Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Adventure Awaits!

Atelier Mandaline shops will be closed February 1-8 while I am on vacation in California. I have so many new adventures underway, including my own exclusive line of doll eyes in production. To see all the new stuff heading to my shops please visit the Atelier Mandaline Updates page! Have a wonderful week!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Money, Money

I've been largely out of the shop the past few days due to several unexpected events. First, on Wednesday we had a winter storm that, instead of delivering a trace of snow as it was supposed to, gave us nearly eight inches! If you're a North Carolinian you know that just shuts everything down. The roads were so bad Dale Earnhardt Jr., who lives in the next town over, crashed into a pine tree and even the county snow plow ran off the road into a ditch! The kids have been out of school for three straight days. I've been drinking more wine than is probably good for me. Our puppy, Loki, decided it would be a good time to eat a squeaker from a toy he chewed up. I took the toy and squeaker away from him when I saw it and didn't realize he must have either snuck it out of the trash when I wasn't looking or had another hidden away. At any rate, he ended up with an intestinal blockage and had to be rushed to the emergency vet in the snow. We made it there and back with difficulty; what should have been a 10 minute drive took over a half hour each way. We weren't sure at first what was wrong so Loki had to have two sets of X-Rays and bloodwork before they finally found the problem and took him into surgery around midnight. Since this was the emergency vet and not our regular vet the bill ended up at more than $2200. Loki is lucky he's cute! 

​That same day I heard from a customer that her doll arrived with its face crushed, despite my having spent $6 more than I charged her shipping it Priority Mail in a brand new box in an attempt to get USPS to be more careful. I had to refund her money. Last week they lost two of my packages and I had to send free replacements to the buyers. I don't get it; I've never had as many problems with them ever as I have in the two past weeks. And speaking of USPS, their rates will rise 6% on average the day after tomorrow. Regretfully I raised my eBay prices 6%, since eBay requires me to pay shipping and return shipping for most items to keep my Top Seller status. To ease everyone into the change my store will be discounted 10% this weekend, through Tuesday. You can shop the sale when you link to my eBay store from www.ateliermandaline.com.

You may have seen my posts about painting custom color doll eyes for people. All of a sudden, about six months ago, I began to have as many as ten inquiries each day about American Girl doll eyes. Evidently a big trend is "eye-swapping" American Girl doll's eyes for other doll's eyes or for more unusual colored eyes. This is great for me, as an eye seller, except that I carry Margon eyes. I carry Margon because they are the brand used in the vintage dolls I mostly restore. They will fit the American Girl doll in the 13mm size but the fit isn't perfect. The eyes are smaller than the originals but the casing is more round, so you have to go with a smaller eye to fit it in the face. I reluctantly put the American Girl sized fit on the listing for the 13mm eyes because I was trying to avoid answering the same question a hundred times a week, but even though it's all over the listings that the eyes are smaller I keep having people return them without even trying them. They just look at them and decide they won't fit and won't believe me when I tell them it's the right size. I'm bleeding way too much money for these returns; the shipping alone is $6 when I have to pay it both ways.  So I had to stop accepting returns on those eyes. EBay cut the Top Seller Discount on fees in half and it just doesn't make it worthwhile for me to save on fees by paying for all these returns. If you are responsible customer who reads the listing and looks at the photos before you buy online I sincerely apologize! 

​Very soon American Girl eyes may no longer be a problem. I've been working with a manufacturer to have doll eyes made to my specifications. Today they told me they had my sample ready and I ordered it. It will take about a month to arrive and then I can make sure the fit is good. If it is I can order them made in different colors, instead of just the three I have now. Then it will take another couple months for them to arrive but my hope is to have eyes that fit the American Girl dolls in the colors my buyers want so I don't have to paint them so often. I am so hopeful these will work. I just can't wait to carry my own brand of eyes that I don't have to make apologies for or paint different colors! Loki and his surgery and all my USPS refunds set me back as to how many things I can order, but my dream is to eventually have my own line of all kinds of doll making supplies, designed by me, and even someday dolls made to my design! I hope you will follow along with my journey and thanks so much to all of you who supported me and purchased from me to help me get to this point!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Ideal Playtex Dryper Baby Doll Repair Tips

