Do what you do with love!
Some days you just have to create your own sunshine.
I always loved dolls as a child but was pressured to give them up sooner than I wanted. Maybe that is why now as an adult I choose to enjoy them still. Nevertheless, while it seems like I’m ‘playing’ with dolls I’m simply enjoying little works of art. Fusing several interests into a hobby, such as my love for history, photography, decorating, fashion, antiques, and collecting hand carved wooden dolls or apprentice furniture pieces, I have found that creating these scenes is very therapeutic to my soul. I do it simply because I enjoy it.
My taste in dolls has gravitated back in time over the years to the 17th and 18th centuries. Even though I grew up in the 1970’s, it actually makes sense.
The one doll that I cherished most from my childhood was my Sindy doll made by Marx in 1978. When I woke up on that Christmas morning I was hoping for a new Barbie doll. Instead my mother (er…Santa) had discovered Sindy and for a moment I was very disappointed until I realized that she could be posed in virtually any way that a person could be. And who could resist that brown calico prairie dress!
And she had a house! A “Scenesetter” is what it was called. The girl that lived next to me had the most beautiful doll house with tiny furniture, but it was always so awkward trying to play house without knocking everything over in the process. The Scenesetter was a delight! It was simple by design, pieces of laminated cardboard that created four rooms in which a young girl and her friends could all play with together. And the furniture was fabulous!
Tiny silverware that fit in the buffet and the fancy candlesticks on the table.
Best of all – I was the only one of my friends who had a Sindy doll!
I still remember the stereo with a radio that really worked!
And the lamp that lit up at her bedside!
So it sort of makes sense that I love these tiny things and making room scenes.
But why don’t I use Sindy? Why 18th century?
Well, I also had an uncle who collected trains and liked to make mangers out of wood. He used to organize an annual doll and miniature show and my cousin and I would get to go and help out. I look back on those memories with great fondness and think of him often when I am creating these “rooms”. I was able to see and appreciate a lot of wonderful antique dolls and doll houses as well as artist made miniatures during those years. When I got older and made a decent living, I was able to go to shows and continue to enjoy seeing and studying all sorts of wonderful things from the past.
But it wasn’t until a few years ago that I really got the bug for Queen Anne type dolls and period miniatures. I began traveling to places like Brussels, Amsterdam, and London for work and distracted myself from my homesickness by visiting the museums.
It was at the V&A that I met Lord and Lady Clapham and all of their finery!
And of course Queen Mary’s Dollhouse!
I was hooked!
Dollhouses are fascinating things! Learn about their history and miraculous healing power by reading here or enjoy the New York Times Bestseller: “The Miniaturist” by Jessie Burton (found on Amazon).
Some day I hope to create a doll house cabinet.
But what does one do when one doesn’t live in London or have vast wealth to afford buying a real 18th century dollhouse or Queen Anne doll?
You improvise of course!
Luckily I have a closet, or rather nook, in my home office that I really didn’t use very much.
My husband had made shelves for me to display my dolls and other tiny things.
But like a curio cabinet full of dolls in stiff metal stands, it just didn’t seem fun enough.
Creative Doll Display
So I went to the local hobby store and bought balsa, basswood, and a hobby saw. And then I searched on Ebay for dollhouse trims and windows. I use “playscale” sized windows and “plank” sized dollhouse wood flooring.
I used to collect Schoenhut dolls and while I just loved how they can be posed just as my beloved Sindy, they are rather large even though most of the dolls I have now are the same height at 14 and 16 inches. Schoenhuts are chunkier wooden art dolls from the Edwardian period.
The dolls I collect now are mostly made by doll artist Kathy Patterson.
A 1:12 dollhouse scale won’t work.
Apprentice pieces and salesman samples are a great scale for them and I emulate everything else to be about a scale in which one inch is equivalent to about 3 feet.
I didn’t want the walls to be permanent or limit myself in variety so I used foam poster board trimmed to sized and glued the basswood and balsa to it. It’s easy and relaxing to create these. I paint them using period colors in chalk style paint. I make the “glass” windowpanes using clear plastic and paint them with “triple thick” to give them a wavy look. I still need to make curtains but like any hobby this is something I do over time.
Each “room” has a fireplace or “hearth” in the center and four sections that can be interchanged. Each shelf is about 50″ wide and almost 20″ tall. You can be as perfectionistic as you want to be. I personally am not that picky.
In fact, I like that some of the scale of my little treasures is not quite perfect. Just as the dolls bodies are not perfectly scaled, neither is their house! But it works for my purposes.
I fill the rooms to the brim with all my tiny treasures. And because Kathy’s dolls are jointed at the hips and knees, they can sit. The upper arms are cloth so they too can bend. They are not quite as poseable as Sindy or a Schoenhut doll, but their faces are amusing and their fashions are to die for! Every tiny stitch is hand sewn and antique textiles and laces are imported from Europe to create lovely fashions.
If you are a textile lover like me, what better way to enjoy them but by giving new life to remnants by turning them into petite couture!
This doll is an Old Pretender.
Even though space is limited, because the walls can be reconfigured-
there is no limit to the possibilities!