RESTORING ANA MCGUFFEY

I collected dolls for years. Collecting is easy. Restoring is more of a challenge. Before I gave up collecting, I learned to restore my old dolls.

Up front, let me say that I’m not crafty. I can’t sew, crochet, knit, or carve. I can’t change the cartridges in my printer. I can write and I can take pictures. I can draw a bit. And I can cook. Otherwise, I’m pretty much a washout as a craftsperson. But I collected dolls for years. If you collect, there are things you need to do yourself because even if you have lots of money, finding someone else to do them is difficult … maybe impossible. I learned because I had no choice.

This is the best work I did. After Ana McGuffey, I pretty much stopped collecting and promptly forgot everything I ever knew. Use it or lose it.


Composition was the material favored by quality dollmakers such as American Character and Madame Alexander before the 1940s when hard plastic became the material of choice. The changeover from composition to hard plastic was gradual. Some composition dolls were produced as late as the 1950s, though not many.

Composition is basically sawdust, glue, varnish and paint.  It is a very good molding material, but it disintegrates over time. Dampness rots it. Excessive heat will destroy it. Time will have its way with it. Many dolls I love are old composition dolls. Finding these dolls in pristine condition can be impossible. If available, they are costly. Lacking money, I decided to learn to fix them. Old composition dolls in a state of deterioration are not difficult to acquire. If you can repair them yourself, you can get rare dolls for short money … but you will invest many long hours of yourself.

Ana McGuffey 4

Ana McGuffey (of the reader of the same name) was one of Madame Alexander’s most popular character dolls for decades, from the 1910s through the 1940s. Although her face changed with the times, she always had her hair in braids. She wore a pinafore with a floral print dress. Stocking and buttoned shoes.

I finally got a 20″ Ana McGuffey. Half of each foot was rotted away. The paint on her face was chipped and faded and her wig and clothing were gone. She was in pieces and needed restringing.

I replaced her feet by modeling them using a clay-like epoxy material. This stuff is used for modeling all kinds of stuff. It’s difficult to use, but forms a very hard, resin-like substance when it dries.

I restrung her, repainted her face — many failed attempts before I got it sort of right. I found a wig that looked like her original, though not the same material.

Her original wig was made of mohair. While you can get mohair wigs for restoring dolls, they are frightfully expensive and not particularly durable. I also don’t like the way they look, so I went with modern polyurethane. I made the dress and the pinafore. This is not an area in which I excel, but no one was making clothing for this doll. It was me or no dress. I could easily get dresses that would fit her, but they wouldn’t look like her original clothing. I wanted Ana to look close to her original.

She also needed a flowery straw hat and I’d gotten pretty good at buying plain hats and decorating them. I found the stocking and shoes that sufficed, though they weren’t quite what I wanted. I haven’t mastered making shoes, but all things considered I’m proud of this piece of work.

This is Ana McGuffey, Madame Alexander, circa 1930 – 1940. Restored by me.

VIEWS OF HOME – CEE’S ODD BALL PHOTO CHALLENGE WEEK 7

Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge: 2015 Week #7

Odd Ball Photos are those great photos that you take which really don’t seem to fit into a common category. These are parts of the room where I spend most of my time, where I have my laptop, the television, the dogs, and the comfortable furniture. It’s a good room to hang out and  a lot of visual “stuff” going on.

Views of my favorite room.

Sui musicians, very old, but still surprisingly cheerful ... and "Lil" by Evil Squirrel (Bill Brown)

Sui musicians, very old, but still surprisingly cheerful … and “Lil” by Evil Squirrel (Bill Brown)

Ana McGuffey

Ana McGuffey, one of the earliest and most popular of Madame Alexander’s girl dolls. From the 1940s.

Toni by Ideal ... back to back with Ana McGuffey

Toni by Ideal … back to back with Ana McGuffey

A view of the fireplace and mantel in winter's light

A view of the fireplace and mantle in winter’s light

 

AS THE YEAR DRAWS TO AN END – SHARING MY WORLD, WEEK 49

tree and dolls

CEE’S SHARE YOUR WORLD WEEK 49 – CLOSING IN ON A NEW YEAR

What is your preferred hot drink: coffee, tea, water, hot chocolate, or other?

Coffee still gets the number one sport. I like everything else too. Hot chocolate, tea, mulled cider … but coffee is my jump-start on the day.

Without it, I feel like I’m pushing my car up a hill that never ends. Lately, it’s vanilla-flavored coffee, but it may be hazelnut next week. Or plain Columbian bean. As long as it’s hot and fresh, I want it.

What was your favorite toy as a child  . . .  and now?