Before and After



I've never seen a head hook like this before.
Lately I've been stepping up my social media marketing and as a result I've seen a huge influx of doll hospital patients. New dolls have been showing up on my doorstep almost daily. I am thrilled with this increase in business, although my hands are in traction after several difficult boil method eye replacements.I am getting arthritis in my hands to the point it's affecting my ability to work as much as I would like (which is basically around the clock, as you know). I am kicking the idea of a doll school around. The idea is you would sign up for a monthly subscription and would receive a lesson with a kit of materials to make each repair. By the end of all the classes you will have learned all you need to repair your own precious dolls and even enough to start your own doll hospital. I'm having trouble with the amount of coding required to set up recurring payments. There is software you can purchase but my husband doesn't think anyone will want to sign up for a subscription like this so I am scared to purchase the billing system. If you would like to sign up for lessons please let me know so I can determine if it's a viable idea.

Anyway, with all these dolls showing up I have encountered some I've never seen before and how some of them are constructed is just crazy! This particular baby is the Playtex Dryper Baby doll made in 1959 by Ideal. She's a rare doll and I haven't ever worked on one. Her "mom" purchased doll kits for restringing and eye replacement from my Etsy shop but found it difficult and wasn't happy with the result so she sent her to me for repairs. I could see immediately why she had trouble; this doll has a narrow neck, so you would normally use the boil method to insert new eyes. However, the doll is extremely thick vinyl that makes it really hard to squeeze the eyes out and get new ones in. Then the doll has strung arms but otherwise she's not a strung doll. She has a crazy giant head screw I've never seen before. It's kind of like the screws used in porcelain doll making but not exactly. Ideal was all about insane head attachments, as I learned in the restoration of their Shirley Temple doll from the same era. I searched and searched for repair tips but couldn't find any, thus, a new tutorial.

Heat the vinyl to remove the metal plate.
I regret to say I forgot to take a photo of the metal plate in this doll's neck just by itself. The doll has a round metal plate with two circular holes in it stuck in the neck opening. The head screw/spring thing attaches to the plate through the holes and they also originally let the drink and wet tube pass through the plate into the body (WHYYYY, THOUGH did all these doll companies make drink and wet dolls with metal parts??? They are always all rusty and horrible inside!). Anyway, to remove the plate in the neck so you can get to the eyes you will need to heat the vinyl. I used a hair dryer. You can take the plate out completely or just push it up into the head and work around it, which is what I did because I didn't feel like having to mess with getting it back into the neck later.

Use a rod to position the eyes.

Heat the vinyl to push the eyes further into the sockets.

The secret of my cut and glue eye replacement method is you can use larger sized eyes than you can with the boil method. The owner had already cut the eye pockets open so I used the cut and glue method to replace the eyes. This doll takes a 17mm eye but if you tried to push them in from the front you'd never get the casing into the pocket and you'd have to go down to a 15 or maybe even a 14 and it wouldn't look as good. Even with the cut method the 17mm eyes are hard to push into the sockets, which are exactly the same size, so I used a hair dryer to heat the vinyl so I could push the eyes further forward into the sockets. Before pushing them all the way in I used a bamboo skewer to position them.

The finished eyes.
A good thing to keep on hand in your doll studio are the bamboo chopsticks you get from Chinese restaurants. I wash these and save them. The are wonderful tools for getting into tight spots and since they are disposable you can throw them out if they get too messy. I usually just clean mine over and over, though. I used the chopstick for pushing the eyes are far as possible into the sockets and for gluing them.

Use a chopstick for the glue.

Insert the glue.
In this case the wide top end of the chopstick was perfect for applying the glue on the backs of the eyes. The narrow, long neck opening would have made it really hard using anything else. You want to be precise with the glue so you don't get it all over the head or the eyes and the chopstick is great for that.

The glued eyes and the metal plate.

Lay the doll on her side to dry.

When the eyes were glued I had to lay the doll on her side to dry them because the head wouldn't stand up well on its narrow neck. You don't want to face the doll downward because the glue can run into the eyes and ruin them, which is something I learned the hard way!

