Elena König was born in Turin in 1886. When she was 14 years old she did what so many children dreamed of and ran off to join the circus. She returned home after a few months and later studied art and photography. In 1915, she married Enrico Scavini and moved with him to Italy. After the loss of her first child, Elena began creating dolls, using readily available felt and working with her brother to create special molds. In 1919, the Lenci factory was established. "Lenci" is thought to be an acronym from the Latin motto "Ludus Est Nobis Constanter Industria" (Play is our constant work), although some biographers state that it is also based on Elena’s German nickname. The company's artistic felt dolls, typically dressed in beautifully tailored outfits of felt and organdy, became very popular and were widely copied by companies throughout Europe. In 1928, Lenci also began a ceramics factory renowned for its stylized figurines. The company created everything from small souvenir dolls and mascots to high-end play dolls to decorative boudoir ladies. This 27-inch tall boudoir lady is unusual as she is lavishly dressed in velvet and silk, heavily adorned with gold embroidery. She is all original except for her necklaces, rosary and slippers. Her exquisite and detailed outfit represents the traditional Charro folk costume of Salamanca, Spain.
AUSTIN DOLL COLLECTORS SOCIETY
The Austin Doll Collectors Society is an organization of antique, vintage, and modern doll collectors, dealers, and artisans. We meet on the first Monday of each month and our meetings are fun and educational. We begin with refreshments and socializing, and, following our brief business meeting, there is a special doll-related program and "show and tell." The Austin Doll Collectors Society is a nonprofit organization and is a member of the United Federation of Doll Clubs.
Thursday, August 2, 2018
Thursday, July 26, 2018
No modern doll has become as iconic as Barbie, the teenage fashion model creation of Ruth Marianna Handler. Handler and her husband Elliot were creative and forward-thinking business people and the founders of the toy company Mattel. Inspired by watching her daughter play with paper dolls, Handler wanted to create a three-dimensional adult paper doll with as extensive a wardrobe and accessories as her two-dimensional sisters. On a trip to Europe, Handler came upon a Bild Lilli doll. Lilli was a comic character who appeared in the German newspaper Bild. She was a curvy blond bimbo who dressed in tight-fitting or revealing clothing. Her cartoon became so popular, she was made into a promotional doll, but as a mascot for adults, not a toy for children. However, Handler saw in the lascivious Lilli the all-American girl she wanted to create. She reworked the design to better fit her vision and Barbie (named after the Handler's daughter) was born, debuting at the New York toy fair on March 9, 1959. Barbie became the billion-dollar baby for Mattel, her world expanding to include her boyfriend Ken and other friends and family, endless dresses and accessories reflecting the newest fashions, and a vast variety of careers.
These beautiful Barbies belong to member Jenell Howell. The center doll is the Number 1 Barbie, with feet that fit over rods in her stand. The other two are the Number 3 Barbie introduced in 1960.
Friday, July 13, 2018
Today is Friday the 13th, considered an unlucky day by some. Black cats in many parts of the world are also considered a symbol of bad luck. However, any collector coming across this rather fierce looking feline would be considered lucky. This is a Felix the Cat as interpreted by the English toy company Chad Valley in the early 1920s. Of black and white mohair, with jointed limbs and a hunched back, he is 14 inches tall. He is in overall good condition with his original bow. The eyes are old glass, but are replacements, as he should have glass black and white eyes (the prominent eyes are very vulnerable to loss).
Felix appeared in 1919 in silent animated short cartoons. The first Felix had a prominent snout and long pointed ears. The imaginative and often surrealistic cartoons made Felix a favorite mascot for both children and adults and his image appeared on a wide variety of products, from toys to postcards to sheet music. In 1924 Felix was redesigned with rounder, cuter features. This Chad Valley Felix was inspired by the earlier, and one might say scary, version of Felix.
Thursday, July 12, 2018
The refreshment table decorations were suitably patriotic for the upcoming Fourth of July.
Member Nancy Countryman did a program on bears created by artist Robert Raikes. She told the club that Robert Raikes began carving wood sculptures while still in school and continued carving during his stint in the military. He carved everything from award-winning bird sculptures to carrousel horses. When bears became popular in the 1980s, Raikes created bears with fabric bodies and individually hand-carved wooden faces. The bears were so popular that Raikes entered into a contract with Applause, Inc., a toy company, who made versions of his bears with resin faces, although he continued to produce wooden-faced bears as well. Nancy said that it appears that Raikes' company is no longer active.
This is a resin-faced bear made by Applause.
Although best known for his bears, Raikes created other animals, like these bunnies, as well as dolls, including his version of the famous Hitty.
Member Jenell Howell brought two beautiful vintage Madame Alexander dolls to share, a hard plastic bridesmaid doll with the Maggie mold face and an exquisitely outfitted composition Wendy Ann.
Wendy Ann has magnets in her hands and came with a variety of special objects that she could hold.
Pam Wolf, who is the United Federal of Doll Clubs Region 3 director, displayed a center piece she had won at a recent regional meeting.
Wednesday, June 27, 2018
The theme for refreshments celebrated the coming of summer.
