Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Maggie's Metamorphosis

A few months ago I restored a Madame Alexander Maggie doll who came needing re-stringing, painting, cleaning, and a new wig. I had a lot of fun re-styling her into a ballerina in blue. As you all know, I very much enjoy starting from scratch with a doll so I can inject a personality and design her clothes and outfit myself. One of these days I may have to start making my own dolls full time, but as it is, I can re-design these old dolls very often almost as if I made them entirely from my imagination.

Because this doll was meant as a ballerina I styled her wig into an elaborate updo. Then, a customer came along who wanted to purchase the outfit only, not the doll. Since the ballerina costume wasn't original to Maggie I went ahead and sold it, but then I had a doll with very fancy hair to re-dress. A southern belle ball gown turned out to be a perfect solution. This dress went to a Madame Alexander Scarlett doll from the 1980s, I believe, but it can still be used as a generic southern dress. Madame Alexander, canny business woman that she was, had already marketed both Southern Girl and Southern Belle dolls, royalty-free of course, before Gone With The Wind ever premiered in theaters! My Maggie is designed in the same tradition as those dolls.

The doll after re-stringing and painting

Maggie is a lovely doll with only a few minor flaws remaining. The Scarlett dress brings out her green eyes. At some point someone chewed up her fingers and the paint is scraped up in her joints. I started to paint the joints but the paint was scraping up again so I didn't bother with her hip joints in the back. I don't have a air brush or any room to set up a spray booth so I can use one, so I have to paint my dolls with makeup sponges to get a smooth finish. When I had this doll marketed as a ballerina someone emailed me to complain that I hadn't epoxied her fingers or painted her with an airbrush. Now, I don't own an air brush, but I am pretty sure oil paint holds up about the same whether it's applied with a sponge or an air brush, and I haven't ever had any luck keeping the paint from scraping up in the joints. I've tried sealing the paint with polyurethane, I've applied paste wax, I've tried gloss and matte varnishes... no matter what, as soon as I move the doll's limbs the paint scrapes again and then it looks even more noticeable than before. If anyone wants to share any tips I welcome the advice!

I left the scraped paint in these joints.

I painted over joint scraping on the front, but the paint is already scraping again.

The fingers also fall into the category of something that would be more obvious if I tried to "fix" them than not. I came to this conclusion with my Cissy bride doll. I epoxied her fingertip, which was chewed, and it ended up larger than the other fingers. I couldn't get the paint to exactly match. I had to hide it with the bridal bouquet. I painted over these chews and that seemed to camouflage it as well or even better than the epoxied Cissy fingers. I decided from now on I'm only going to sculpt fingers if they're actually missing.

I just think, sometimes less restoration is more. The value of a heavily restored doll isn't going to be much more, and it could even be less, than an original doll who shows some age. Some people are never going to be happy and will always have to try to tear other people down to lift themselves up. I know that and try to remind myself when I hear from one of the "hater" doll people who unfortunately abound. You'd think doll people would be a cheerful bunch, for the most part, but I guess you get a few bad apples in every barrel. I gave this doll a bouquet to carry (a "nosegay" as she would have called it back then) and it covers the hands nicely.

I just painted over finger chews.

The Scarlett doll who donated this dress has a few flaws from play and several of the pieces of the outfit were lost. I didn't feel bad about taking her clothes, and she is for sale as a doll to dress in my store. The remaining outfit is really wonderful. The dress is crisp, without any stains or tears. I replaced the elastic in the pantaloons' waist, but that was really all the care needed.

Maggie wears pantaloons and socks original to her dress with replaced shoes.

I found a perfect hat in my "stash" and also happened to have some ribbon to match the dress. So often I am reminded of the value of hoarding! At least, that is, as long as I can stay organized enough to actually find everything, a real challenge for me. I trimmed the hat with the green ribbons and some vintage flowers. Then I also made a choker from ribbon and a glass bead.

I trimmed a vintage hat to match the dress.

The dress is tagged.

I was thinking of making a hoop skirt to go under the dress, but I found a vintage Alexander slip for a smaller 12 inch doll that works. The Nancy Drew and Lissy doll clothes can sometimes fit Maggie, and the shorter length hits the skirt just where a hoop would, so it gives the proper fullness.

The slip looks like a hoop skirt.

I'm glad I was able to finish this doll and the boudoir doll I wrote about yesterday. We took a long weekend at the beach because the kids didn't have school Monday, and I feel like I really got behind with the preparation for our trip last week. Now, of course, I have a mountain of laundry to wash and all kinds of stuff to put away and I need to clean because my sister and parents are coming to visit this week. This will be the third weekend in a row we've either had visitors or been away, and on top of all the school and band stuff it really takes a toll. An upside is that I try to visit new thrift stores whenever I'm away from home, so I have some neat new stuff listed. I have a huge pile of dolls in my office in various states of repair, and I'm trying to get at least one finished every day. You can find this doll and many others in my store:

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