Annabelle

Annabelle

I was passionate about dolls and oddly, I still am. I have nearly 300 of them. On shelves, in boxes, in display cabinets. Most of them hard plastic dolls of the 1940s,1950s, and early 1960s.

A few older ones made of composite — basically sawdust and glue, which is what they made dolls from before hard plastic injection molding came of age.

Candy factories of the entire world have become one and will now be making only one kind of candy.

Which kind, if you were calling the shots?

Only ONE? That’s rough. I need two … one for dark chocolate, the other for crystallized ginger.

ginger-1

if I had to give up one of the two, I’d go with ginger. But I’d miss the chocolate. A lot.

Would you want $100,000 right now or $120,000 in a year (tax Free)?

I’d take it now. Because I could pay off all the bills leaving just the mortgage. I’d make up the remaining money in no time flat just by not having all those bills to pay. Life would get considerably easier here given a sizable infusion of cash. Very much easier and a lot more fun. Could you toss in a new car, too? With 4-wheel drive please?

It’s your 24th wedding anniversary and you want to get something for your spouse. What do you buy when you’ve been married such a long time and the only things either of you need are things you can’t afford?

Easy! You buy something no one needs, but which will make you laugh. Because fun is always with a few bucks!

I created his and hers Serendipity sweatshirts and they got here a few days ago. Cool. But weeks before I designed the sweatshirts, I had found Robby. Blame the Daily Prompt. While writing about Roomba, the vacuuming robot that couldn’t, I found a website on which someone was selling a near-mint 12″ original Robby the Robot. The one and only original toy robot who is a perfect miniature of Robby in Forbidden Planet.

Robby the Robot Forbidden Planet In box

He walks. Well, more like he stumbles, then falls over. He talks. His voice is the voice of Robby from the movie.

Note: The falling over is not from the movie, but seems to be unique to the miniature.

He says:

“How may I help you?”

“That is correct!”

“I am programmed to respond to the name Robby.”

Unlike modern robotic toys, he is wired to his remote control and what he does best, other than speak — he sounds like Walter Pidgeon — is to stand on the coffee table looking collectible.

Robby the Robot Forbidden Planet unboxed

I am, in case you haven’t noticed, very “into” collectibles. I not only have a lot of them, I used to have an online business selling them. A lot of dolls, but anything old and interesting. Lots of antique, cast-iron doorstops and bookends. I actually did pretty well for three years, until the economy crashed and that discretionary income people used to have disappeared … and my customers with it.

Today, Garry was introduced to Robby. Every time he walked and fell over backwards, we laughed. Now, standing proudly on the coffee table, he is a member of the household. We needed an entertaining, 20-year-old toy robot. Sometimes, a toy is exactly what we need. We are, after all, still children.

If a 12-inch reproduction doesn’t do it for you, you’ll be glad to know that Turner Classic Movies (TCM) is offering a full-size reproduction for $17,515.00. Shipping, at $990.00 is a bit pricey, but in for a penny, in for a pound.

robby-TCM

I AM PROGRAMMED TO RESPOND TO THE NAME ROBBY

Soulful Machines — Machines, appliances, and gadgets sometimes feel like they have their own personalities — from quirky cars to dignified food processors. What’s the most “human” machine you own?


I’m looking around me house at the many machines that keep our life running more or less smoothly. I like some better than others. Use some more than others. Some are quirkier, require more coddling and even an occasional good talking to. But soulful?

72-two-girls

Maybe it’s just the mood I’m in this morning … but nothing seems to quite fit the bill. It all seems like plastic and metal and wires today. Except the dolls. They aren’t machines. They are toys, representation of people, mostly young girls. Dressed in pretty outfits. They are souls, I think, in a plastic smiley sort of way. Each a little different from the other.

Dolls and dulcimer

The dolls are everywhere in this house. In every room but the bathrooms and the kitchen. They line shelves, bookcases, any place a dolls might stand and they watch, their sweet faces forever set in a glassy-eyes look of happiness.

BEDROOM SOUTH 10

Not glee. I wouldn’t stand for a gleeful doll. Too “Bride of Chucky” for me. No, my girls — and some Action Figure Guys — are pleased with themselves, but nothing morbid. Nothing frightening. They are my plastic pals. I talk to them and at night, they whisper amongst themselves, making plans for their future.

I can hear them.

BEDROOM SOUTH 14

 

THE DOLLS HAVE IT

Not Los Angeles. Nor old movie stars full of Botox to make them “look younger” (really makes them look like corpses, but I digress). It could be a metaphor of that West Coast city and many of its inhabitants.

