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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Another Alabama Baby in Progress

It was too soon to draw a face on this doll, but I did it anyway, while waiting in the car while my DH went to his allergy doc. I could have gone in, but don't really like to sit in an allergist's office and be tortured by a looped video of dustmites playing over and over and over.....You get the picture.  
She looks quite charming with a plastic turban. I began to entertain thoughts of leaving her in black and white. However, when I showed her to a  friend and fellow doller, she pointed out to me that her face was a bit lopsided. I could see that she was right; funny how you can miss these things. I also wanted to fix her rather flattened nose.

So I added PaperClay to her right face and to her nose; I also put a little more on her mouth. I don't care what color of cotton knit I use, as it will be painted over. Often, I use old T shirts, but this time I used a scrap of yellow knit someone had given me.
Now the yellow knit is covered over with gesso. It will be lightly sanded and then another layer of gesso added. This will go on until I am satisfied with the smoothness of her head. I will add a little PaperClay to any seams that show or anything other imperfections that catch my eye. THEN, I can go back to drawing her eyes on again, and painting her. I haven't yet decided if she will have a painted baby head or a headful of hair (ie. a wig). I am also going to lengthen her torso, as it is a little short. She will probably be about 18-20" tall when finished.
     This is a surviving original "Alabama Indestructible Baby Doll," made between 1899 and 1922 in Roanoak, Alabama by Ella Smith; she could not patent her doll herself as women were not allowed to hold patents at that time. So her doll was patented by her husband.
     Ella set up a small factory that employed around 13 women; at first she painted all the dolls' faces herself, but later allowed some of her employees who were able, to paint some as well.
     In her sales brochure, she states: " My dolls are made from the best of goods. No dyes are used and they are all carefully handmade and can be washed like children. No cheap stuff used in the makeup of these dolls. They do not break from being dropped or thrown about. They have been tested by five years use. When they become worn and need new paint, they may be sent back to the shop and made (to) look like new again for a very small sum. Any of these dolls maybe provided with wigs, but most people like painted heads-they look neat- wigs become matted and tangled; but they may be taken off and the heads painted. These dolls are painted to represent all races of people. We try to please all people as nearly as we can. We want our dolls to give perfect satisfaction."
      Ella was an unusual woman in her day, being a business owner. She made wonderful dolls; I try to emulate her standards in the Alabama babies I make. I really enjoy making them--they are dolls I really love. Someday, I hope to own one of Ella's original babies.

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