Patience

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here. I still have many collections, but time and circumstances sometimes get in the way of visiting these items from the past. The one thing I haven’t ever covered here, which is coincidently the thing that I’ve collected for the longest time is dolls. I’ve collected antique dolls since around the mid 1970’s.

There are many types of dolls to collect and I have probably touched on a good bit of them over the years. Dolls have always been about more than just the doll itself to me. I always felt connected to some thread of their past, wondered about former owners and pictured them in the times they were made. They represent history, fashion, the evolution of making things by hand to manufacturing.

Each doll opened up some new avenue to explore whether a period in time, a name connected to the doll, a certain textile – I could go on and on.

I have, and have had many wonderful and unique antique dolls and I like each one for different reasons. Having said that, for me and many collectors I guess – the most elusive and sought after doll is an 18th century English wooden doll. From a time when things were made completely by hand, each one so individual – I’m captivated by their overall look and when they still have their original garments I love the textiles. They are not readily available, and when they are they are among the most expensive dolls. I’ve had four opportunities over the years to purchase one of these – each was lovely, but I couldn’t find a way to make it happen. I can still picture each and every one of them although years have passed.

If you are drawn to the unique beauty of these dolls, and not just the historical value there are quite a few artists that are creating versions of these dolls. There are many advantages of having an artist made doll. You can appreciate the unique look of these dolls, but you can also handle them without fear of damage. One of my personal favorites is Canadian artist, Kathy Patterson. Her dolls really capture the essence of the 18th century dolls that inspire them. Over the years, I’ve gotten a few dolls by Kathy, but in the spring of 2019 a doll named Patience was introduced. The moment I saw her face I loved her. I didn’t even know her size at first, there was something so calm and pleasant in her expression. I constantly struggle with adding dolls to my collection. On one hand, I’m downsizing but something else always catches my eye. My dolls are confined to one room and there is no space for more. At 36 inches, Patience would certainly not fit but oh, she was special. Special because Kathy said there would never be another this large – she was much too hard to make, and special for that intangible quality a doll collector will tell you that a doll they “have to have” possesses. So, against all better judgment and sound reasoning, I got Patience.

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Some of the most treasured antique dolls have been passed from owner to owner, each one carefully preserving the clothing and other articles that may have been original to the doll. I’ve always loved seeing dolls with wardrobes, and knowing that I will not be the only owner of Patience, I decided to pay special attention to the first part of her provenance. I wanted to assemble a group of objects that would become part of her story. Part of this was deciding to create a wardrobe for her. This presented many challenges, with the biggest one being I was never much for sewing. I’ve made a small item or two for my dolls, but if skillful work was needed I looked to my mom. I always wanted to have things done, but never wanted to work though it myself. I knew the style, picked the fabrics and turned it over to my magical mom and poof – the dream garment appeared!

Mom is no longer with us, so I was forced to dig deep to get this done myself. I learned some things along the way too…good lessons even later in life. I learned to enjoy the process, not just the end result. Not to say I don’t get frustrated and mess things up, but there is a kind of peace and satisfaction in the actual sewing and seeing what I’ve envisioned take shape, plus I am constantly improving and learning. I love choosing the fabrics and trims. A few years back, I started getting interested in 18th century silk fabrics. I was able to find some fragments for admiration or to use in small crafts, but finding period fabrics large enough for Patience are rare, or expensive, or just not to be cut. I have gotten lucky with a few items, but most of the fabrics are in the spirit of the 18th century.

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Fabric that is based on a pattern from a textile in the Indian archive of the Victoria & Albert Museum.  It was produced by an English company called Fired Earth many years ago.

Among Patience’s belongings is a small diary, that she could take with her wherever her journey takes her to remember her early days. She has agreed to share some of that, along with some of her clothing and other treasured items here over time.

With many more items yet to make, the doll named Patience has taught me just that.