And what better way to celebrate sunny days than ice cream sundaes?
This meeting was the club's annual swap meet for members. A wide variety of dolls was offered for sale or trade.
Friday, June 22, 2018
An exceptional seamstress and designer, Jennie Adler Graves opened the Ye Olde Vogue Doll Shoppe in 1922. She began by creating outfits and trousseaus for "Just Me," a wistful googly-eyed character doll by the German maker Armand Marseille. The dolls ranged from 8 to 11 inches. This 9-inch tall toddler is an example of the Just Me, and although she has her original dress, shoes, and socks, they are not from Grave's talented fingers.
In 1948, Graves introduced an 8-inch hard plastic doll. The doll was so popular that Graves designed her own version, christening her creation "Ginny," after her own daughter, Virginia. Ginny and her extensive wardrobe were a huge hit and inspired a new generation of 8-inch tall play dolls. This trio of early Ginny dolls, plus Ginny's canine companion, Sparky, belong to member Jenell Howell. The company Graves started is still in existence today as the Vogue Doll Company and is still making a version of Ginny.
Thursday, June 14, 2018
Georgene Averill was more than a doll artist, as in 1915, she and her husband James Averill began a doll company that would operate for many years under a variety of names, including Averill Manufacturing Company, Georgene Novelties, and Madame Hendren. In 1926, Averill introduced one of her best known creations, Bonnie Babe, a bubbly baby with a lop-sided grin. Bonnie Babe was produced with a bisque head on a cloth body with composition limbs, as well as an all-bisque toddler with pink or blue one-strap shoes. This 4.5-inch tall version has brown sleep eyes. Her feline friend is the very scarce 1927 Tag, a 5-inch tall all-bisque cat that had a canine counterpart called Rag.
Saturday, June 9, 2018
Today is World Doll Day. World Doll Day was established in 1986 by doll collector and artist Mildred Seeley. What better way to celebrate than by sharing this recent delightful display of 106 dolls for the Friendship International Culture Fair created by member Sylvia McDonald for her church. The dolls are from her extensive collection of international dolls, but Sylvia managed to slip in four of her childhood dolls just for fun. She creates this display every year, but Sylvia stated this is her largest so far. Sylvia said that it is easy to get her dolls out of their cases, but that it is a real job to put them all back, as they seem to enjoy their time outside. This photograph is by Keith Mitchell.
Wednesday, June 6, 2018
Born in 1874, Rose O'Neill demonstrated her artistic talents early when at the age of 13 she won an newspaper art contest. By the age of 19, she was living in New York City as a professional artist, illustrating books, magazine articles, and advertisements. In the December 1909 issue of Ladies' Home Journal O'Neill's most famous creation appeared, the chubby cheerful Kewpie, whom O'Neill described as "a sort of little round fairy whose one idea is to teach people to be merry and kind at the same time". Her Kewpie cartoons were a popular hit and in 1912 the German doll company J.D. Kestner began to manufacture her appealing imps in bisque. Kewpie dolls would later be made in cloth, celluloid, and composition, and O'Neill would expand her cast of Kewpieville characters to include others, such as the toddler Scootles and Doodle Dog, a canine companion to the Kewpies. O'Neill published and illustrated a number of children's books featuring her Kewpies, but she was much more than the creator of the Kewpie. She wrote and illustrated novels and books of poetry and continued to produce fine artwork. After studying with famed French sculptor Auguste Rodin, O'Neill created sculptural works as well. An ardent advocate for women's rights, O'Neill was active in the suffragist movement, creating cartoons and posters promoting the right of women to vote.
This trio of bisque Kewpie dolls belongs to member Beverly Evans. The pudgy pup is Doodle Dog.
This composition Kewpie was the childhood doll of member Sylvia McDonald and is wearing a dress crocheted by Sylvia's grandmother. Sylvia members her parents struggling (ultimately with success) to restring her beloved doll, using a strip of rubber from an old inner tube from the family car and a bent a coat hanger.
Sunday, June 3, 2018
Saturday, June 2, 2018
Sasha Morgenthaler (1893 - 1975) was a Swiss artist. She wanted to create dolls that realistically portrayed the innocence and individuality of children. Beginning in the 1940s, she began to create dolls in her studio. However, these individually-made dolls were expensive and Morgenthaler wanted to create a more affordable play doll that would appeal to children. In the 1960s, she created a series of play dolls, manufactured at various times in Germany and England through the 1980s. The dolls were renown for their serene hand-painted faces, poseable realistically-proportioned bodies, and and tan skin tones. Black dolls and babies were also produced.
Sasha dolls are very popular with collectors. These Sasha dolls belong to member Sylvia McDonald. She said that when her daughter was about nine years old, she received a Sasha girl and Sylvia made the doll's wardrobe. Later, Gregor and Baby Gregor joined the family, and Shelley received a Baby Sasha after she had girls of her own. Sylvia has always loved the Sasha dolls and over five years put together this family for herself.
