Wednesday, March 9, 2011


I was gifted with a little something the other day that prompted this post (that, and "Vintage Thingie Thursday" at The Colorado Lady), and renewed my interest in finishing up a long-shelved project. A grand art retreat, "Art and Soul", was held in Las Vegas last week...while I did not attend, I had a few lucky friends who did...lucky, and extremely thoughtful.  Colleen (La Dee Dah Day) brought me a handmade replica of the antique China head dolls popular in the mid to late 1800s. I don't know that Colleen knew I loved these dolls and have been gathering them for some time, but her addition to my collection stands head and shoulders above the other diminutive ones and, henceforth, shall be referred to as "The Boss", in Colleen's honor - that's her in the center. The rest are antique, and include a male doll that oddly resembles Abe Lincoln.
Blue eyes; amber eyes; raven black hair; rouged cheeks; and red, bow shaped lips...each one slightly different from the next, dependant upon the individual artist's hand.  Check out the cheeks on the tiny charmer in the lower right picture.  These range in size from 2-5/8" to 1-1/2" tall.  All waiting for renewed's about time they were taken from their shoebox home - this is the year, thanks to The Boss, and "The Boss", for renewing the spark of interest I've long had for these tiny treasures.
Which brings me to The Sisters.  These three surely need some tender loving care - they came to me very time worn (and mouse chewed) - but I probably love them the most.  I acquired them a few years back, from an eBay seller who had purchased a property that had an old barn on it.  As they were clearing the barn they had come across these three dolls, laying together on the wooden floorboards...placed carefully, way in the back of an overhead loft.  The seller did not want them and did not take the time with photographs, to my advantage (oh, I love when that happens).  They were kept as the set they were found in, thankfully, and I got them for a song.
Identical in size (their bodies are approx. 12 inches from head to toe - the heads are 2-5/8" tall)...were these, perhaps, the beloved playthings of three little sisters?  I do wish I knew the whole story, but my imagination has had a hey-day on its own, in any event.
This sad girl is a little worse for the wear than the other two...her poor neck has been broken but she puts on a brave face. Her feet and hands also have not fared so well over time, but replacement parts have been purchased, and I hope to have her feeling more like her old self, soon.
Stuffed with the original excelsior, I have left them as they came to me (including the years of dirt on their lovely faces), until I could research enough to do a proper (or reasonable) restoration, fairly accurately. One body has been removed already, to use as a pattern - yes, this is the year!
The original clothing must have been beautiful.  The one remaining dress, almost intact, shows some remarkable detailing of a pleated bustle, and tiny silk bands around the waist and wrists.
And this dress must have made quite the fashion statement...fleur de lis are still plentiful among the tattered remnants.  Yes, my mind wanders, wondering about the little girls that loved these, long ago.  And yes, they will be sitting on a shelf anew (gifts of the littler ones to loved ones, perhaps, but The Sisters will stay together, with me), by the end of this year - this IS the year!
And I leave you with this...the "Odd Man Out".  This one is unlike any of the others I have seen, or have in my possession...a male doll of the same age, given to me in a box of antique treasures, by another friend.  His name is Abe...he might just have to be finished along with the girls, but it's gonna' take a little more research on his account, I'm afraid.  This might just be his lucky year, too!  Be sure to drop by and check out the wonderful posts at Vintage Thingie Thursday.  Thanks for providing me a New Year's Resolution, Boss!


oldgreymare said...

What a wonderful project you have a"head" of you. lol
Now that you put it in writing you must do it ya know : D


Grannys Attic said...

Love your post today. I have never seen a male doll like yours. Girl you better research a lot you might have just hit the big jackpot! Hope so let us know. Have fun, Vicky

marian said...

oh WOW Tanya i'm head over heels heart's racing at the sight of your heavenly collection! i too have a passion for these delicate pre-loved dolls and i can't wait to see them restored..i know they'll be adorable!
i'll be keeping an eye on your blog :) x

Blue Ridge Altered Art said...

Wow amazing. I am following you so I can see them finished. You have a wonderful collection and it is great that they have ended up in the hands of someone who appreciates them. ~~Sherry~~

Lynn at Cottage and Creek said...

Oh, Tanya! What a wonderful post! I loved reading every word of it. And your photos are marvelous! You have a lovely way with words. I can't wait to see what you do with these vintage treasures. I'm glad you're keeping the Three Sisters together. And Abe is certainly striking. I'm your newest follower and I look forward to reading more. Thanks for visiting Cottage and Creek too. I appreciate it!

bj said...

These are all wonderful. Good luck with your project and...have fun with it.
Speaking of fun, living in LV must be tons of fun. I have a nephew and family that live there and they love it.:)
xo bj

LV said...

