Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Folk Dolls, Mr. and Mrs. Apple

When I tell people I like dolls many of them proudly haul out a Madame Alexander or a fashion doll still in the box. While these dolls can be lovely they really don't excite me. What I want to see is the doll your grandmother made for your mother during the depression when money was tight. I want to see a doll that was made with more love and ingenuity than money and materials. I want to see a doll that was made to be loved by a specific child. I want to see a folk doll.
If you too like these kind of dolls then you will love Wendy Lavitt's book American Folk Dolls. I was fortunate to snag this book at a rummage sale this summer and I read it cover to cover, not missing a word. For the most part the chapters are arranged according to the material the doll (more specifically, the head) is made from (i.e.-Cloth Dolls, Wooden Dolls, Apple Nut and Bean Dolls, etc.) but there also are chapters on native American dolls and black dolls. Real life stories and historical accounts abound in this text making it very interesting and at times heart rending. Plus there are lots of great color photos!
I thought I'd share my very own folk dolls with you. Every year when I get Mr. and Mrs. Apple out of the box marked "Autumn" I appreciate them more. I think they're wonderful. This is an apple-headed doll couple busy in the act of pressing cider. These were made by a friend of my grandmothers and given to her probably 40 years ago. (I need to find out her name and give her credit.) My grandparents had a farm and pressed cider every year so I think the friend thought this a very appropriate gift. These dolls and their accessories were displayed in my grandmother's china cabinet for years and I remember as a child looking at their wrinkled faces, amazed these heads were actually apples. When I was young the faces were golden brown. Now (I'm almost 40) they're quite black and it's hard to see their little black eyes shining out.

My grandmother gave these to me a few years ago because she knew I liked dolls. Since then I've had plenty of time to study the lovely couple and their accessories and I never cease to be amazed at the ingenuity shown by their maker. This is not a dollmaker who ran down to WalMart's craft section to get what she needed. Let me tell you what she used. The details are amazing:

First of all the couple has wire bodies wrapped in old nylon panty hose, covered with homemade clothes. Hair is sheep's wool. Hands are wool stuffed felt, boots are hand stitched naugahyde. Mrs. Apple has lace-trimmed bloomers.

The basket holding the apples is a painted styrofoam cup with wire handles. The apples inside include painted salt-dough apples with toothpick stems.The cider jug is a painted medicine jar one would stick a needle into. Its handle is a piece of elbow macaroni! (I didn't realize this until I dropped it last year and broke off the handle. I was heartbroken until I took a closer look at it. Then I laughed and went to my pantry for another
"handle" to glue on. I still need to paint it.)

The apple press is made from entirely scavenged materials-
styrofoam, a plastic plant pot, etc:

The "apples" in the press are torn foam cushion.

The fancy looking black brackets holding up the bar are plastic, department store sock hangers!

The only things I can see that are specifically store bought are Mr. Apple's hat and the cat. I try to store them in very dry conditions but I'm sure even with the best of care these apple heads won't last forever. Maybe someday I'll have to carve new heads for them. I hope I can pass these along to my grandkids as I really think they're wonderful and true folk dolls. I hope you like them too. Thanks for letting me share about them!

1 comment:

Eseya, Muñecas con historia said...

Hi Angie

What important is what you say. I think the same.
My dolls are made from recycled materials and cooked by hand.In some cases, I look at the history of my country to give them life.
Look the Tomasa, black laundry, in my blog.

Congratulation for your blog!