The spring attaches to the plate as shown.

When the doll's eyes were dry I reattached the head. To do this you push the spring over the doll's neck and push the hook up from the bottom to hook it to the plate as shown. This is difficult, especially if the spring is seized up. Use caution so the spring doesn't fly out of your grasp and take your own eye out! If you can, get a strong man to help you. I was strong enough, but just barely, and as I said, now I have my hands all wrapped up in supports.

This is how the spring should look.

The spring holds the head inside the body.

Push the head into the body.
The screw/spring will hold the head inside the body. To insert it you have to push and also kind of screw the neck into the body opening. The body is harder plastic than the head but heating it might help some if you're having trouble. I found by turning the head like I was turning a screw I was able to insert it without heating it. You will have to push really hard.

Bring the elastic behind the spring.

The drink and wet tube opening is in the background.
Once you have the head attached you can string the arms. I brought the cord behind the spring so it wouldn't get all tangled up and mess up the arm and head movement. In the background you can see the drink and wet tube exit. If you wanted to preserve the drink and wet function you would have to run a tube from the attachment on the mouth through the metal neck plate into the body and attach it to the ferrule in the back (this doll wets very unrealistically from her upper back!). My customer didn't want the drink and wet function and I was happy to not have to mess with finding and inserting tubing so we left it out.

Knot the cord.

As always, pull the cord as tight as possible, which is easiest if you use a hemostat such as those available in my Etsy shop and knot the cord. Check the movement before you cut the cord to make sure you got it tight enough.

At this point, if I were doing a full restoration I would refresh the doll's face and hair paint. My customer is an accomplished crafter in this case, so she's going to take care of that. I actually do quite a bit of work for other restorers who just aren't good at eyes. We each have our strengths and it's fun to collaborate with others in my profession, so I enjoy that.

Please make sure to message me and let me know if you'd be interested in a Mandaline University subscription. You can do that and also buy supplies and already-restored dolls from ateliermandaline.com.

The finished doll

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Please Help Find This Doll!

Doll Peeps ~ we need help! We are looking for a replacement doll for a special needs woman in Germany. The doll is from the Polish manufacturer Hencz-toys. Please let me know if you can locate one, especially if you are in Germany or Poland. Please share!
​Thanks! Amanda

​Original message is here: I am a member of a group on facebook that is trying to help the mother of a 37 year old special needs woman in Germany find a replacement for the doll she's had since she was born, or someone local who can perhaps do repairs. Apparently, the doll had never left her side until recently, when it broke, and she's extremely distraught without it. This was posted to a puppet building group I'm a member of as a last resort, and as none of us are specifically doll people, we're not sure how to help. I thought I'd write you, as someone who appears to do doll repairs, and see if you have any sort of connections to anyone who may know about this doll, connections to anyone in Germany who may be able to repair, or anyone who may have the capacity to alter/age a similar doll. From what has been gleaned so far by people looking, it's from a Polish manufacturer, Hencz-toys, and is from the 80s. 

Thanks so much for your time, I'm sure that you have a lot going on, so I really appreciate you taking the time to read this.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Instagram Inspirations

This post is going to be redundant for those of you who follow my social media pages, and for that I apologize. I have been so busy lately I haven't had time to blog much so many of my long-time readers may be wondering what has become of me. Instagram is the new Pinterest, in my opinion, and I have more than 1500 followers, for which  am extremely grateful. Years ago when I started writing the Mandaline Artful Living blog about doll repair I never thought anyone would read it. And certainly for a long time the only views I got were click bait websites trying to get me to click on their site. Gradually my readership increased. When I started pinning my blog posts to the then-new Pinterest I saw an explosion in views and sales on eBay. Back then I only sold on eBay and didn't even have a store. Nowadays when I post on Instagram I see an almost immediate boost in sales and followers across my network of shops. I find I'm on Instagram more than is probably good for me because I am just learning so much. I have groups of people I follow for business: doll makers and sellers and resellers, and a weight loss group. Then I have my Facebook friends and family members and I find I am learning so much from them all. In my business group someone suggested the 10K On The Bay YouTube channel so I've been watching it and I am so inspired. I feel like a loser most of the time, because all these kids are making so much money on eBay in the one year they've been selling or whatever and I've been selling on eBay for 16 years, but they have such great ideas and insight. Some things don't apply to me because I am a different generation, like, "Try to work weekends so you won't spend all your money poppin' it at the club." Yeah. Not a problem for me! Lately most of my money has gone to impromptu surgeries and hospital visits rather than entertainment!

