Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Meet Me In Person, Sort Of!

Today has been a big day for Atelier Mandaline! Etsy is changing the store format and will go live with new designs April 5th, so I had to get it together and do some rebranding. I have to admit, my store needed it; I've had the same store design since 2012. Luckily, Etsy partnered with to create free design templates so those of us who are working on 10 year old broken computers (see previous posts for more on that incident) with no design software can still make a nice professional virtual storefront. I created new cover photos for Etsy and eBay and also created a shop video for the Etsy store, so you can "meet" me. With the kids home on Spring Break and the puppy barking and the dryer buzzing it took about 10 million takes!

My new Etsy cover photo

The Etsy cover photo is my own work, not a Canva template, which is why it's a little wonky as to the fit. I don't have graphic design software that lets me size images by pixel dimensions so I had to do some creative photo editing. My thought process for this image was to highlight my main product line (restored vintage dolls) and the fact that I ship worldwide. The new Etsy store design will go live April 5th. I'm excited!

My new eBay store cover photo

The eBay cover photo is a Canva template. I edited the typography to be consistent with my existing tags and stationery, which I just re-designed. The eBay branch of Atelier Mandaline has evolved since I opened the Etsy branch and now sells more modern children's clothing and toys. There are still lots of vintage dolls and toys for adult collectors, so I used the tag line, "For the young and young at heart.  I hope you'll visit both stores and check out my new designs!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Margaret Springs to Life

The Margaret O'Brien Doll

Margaret O'Brien was a famous child actor in the early part of the last century. In 1944 she received a special child's Oscar for her role in Meet Me In St. Louis and Madame Alexander saw an opportunity. Beatrice (Madame) Alexander felt Shirley Temple was being exploited by her family and said as much publicly. Therefore, when Shirley's popularity skyrocketed and Shirley Temple dolls were selling like hotcakes, the Alexander company couldn't very well produce their own without looking awfully hypocritical! They did make a doll called "Little Colonel" with a face obviously modeled after Shirley Temple, but they didn't produce it for long and today it's a very rare and valuable doll.

Margaret O'Brien

The Margaret Doll

Margaret O'Brien presented an alternative, a beautiful, popular child actress to immortalize whose parents Beatrice Alexander had not publicly chastised. So, the Madame Alexander company created and sold "Margaret O'Brien" dolls in composition from 1946-1948 with a few different eyes and hair color combinations and in various sizes. The auburn hair and green hazel eyes of this doll was a combination produced from the beginning. The "Margaret" face, as the mold was known, became one of the company's most popular face mold as was used for many different composition and then hard plastic doll characters through the 1940s and 50s.

The doll before restoration

Someone taped her waist.

There was a weird plaster substance applied to some lifted areas.

An area of deep crazing

At first glance Margaret didn't look too bad when she arrived. She had some tape residue and some actual tape stuck to her torso and some lifted areas in her composition. She had all over alligator type crazing. Her wig is original and still styled, however, and her eyes are clear with no shattering. I thought it would be a pretty quick restoration. Shows how much I know! I cleaned Margaret and sanded the tape residue and tape off her body. The usual procedure for repairing the lifting composition is to remove the large areas of lifting, sand the edges smooth, and apply epoxy to refill the lifted areas, then sand and paint it. When I went to remove the lifting on this doll, however, I realized there was some kind of weird plaster type stuff in the cracks under the lifts. Evidently when the composition started to lift up someone "fixed" it by trying to plaster it and then tape the original paint shell back over it. Margaret had been restrung and had a bad lip paint touch up job in the past so I know she had some amateur repairs. Sigh.

The repaired doll

The Alexander mark

When I tried to sand away the lifted areas the plaster stuff started crumbling, taking the composition material with it. I became alarmed, so I stepped back. I sanded down as much as I could and removed as much of the plaster as would come away safely. Then I repaired the areas with epoxy to stabilize them. I was not able to get the repairs as smooth as usual, however, due to my worries about the composition crumbling. The doll is fine and sturdy now; the repairs just aren't as nice as I'd like. Luckily that area is covered by clothing and Margaret looks lovely otherwise.

The restored doll
Once I finished the lifted areas and the deep crazing inside the thigh I was able to conceal the all over crazing pretty easily. I touched up the lips, since they'd been touched up previously with the wrong color. I repaired a tiny crack over one eye and touched up the eyeshadow over the cracked area. Otherwise, all the face paint and hand and knee blush is original to this doll, pretty rare for a doll of this age! Her hair just needed to be looped back up as it was originally, and she was ready to dress.

