Friday, May 20, 2016

Then There Were Three

A personal milestone for me has been the creation of a social media network for my brand. You can now find my fairly consistent presence as Atelier Mandaline on Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook. You can shop my stores on Etsy and eBay, and now you can shop Atelier Mandaline on Facebook as well! I've been working hard to set up shop on Facebook. Their new shop site is not terribly user-friendly and I've struggled to upload photos and deal with shipping, and all the stuff more experienced sales sites have streamlined. I'm sure we will both get better at this as time goes on!

A bubble glass candy dish for sale in the shop

Since it has been a struggle to get things listed I only have a couple items for sale so far. The first listings in the Facebook shop are collectibles I'm selling for our high school marching band. EBay has recently raised fees to the point it takes away significantly from the band's profits, and I can't afford to pay the fees for them because I've been donating my eBay store listings and time all month. I'm hoping Facebook's lower fee schedule will allow us to maximize the band's money and be worth the hassle.

Yesterday I was able to add one listing to my Facebook shop with the mobile app, but it wouldn't let me create a second listing. So then I had to move all my photos onto the computer and then to Facebook, during which time all the cropping and edits from my phone were erased. So now I have listings with upside-down or sideways photos, uncropped photos, etc, and have to go back to fix those. It's been a long, frustrating process!

Eventually I see the Facebook shop as an extension of my eBay and Etsy stores, focusing primarily on new and vintage dolls and toys and kids' clothing. It's a dream of mine to someday grow big enough to make my own kids' dolls and toys and clothes, but right now I can't afford the product testing and certification required to manufacture things for kids. I would truly love to open a factory right here in the Catawba Valley where so many furniture and textile jobs have disappeared! I hope you'll shop from me and make my dream a reality (and support our high school marching band)!

Art Glass bowl; all proceeds benefit high school band.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Secret of Madame

My last post touched on a project I decided not to sell at the last minute; The Secret of Madame Doll, based on the book by the same name by Frances Cavanah. The book, a story set in colonial America, is pretty rare nowadays, as is the doll, and there's a lot of misinformation as a result. I read on the Internet the doll was made 10 years after the 1965 book, but that's clearly not true. In fact, the doll was first produced in 1967 and was re-issued each year through 1974 (at least according to my Patricia Smith books), so I don't know why it's so rare. I guess they just didn't make many each year. The dolls were made with the re-sculpted Mary Ann face in the later years.

The doll looked great...

Until I turned her over.
I've sold through a large amount of my Etsy store inventory (which I'm quite happy to announce) recently, so a couple weeks ago I ordered a lot of dolls that looked like easy flips. None were complete so I wouldn't have too feel bad about selling them and their clothes separately. I've been having a lot of success with restored "Dress Me" dolls (really Madame Alexander and other brand dolls all fixed up and sold nude, so ready to dress) and doll clothes lately. I think a lot of people want to get into making custom dolls, and this is a way to make a doll on your own without having to know how to sculpt one. Anyway, I was pleased when I got the lot to find a super-rare Secret of Madame doll among the others. She looked fantastic until I undressed her and turned her over. Then I saw the plastic on her bottom was crumbling.

In the 1960s Madame Alexander started making doll bodies out of a thin, light hard plastic. The arms and heads were still a thick, heavy vinyl. This results in dolls that today are often two-toned, with yellowed arms and faces but pink torsos and legs. The torso of the Secret doll is almost flexible, the plastic is so thin. Later on the Madame dolls were made entirely out of the lighter materials and the seams weren't even sanded down. It's sad how much the doll quality suffered for a while in the 70s and 80s. The clothes are still every bit as nice, however. Anyway, a repair was in order to this doll and another in the same lot.

The epoxy repair in progress

The finished repair
The epoxy repair is still visible now that it's finished, but I covered over a large area around the damaged plastic to stabilize the torso. The repair will be covered by clothing, at any rate, and now it's sturdy enough to stand up to some handling. That's a good thing because my daughter got really into this doll and the book while I was restoring it, so I got her a copy of the book and gave her the doll.