Sunday, May 27, 2018
This bevy of babies are all-bisque versions of the Bye-Lo baby designed by American artist and sculptor Grace Storey Putnam. Putnam, after her divorce from sculptor Arthur Putnam in 1915, gave art lessons and sculpted to support her family. She wanted to create a doll portraying a new born baby and in 1920, using a three-day old baby girl as her model, sculpted a life-like baby head of wax. She approached George Borgfeldt and Company, a doll importer and distributor in New York City, about creating the doll in bisque and in 1923 the first Bye-Lo babies hit the market. And hit they did--the doll was so popular it was christened the "Million Dollar Baby." In addition to a doll with a bisque head and celluloid hands on a cloth body modeled to resemble a floppy newborn, the popular Bye-Lo also appeared in a variety of all-bisque versions, and, for adult fans, as pincushion dolls and salt and pepper shakers The Bye-Lo was also made in other materials, such as composition, and was produced in some form through the 1950s. Although the marks on the dolls vary over the years, except for the smallest all-bisque babies, they all carry Putnam's name. The largest baby in the picture is six inches long and the little frozen action Bye-lo is 3.25 inches long.
Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Our last post reported on member Jenell Howell's delightful and informative program on dolls designed by American artist Dewees Cochran. However, there were many women who designed and made dolls. This handsome lad taking his canine pal out for a stroll is by German doll artist and maker Käthe Kruse. Kruse first began making dolls for her own daughters because she disliked the available commercially-made toys. In 1910, she displayed some of her dolls in a Berlin department store and they were so popular she began producing them commercially. These early cloth dolls were renowned for their hand-painted faces. The Kruse company is still in business today, producing cloth and vinyl dolls. This doll belongs to member Sylvia McDonald and was the childhood toy of her great-aunt, who was born in 1902. Sylvia thinks her aunt received the doll around 1912. He still has his original box and a wardrobe of clothes. This doll was a runner up in the Käthe Kruse Contest held by the Contemporary Doll Collector magazine in 2005.
Sunday, May 13, 2018
Member Jenell Howell gave a program on the creations of American doll artist Dewees Cochran.
Cochran, born in 1892, was educated at the Philadelphia School of Industrial Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art. Beginning in 1933, she started selling cloth dolls in Philadelphia and New York City. Her career as a maker of life-like portrait dolls began when Mrs. Irving Berlin saw an example of Cochran's work and commissioner her to make portrait dolls of her two daughters. Cochran's early portrait dolls have heads carved of balsa wood, stuffed jointed silk bodies, and are marked with Cochran's name under the arm or behind the ear. Cochran realized she needed to speed up production if she was going to keep up with demand. She developed six basic face types and began using a “plastic wood” that could be poured into a mold. Cochran could then create a portrait doll by select the correct face type and matching the model's hair and eye color. She began using latex in 1940 to 1941.
In late 1935, Cochran began to design dolls for Effanbee. Produced in 1936, these dolls were 21 inches tall with a body designed by Cochran to resemble that of an 8 year old child. The dolls were composition and had painted eyes and human hair wigs. The hands were of molded rubber or latex hands and had spread fingers so they could wear gloves. These dolls are typically marked "Effanbee American Children" on the heads and "Anne Shirley" on their bodies. While the early boxes and advertisements state “designed by Dewees Cochran, ” her name does not appear on the dolls themselves. Cochran had decided she did not need an agent when dealing with Effanbee and failed to copyright the head or body design. This is one of the first dolls that Dewees Cochran designed for Effanbee. She 21 inches tall and is marked "Effanbee American Children" on her head and "Anne Shirley" on the body. The doll has been redressed as Alice in Wonderland.
In 1938, Effanbee added a boy head which was sold for only one year. This handsome lad is 17 inches tall and unmarked.
Effanbee also commissioned Cochran to create a doll with sleep eyes, an open smiling mouth, and body of five or six year old child. First produced in 1938, these dolls were originally were initially 15 inches tall, but later 17-inch and 21-inch dolls were included. This winsome child with her original box is marked "Effanbee American Children" and "Anne Shirley."
In 1939 to 1940, Effanbee created a historical doll series. The dolls used the head mold for the company's "Little Lady" doll, had painted the eyes similar to those on the dolls designed by Cochran dolls, and used the Anne Shirley body. Below is an example from Jenell's collection.
In 1947 to 1948, Cochran contracted Molded Latex Company to make a 16 inch doll named "Cindy." Only around a 1000 dolls were produced, which were marked “Dewees Cochran Dolls” on the left side of the torso along with a production number. Cochran ended her partnership with company because the dolls did not meet her high standards, but the company continued to produce unmarked Cindy dolls. This is an example of an unmarked doll.
Jenell said that this doll is a mystery. The head is marked Effanbee and uses Little Lady head mold, but is on a cloth body and is lavishly dressed in a Middle-Eastern style outfit.
Jenell stated that while this doll is similar to those designed by Cochran, she is unmarked. One doll collector speculated that this doll was made in the likeness of Sybil Jason, a child actress of the 1930s.
Cochran continued to make dolls until she was in her 80s. She died in 1991.
Other member brought example of Cochran-related dolls. In 1976, Effanbee invited Cochran to design a doll for their limited edition series. This 1977 limited edition quickly sold out.
These dolls being to member Elaine Jackson.