Monday, July 1, 2013

Painting Polly and Other Projects

Polly Pigtails, fully-restored

I've been painting dolls for most of this weekend. On Saturday I found a buyer for my Cissy Sophisticate doll, but she wanted the doll to have different eyebrows. Cissy dolls have a great variety in the type of eyebrows they have. Some are so pale as to be barely there, and others are quite dark. They can be single-stroke, rounded or slightly arched, feathered, and their placement on the face varies. My buyer had a specific doll in mind and wanted my Cissy to have the same eyebrows, which weren't arched as I had done them. So I re-painted them twice to get the look she wanted.
The buyer didn't like these arched eyebrows.
I have quite pointy eyebrows, myself, so I guess I tend to paint them that way. It's the Norwegian in me; our pointy ears, chins, and eyebrows contribute to our typical "elfish" look. I mainly got just the pointy eyebrows, but when my oldest son was born several of my friends said, "He looks like a little elf!".
I painted new, rounded brows.
Now Cissy is all Anglicized and on her way to meet her new owner. My daughter was completely outraged, since she helps me with the dolls and felt this one looked beautiful. So, this was a good opportunity to teach her about best business practices and how "the customer is always right." We talked about custom work and how, when a person is paying hundreds of dollars for a doll they have a right to get a custom look. I hope the new owner is as happy as I am with the result of that restoration.
Polly Pigtails came to me in poor condition.
Since the sale of the Cissy left me quite low on vintage dolls in my store I worked hard to finish the Madame Alexander Polly Pigtails I've been working on. This is a very rare doll. Madame Alexander produced her, using the Maggie faced mold, from 1949-1951 only. She came in a couple sizes and with different hair colors and dresses, so none are particularly numerous. She was certainly modeled after the Polly Pigtails pre-teen magazine cover girls, and I know she was shown on the cover of one. I'm not sure if she was specifically commissioned by the magazine or affiliated with it, though.
The doll and dress were filthy.
Her stringing was loose.
I was surprised to see this doll for sale at all and very surprised when I won the auction. She was just labeled as a "Maggie-face" doll, and she isn't marked, but she was clearly Polly, with her pigtails still intact. She needed work, as do all the dolls I buy for the most part. Her stringing was loose, her paint chipped here and there. She had some lashes missing and her wig was very thin. Her dress was a total mess, so dirty it looked gray rather than white. The owner thought this was her original dress, but I recognized the font on the tag as the one used for Disney and fairytale-themed dolls, and sure enough, some research proved it was Snow White's dress.
I touched up her paint, mainly on the body.
Usually, Polly Pigtails wears what I call "school girl" dresses, short, with little bobby socks and patent leather shoes. The most common seems to be a red plaid dress. All the dresses typically have attached slips and underpants. Some of the dresses are a bit more formal, though, so I felt the Snow White gown would be all right on her. I thought about making a new dress, but then it would look so new compared to the doll, and this is a Madame dress and fits perfectly. So, I added a straw hat I picked up at a thrift store and kept the dress Polly came to me in. I did have to carefully clean it and treat several holes in the tulle with Fray Check, but now the whole ensemble has an authentic vintage look. I trimmed the hat with vintage-looking flowers and ribbon.
I blushed Polly's knees and elbows.
Other than slightly-refreshed cheek paint, her face paint is all original.
I've kept this doll in my studio for some time trying to decide what to do about her wig. I thought at first that I might sew in some more hair or even get a whole new wig, but then I found out the blended floss wig with blond and light red is the most rare. In the end I decided to just clean her hair and re-braid it in such a way as to hide the thin spots as well as I can. Most of the thin spots are in the back, fortunately. Someone tried to intervene at some earlier time and glued the wig on with so much glue it stiffened a lot of the hair, but it is clear glue, so you only notice that of you try to brush the hair. It's lucky Polly always wears a hat, too. A hat hides a multitude of sins!
Polly in her dress and hat.
One reason Polly Pigtails are so hard to find, I believe, is they were most often used as play dolls like Toni or Betsy McCall and really got worn out. On the rare occasions when you see them listed they are often in a doll case with a lot of clothes and they are usually trashed. This one was well-loved, and probably for a couple generations. Her hair was almost brushed to death. Someone gave her a mani-pedi with red paint. Her paint was nicked and scratched on her face and body and her dress was obviously taken on and off and washed many times. The dress is from the 1960s, so I imagine this was a doll owned by a mother and then a daughter, or maybe by an older sister and then a younger one.
After cleaning the doll, I re-strung her. Then I styled her hair. After that I touched up her body paint, covering the worst scratches and nicks and painting over her red nails. Her cheeks needed a little touch-up, and I couldn't resist adding blush to her knees and elbows. Her lips had a tiny chip out of the paint and I fixed that.
The dress originally belonged to the Madame Alexander Snow White doll.
I left enough wear to show Polly's age, so she doesn't look too new, but she displays beautifully and poses very well with her tight new stringing. I think a careful child could still play with her, though her hair can't take any more styling. Amazingly, she was entirely free of splits. This is the first doll I've had for a while who didn't need epoxy work! I'm very proud of this one. She turned out well and looks lovely in my cabinet, at least until she sells!
I styled her hair to hide the thin spots.
As I predicted, our swim meet was rained out the other night after only about an hour. We are going to try again tomorrow. I don't know why; we only have them at night and it always storms! I have missed a lot of walks lately, so we've been playing Just Dance to get some exercise. I have a couple more Cissy dolls and that Margot ballerina in the works and hope to have them in my store soon, so keep checking at

Polly's hat really helps hide the flaws in her wig.

Her dress has several layers of attached crinoline.

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