The restored doll

 Her neck is marked 1965

The thing that so intrigued my daughter is Madame Doll's secret: her petticoat's pocket that holds either a pearl necklace or a string of pearls. I've seen the doll with both a necklace with a clasp or just pearls on a string she can't really wear. My daughter's doll's pearls were missing, so I gave her a pearl necklace from a different Madame Alexander doll. She can keep them in her pocket or wear them. The Secret doll's outfit is incredible, as befits a fashion doll sent to America to show the colonists how to dress. Her dress is silk brocade festooned with ruched organdy accents and lace. Her cap is lace-trimmed pink organdy with a black velvet ribbon. Her undergarments are trimmed with crocheted lace. I washed and ironed the set and refreshed the stretched elastic in all the pieces by gathering them with elastic thread.

I restored her outfit as well.

The secret pocket

The pocket hides the jewels.
I can tell the doll I gave my daughter is one of the earliest ones because she has the first Mary Ann face sculpt. The earlier face, which I personally prefer, is larger and more rounded, has smaller, more almond-shaped eyes, a more pronounced chin, a nose slightly more tilted upward, and a larger mouth. The differences are subtle but definitely recognizable. The earlier Alexander dolls tend to have a great deal more painted blush as well. This doll is even blushed on the tips of her earlobes.

The earlier Mary Ann face

I know I write about this a lot, but it never ceases to amaze me how much dolls seem to come up for sale in trends. I'll buy or hear of a really rare doll and won't see another one. I'll have trouble finding out any information at all. Then all of  sudden I'll see them everywhere. Well, maybe not EVERYWHERE in this case, but the fact remains when I was trying to research the Secret of Madame doll I only saw one complete one listed at an astronomical price and then a couple of other incomplete dolls here and there; I maybe saw five total. Then a week or so later a complete Secret doll came up in my eBay feed when I was trying to find the book for my daughter. The price was reasonable, so I jumped on it!

The later and earlier versions
The complete doll I found has the later Mary Ann face but still has the tag with a photo of the original Mary Ann faced doll and the date 1967 printed on it. Her other arm is tagged with an auction or store tag giving her particulars and listing a price of $200 with a notation that the "Blue Book" value is $400 (bet you didn't know dolls had Blue Book values! I didn't). She is complete, but her pearls are the type without a clasp, just a looped string of pearls. The pearls look old and their pearl coating has begun to flake away. My guess is the complete doll is the 1970's version. I wish I could find some information about when the Mary Ann sculpt was changed. I think it was pretty soon after her release, because I rarely see the older sculpt. I guess this could be a later 60s doll, but the photos in my Alexander doll books seem to indicate the change happened around 1972. The trouble with the Smith books is Mrs. Smith had her husband take all the photos and most of them are terrible, so it's really hard to distinguish the subtleties of the different faces. The same date, 1965, is used on all the Mary Ann faces, new sculpt and old, so it's no help.

The newer face on the left and older face on the right

An old store tag

The original tag

The doll is numbered 1561.

I'm trying to decide whether to leave the string of pearls in their original state or put a clasp on them so a child could take them on and off. I think they may not be in good enough shape to handle much, so I'm thinking of making a new necklace and including both.

The pearls in their secret pocket

Besides the difference in faces, the dolls have slightly different hair. The earlier doll (on the left) has darker honey blond hair that's stiffer and holds its sausage-curled style better. The newer doll has been boxed for many years, however, and the older one was displayed on a stand so hers is less smashed anyway.

The newer doll has lighter hair.

Now that our book arrived we are eager to find out what happens. The plot summary inside the dust jacket says the doll was sent over as a fashion guide for colonial women, but its owners hid their family jewels in her clothes. Then the doll was stolen! We can't wait to find out how the story ends! The newer doll needs a little freshening up after her years in storage, but as soon as I get that done you will be able to find her and many other rare and lovely dolls in my Atelier Mandaline shops on eBay and Etsy.

The new (left) and old faces

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Star Wars Galore and More!

Items I'm selling on behalf of our high school band.