But anyway, Chris, who broadcasts the 10K channel, is a great person for me to listen to because he is a total numbers person. I am not a numbers person at all. My strength is making things. I can make almost anything and I can look at almost anything and know how it was made so I am good at fixing things. I've struggled over the years to define myself as a business. I've done a good job, better than most of the kids making all the money, establishing my brand, most likely because of my commercial art background, but I am not set up as a business at all. Partly this is from necessity. As you know I am a mom first and I am often called away from the shop to take children to the doctor or to school. We have three kids, two of whom we adopted with special needs. Our youngest was just released from his IEP, so he no longer needs speech therapy, in February, and by March I was consistently hitting the Top 10% of eBay sellers in multiple categories. I was on track to have a really stellar year when in September our oldest son, who has always been healthy, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Because he was away at college we spent nearly all our free time that month staying near him, three hours away and since then we've made multiple trips to help him adjust, take care of his medications, accompany him to the doctor visits, etc. Then we had the infamous two storey water heater flood that put my office out of commission right at the beginning of the holiday crunch time, so I didn't have the fourth quarter I was expecting. I made slightly more than last year. I am proud I was able to improve on my numbers even with all the tragedy and upheaval, but I am really interested in becoming a "real" business and a more automated business so I don't have to constantly be in the shop. Reviewing my numbers after listening to podcasts I realized I only had $10,000 for sale on eBay and most of those prices include shipping. So if every thing I have sold I would still only be making side money. I determined to add to my inventory. Money is tight for us right now because our children have had three surgeries and one ICU stay over the past two years. Our youngest has been complaining about his ears and looks to be on the road to another ear tube surgery, so I can't just spend and spend. So I took the profit I've saved and did some retail arbitrage at IKEA. I have all kinds of limited edition pieces which are now discontinued for sale on eBay. I also stepped up listing my consignment baby and kids' clothes. I've been concentrating on getting Spring and Summer merchandise in place so I have a ton of swimsuits right now. I am trying my hand at wholesale as well. I listed a whole bunch of choker necklaces on Poshmark and eBay. These are so trendy right now my daughter, who modeled them for me, bought some off me before the photo shoot! As my Instagram following has grown I have more and more doll hospital requests as well, so that is another income stream for me. It's not automated, however. I hope this year to grow my Amazon business. I know absolutely nothing about it but everyone who sells on Amazon says it's by far the least hands-on platform. Reviewing my numbers yesterday I found I am down slightly on eBay but up nearly 1200% on Etsy! Thinking more like a business than a person in business is already paying off for me!  So if you aspire to own your own business you should check out 10K On the Bay on YouTube. I really hope you will help me grow by shopping in my stores, all of which you can reach from my website.

On the health front, I switched to the original Atkins Diet back in September when our son was diagnosed. I use ketogenic test strips before and after meals to make sure I am keeping my blood sugar in check. I wanted to test like my son has to because I wanted to understand his disease better. To stay accountable I post photos of all my meals and calorie and carb counts on Instagram. That led me to several doctors and nutritionists and people on their own weight loss journeys as well as Type 1 diabetics and I've learned a great deal from them. Dr. Wade Baskin recommended a book called The Complete Guide To Fasting by Dr. Jason Fung and I read it and started experimenting with intermittent fasting.  I never realized it before, but I used to practice intermittent fasting when we attend the LDS  (Mormon) church. We fasted for 24 hours the first Sunday of every month and then sometimes for extra periods to pray for someone. That fast is more strict than most because it's a dry fast, meaning even water is not allowed. Dr. Fung's fasts are easier, as you are allowed to have broth and coffee and water while fasting. I always wondered how Mormon women stay so thin because they eat quite a bit of processed food due to the requirement they have a food storage that can feed their families for a year in case of emergency. Out of necessity they eat a lot of canned and packaged foods to use up their food storage before it expires. Now I understand it is probably the intermittent fasting keeping them thin. I lost about 12 pounds and have been stuck in a plateau of 8-12 pounds lost ever since so I am hoping fasting can help me break out of it. Supposedly intermittent fasting does not slow your metabolism like constant low calorie dieting. I am going to California next month and I want to be trim for my vacation! We shall see. Yesterday I did my first 24 hour fast for many years. Even though my weight is stuck on the scale I noticed a shirt that was tight in my waist a month ago (when my weight was a few pounds lower) is now so loose I can grab handfuls of fabric. That's great because it means I must be losing visceral fat in my abdomen, the most dangerous fat for health. 

