Dolls page 4
Current Project: Miniature peg wooden dolls
I'm getting very interested in old wooden peg dolls, mostly those made in Germany and England during the 19th century. In liking these rather plain and even ugly dolls I'm in good company, since the future Queen Victoria chose to dress and play with these as a child. So did many children, because these dolls were cheap, small enough in some cases to fit into a dollhouse, and sturdy--in a way. They could and did often lose their arms or legs, but long dresses covered some losses, and a broken man doll could become a female with the addition of a skirt. They seldom lost their heads.
If I can take enough time to make each doll--three months or so at five minutes a shot perhaps--I want to go on making them, and to link them with stories I've read about them (see the Academic button on my home page). I'll sell each individually, with its own story (imaginary, based on doll stories of the past).
Some of these will be made to look old, and some will be broken or missing limbs. I have no desire to make fake antiques: all the dolls I make will be marked, usually on the back, and accompanied by a signed card with their story. They will all in effect be editions of one only. I will reserve each for the next person on my waiting list, if she or he wants it, and then offer it on this web site, or perhaps at shows.
Most of these dolls were a sensible size, fitting children's hands, but it's comforting to know that people who lived a century or two ago loved to challenge themselves and others to see how small they could go. About a centimetre tall, or 3/8 inch, is the general limit. I've been along that path, and it's not at all easy. Not many kinds of wood can stand being cut into slivers as thick as this-- l -- and then have a hole drilled through them.
Tiny dolls were found in stories too. Can you see little Midge, to the right of the four bigger dolls?
Note: My apologies to any who might be offended by the other toy in this picture. Gollies have been banned for their racist connotations, but their history is quite complicated, and part of the history of dolls and toys, and I believe it should be studied in those terms, not hidden. Please e-mail me if you want to discuss this topic.
This old doll (not one I made!) is quite large, but a bit lacking in tidiness and beauty.
Toys in MIniature: Frances Armstrong
Effie is tall and thin (see the fictional story about her, below). Most of her limbs move, but you should expect her to lose the odd leg or arm. She is used to being in the toymaker's shop for repairs. (Toys in Miniature offers free repairs, charging only for postage.) Her finish is sometimes rough, and she has an unusual kind of face with big eyes. Yours for $25 plus $2 postage (US dollars). She is marked and comes with a signed copy of her maker's note. (That would be her imaginary maker, but my signature.)
Effie was made by my family, the Finches. A man wrote all about us in a book once, but I was only small then and my job was to start carving the arms. My older brother Ben taught me how, and then I taught George, and Joseph, and then father died so mother started to dress dolls instead, and Ben and George and Joseph found work at the mill.I was sick for a long while, but when I was getting better I sometimes fixed broken dolls that my mother was supposed to dress. I remember Effie because she had the thinnest legs I've ever seen.. They must have been made by Joseph when he was still little. Mother said an old gentleman had asked for her to be fixed and dressed. I don't know why.
Bob Finch, toymaker
Here is part of Effie's story. These stories, all different, are written by me, based on writings of the 19th century..
More to come--please visit us again soon.
Story loosely based on Memoirs of a London Doll
(1846) by "Mrs Fairstar," also known as Richard Henry Horne.
Kitty has undergone some surgery to fix her wobbly legs, and is now available for $35. Here is her imaginary provenance.
Matty got her name because someone said she had legs like matchsticks. Her story explains why she was made with a simpler construction--amd for a lower price, just $15 US.
Matty was made by Joseph FInch, a younger brother of Bob. When the boys' father died, Joseph hadn't learned how to make a whole doll. He had to go to work at the mill, but he still wanted to make a proper doll. At last he produced Matty, who has few joints and they are easy ones to make.
AFter Bob got better and the dollmaking resumed, Bob decided to make more Matties so that the children who had only a farthing could buy one. They sold so well that Joseph was able to leave the mill and work with Bob again.
These are one-of-a-kind dolls, which means that if you want to buy one you may have to be quick. I have a number of dolls still missing the odd leg or two, who will make their appearance here fairly soon, I hope.
Kitty was made rather roughly by a poor travelling toymaker, but Peter bought her for his sister Ann, As he had expected, Kittty's arms and legs began breaking off almost as soon as Susan picked her up. Peter was quick to offer to fix her. He had always wanted to get his hands on a wooden doll, to see how the joints fitted together. He did a fair job--Kitty is still rather fragile, but she proved strong enough to survive several imaginary wars and shipwrecks.
More dolls, waiting to be inspected. One at least seems to have that problem with her left arm again.
This is one of the smallest fully-jointed dolls that I have made. It's about half an inch long (compare X-acto knife blade on the left). Click on the picture for an enlargement.
January 2006: I've been busy with roombox kits lately, and now I'm getting back to dolls. Those listed below have been sold, but they will give you an idea of the types of dolls I make.