I haven't finished anything much for my store lately because I've been embroiled since Friday in a huge charity project to benefit our high school's marching band program. Well, actually, that's not true; I did get rare Secret of Madame doll by Madame Alexander finished and was all ready to list her when my daughter showed an unusual interest. The doll was made in 1975 and was based on the Frances Cavanah children's book The Secret of Madame from a decade earlier. My daughter's interest was piqued by the secret pocket in the doll's petticoat, which holds a pearl necklace. Evidently the historical tale relates the mystery of a fashion doll which is stolen from a colonial American family home (we ordered the book but haven't received it yet; the book is pretty rare too!). The doll was sent over from England or France to show colonial women the latest clothing styles. The family had hidden their jewels inside the doll's clothes, so they lost a significant treasure during the burglary. We don't know what happens yet and my daughter is beside herself waiting to read the story. I felt like any doll that engenders such interest in history and literature should belong to her. Funnily enough, even though that doll is rare I came across another the other day and when it arrives I'll fix that one up for the store.

Asian teapot

Anyway, other than finishing the doll I decided not to sell, I have been appointed in charge of selling more valuable items from the North Lincoln High School Band of Knights yard sale. Each year townspeople and parents donate items for the band to sell at a two-day yard sale. Actually, only one day is open to the public, so it's a really short sale. Usually everything that doesn't sell in this (to my mind) extraordinarily brief period is donated to Habitat for Humanity. I don't have anything against Habitat, but we live in the poorest area of our state and the arts programs, like band, are always uncomfortably close to the chopping block. In fact, my younger kids' elementary school ran out of paper weeks ago and they still have a month of school left! So last year when I saw some unsold Vermont Teddy Bears with their tags still attached (I had already forced the other band moms to raise the price from $5 each to $10) heading for donation I grabbed them and a couple other things I thought I could sell and listed them in my eBay store. A week later I'd netted about $75 extra for the band. No good deed goes unpunished, of course, so this year I was put in charge of pricing. The sale did well; we earned almost $1700, but I was given several boxes of collectibles to try to sell online. These came from a woman in her 80s who said the band could have anything in her storage buildings to sell as long as someone came and cleaned them out. A lot of her stuff was junk, but there are actually some really nice things in the lot. I've already sold over $100 since yesterday in my "after-sale sale"! I still have a LOT to move out of my dining room, however, and I've been working for free for two days now, so I hope you'll check out our sale. I'm donating all proceeds to the band.

Vintage Lipper & Mann party plates

Vintage lustreware teapot

We have some vintage motion picture stuff: a projector with splice kit and a movie camera, both in cases. There are several Japan made ceramics which I mostly haven't listed yet and Fenton-style art glass pieces. The lady with the storage buildings collected teapots and even though we sold an amazing number at the yard sale we still have a few left. The Asian brass or copper teapot shown above is a really special piece. Then we have STAR WARS, STAR WARS, STAR WARS... an unbelievable amount. These are selling so fast some have sold as I've been writing, but I still have about half the lot left. There are some rare pieces of Star Wars stuff, including the Dejarik chess pieces and a whole bunch of hard to find preschool figures. The band could really use your help, so please stop by Atelier Mandaline on eBay to shop for the band. I am not finished listing yet, so please keep checking for new stuff. I am updating my Atelier Mandaline Facebook page as I get stuff listed so you can check there to see what all I have and what has sold.

A huge lot of Star Wars stuff

Star Wars preschool stuff

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Happy Birthday to Me!

My birthday falls this week, so to celebrate I am offering a gift to YOU! I am holding sales in both Atelier Mandaline shops on eBay and Etsy. I have hundreds of eBay listings on sale for 15% off with no coupon required through May 8th. These sales cover every store department! I also have kids' clothing and shoes up for auction with starting bids of 50% off. If you are a newsletter subscriber on eBay I apologize yet again; the newsletter function still isn't working. EBay is aware of the problem and they are supposed to be fixing it. For now please just consider this blog or the Atelier Mandaline Facebook page as your newsletter. My Etsy offer is a coupon for 10% off anything in the shop, which I send when you favorite my store or items. I hope you'll stop by and do that. It's really quick; you just click on the little heart.

