Monday, 28 December 2015

A Schoenhut Cousin For Dee's Evelyn.

Perhaps I have been a little too reticent to show off my Schoenhut girl, but this is for Dee, her new girl Evelyn (what a lucky find!) and anybody else who cares to view her. She happens to be the doll my husband likes best of all our little residents.

Meet Emmeline Grace.

Like my much loved Zwergnase dolls, the Schoenhuts are not to everybody's taste and 19" tall Gracie is far from perfect. She has had an adventurous life, of which I know nothing and which she is keeping to herself, but the evidence is there to be seen in the damage to her face paint and the fact that one leg has become detatched at her hip.

Her wig  is not the best for her either. It is human hair and streaked with grey. Though she is a very old doll, around 100 years old, she is meant to be a child, so needs a younger look.

However, I am sure none of us will be able to stand so firmly when we reach our century of life!

There was quite a stiff breeze blowing when I took this photo of her and she stood unaided and firm on the wall top, despite her wonky left leg! 

 Famous for their "posability," the American Schoenhut dolls stand head and shoulders higher in their jointing than the dolls imported from France and Germany that my mother mainly played with in the 1920s. They have sprung joints rather than the cruder ball jointing that allowed my (horrible!) brother to later scare me by placing Mum's dolls in death poses, with their limbs splayed at impossible angles! If you put a Schoenhut doll in a position, s/he will stay there.

Making Schoenhut dolls involved expert carving, painting and engineering in their design and construction. There may be some creaking as the position is given to their 13 firm joints, but who would expect a 100 year+ old girl not to have creaking joints?

My mother tells me she had a toddler Schoenhut when she was little. His name was Ikey Bam.....because he made an excellent weapon when her older brothers teased her. I have the utmost difficulty in imagining my dear Uncle Roland teasing her, or anybody else, but I CAN imagine Mum weilding a doll as a weapon. Thank goodness Ikey was a solid, wooden doll!

For over two years, I have been considering whether, and how to get help for Gracie. Sending her back to the US to be repaired would be hugely expensive and I have seen many really bad restoration attempts made on these dolls. I would love to have her leg fixed back properly, a job for a real expert, but should I leave her as she is with regard to her paintwork?

I have looked at Schoenhut dolls on Ruby Lane many times and there seem to be a great many that have begun to be stripped back for repainting, before the would-be restorer has lost courage and sold the poor waifs on. There are also some that have been repainted badly, some even by "professionals,"and who now look far worse now than Gracie, perhaps far worse than before th repainting began.
So, perhaps I will leave her as she is. Nobody would strip back a piece of antique furniture, just because of a few dents. We think of that as the patina of use, so maybe the same could be said for these dolls. I will buy her a new wig as the one she is wearing is non-original anyway and, if anybody knows of a Schoenhut limb repairer, I would investigate that possibility, but I fear losing Gracie and having another character come home, if her face is vastly repainted.

However, my antique'n'vintage-crazy sister-in-law in Vermont is only too thrilled to be on the hunt for a doll that is much more damaged than Gracie and being sold at a very good price, for me to try out my skill - or lack of it- in working on. My daughter is also in London antiques circles and will look out for one there too, they do come up once in a while and are not well-known or particularly popular here. So who knows? Using the right materials seems to me to be key in such work and I am not even aware of what those are but, one day, Gracie? Maybe one day.

And there is also little Ikey Bam to be replaced.............. but kept firmly out of my mother's reach!

Thursday, 17 December 2015

A Meeting.

It is surprisingly warm for mid December.
"Which," thinks the girl as she leans to rest against the gate,"Is just as well as I've lost my shawl. But at least my feet are warm and dry, in spite of my boots being very large for me."

She sighs, thinking that it had been a long time since she has felt really safe but, on the positive side, nothing worse than being a little hungry has happened to her since she ran off.

She looks up, towards the nearby house and notices something that takes her interest.

" A tree," she whispers. "I'm sure that's a Christmas tree! Just like the ones in the story books!"

She looks around and sees that nobody is watching. Slowly, she begins to climb up to the windowsill.

"Oops!" she thinks. "There's a boy decorating the tree and he doesn't look too happy. Perhaps he's seen me? I better run!"

