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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Cloth Dolls

The oldest example still extant is probably the 2000 + year old Rag doll found in an Egyptian tomb with other toys. This doll is featured in Mary Hillier's Dolls and Dollmakers, in my book With Love from Tin Lizzie, and it "lives" today in the British Museum. Those who watch The Ten Commandments with Charleton Heston note that a little girl travelling to The Promised Land, is holding a rag doll. Rag doll often appear as props in all kinds of films, including Pioneer/Wagon Train Sagas. The Young Elizabeth I holds one at the end of Anne of the Thousand Days, again RIP to her mother, Anne Boleyn, executed on May 19th. Raggedy Ann stars in her own films, but also appears as a prop in many other productions including soap Another World, and in works by Mary Higgins Clark. An alleged "haunted" R. Ann is featured on the web Haunted Doll Museum. In Nuts, Barbra Streisand's doll was R. Ann. Visit the Strong National Musem of for more examples and blog posts. Emily Jackson in her book of 1908, Toys of Other Days, found on Google books for free, disucsses other rag dolls, too. There were others in the Ancient World, no doubt, but as Mary Hillier poitned out, they could not withstand the elements. Cloth, especially left over rags, is a simple material and easy way to make a doll. Laura Ingalls Wilder's first "real doll" was Charlotte, a doll her mother made, to be compantion to Nellie, Mary Ingalls' doll. Popular collectible dolls in Cloth are The Izannah Walker doll, and early patented US doll, with a whole blog devoted just to her. These can now sell for upwards of $20,000. The Chase dolls, Martha Chase lifesized hospital dolls, or the toys. These were inspired by Izannah Walker, and there is a tie with Izannag and the Woolrich clothes company. I found a Chase doll for $50.00 ten years ago on eBay. A red letter doll day that was! Dorothy Heizer needle sculpted cloth to new dimensions, as does Lisa Licthenfels. There are other artists who do the same. Bernard Ravca and his wife Frances needlesculpted as well. Lenci used flet, as did Raynal, Norah Wellings, Chad Valley, some Kathe Kruse, and Steiff. Edith the Lonely doll of literary fame is a Lenci. Stuffed animals like Winnie and friends who life at 10 Downing Street, the PM's home in England, are distant cousings of cloth dolls. Native American dolls are often leather or buckskins tuffed with grass. Many doll bodies are also stuffed cloth or leather, with heads of other materials. Successful modern cloth dolls include Holly Hobbie, Strawberry Shortcake, Rainbow Brite, The Levi Strauss Blue Jean Doll, Mme. Alexander's Little Shaver, perhaps her first doll, My Child, Baby Beans,Shrinking Violet, Raggedy Ann and Andy, etc. Many patters have been made over the years by Vogue, Butterick, and McCalls. Folk cloth dolls enjoyed great popularity in the 80s and 90s, and companies like Rantin Raven made great primitive cloth personages. A cloth doll was featured as a family antique on Bewitched. Rag dolls are a staple of craft fairs, and make good projects for Home Ec classes. Dolls of hankies, scraps, and pillowases are also popular. Pre printed cloth dolls like the boy from Arnold Print works, c. 1880, and the various cats, Palmer Cox Brownies, Little Girls, Buster Brown and Aunt Jemima families are found in all great doll collections. Uncut versions are really desireable. Many advertising and celebrity dolsl like The Eskimo Pie kid and Mr. Peanut are pre printed cloth dolls. So are The Ceresota Flour Boy and The Brachs Candy Clown . Living Dead Dolls has made teddy bears and voodoo dolls, both by Mezco. There has been a soft bodied Barbie that "sleeps" and Barbie and Disney pillow dolls. A few years ago, the Wenham Museum featured an exhibition of cloth dolls that included those discussed hear as well as The Columbian Rag doll, possibley The Moravian and Presbyterian Rag Dolls, Bruckner and Alabama Rag Babies. These dolls were also featured on The American Doll Stamps. Rag dolls are always individual in character, and indeed, many are one of a kind. They can be soft or rigid, but are appreciated as homemade objects, comfortable in a rustic or elegant setting. Applause, Sugar Loaf, Mattel, Kruse, and other companies continue to make rag and cloth dolls, and stuffed animals are as popular as ever. Raggedy Ann is still made by various companies, and there is still a festival in her honor. Even Kewpies have been, and are made in cloth, witness Ragsy Kewpie. Cloth is a vital medium for doll makers. Patterns still abound, and Lauura Walsh's doll blog is an excellent place to look for them. eleanor peace baily makes wonderful cloth art dolls and teaches courses in them. Quilt societies make them, too. Even in a techy age like ours, there is room to admire the age old rag baby.

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