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Izannah Walker Reproduction Dolls

original Izannah Walker doll, picture by Dixie Redmond
“Will I still be making Izannah Walker inspired dolls?”


NOTE: The answer is YES. This post has been updated to reflect my journey in making Izannah Walker Reproduction Dolls and my establishment of the Hopestill Clan, pressed cloth izannah Walker dolls made from a mold I made of my antique Izannah Walker doll Hope. If you'd like to know more, please visit Northdixie Designs, the blog written by me, Dixie Redmond.

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This question is asked in light of artist
Kathy Patterson making a mold of her original Izannah Walker doll and using the mold to make reproduction Izannah Walker dolls.
Yes, I will still be making Izannah Walker inspired dolls, for many reasons. Before I get to all the whys of that I'd like to talk a bit about being inspired and the recent history of artists making Izannah inspired works.
 
 Helen Pringle doll picture courtesy of Deanna Hogan

There is something to be learned from studying Izannah's work, just as painters learn by copying the works of artists who came before them such as Rembrandt or Michelangelo or Monet. In the act of trying to make a creation like those who come before, we learn something. Doll makers who have quoted Izannah Walker in their work include Martha Chase, Helen Pringle, Edyth O'Neill, and Judy Tasch a decade or more ago.
 
 Edyth O'Neill Doll, sculpted by Edyth
 
 Martha Chase doll Martha was inspired by her childhood doll made by Izannah Walker. 
 picture courtesy of Deanna Hogan

These artists have elements of Izannah's techniques or painting styles in their work. Many of us have more recently made Izannah inspired or Izannah reproduction dolls. I won't try to name all of us who have made Izannah inspired dolls because we are quite a throng. Some really wonderful dolls have come about as a result of trying to understand and emulate Izannah's work.  

 
 Judie Tausch dolls, Doll Reader photograph

Methods of approaching an Izannah Walker inspired doll have included making all cloth oil painted dolls, photo face dolls which have a photo print of an Izannah doll on a cloth base, dolls with stiffened masks, dolls made with paperclay, dolls made with paperclay and a stockinette cover, and now using a direct mold of an Izannah Walker doll. All of the attempts have been at the least interesting and at the most marvelous. As artists have made dolls, some have wanted to make a doll which looks exactly like an Izannah doll, and others have been more interested in using Izannah's exact methods. All of the works up till now will fall somewhere on the continuum of being an exact copy of the original to being inspired by the original.
 
Exact Copy of Original ----------------- Inspired by Original

Making copies of old dolls is nothing new. If the artist is up front and not trying to pass off the work as an antique original, it's quite legitimate in the doll-making world. When I emailed Edyth O'Neill this article for her thoughts she replied,
“Thousands of molds have been taken off old china and bisque dolls and some papier mache's too. When anything becomes really valuable it is a target to reproduce, anything from rocking horses to quilts to pressed glass. Dolls are surely no exception! Reproduction Izannah dolls fill the same need as do the reproduction Bisque A T's or the Reproduction Bru's. Collectors who would love to have an original Izannah Walker doll but feel they cannot afford one, may opt to purchase one of these reproduction ones instead. Emma Clear used to make molds from the old dolls as well as from her own sculpts. Mildred Seeley built a whole business on selling supplies and molds for reproduction dolls. “
Izannah herself used molds and we don't know what the original molds were made from – her own sculpt, another artist's sculpt or perhaps an early antique doll she owned? Elaine McNally commented that using a direct mold of an original Izannah doll is a 3D version of those who have made “photo-face” dolls. While Kathy Patterson's Izannah heads are molded from the original Izannah Walker dolls, she paints the molded heads herself. The end result is a doll that closely resembles the originals. No doubt about it, this does raise the bar for artists trying to make a doll which looks like an Izannah doll. So now I come back to the question of “Will I still be making Izannah Walker inspired dolls?” Of course I will, just as I always have done since beginning doll making. And here are my reasons why:
1. I find pleasure in making an Izannah Walker inspired doll. My purpose in making an Izannah inspired doll isn't only to make a likeness of one, but to think about the character of the doll maker. Izannah Walker is a kind of icon for me, because I see her as woman who achieved a lot of things in an environment that wasn't a level playing field for women. This inspires me. 
2. I personally still have something to learn in the making of an Izannah Walker inspired doll. I sculpt my dolls by hand, and part of the challenge for me is to see how closely I can get to the feeling of the original Izannahs in my own sculpt. I've learned a lot through attempting this. 
3. I believe there is room for different kinds of art in this world, including different kinds of Izannah Walker inspired dolls. It's like hearing the same song sung by different singers. Many versions can be beautiful.

Fairchildren and the Creative Spirit of Helen Pringle


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This is a repost from a blog post in 2014. Sadly, Helen passed away last year. But I am so glad that I was able to do this email interview. 

