Friday, June 23, 2017
Thursday, June 22, 2017
Mattel sent out an email about the new dolls, including four new versions of Ken that I blogged about for Ruby Lane.com. Even more body types and diverse looks are available, making Barbie truly the "Everydoll" of our time.
Once again, dolls appear on the old Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Last night, they did a sketch from the early 90s parodying home video shows. A baby doll was bounced around in a sketch about a baby swept out a window. The doll reappeared baked in a birthday cake her mother took home. NO babies were harmed, of course. Last week the show from January 22, 1985 featured a detailed miniature room with bisque doll house dolls as part of a skit featuring The Mighty Carson Art Players.
Dolls are everywhere!!
Dolls are everywhere!!
Tuesday, June 20, 2017
|Self portrait if Leo Moss. Built over a discarded|
composition doll. Photo by E. Tsagaris, D. Neff Collection
|Leo Moss Doll. D. Neff Collection. Photo by E. Tsagaris|
|Primitive Doll, leather head--Photo by E. Tsagaris. D. Neff Collection|
|Coconut head by Isabel Greathouse. D. Neff Collection. Photo: E. Tsagaris|
|Handmade cloth doll. Costume of this doll emulates those of more expensive bisque dolls.|
Photo, E. Tsagaris.
|Example from Neff photo collection of girls with dolls and black dolls. Photo by E. Tsagaris|
Black dolls have played a role in our history from the first example created centuries ago. Dolls tell the story of the people who created them, and are portraits of their makers in many ways. Black dolls speak of courage, culture, art, and history that have shaped human endeavors for millennia. Ancient Venus figures with corn-rowed hair, Egyptian Paddle dolls and Ushabti, ancient Iron figures from
Nubian dolls and others testify to this
legacy of black doll making. Benin
during the late 80s, the Rev. C. Laverne Williams, a lovely lady and gracious
hostess, held a show devoted to black doll artists called The Holiday Festival
of Black Dolls. R. John Wright, Magge Head Kane, Floyd Bell, Carry Lisle, Leo Moss, Shindana Toys, so many other gifted artists
created them, too. The former Me Dolls site had amazing images of all kinds of
dolls of color and ethnicity. O. Winfrey supposedly had a big collection, and
the late Patrick Kelly, designer, had over 6000. His logo was a tiny black
celluloid baby doll, sometimes made into a pin.
I once passed over a great T-shirt printed with one of these. It was for
sale at Nordstrom’s. Silly me. California
Folk dolls made by slaves are valuable pieces of Americana that tell of historical struggle and injustice, and black dolls made of nuts, wood, nipples, cloth, and other materials are the subject of museums and exhibits all their own. Janet Pagter Johl wrote of them and pictured them in her books, and those picture here are from a current exhibit of black dolls at The Figge Art Museum,
are from the D. Neff Davenport, IA.
Collection, and are part of an exhibit from the
I was lucky enough to meet the talented woman who collected the dolls on
exhibit, and also to attend the opening and reception. Mingei Museum
Collection, and are part of an exhibit from the
Examples that have become scarce include black sock dolls that fit over antique bottles. Examples of these and other folk dolls exist in Wendy Lavitt’s American Folk Dolls, Myla Perkins’ Black Dolls series, and Carl Fox’s The Doll.
Black Kewpie, aka “Hottentots”, are the quintessential doll for February; the angelic Kewpies, originally drawn by Rose O’Neill, sport blue wings and a red heart, and the black examples are iconic as well. The RJW “Hottentot” Kewpie was release in 2001, and is made of felt and jointed. The doll, of course, sports the famous red Kewpie heart, and is just adorable!
Lenci and Norah Wellings made exceptional black dolls of felt and velvet, and Madame Alexander has provided amazing and detailed examples over the years, some very rare models.