The doll wears a reproduction outfit from 1998.

The outfit is tagged.

Margaret has an eyelet crinoline.

I stabilized this hole so it won't expand.
I acquired a Margaret O'Brien outfit made for the porcelain reproduction dolls Madame Alexander made in 1998. That Margaret doll was 16 inches and my original doll is 18 inches, so the clothes are snug. I was able to make them work, and the outfit is the exact right style for the Margaret O'Brien dolls of the 1940s. To rework the set, I had to replace the shoes with similar but larger ones. I put a hook and eye in the back to keep the waist snaps closed and covered it with a satin ribbon sash.The crinoline slip elastic was loose, so I took it in. I stabilized a hole in the panties with Fray Check so it won't get any larger. Voila! Margaret is ready to move to her new home. You can find her and many other lovely dolls in my Atelier Mandaline stores on Etsy and eBay. Through Monday I have dolls on sale in my eBay branch. On Etsy use the coupon code INSTAFAN at checkout for 10% off everything in the store.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Margie's Baby Sister

Two Bisque Nancy Ann Storybook Dolls

I closed my last post with photos of the amazing handmade sister doll dresses I got in a lot of dolls and clothes. The dolls in the lot were dime store "dress me" sister dolls, worth much less than the Nancy Ann sisters shown below. I didn't have Nancy Ann sisters like these but I did have a bisque Storybook type doll and a baby.

These Nancy Ann sister dolls inspired my set.
The baby was an exciting addition to my inventory, because they are hard to come by for a reasonable price. My Nancy Ann book lists the value of a baby like mine, fully jointed with "star hands" and original clothes at around $400! My baby has her original gown but is missing her sweater, diaper, and booties, as well as any tags or boxes she might have had. Luckily, the mother who made the clothing knitted a tiny pink sweater that does fit her. My baby is the 3.5 inch size.

A Nancy Ann baby doll, all original

Nancy Ann baby types. This set has the 3.5 inch doll.

Nowadays, the Nancy Ann Storybook plastic nursery rhyme dolls are probably the best known of her dolls, besides the 8 inch Muffie, but Nancy Ann Abbott started by dressing Japanese-made porcelain and bisque wholesale dolls, using her skills as a costume designer. She worked in Hollywood as an actress during the silent movie era and then had become a studio designer before starting her doll design company. The first dolls had tags stating they were "styled by Nancy Ann." She then started having her own dolls produced. Her miniature baby dolls were extremely popular, but they didn't offer her enough expression to fully explore her obsession with costume design, so she moved on to produce the bisque Storybook dolls in several miniature sizes, from 5.5 to 7.5 inches.

Most of these were nursery rhyme or fairytale characters, but Nancy Ann had a Family Series, starting with #78, and starring a little girl named Margie Ann. Margie Ann had a Nanny or Mammy and baby set and a set of twins, but otherwise she doesn't seem to have had much family (I guess her parents were too busy producing all these babies to appear as dolls). She had several outfits of the type worn by children in her day, like a school dress and party dress. Today Margie Ann and the other Family Series dolls, like the Mammy and Nanny or Nurse with baby, is extremely rare and valuable. You can find pictures in the Photo Album section of The doll in this set is inspired by Margie Ann and named after her, but as you can see from her black painted ballet flats, she is not a Margie Ann doll. Margie Ann dolls have white painted high-button shoes.

A bisque Nancy Ann doll

The Nancy Ann mark

Margie Ann or not, this bisque doll did come to me with her baby sister, so it's not a stretch to imagine them as such. The baby is a later Nancy Ann baby doll, made to her specifications in the USA rather than Japan, and featuring the open "star hands." Earlier Nancy Ann babies have clenched fists. By this time the production of Nancy Ann's own baby dolls was streamlined and this doll is much less crude than others before. These dolls (from around 1940) are well-sculpted and prettily painted. The baby and Margie Ann have been restrung with durable elastic cord. I may have gotten the baby a little tight; her left leg wants to kick up or back. That will loosen up over time, however.

A 3.5 inch Nancy Ann baby doll

The doll is fully jointed.

The doll is marked.

A close up of the star hands

The baby has a rub in her hair paint.

When Margie Ann came to me she was wearing a pink tutu around her waist. I think it was probably her hat and that she was originally a pink bridesmaid as shown in the photo below, but it gave me the seed of the sister dolls idea, since a popular sister dolls outfit was the "Ballet Lesson" set. I made Margie Ann a lace leotard to wear under her tutu for her ballet class.

