Back in February at the show, I met a lovely doll collector who, upon seeing my Izannah Walker inspired dolls, told me she had an original. Oh my. I would never have dreamed of this, of finding a real one this far south. Not that there aren't great antiques down here, just a definite dearth of real Izannah Walkers. Facts are facts, and I thought I'd faced this one pretty well. Life proved me wrong, and offered this incredible opportunity. I was never so glad to be wrong.
So...this lovely doll collector lady (I'll call her Lady from now on) invited me to her house to visit this doll...and I've been about to blow a gasket keeping my mouth shut about it ever since. Not wanting to assume or impose, I waited so to ask her about the blog, about pictures, just to be sure it was okay.
Well, yesterday I went. And Jackie was right: The clouds opened up, a chorus of lovely voices sang, and rays of light shone on this Holy Grail of dolls. I was entranced. My dolls were understandably jealous. Lady was sweet, open, and generous, saying it was fine to get pictures, so I did. I was able to pose my Izzies with Nan. (Lady calls her Izannah, but I've dubbed her Nan to avoid repetition.)
I've been studying these dolls online now for about a year. Nowhere nearly as long as Dixie Redmond, under whose expert tutelage I've gone from my first attempts to my most recent, but all my experience has been via pictures. Pictures can't convey the surprising heft, the petite delicacy, the three-dimensional beauty of shape and texture. Having only touched my clay-over-cloth dolls, my hands expected the hard surface of cured clay, not the slight yielding of this molded cloth. A resiliency that amazes me when I think of how old the doll is, and how much she has seen. Would that we all could be as resilient at 150 yrs old.
So typical of these dolls, and yet so unique. There is a pink cast to areas of the skin, on chest, arms, legs, etc. that Lady was told resulted from natural dyes in Nan's clothing. Owing to the delicate nature of the doll, Lady preferred that I not remove the clothes, but offered to let me copy a photo she'd taken the time she did once remove them (and dear Lady, I do plan to take you up on that, if I may.) But her beautiful gown had fine cartridge pleating at the waist, and covered a lovely set of unders--chemise, petticoat, and drawers--all original. I could have sat for hours, studying every detail.
My Izzies, once their curiosity got the better of them, decided Nan had some interesting tales to tell, and settled down to listen. I can only imagine what they discussed. But while they discussed it, I took pictures for comparison's sake, so that I might better sculpt in the future. Not having the heavy press that Izannah Walker made for the molding of her pasted cloth faces, I have nevertheless vowed to make a mold of my own sculpts so that I can make the molded cloth dolls instead of the cloth-over-clay. Long way off, maybe, but a definite plan.
More later on my visit to Lady's incredible doll collection--she let me visit with her first generation Kathe Kruse dolls, and they broke my heart with their sweetness. But for now, I've got to study.
I hope you have enjoyed this little visit with Nan.