Another iconic black doll, the Golliwog, was inspired, in part, by a performer who was sketched by Toulouse Lautrec, “Chocolat.” Originally born in
, Chocolat was a star during
the Moulin Rouge Era, and Debussy’s “Golliwog’s Cakewalk”, Part of The
Children’s Suite, was a nod to Chocolat the entertainer. Robertson’s Jellies has long been associated
with its Golliwog log and ins and other memorabilia it has sold. They appear in Florence K. Upton’s “Two Dutch
Dolls” in a Golliwog, and I’ve seen examples from Brazil Germany
(Steiff), The United States, England,
and . South Africa
Black memorabilia dolls and figures are popularly collected and include Mammy dolls made of different materials, often sold as souvenirs in
Elsewhere. Other Mammy dolls are portraits of actress Hattie McDaniel, who
played Mammy in Gone with The Wind. Miss
McDaniel was the first African American actress to win the Oscar for her role,
but she was also an avid doll collector and a pen pal of my friend, doll author
and artist R. Lane Herron. New Orleans
Dolls from Africa and the
illustrate the diverse nature and origin of dolls of color. Africa has
a rich history of dolls, idols, and masks that influenced Picasso and The
Cubists. These dolls are made of wood,
iron, other metals, cloth, beeswax, husks, all sorts of natural materials, and
beads. An interesting exercise is to
assemble pictures or examples of Dolls and statues made in African countries by
African artists and group them next to a selection of black dolls form other
parts of the world. The variety of the
African dolls is astounding, but often, the dolls from other parts of the world
are simply painted black or brown. It is
an interesting study of how the African people see themselves, and how some
other parts of the world see them.
Yet, black or brown bisque dolls, and antique wooden dolls are also things of beauty. An ethnic papier mache doll attributed to Bru of the Rosalie Whyel collection and represents a tribal woman wearing leather and beads. She could be the dignified woman associated with Kurtz in “Heart of Darkness.” Bru dolls and French fashion dolls of brown bisque are astounding, as are automatons like Zula the Snake Charmer. Zula once fetched a quarter of a million dollars at auction, and a light skinned, biracial Jumeau exhibition doll has been valued at $250,000. Black Frozen Charlottes and
heads have a charm all their
own and make an amazing collection.
Black wax dolls and Crèche figures of the Three Kings often provide
unusual additions to doll collections.
Puppets and marionettes are also terrific finds. For more of these, review Mary Hillier’s
books Wax Dolls, Automata, Dolls and Doll
Makers, and Chloe Preston and the Peek-A-Boos. Also, check out Who won China Second Place
at Omaha about Lenon Hoyte’s museum, Aunt
Len’s, once in Harlem.
Vintage black dolls include versions of Terri Lee, Nancy Ann Storybook Dolls, Chatty Cathy, Drowsy, Barbie, and Barbie’s friends as well as original creations like Afro Malaika, Ayoka and others by Annette Himstedt, Phillip Heath Dolls, Shindana toy babies, Ashanti, Florence Griffith Joyner, Julia, Diana Ross, Redd Foxx, Jimmie Walker, Flip Wilson, Josephine Baker, Michael Jordan, Michael Jackson, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, Butterfly McQueen, M.C. Hammer, and Steve Urkel.
These dolls alone tell an amazing story. Museums are devoted to them, and books are written about them. Like all dolls, they deserve to be curated, collected, and preserved as historical artifacts of humanity itself.
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Below is the famous speech by John of Gaunt; nothing expresses our love for England better. We salute the people of the UK, in memory of my dear friends, British Writers Mary Hillier and Angela Wells:
in with the triumphant sea England
John of Gaunt describes England
John of Gaunt: This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
, demi-paradise, Eden
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this
This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings,
Fear'd by their breed and famous by their birth,
Renowned for their deeds as far from home,
For Christian service and true chivalry,
As is the sepulchre in stubborn Jewry,
Of the world's ransom, blessed Mary's Son,
This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land,
Dear for her reputation through the world,
Is now leased out, I die pronouncing it,
Like to a tenement or pelting farm:
Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege
Neptune, is now bound in with shame,
With inky blots and rotten parchment bonds:
was wont to conquer others, England
Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.
Ah, would the scandal vanish with my life,
How happy then were my ensuing death!
Monday, May 29, 2017
I recited this poem at a Memorial Day school program in sixth grade, wearing a prairie dress my mother sewed for me. I don't remember the author, or one line of the poem, but here it is for all veterans, and for my grandfather's an everyone else in my family who served, and for my students in the military:
|PD image of the Star Spangled Banner|
My Grandpa’s old and kind of lame,
He doses in his chair,
And when the family goes some place,
He stays and doesn’t care.
He’d rather stay at home,
Than dress to go uptown,
And when he knows there’s
He’s always lying down.
But once a year there’s quite a change on
Then Grandpa wears his uniform and
Hurries me away,
[To see a big Parade] . . . .
The shiny cars with great folks in,
The flower girls in white,
The bands that play the national airs,
With all their wind and might,
And the boys that wear OD
And straight and tall,
The wind a blowing
Through his hair,
My Grandpa Stands Through it