Here at the house it's been a whirlwind week, but things are getting better. The batman came and relocated the bats out of the attic. The antman also visited today to combat the persistent ant problem we inherited when we bought the house, which became infested while sitting empty. My fitness group's grueling May challenges (we perform increasing numbers of burpees, squats, and abdominal exercises daily) are starting to pay off. This morning I was able to move my bra band hooks over to a smaller set! My Etsy store had its best week ever. If things can just keep going like this I'll be pretty happy (knock on wood)! I hope you are similarly well off.

Though this offer ends May 8th the coupon does not expire!

Monday, May 2, 2016

French Country

Screen as doorway
If you've followed this blog for a while you are aware of our acquisition of two cats and a puppy in fairly short order since the fall. Throughout our marriage we always have had two dogs and two cats and for the past decade, a bird. I don't know if I forgot or if our other animals had different personalities, but we have had a heck of a time with this group. The last of our cats died (at age 15) shortly before we moved here and the kids were begging for a kitten, so we got one for our daughter's birthday. Before getting the kitten we noticed a patch of gray wood in the dining room floorboards, back in the corner. This house had some water damage in the past when a refrigerator flooded, so we assumed it was water damage dating to that time. Well, as soon as we got the kitten it was apparent it was not water damage but damage from urine. We couldn't smell it (then) but the cat sure could. A month after the kitten arrived we were alerted to an abandoned former show cat in need of help and added her to the family. We also added territorial disputes between the cats to the mix. I tried essential oils, aluminum foil, feeding the cats in the areas they were trying to mark, etcetera, etcetera... nothing has worked.

In December our 14 year old Sheltie died and we were apparently delusional with grief, because in January we added a puppy to the mix. This puppy, let me tell you... She's an Australian Shepherd and smart as a whip but she is the most headstrong stubborn brat of a dog I've ever owned. Anything she knows she isn't supposed to do she sneaks off and does the minute your back is turned. I have to crate her even for a quick trip to the bathroom because she absolutely has to be supervised all the time. She knocked the computer off the table and broke it and chewed up my daughter's eyeglasses, and runs upstairs every chance she gets to try and steal socks or toys or towels or anything she can find to chew all up. My husband recently refinished our carpeted stairs to wooden and we were having to keep a baby grate blocking the stairway. It was scratching the new finish all up from being moved back and forth when people used the stairs. I decided containment is the only solution. I didn't want ugly baby or pet gates all over the place, however.

Wall hangings as a Dutch door.
Let me just say, while I'm on the subject, I am not a fan of open floor plan houses for this very reason. I think they're just a way for builders to avoid the cost of framing in doors at the expense of the homeowners' quality of life. I far prefer being able to close children and pets and guests for that matter out of rooms that are clean or dangerous or messy. And if you put in doorways then you can always open the door if you want to see into other rooms. I wanted to be able to close off the front of our house without making it dark.

A couple years ago we traveled to New Orleans and I fell absolutely in love with the French and Spanish influences there. As soon as we returned I started reworking our patio in the backyard to resemble a New Orleans courtyard. I wanted the same style inside the house. I bought a metal screen off Facebook from a lady who is redecorating. It perfectly fits in the hallway and we can open the side panel and push it forward to use as a door. My husband has plans to put casters or something on the feet to protect the floor and so it's a little easier for our youngest to operate. The kitten can, of course, squeeze through the screen as it is so we wired the back with large chicken wire. It has a French Provincial look and keeps her out of the front rooms. It's almost invisible as well, as you can see from the photo.

Then I went to Hobby Lobby and bought two wall hangings made to look like old gates. My step-dad and husband, and son all worked on hanging them. I wanted to hang them up with the curved ends on the top and bottom but the kitten can squeeze under there too, so we had to put the curved ends in the middle. It still looks neat, I think, and it operates like a Dutch door: you can close just the top or just the bottom or the entire thing. I love the cast iron inserts; now I really feel as if we live in a converted French abbey or something! The cats have been sitting around in the laundry room (with a vinyl floor!) all day, pouting, but everyone else loves it! I think it adds a lot of character to our home, but if we were ever to sell the house each of these things are easy to remove in case the new owners didn't like them.