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Not long ago, I (Dixie) was lucky to purchase a Helen Pringle doll to add to my study collection for a while.  Most doll groups that focus on making vintage and antique dolls will eventually discuss Helen Pringle’s work. Her creations have the appeal of antique dolls, something many of us try to capture. Helen’s work is highly collectible for those who love cloth dolls.

In studying this doll, I had the chance to ask Helen some questions about the doll Sethany Fairchild (pictured) and her other artistic creations. She graciously answered them.  

What inspired you to make antique inspired dolls?  How did you decide to sell them?

My mother, aunts and grandmother were seamstresses and my sister and I learned to sew as girls. I remember an apron I made in 4-H, and learning to embroider as a child. Around 1980 I met Elizabeth Patton, a fellow antique collector who moved from Houston to Fort Worth.  She was a doll collector of mostly big papier maches and had done repair for a doll shop in Houston.  Sitting in a child's chair in Elizabeth’s house was a huge cloth doll in children's clothing - she was mind-boggling.  When Elizabeth told me she had made the doll, I could hardly believe it, and asked her if she ever shared her pattern.  Not yet, she said.  She had devised the pattern from a large doll she had repaired, she told me.  

To see more images of Sethany Fairchild, visit this photo album.

Several years later, she sold me her pattern, reserving the right to make her own dolls still, though I don't think she ever did. (In fact, she later had me to make her three, 36" black girl and black boy and 26" white girl.)  Soon in the mail came a flat envelope containing odd pieces of grocery sack, which I finally figured out was the pattern, without instructions.  

Naturally, I began to tinker with it, and my first efforts at painting were pretty crude, as I am a left-brain person and not at all artistic.  I had made stuffed toys for my children, so I didn't have to learn that.  I don't remember if Elizabeth had an undercoating, or if she used acrylics or oils, but the Miracle Messy Mixture was my own undercoating for the head, shoulders and arms. (See the recipe for Miracle Messy Mixture here). One of the first dolls I made was a 36" girl for Dolly Johnson (Dolly FairChild) in 1983, and then people began to order them.



This is a chicken or egg question:  Did your interest in dolls grow out of your love for antiques or did your love of antique dolls lead you to love antiques?  

I was an antique collector long before and not a doll collector.  Rug hooking also preceded dolls, as that began in 1978.  I was never, and am not to this day, interested in "fine dolls" of bisque, French bebes, etc., though did come to like early small chinas, cloth, wood, and small papier maches.   I am in awe of  Edyth's stunning collection.

In the course of our email conversation, Helen shared about the doll types she created:

Dolls Series Made by Helen Pringle

FairChildren

FairChildren were made in 36” and 26” sizes. They wore actual children's vintage clothes and shoes, or dresses in documentary prints or old fabric made especially for them. There were boy and girl and black and white versions of these dolls.  Helen numbered the larger dolls.

For years Helen included some antique piece with each, jewelry/handbag for the girls, pin/toy for the boys, until it became too expensive.  The 36" dolls had one bag of stuffing in the head and 2-1/2 to 3 in the rest of the doll.  The head pieces are double-stitched because of the large amount of stuffing needed to obtain the rounded shape.  Helen mentions that on special request, she made one baby in these dolls. Helen thinks she may have made up to 90 Fairchildren dolls.  Sethany, pictured above, is No. 58.



Maids and Lads of Salem

The Maids and Lads were 21” in height.  They were made for a Harvest Festival show at the Essex Museum (now the Peabody-Essex) in Salem, Mass.  They were small versions of the big Fairchildren dolls.  Their clothing and shoes were new, but in old styles.

Tansy/Tabby  - A Two-Faced Friend

Tansy-Tabby was made for a class Helen taught at a Doll Seminar in Utah, measuring 10-12” in height.  She was a small project to teach oil painting a doll in an easily portable unit.  Helen loves old topsys and has several in her collection of antique textiles. At one time Helen offered a pattern of Tansy/Tabby.  

Mary Mason-Dixon, She Has North and South Feet
(See Dixie's previous post

Mary Mason-Dixon dolls measure about 14-15".  She was inspired by an antique doll and was also sold as a pattern for other doll makers.   Helen says, “I loved the Marys; a friend in Maine asked me to repair her old, old cloth doll, which I did, and then gave me permission to reproduce her.  They came in both black and white girls; all the white Marys had red hair, and all the black Marys had black hair.The first one I made had a wig of red mohair, but the rest had painted hair. The Marys had a little verse that went with them, which I typed and printed on fabric on my printer.”

One of a Kind Dolls:

Helen also made one-of-a-kind cloth dolls occasionally - Emily Morgan, The Yellow Rose of Texas, Nizhoni, Navajo girl with moccasins made from old leather gloves and real turquoise jewelry.  Nizhoni is the Navajo word for beautiful.

