I started making Waldorf-style dolls four years ago. I enamored with the style of doll— soft, cuddly, simple, personable. I realized it was what I would have always wanted in a doll, as a young child. Instead I had plastic, “realistic” baby dolls with sleepy-eyes (or, blinky eyes, as I called them) and rooted hair, stiff jointed limbs and molded fingers. The dolls were so stiff that the dolls’ clothing was hard to change. Later, I moved on to a doll named Velvet (Chrissie’s little sister, circa 1970 Ideal®), an 18-inch fashion doll with adjustable hair and a wardrobe of clothing. My younger sister didn’t have a comparable doll, however, so playing with Velvet required playing alone. Finally, after Velvet came the inevitable Barbie. Or, in my case, Francie.
I liked Francie. She had rooted hair, rooted eyelashes and a disfigured hand, acquired from a burn incident that happened before I knew her. She had a 1963 Susy Goose wardrobe full of gowns sewn from fine knitted fabrics with tiny button closures. The closet had a shoe rack for her collection of heels and a small set of drawers for her sunglasses, panties and other miniscule accessories. It had a mirror above the shoe rack. On the top, it had a center finial flanked by two curved pediments— similar to my four-poster bed. My younger sister had a Tammy doll and a Pepper doll who kept their clothing in a basket. Later she had a Barbie that we named Jane. And not too long after we were done spending our allowance money on My Little Ponies (from the 1980s), we spent it on a plethora of Barbies. I liked their size and their clothes. Why on earth did I feel I needed so many?
I stopped playing with Barbies at an embarrassingly late age. But I wasn’t losing anything. By then, I had begun to design my own dolls. It started innocently enough with a 1:12 scale dollhouse and dollhouse furniture and some porcelain-faced dolls to dress. When the dollhouse design, the room design, and the furniture construction was complete— or, as complete as I was going to complete it— it was the dolls that stuck with me.
After dressing two sets of porcelain-faced dolls, I designed my first set of dollhouse dolls. Their bodies were made of twisted 18-gauge copper wire, their heads of polymer clay. Their over-sized polymer clay feet were embedded with steel washers to help them stand, unaided. After cooking the dolls, I wrapped and padded their limbs, did their hair, and dressed them in permanent clothing. I never did paint the faces.
For my second set of dollhouse dolls, I again used 18-gauge copper wire, but I decided to bypass the polymer clay. I padded their bodies & sewed their skin of flesh-toned felt. Their heads were felt-covered wood beads. Their hair was embroidery floss. Their faces were blank. And the dolls’ clothing was changeable. Teeny tiny jogging suits and dresses slipped on and off their wire-limbed, footless bodies. Of course, I could bend their wire up for feet.
And then I went off to college and left the father sitting there in his green lounge chair reading the newspaper by a cozy fire under the stairs in the inglenook. I never returned.
to be continued