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.

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.


  1. That is interesting to think of what doll she might have been making hers after. The mold she used could have been an "old" mold of a doll artist she was inspired by. Thanks for making the new place here, how exciting!

  2. Fabulous post! I too have been thinking an awful lot about this topic. I've got original chinas (more affordable) and reproduction French Fashions (because originals are financially out of my reach).

    As an amateur artist, I want to do more than one type of 'thing' and so I don't think I want to focus on Izannah types all the time. That could get boring, and even Izannah changed up her 'look' over time.

    I think there's room for all interpretations of antique dolls.

    And eventually, someone else will acquire an original Izannah and make a mold too. Either to make dolls or sell to artists making their own. Now that the door has been opened, it's only a matter of time. I think we'll be seeing a lot more of this type reproduction in the future.

  3. I love making all sorts of dolls, but I'm always drawn back to Izannahs. I keep seeing them with new eyes as time goes on. And I also enjoy seeing others' interpretations. They are such a rich topic for study. I hope that everyone keeps making them. The more Izannahs, the merrier! By the way, Dixie, that last part about different singers singing the same beautiful song...with those cute little birdies...sniff, sniff...that was so sweet!

  4. I agree with you, Dixie--there's always room for new interpretations of earlier designs. No one is going to be able to completely reproduce an IW doll, even using a mold. There are too many unanswered questions about her process and her materials. And each artist has his or her own way of "seeing" an original, be it a doll or a piece or furniture or something else from the past that inspires us. The challenge lies in developing one's own creativity and craftsmanship.

  5. I always wondered if her dolls may have resembled what she herself may have looked like...

    She is such an inspiration, and I so admire the GREAT details she put into her work sort of reminds me of someone else I know.

  6. Great article. Using a mold of an original Izannah Doll is interesting and there are indeed some artists that utilize molds in their work. Scott Smith of Rucus Studios makes some molds of his original works and creates new art from them.

    Kathy Patterson is an amazing doll artist and I look forward to seeing what she comes up with.

    I myself think making a mold of an original Izannah is a bit like cheating. No offense that is only my opinion.

    My dolls are not only created with the inspiration of the original Izannahs but also with the inspiration of all of the amazing modern doll artists that create dolls inspired by Izannah Walker using their artistry and individually to create their one of a kind pieces of art.

    So perhaps I could call my dolls,
    Izannah, Dixie, Martha, Elaine, Judi, Lina, Annie, Jackie, Susie, Edyth, Barbara, Cindi, Deanna, Julie, Christine, Robin, Judy, Kimberly, Patty, Nancy and many other amazing Izannah inspired artists inspired Dolls.

  7. Great post! Thank you! Question: If a person makes a mold of an Izannah, but then does not use cloth to reproduce the doll, is it still an Izannah replica?

    There was one such on Ebay just recently, and the seller said she had had a mold made, but the new doll itself, the seller said, was made of thin composition, poured, I would think, and then stuffed. The position of the thumb would indicate, maybe, that the mold was flexible, like silicone, rather than a plaster mold.

  8. Hi, Mary - you post an interesting question...I think a replica would mean that the same process is used and that it looks like the original creation.

    I question whether it's possible to make an exact replica, although I think it's possible to make a close likeness of an Izannah doll.

    Kathy Patterson's dolls are molded from the original dolls heads/shoulders, and she makes the cloth body based on a copy of the original doll. It is painted cloth that you're seeing on the body. The head is a substance that can be poured in a mold. Her dolls look hauntingly like Izannah's, but a touch would tell you that the head is not cloth.

    Izannah's process was to press glue-soaked fabric into a press mold. Once that was hardened batting was placed over this, then stockinette, then "paste" then paint. Many artists are doing part of the process quite well. It's fun to see.


  9. Dixie,
    Interesting comments, I too have wondered about the differences between Artist Izannah Dolls and copies of Izannah. Someday I would like to make my own version. I look forward to further reading.
    Thanks Diane

  10. I think the fun part is we all get a chance to pretend we are living in 1860 and we give the new generation a piece of the past. Many objects are reproduced and it seems the supply does not meet the demand. Through the ages all types and quality of dolls have sold. I certainly have got enjoyment through buying and observing.


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