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Papier Mache Doll 1858 by Gail Wilson
This 9" doll is Louisa and this is her story . . .
“It is 1858 and I have just received my first
store-bought doll.”

The12" Masters Doll
This doll was made for a show of the work of the master craftsmen who are jurors for the League of NH Craftsmen to commemorate their new headquarters. The entries were supposed to be representative of our best work over the years. I chose to do a larger version of my 9" Louisa Doll which is 12" standing, who is a doll of a child in the late 1800's. Like Louisa in every way except for size and color scheme, she has papier mache molded parts, a mohair wig with a hand crocheted snood of silk thread, hand crocheted laces (on both dolls) and her tiny collar. She wears leather high button shoes, has her own Greiner doll with papier mache head and shoulderplate on a tiny painted cloth body with red stockings and even thumbs on her tiny leather-like hands. Both are sitting in my ladderback chair made for her with a split ash woven seat. A limited edition of 12. $750. THIS EDITION IS SOLD OUT.

MY NEW DOLLS - My entire career of 35 years began with a small 8" doll hand press molded in primitive molds I made before I knew anything about dolls or moldmaking. I made thousands of these dolls and stopped forever their production in about 1995 with the idea that someday I would make another doll like them but in molded papier mache. This doll is the first of these dolls.

The theme of this first edtion is sort of snap shots in history. Every edition will be extremely limited - this one in this fabric is limited to 10. All signed and numbered with story tags. Dolls have such details as hand crocheted lace and snoods, real leather shoes and perfectly tailored outfits and accessories. They represent all that I have learned in my 35 years of dollmaking.

LOUISA LTD ED SET (two dolls and chair - edition of 24)
Louisa - A 9” papier mache doll with her new Greiner doll, a papier mache doll made in this time period by German immigrant, Ludwig Greiner. These were some of the first American made dolls available commercially. Small Greiner has papier mache head and shoulderplate on a tiny painted cloth body with red stockings and even thumbs on her tiny leather-like hands. Louisa has English mohair wig with hand crocheted snood, hand crocheted lace color and other laces, high buttoned leather shoes and silk stockings.


No other doll has received so many requests long after two runs have sold out. Recently I came upon enough of the brown fabric hidden in a box to do another edition of 12. All will be same except improvement in body construction and better leather shoes. Taking pre-orders now (1/3 deposit, balance in 2 additional payments for holiday delivery).
Set of dolls $645 Add to Cart
Chairs ordered separately $78 Add to Cart

This 9" doll was made exclusively for the 2016 UFDC Convention held in Washington DC - an edition of 110 and included her illustrated book explaining my interpretation of the theme of the convention, Kindred Spirits (read the insides of the book below).She is sold out but due to requests, I will be doing a similar doll soon.

If you like this doll, I will be doing a similar one (different color scheme and accessories but she will be same doll, brown hair, and have a bonnet and leather shoes) available for orders for the holidays. Depending on accessories price $495-595. Click here if interested (no deposit taken at this time) - Add to Cart

KINDRED SPIRITS IN THE TOYROOM (text from the little book held by the doll above)

Many years ago, 1980 if I am to be exact about things, I first learned of Tasha Tudor. Later that same year I needed to design a special entry for a prestigious show. I was inspired by an illustration by Tasha Tudor, of children having a tea party with assorted dolls. At the same time I was observing my own four year old daughter happily playing with my sought after handmade dolls, which was how I made our living, alongside horrible (to my sensibilites) plastic dolls of the times in all sizes and types with a few stuffed animals thrown in for companions no matter the unlikeliness of style, gender or condition.

This theme commonly appears in stories of beloved dolls etc. and begins in history. Dolls are thought to be one of the oldest art forms, most likely because they are small images of ourselves and it is also probable that the first dolls were not for children at all, but for religious purposes. But at some point in the quite distant past, dolls did became favorite playthings of children and later much desired collectibles for all ages.

Particularly appealing are the humble handmade dolls, mostly of cloth but also of wood or other common materials, whose makers lacked a certain sophistication that is a hallmark of the finer china and porcelain dolls that were “store-bought” and made in production environments. What seems to be clear about these more primitive dolls is that no matter how unlikely their shape or artistic style, the charm comes from the very lack of pretense and, in the case of old dolls that have become collectible, the patina that age has lent to them.

There is, I believe, a basic truth told in the favorite children’s tale, “The Velveteen Rabbit”, that runs a bit like this - that dolls (or stuffed rabbits) take on real life when they have been loved enough. There is nothing else to descibe the state of mind that these old dolls can create when beheld by someone who appreciates them.

Another aspect of dolls that may determine their lasting lovability is size. I saw again and again with my daughter (and indeed, in my own childhood memories) that the dolls that remained in favor after the first blush of new had worn off (that is there for any size doll), were the dolls just right to hold in your hand. Small is special, no denying.

What I have learned from studying antique dolls has been illuminating in my understanding of my own dollmaking. It has taught me how the spirit in a doll comes to be and why some dolls have it and some don’t. This realization has to do with how much the things around us become our point of reference and influence our perception and our creativity if we happen to create things like dolls. This is what I learned which is especially true of cloth dolls, which are, in fact, often the type which become the most beloved: Today we have pictures all around us. As we eat breakfast, there are pictures on the cereal box; we have books and magazines, billboards, movies, TV and, of course, the internet. But imagine a time when all there was were the basic tools for life - books being costly and rare at best and very little education for most, especially for the people who sewed or made wooden dolls in early times. Unless you were a natural artist, how to draw the human form was a real problem with nothing for a pictorial reference. Sewing was most certainly an ordinary skill, but most could not draw nor draft a pattern. So that what we have today is a collection of true spirits that came to life in the simple expression of these dolls and often because of someone’s love for a child and the wisdom and patience to see the need and carry out such a basic thing as a doll. And the essence of that spirit is what makes charm and a true heart in a doll (of any sort) whether it is today or a hundred years ago. This is how I have always made my dolls.

ELIZABETH ~ This long awaited follow-up to the Louisa Doll has now been completed. Elizabeth is a 9" Papier Mache Doll dressed in Kate Greenaway era clothes and holding her own small peg wooden doll of the times. She and her tiny doll both wear straw bonnets and the set comes with a wood stand. All clothiing and trims of both dolls is of extra fine batiste hand dyed here and includeds undies and Elizabeth wears rose colored leather shoes with silk bows. A Limited Edition of 25. $695


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