Helen tried her hand at Sculpey and made several dolls of it.  She says it was wonderful fun.

For her niece's collection,Helen made a tiny replica of Hitty, just a little bigger than the real Hitty (made of wood) dressing her in a petticoat with her name cross-stitched on the front just like the original Hitty.

Helen made other doll heads/arms/legs from Sculpey and made cloth bodies for them.  Helen says, “The better one is Persona (The Pleasant Peasant), seated in a rustic chair with a wooden bowl and spoon in her lap, barefoot and with red hair in an early style.  Standing, she would be about 14-15" tall.”

All these one of a kind dolls were finish-painted with oils.


For someone who describes herself as “not at all artistic”,  Helen created a large body of three dimensional works, reminiscent of folk dolls of the past.  Helen’s dolls are beloved by doll makers and collectors alike.  Doll makers inspired by antiques want to emulate the spirit that Helen captured in her work. 

Resources for Making Antique Inspired Doll Quilts

Discovering new worlds is fun.  If you'd like to see the other posts about doll quilts here on Maida Today, click here.  In this post, I'd like to focus on resources for making antique inspired doll quilts.  I love quilts, but making a large sized quilt is beyond my attention span.  But making a doll-sized quilt would be just right!

Visit Edyth O'Neill's blog, she's got a lot of doll quilt pictures up right now.  The pictures of Martha Rutledge's quilt reminded me of how I came to discover some resources about making doll quilts.   I oohed and ahed over a picture Edyth shared via email of a quilt that Martha Rutledge had made.  When I mentioned I would like to make a doll quilt, Martha recommended the joining Kathleen Tracy's quilt group.

Hexagon Quilt by Kathy Tracy
Kathleen Tracy has written many books, and leads some groups focused on her work on Facebook.    Kathy has written several books about making small quilts, and one book in particular is focused on American Doll Quilts.   You can learn a lot about making doll quilts from Kathy's group and books.   Also, visit Kathy's website Country Lane Quilts where she has a where she has some free antique inspired doll quilt patterns.  Kathy also has a blog here called A Sentimental Quilter.

In addition to Kathy's books and resources, there are some other wonderful blogs and resources.  First off, don't forget about antique doll quilts themselves as inspiration.  Here are some links to antique doll quilts available for purchase.


Other Books About Making Doll Quilts

In addition to Kathleen Tracy's books, doll quilters have specifically recommended these books to me:



Great Little Quilts:  45 Antique Crib and Doll-size Quilts with Pattern and Directions

Twenty Little Patchwork Quilts: With Full-Size Templates

There are some great gems published in the past.  Amazon has a great list of books to try.



Some Quilt Blogs to Visit

There are a lot of wonderful sites on the web.  I picked a few here that are either focused on doll quilts, antique quilts or have great links lists related to our topic.   Visit these blogs and then look at the links they have on their blogs.  You'll find some great resources!


Barbara Brackman has a great post about the Ghormley collection of doll quilts here.

Dawn, of Collector with a Needle  (great name!) has a wonderful post on doll quilts with pictures of  a special exhibit of doll beds and quilts at the International Quilt Festival in Houston.   The Exhibit, called "Sleep Tight Doll Quilts" showcases a number of new doll quilts.  Visit Dawn's blog to see some wonderful doll quilts shown there with links to other sites on doll quilts.

Only Doll Quilts site is of interest for obvious reasons!

Marian Edwards Dreamsweaver has a great blog showcasing some quilts she has made.

Humble Quilts has a lovely post showing some antique doll quilts which inspired new doll quilts made as reproductions.


Study Antique Quilts

Inspiration for color and pattern can be found through studying antiques.  Of course, we always sign our work so as to not confuse any collectors. 
Stella Rubin Antiques 


A Body Pattern for Antique
Papier Mache and China Shoulderhead Dolls


I designed and sized a body for this head made by Dixie.  The pattern offered is suitable for many types of antique shoulder head dolls made of china and papier mache.  It may be sized up or down on a copier to fit a particular head. As given, the body makes about a 22 inch doll.  If you do not already have a favorite basic body pattern for shoulder heads I hope this will become it. To read and see more about it go to this entry on the new blog about my doll family.
http://dollsformyredcape.blogspot.com/2015/02/making-cloth-bodies-for-dolls.html 

If you see Dixie's skilled hand behind the look of this new blog you are right!  Beautiful! 


There are seven pages in this downloadable pdf document. When printing it from your computer you might like to print pages 1,6 and 7 on photo paper and the other pages on plain.  Make several copies of pages 3 and 4 with the pattern shapes and enlarge or reduce these as desired for different dolls.   Both a full figured and a more slender torso are given.  It is easy to customize the pattern for your own projects. Thanks, Edyth