For the first time in a long time I'm actually hopeful and positive about the future. It seems like things are finally moving in the right direction for me and I have high hopes for 2018. I am sorry for this long, long, post, but I just really wanted to share with anyone else who might need some direction in the same areas. I hope you'll follow me on Instagram and participate in my groups: #resellersquad, #resellerfam, #dollrestoration, #dollhospital, #intermittentfasting, #weightlossjourney, #ketogenicdiet. These are just a few of the hashtags I follow but they're the main ones really inspiring me right now.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Finishing Flora

Flora McFlimsey

Recently I have had an explosion of dolls arriving on my doorstep in need of restoration. I'm not complaining; it saves me buying and restoring dolls and then trying to sell them. The most recent doll I finished is Flora McFlimsey. Flora McFlimsey is another character from the McGuffey Readers educational books. Flora uses the Princess Elizabeth face and was produced from 1939 to 1944. You can differentiate Flora from Princess Elizabeth and McGuffey Ana, who use the same face and body mold, by her strawberry blond human hair, rather than mohair, wig and the sprinkling of dark brown freckles across her nose. I have a Baby McGuffey from this series for sale right now in my shops if you're a collector.

Before restoration

The doll had all-over crazing.

She had shattered eyes.

She had a broken foot.
Flora arrived with all-over crazing, a broken foot, a chipped finger, shattered eyes, and a hole in her upper arm. I fixed all those, as you can see in the Before and After pictures.

Sculpting a new foot
I use hard plastic epoxy, like Kwik-Plastik or J-Weld, the kind that comes in tubes,  to repair chipped composition dolls. Then I paint them and conceal crazing with oil paints, as shown in this post. I repair shattered glass eyes with a technique I developed. I've had people ask for repair kits for these restorations, such as I make for stringing and eye replacement, but I haven't ever made up kits because it seems like the demand would be so low the paints would dry up before the kits were purchased. What do you think? Should I develop the kits? I appreciate the feedback!

The restored doll

The new foot

The doll can sit.
When Flora's body was repaired and dry I re-strung her. As you can see, this doll sits by doing the splits. If you string her too tight she won't be able to sit, so you want to keep her just slightly loose so she can both stand and sit. It takes a little practice to develop a technique for each doll. My client asked me to try to find clothes for Flora and amazingly I was able to find and purchase her original outfit in the correct size! The outfit needed a lot of restoration, which isn't surprising since it dates from the first year of issue, 1939.

The original chemise.

It has an attached panty.

The shoes and socks are vintage replacements.

The original dress

I added the button to hide a repair.
The dress is tagged.

The original pinafore with Tyrolean trim

The hat was trimmed by me to match.

Replacement hat
I repaired several seams in all the pieces as well as a few holes in the fabric. I covered repairs in the dress and chemise with a button and flower, respectively. I chose a smaller hat than Flora's original hat and pinned it to the back of her head because her original wig is a little sparse in the back and the hat hides that nicely. I use regular straight pins as hat pins for dolls.

Flora belongs to my client and will go home soon, and I have offered her outfit to the client with right of first refusal. If my client doesn't want the outfit then I will put it up for sale in one of my shops. It fits the 16 inch Princess Elizabeth toddler type dolls. You can link to my shops from ateliermandaline.com and also contact me to request an estimate to repair your doll.

Flora McFlimsey