Add caption

In creating my NOLA courtyard I am a bit hampered by several things. First, it's a patio without walls. Second, it has a very American white picket fence surrounding part of it. Third, there are kids' and dogs' toys scattered all over the yard no matter how much I pick up after them, so it kind of wrecks the ambiance. The previous owners planted Greenback magnolia trees all around the yard, years ago I guess. This type of magnolia doesn't get as big as the traditional variety. I wanted to umbrella-prune them, as I fondly remember the magnolias at ECU being pruned when I was at school there. I spent many a happy hour sitting on a blanket in the shade under those trees, studying or drawing. The resulting umbrella-ed trees with their shiny dark green leaves lend a quintessential  Mediterranean flair to the patio and create a living wall. I interspersed potted citrus trees, as I have seen at Borghese Palace in Rome, between the magnolias to make a small "wall". Last year we dug up half the stone patio and rebuilt it and added new paver base so now it's a gravelly, dry stone pavement, just as you see all over Italy and France and (I assume since I've never been there) Spain. My step-dad and son made me new planter boxes for the fence and I have cascading herbs and flowers planted in there so in a few weeks I hope they will be tumbling over the sides and down to the ground. The only thing missing from my "courtyard" was the obligatory fountain. For the past three years I have kept a tiered herb planter in the center of the patio. It had a fountain-ish look, but it kept getting blown over in storms and in the summer it had to be watered twice a day sometimes because it dries out so fast in that beating sun.

Well this year for my birthday my parents got me a wonderful battery-operated fountain! It has several spray settings and lights up. I was planning to save up to build a raised pond in the patio center with those stacking wall bricks and a pond liner, but now I can put that off. If I do decide to do it I can put a pedestal in the center and set this fountain up in the middle and it will look wonderful! I am really happy with this part of the yard now and I sit out here and eat my lunch almost every day.

My new fountain

I've been really working hard on the yard lately. I've accomplished a lot but I still have a long way to go. I put in three new vegetable and flower beds along the patio and grass. We moved a ton of trees and shrubs back into the shadier part of the yard in the fall and now I can grow sun plants along the edge of the grass. I built a stacked-stone wall partway along the grass until I ran out of stones and built two new paths which transition from stone to pinestraw and lead into the back yard. The back is still wild, and as you can see it's totally full of toys and piles of limbs and brush we cut back. Someday when we chip or burn all the brush I plan to move the sandbox and resulting clutter further back behind a screen. The children are all old enough to play by themselves now so I don't have to have them and their mess in clear view all the time anymore. We moved several roses into one spot to make a rose garden and erected a metal gazebo in the center with a stained glass compass stone my step-father and son made at the entrance. I planted climbing vines all around the gazebo and I'm looking for a chair that will fit inside so someone can relax there in the shade if they want. Far in the very back yard we have a hammock with mock orange planted all around it, and I want to eventually make a path to the hammock and plant something worthy of going back there to view.

One of my new gardens with a path.

Another new bed
All in all, I think I am slowly getting a kind of European estate sort of yard, at least here in the back. I have fruit trees around the fire pit and will find chairs or benches one of these days. I can't wait until we have some seating out there and can sit out under the blooming trees in the spring! We have a wonderful library here in town and it has an amazing garden all around it, staffed by volunteers. Although it's not enormous, they've made so many winding paths and little garden rooms you can walk all around for quite some time out there, getting pretty good exercise and enjoying the beauty as well! That's my goal for our yard!

The rose garden

Besides the house and yard work I created a new multiple doll stringing kit variation this weekend. If you have several dolls in various sizes to re-string this kit contains enough cord and hooks for at least five dolls (more if your doll has her own hooks). That comes out to about $8 a doll with shipping, so it's the best value I offer on stringing kits. You can find those in my Etsy store.

My new doll stringing kits

My health and fitness group is still chugging along. This month we are doing three fitness challenges, completing a certain number of squats, abdominals, and burpees each day. I've finished my 75 squats already today but still have the other stuff to do. We use essential oils and Young Living products to help us reach our goals. If you'd like to join us please email or message me through my Naturally Amanda Facebook page. The gifts with purchase from Young Living (shown below) are incredible this month, so it's a great time to start!

May gifts with purchase from Young Living