What a wonderful collection of these doll heads. From what I have seen, there are a lot of ways they can be used. I am sure you will use yours wisely.

Pam said...

Those are such wonderful dolls. You lucked out on that find. Abe is a very unique doll. I don't think I've ever seen a guy doll from that time period before. Have fun fixing them up.

Ann said...

OH WOW, what a fantastic collection. "The boss", is one wonderful person!! I've never seen one of these being a man. How unique. I have one of these in my attic, now I must go up there soon. Thanks for coming by today----I'm now your newest follower.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful set. I can just imagine some pioneer prairies sisters playing with them. How they must have loved them.

Julie - My Primitive Heart said...

Hi Tanya~
These are such beauties!! I stopped by yesterday and enjoyed your post so much but didn't comment.....then got such a sweet comment from you today on mine, and decided I needed to come back and leave one for you!! Thank you for your encouragement and I so hope you have fun restoring these wonderful dolls!!


Amanda said...

Hi Tanya! Thank you for your sweet comment on my bunny banner! I came by to see what you've been working on and am so intrigued by your doll head collection! They are amazing! Beautiful as they are in their current condition, I am so happy to hear you are going to restore them! I can hardly wait to see and I hope you'll post as often as you can about your progress!
Best Wishes and Blessings,
p.s. I am loving my new necklace and get loads of compliments when I wear it! I even had a woman hand me a piece of paper and a pen to write down your blog address on! Thank goodness yours is an easy one to remember! Thanks again for such a wonderful gift!

Becky said...

Oh Tanya...I'm so glad you found my blog too. Thank you for you comment. I'm glad because I get to come visit your lovely blog now as well.
I love your China dolls, most especially, the very worn one's. I have a few of my own that surround me as I create.
I plan to visit often, hope you do the same.

Lovely meeting you,
Becky ~on a wing and a prayer~

By the Bluegrass said...

I love china dolls. I have a few of them pictured on my blog. I had one growing up and she is now broken into several pieces. So, I have been collecting more as I come across them. I love Abe...he's a keeper! Now, what exactly are going to do with them? Give them new bodies?

(p.s. thanks for stopping by my blog)

Curtains In My Tree said...

I love your china dolls.

I have never seen a man china doll very interesting
I have 2 china dolls wrapped in old muslin dirty muslin i should say.

I think I have mine on my blog side bar

House Revivals said...

Your collection is wonderful, and I can't wait to see what you do with the sisters! I have never seen a man china head before!

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

These really are amazing! Just think what they've survived! ♥

Jackie said...

Wow, you collect some weird stuff! Broken decapitated doll heads! Sweet!
Actually they are very pretty! Good luck!

Betsy said...

You have an amazing collection and it was so nice to have such a thoughtful friend send you more. I've never seen a male version before, very unusual.
These things take time....better late than never, right? You'll have fun restoring them.
Thanks so much for visiting with me:)

Cindi said...

They are beautiful, I especially enjoyed the story of the Three Sisters. Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting on my Swanky Swigs.

Coloradolady said...

Oh wow. How much fun to bring these great treasures back to life. I have never seen a male doll like that. I'd most likely want to start that one first. Happy VTT!

The Primitive Bucket said...

Wow sis you have a lot of work to do to get mine done before June... lol..just kidding.. What a beautiful collection and I'm sure you will do them all justice with your talent with the beads and needles!! What a great post and you do have a way with words.. Can't wait to see the finished product..
love you

mississippi artist said...

What fun this will be to repair these and make them beautiful again. I can't wait to see the man doll.

Ronna said...

Can't wait to see what your talents bring to these treasures! I enjoyed your descriptive narrative and seeing the photos. Thanks Tanya.

Colleen Mcgraw said...

I am so glad my small gift (in comparison to everything you do for me) could inspire such a beautiful 2011 project. Thanks for all you do for me
(The Boss)

Debbie@Debbie-Dabble said...

O mY!! These dolls and doll head are such wonderful treasures and how lucky you are to have them! I am so looking forward to hearing and seeing how you restored then to their original grandeur!


Rebecca said...

How wonderful-I've never seen a male doll-I'll have to ask my doll collector friend about them!

Hopewell Creek Designs said...

Oh I can't wait to see the finished dolls. I adore them already,and like you I wish I knew who placed them there and who once loved them.The male doll is really different,I've never ever seen one like that before.
Love the photos of them =)

MosaicMagpie said...

Loved seeing the dolls, I have quite a few too that are in need of repair. I will look forward to your restoration process.

Mandy said...

I can't wait to see what your talented, creative hands do with them!