Are you all ready to meet our sweet little playmates of the past? I know I’m ready to present them at last! So without much of an intro, lets begin their little history!
From Left to Right: My “updated” Hitty Doll, and the First Sir and Lady Dollhouse Couple.
A long, long time ago, in the land of childish thought, creation, and imagination, sat Brigi and I in the midst of an art class, learning the first steps of how to sculpt with polymer clay. The bright blocks of malleable color lay untouched before us as we watched our sweet teacher form shapes with deft pinches, and rolling motions of her hands. We were captivated. Ideas were pulsing through our minds like little lightning rods as we began to take up the the clay and form what would be our very first dolls. They were of a crude fashion albeit, but they were only the first of many to come, and so we forgave our first meager attempts at this delicate art. We called them our Hitty dolls, after the little doll heroine from the famous book: “Hitty ~ Her First Hundred Years” written by Rachel Fields. Brigi is still the only person in our family to have fully read that book, but that didn’t stop me from catching on to her inspiration. The original Hitty, fashioned from a block of wood was a simple doll who led a life of being passed from child to child over the course of a hundred years before she finally retired in a museum. She is one of the most remarkable dolls I have yet to hear of, and that is the only reason why we made her. Wouldn’t you want a Hitty doll too?
From that first oven baking (polymer is indeed baked to harden in the oven), to the clothing of our little dolls, Brigi and I knew that polymer clay was the medium for doll making. We ordered books from the library via a mailing system they had (Lucky I know! We don’t have that where we live now!), and from them, we made our first Sir and lady dollhouse couple, as shown above.
From Left to Right: Lizzy (Pride and Prejudice) with her daughter and baby boy, Miss Bella and Brigi’s first Hitty.
I don’t remember what the book was called that we used to make our first doll house families, but it was well written, well illustrated, and it even had patterns for their tiny clothes! We came up with a very constructive assembly line: I was the head sculptor and painter (Brigi pitched in when she wanted to paint her own faces), and she was the seamstress. As you can see, her work is of bafflingly tiny proportions! I could hand sew myself, but she had the knack for it, while I had the eyes and fingers for sculpting the correct features into each doll. They all had their own personalities to be sure, and even in the case of Lizzy Darcy, she never quite came out like the actress, but she seems to have taken on the character from the book, only with a more maternal air. We never made Mr. Darcy, for one reason: we didn’t like sculpting men! What girl would, may I ask? So, to remedy this problem, we always pretended that all of the husbandless wives had made a sad parting with their lords when a call to sea had been directed their way. After that, the story went that the wives received a few endearing letters, but ultimately, they were never to see their poor darlings again. To put it simply, their husbands died at sea. A terrible plague or something like that overtook them on board their ships. Sad. Very sad. Hem hem…
…Anyhow, Brigi and I did get into the experimental mode every so often, and we tried our hands at making dolls who were of a different joint construction. The original dollhouse dolls were jointed at the head, shoulders, elbows, knees (no, not toes, thankfully!) with little holes in the limbs, and pipe cleaners glued into them after they were baked in the oven. Sadly, we played so much with them that the glue would unstick itself, and the limbs would fall off! So Miss Bella, the hatted doll above, was a new creation so to speak, made solely by Brigi. She was supposed to have a better limb structure, but something happened in the process that made her not turn out. Thus, like the rest, Miss Bella failed to improve the jointed system. She was wired differently (no pun intended), not to mention made with a different clay, but even still, she was prone to falling apart. Oh, how we tried to master the art! No matter what we tried, we still found that when you use something well, it must needs collapse at some time or other. So we were seamstresses, cobblers, and “body builders” for our little dolls for as long as we played with them.
These pretty cloth dolls were made by Brigi, dressed by Brigi, and markered and hair dressed by me. The family was constructed during the time in which we were tired of putting our dollhouse dolls back together all the time, and so they, being sewn, were perfect…except for size… They are each nearly a foot long, so they couldn’t be dollhouse dolls. We cant remember the last name we gave this delightful family, but I do remember calling my doll (the plaid skirted one) Alice. I loved the name Alice at that time. Charlotte (um… I seem to have forgotten to mention that Charlotte did have a hand in the dolls. Hem… She played with them. And for a while that was all she did. *grin*) played the mother and father dolls of this set, and Brigi and I had a jolly time telling her what to say and do with them. Many years we played like this until Charlotte discovered she had thoughts and ideas of how she wanted to play with her dolls. It got so out of hand that she began to look past what Brigi and I had made, and wanted to have some real dollhouse dolls to play with of her very own, and not just the cloth dolls. So we made…
The Botsford family! Here, lain across the little backdrop is the founding family of a little town we would call, Carnationton. They are of a curious makeup. One day, while in the isles of the Payless Shoe Source store, Brigi and I were playing with those silly scraps of hose found in those dinky boxes, and stretching them over our fingers. Almost instantaneously, both our heads shot up, and we read the same thoughts in each other’s heads–we should try to cover pipe cleaners in old hose to make unbreakable limbs!!! As soon as we got home, we took down our box of old white tights, and before long we had made several stick figures with pipe cleaners, and were sewing up little tiny covers to go over them. We had a thing of wooden beads on hand and those were quickly made into little heads. Then the process halted. What to do about the faces? We had both seen the Amish style of doll, in which the heads had no faces, and for some reason, we liked the idea of imagining on the doll’s expressions, and thus we didn’t mar their tiny wooden complexions.
Well, our brilliant idea to cover the little soft, wire limbs ended up being quite tedious–who would want to spend hours making little “birthday suits” for the growing number of family members? Not us! So the younger Botsfords possessed no such covering, and were made of simple pipe cleaners. However, if you want to discuss tedious sewing, don’t look any further than Brigi’s ridiculously tiny costumes! She patiently would sew little ruffles onto full skirts, pleat the tiniest of sleeves, and embroider endless little knots onto delicate ball gowns. She, out of anyone, topped all of the hard work when it came to making dolls, and we thank her for it!
For a while I joined the girls in playing with this family, but before long, Charlotte took my place and played for hours on end with these little people. There were many things the girls did with these precious little playthings. I would play often, but my favorite thing to do was to make them accessories for the actual little houses. And in the midst of it all, Charlotte began to become adventurous. Brigi and I would be right in the middle of making a new piece of furniture for one house or another, when Charlotte would come up to our crafting station and, without waiting for us to make her something, she began to make her own dollhouse dolls! She surprised us both with her ingenuity, but you will have to wait until next week to see for yourselves. Stay tuned!
CREDITS // Author: Jessica Boyer; Photography: Charlotte Boyer; Photos edited with VSCO Film Presets.