-a-kind Izannah Walker-style dolls on Etsy.

Who Was Izannah Walker?
Charming example of a late 1800s Black Izannah Walker doll
Lovely circa 1890s Black Martha Chase doll

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