Margie's Ballet Outfit

I think the tutu was originally this bridesmaid hat.

As soon as I realize these exquisite outfits would fit Margie and her baby, I got to work on a sisters set. It's very appropriate, given Nancy Ann's love of fashion design, that her dolls should wear such lovely clothes. Here's Margie Ann's story:

Margie Ann is so proud to be a big sister! Mommy made them lots of matching outfits. On Sundays they wear their best sheer blue dresses, adorned with embroidery, pin tucks, and drawn thread work.

I made lace booties for the baby.

Each dress is elaborately embroidered.

Margie Ann helps Nanny by taking her sister for a walk to the park. They wear their lovely lattice print cotton dresses with cord trim and blanket-stitched finishing. Baby is so squirmy! It's hard to get her dressed!

The set includes a baby carriage.

Each doll wears handmade pantaloons.

Baby doesn't want to take a bath! She cries. Margie Ann puts her soft flannel robe on; maybe Baby is just cold.

Flannel robes

After their baths, Margie Ann and Baby put on their gowns. Since it's a chilly night they wear cozy sweaters over their gowns to keep warm.

The sweaters are hand knitted.

When it's bedtime Margie Ann lies down with Baby to help her fall asleep. Nanny says she just doesn't know how she would manage without Margie Ann's help!

The baby gown is original to the doll.
Once I've made such a big set I don't like to just throw everything in a bag, so I decided to package the dolls in a mini hat box I saved. I thought about how to customize it, and I thought silhouettes of Margie and her sister would be perfect. The box is just the right size to hold everything, and it's appropriate, since Nancy Ann often packaged her baby doll sets in hat boxes. I just cut the silhouettes out of construction paper and photo copied them onto card stock. I noticed Nancy Ann's hat boxes had a large satin bow accent, so I thought something like that would be nice. I found some braid trim that matches and applied it.

If you're a certain age you have probably always heard of doll collectors, and collector dolls, but you might not be aware that is the result of a brilliant ploy by Nancy Ann, who encouraged girls to "collect" all the dolls in a series. She pioneered the idea! So if you have a doll collection today, you have Nancy Ann Abbott to thank for that. You can find this set and many others in my Atelier Mandaline stores on Etsy and eBay.

Cutting the silhouettes

Braid trim accents the box.

The base is signed.

The box holds everything for storage.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Mother to Mother Part 2

1930's Shirley Temple

As I mentioned in my last post, I had a client drive from Tennessee with her mother's 1930's Shirley Temple doll so I could restore it. As always, she told me there was no hurry and then sent a message a week later wanting to know if she could come pick up the doll! That's okay, though, because I was prepared. Every doll restoration I ever do is like that, so I got started right away.

Sculpting Epoxy Repairs

Shirley needed epoxy repairs to a crotch split and a large hole in her side. She was also missing a fingertip and the tips of her toes. Her eyes were shattered and she had all over crazing as well.

When the epoxy was dry I sanded and painted the repairs. I use oil paint for the painting, so I left the body to dry while I worked on the eyes.

Repairing the eyes

The finished eyes

As you might remember from my eye repair tutorial, I use a layering process of my own invention with oil paints, metallic markers, gloss medium, and stained glass paints.

The finished eye repair

Once the eyes were finished the body was ready for crazing repair. A couple days after that I applied the sealant and the doll was ready to go, just in time!

The finished repairs

My client originally planned to re-string Shirley herself, but when she got to my house she asked if I could do it. Since she has bought several kits from my store and hired me to restore more than one doll, I obliged. My client also gave me a doll she didn't want! It's a good relationship!

The restored body

Shirley in her original dress

My client's next doll is a Petite Sally by American Character from 1931. This are my favorite kind of repairs; my client remembers her mother talking about this doll all the time. It will be a pleasure to restore her to herself!

American Character Petite Sally

I got another mother-themed lot last week. I ordered a case with some small dolls and clothing because I spotted a rare Nancy Ann Lori Ann doll in the lot. When the case arrived I realized the true treasure in the case was a set of big and little sister outfits, amazingly handmade by some long ago mommy who happened to be an incredible seamstress. Each tiny garment is adorned with hand embroidery, drawn thread work, pin tucks, and there are even minute hand knits! The outfits were made for a dime store set of sister dolls, but I realized they fit the Nancy Ann sister dolls of the 1950s. I don't have a set of those, but I did have a Nancy Ann 5.5 inch bisque doll and a 3.5 inch baby. The clothes are a tiny bit big but were easy to refit for a unique sister set. Look for that post coming soon!

Handmade doll clothes