Margaret O'Brian by Three

I’m talking about My World. A small, form-fitting world populated by beautifully dressed, if slightly dusty hard plastic people. Mostly girls, a few men and boys. The girls are my favorites because they take me back in time and spirit as effectively as any wormhole in the fabric of time. When I hold one of my dolls, I’m young again …and it is a time and place when my best friends were dolls.

You must not blame the girls for their plasticity. They are not plastic by choice, after all. I wonder, had they been given their druthers, if they would have preferred living flesh. I don’t know. As it is, they have stayed young long after time would have ravaged their beauty. You never know. So many “real” people choose to emulate my plastic pals, perhaps they are the model for women of the future as the world drifts to them. They become iconic images of past and future.

I have an awful lot of dolls. When I start taking pictures of them, I inevitably find myself concentrating on those I can most easily access, the dolls on easy-to-reach shelves. Others are high above my head, often crowded together and difficult to photograph in situ.

My collection is mostly hard plastic dolls from the 1950s. Some are from the 1960s and a very few from later, the early 1970s. I also have quite a few older composition dolls. These were made of sawdust, glue and paint and typically come from the 1930s and early 1940s.

It’s interesting to see how the concept of dolls changes through the decades. It’s a reflection of how girls and childhood are viewed by society as a whole. From the grownup, almost motherly dolls of the teens and twenties, to all the pretty long-haired girl dolls who dominated the industry from the 1940s through the early 1960s — you can tell what people thought of girls by the dolls with which they played.

Suddenly, in the mid 1960s, dolls looked either as if they’d taken bad acid or became fashion dolls resembling Hollywood stars. The dolls industry has always been in love with Hollywood, of course. Shirley Temple, Margaret O’Brien, Sonja Henie were just a few of many dolls based on movie stars. Book characters have been a long time favorites too as well as historical characters. Today’s American Girl dolls come with books of their own and the tradition continues.

The trend to fashion dolls moved from Hollywood to the ubiquitous Barbie … probably the longest lasting fad in doll history. I don’t understand it having never liked Barbie. Maybe it’s an age thing. By the time Barbie appeared, my doll-playing days were over and my collecting days were long in the future.

Today’s dolls range from very weird to traditional, soft-bodied girl dolls. Despite endless attempts to turn dolls electronic, dolls have stubbornly resisted. They have remained toys requiring imagination, not batteries. Everything else appears to have fallen to some version of computerization, but dolls are still silent little plastic people to whom little girls can talk when no one else will listen.

Are they spooky, my silent friends? Not to me. To me they are merely peaceful and quiet, lacking any mechanism for speech. Yet they are also eloquent. They watch. They see. All the decades through which they have survived are captured in their oddly expressive glass eyes. Their sweet, sometimes sad smiles.

Do dolls covet and yearn? I think they want only to be cuddled by some little girl. A little girl enchanted by having finally found a friend who listens and never interrupts.

And will in stillness dwell.

PLASTIC SMILES – YESTERYEAR’S DOLLS

AT HOME – INWARD AND INSIDE

Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside

Other Entries:

  1. Offspring in C3PO: Weekly Photo Challenge | ALIEN AURA’S BlOG: IT’LL BLOW YOUR MIND!
  2. WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside | Milka Pejovic
  3. My.Vivid.Visions | Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside – Toy Fruits Sweets & Cakes
  4. Inside Blue | The Artist as Pilgrim
  5. WPC: Inside |
  6. Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside | Cardinal Guzman
  7. Inside Black | follow your nose
  8. Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside | A mom’s blog
  9. Weekly Photo Challenge – Inside | Chittle Chattle
  10. Inside | Rebecca Barray – Writer/Photographer
  11. Photoworld 14-3-14 | ~~~ nur ein “Klick” ~~~ ein Kompendium
  12. Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside | The Eclectic Eccentric Shopaholic
  13. Weekly Photo Challenge – Inside | Just Snaps
  14. Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside | This, that and the other thing
  15. Putting The i In Inside… | Steve Says…
  16. Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside | Ritva’s Art – Photography
  17. Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside | one hundred thousand beats per day
  18. Weekly photo challenge: Inside | Connie’s World
  19. Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside | Cee’s Photography
  20. Inside The Healing Pillar In Nara | The Urge To Wander
  21. Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside – Pictures of Lily | Tim Wolverson – Photo Blog
  22. Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside | ILEANA PARTENIE
  23. Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside | stenoodie
  24. Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside | TinaBHH
  25. Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside | Lex on the go …
  26. Weekly Photo Challenge – Inside – I still have my uses |
  27. Weekly Photo Challenge – Inside « LargeSelf
  28. Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside | Wind Against Current