But before she can scramble down from the windowsill......

.......the boy throws the window open and demands,
 "Are you spying on me? What are you doing staring in through our window?"

"Please don't tell on me! Oh, please don't call a grown up!" begs the girl.

"Erm.....well I should you know," he replies. "They don't bite you know and Mam or Dada would know what to do with a spy... but.... Well, come in and tell me what you are up to and why grown ups scare you. But behave properly because I can always YELL LOUDLY for help if you don't!"

So the girl scrambles in through the window. On the whole, she feels quite safe round other children and this one is not so very big, so she could always over-power him and escape if she needs to do so.

" My name is Dunja." she tells the boy. " I'm running away. Or rather, I've been running away for a very long time."

" Running away from who......or should that be from whom? Anyway, why are you running away and where are you going to run TO?" asks the boy.
"Oh, and I'm Bertie Button, by the way. The unfortunate, only Button Nose kid in this house." he adds dolefully.

"I'm not going back, she turned out to be a very wicked witch and she said she'd turn me into a gingerbread girl and eat me! Just because I read about Christmas trees and asked if we could have one."

Seeing Bertie's confusion, Dunja continues,
"Witches don't do Christmas and, even though I was born in a witchy family and my Dad sent me to be her apprentice, I have no wish to be an evil witch like HER."

As the girl drew breath before carrying on, Bertie sees tears in her eyes.

"SOOOO," she continues, "If you tell a grown up, they will either send me back to Esmerelda the Vile or send me back to my Dad, who will send me back to her anyway. So, I'll keep running until I find an empty house that I can live in by myself. I'll be like Pippi Longstocking and live happily ever after!"

" Don't think they would, you know. Send you to your Dad or Witch Thingy the Vile, I mean." answers Bertie.
 " They are good to all we children, on the whole. And, you know what? They've rescued quite a few of us from bad situations.
"If I just call for Mam..... Oh, and I've had Harry Potter read to me, you know, and not all witches and wizards are bad, so I think they will know you are a GOOD learner witch girl and they will LIKE you."

"So why, then, did you look so miserable?" the girl demanded. "If I was allowed to decorate a tree like yours and if I lived in a warm house like this, well I'd be very happy, but you looked miserable when I looked in through the window. So, are your parent's mean to you, then? Are you just saying they are nice to trick me?"

"Oh no, they are not mean to me exactly." Bertie say. Then he realises this is a great opportunity to get a hug and leans his head on Dunja's shoulder.

"It's just that I'm the only Button Nose here and I miss my Button Nose cousins at the Village, especially Ollie.... and then I brought loads of lovely sweaters and stuff back from the Village after my visit and Mam wouldn't let me have them all and... and.....Who's Pippi Longsock then?"

"Pippi LongSTOCKING is a girl in a story book, laughs Dunja. " But I'll tell you about another girl in a story first. Her name is Pollyanna and she plays the glad game. So I play it too."

" Huh?" mutters Bertie, looking confused.

"In the glad game, you have to find something to be glad about, no matter how sad you feel." Dunja goes on. "And I'm glad I have my strong boots to keep me dry, even though I have been walking for months and I'm glad I met you and I'm glad I saw your Christmas tree and I'm...."

"So, I could be glad that I was allowed to have these foxy slippers then?" interupts Bertie.
"And glad I went for a great holiday at the Village, and happy that I had all that hot chocolate Auntie Dee made? Ooh and I can be glad that I got to have Ollie to be my friend instead of just a farway cousin."

" That's it! You are good at this game." Dunja says, giving him not just a hug, but a kiss on the top of his head.
" I think we might be distantly related too, you know, my last name is Zwergnase which means dwarf nose, or little person's nose in...."

"German!" Bertie adds, triumphantly. "So we are both a bit German!"

Bertie is always ready for a hug, a kiss or a snuggle and this girl seems to enjoy them too.

" Know what else I'm glad about?" he asks. " I'm glad you are going to be my special big sister who can do beginner, witchy-but-good magic and read me the stories about Pollyhandle and Pippi Longshoes."

" Mam!" he yells. " Here's another one come to live with us. She needs to be rescued. MAM, COME AND HELP ME LOOK AFTER MY NEW BIG SISTER!!!!!!!"