Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Miss Unity - The Emblem of the UFDC

The emblem, or symbol, of the UFDC (United Federation of Doll Clubs) has been an instantly recognizable one for over sixty years.  The image is a stylized version of a wooden doll from the 1830's in a blue gown with two rows of black ribbon at the hem, and a two or three-tiered (depending on how you read the image) white ruffled lace collar at the neckline.  And, the elaborate hair styling is a wonder to behold.

As the UFDC (founded in 1937 by Mary Lewis) was growing into a larger organization, a contest was held in 1955 to create a "distinctive and exclusive emblem".  Ten members, representing ten clubs within the UFDC, entered submissions in the competition.  The winning illustration was entered by Mrs. Charles A. (Ruth C.) Williams of Chagrin Falls, Ohio.  Ruth was known in the doll world as simply, "Darcy".  Darcy was also known as "The Wooden Doll Lady", both a carver and collector of wooden dolls. 

Darcy's inspiration for the emblem was an illustration by Charles Philipon (1830), of a toy seller.  In the seller's hand was a polichinelle doll, and to her right (left in the illustration) was a doll in a full and fancy gown with an equally elaborate hat decorated with plumes.  I would imagine that the gown itself, along with the toy seller's hair styling, were the key sources Darcy used to illustrate the emblem.  She added two wooden hobby horses, one held in each hand.  When the emblem was receiving its final touches, the hobby horses were removed, leaving just the doll. 

A full details on the history of UFDC's emblem can be read in a copy of Doll News, Summer 2015.  It was just my luck that someone listed the pages from this issue on Ebay, along with a copy of the history of its founder, Mary Lewis, from a Spring 2013 Doll News issue.  These came in handy for my own research and inspiration, but was also confusing when I began to design one more doll for the Helper Room at the UFDC convention this summer (August 1 - 5).

It was obvious to me that the emblem was of a wooden doll with carved wood hair, but I also noted in the article that dolls like Ginny had been used to symbolize Miss Unity.  Madame Alexander had done the same - with wigged hair, but with not such a fancy style.  Tonner made a small resin one that was 6 1/2" tall - and a tinier resin doll, 2" tall.  Miss Unity had also been designed in a white dress with black lace trim, and one with blue ribbon trim!  And, Peggy Jo Rosamond created an extraordinary paper doll of Miss Unity with a rose colored gown and one in golds and greens.

I suppose all along I knew that when I'd decided to create one, I would be faithful to today's emblem, using the blue gown, but I also wanted to select just the right doll to make her from.  With such a variety of images of her out there, I wanted to do something different, unique.  After I'd finished the nautical dress for Mary Lennox, I was in a "blue" mood anyway).  I'd ordered some beautiful blue silk from India that still has not arrived, and time was at a minimum.  Finding a reasonably priced lady doll to work with was even trickier.  But, I had this 16" wood body Lawton stashed away, and thought I'd see what I could do with her.  Could I make her into a lady doll?  Could I create this hair style from existing wigs?  The answer was, Yes.  At least I'd try.
I contacted the chairman of the Helper Room and asked if she'd be interested in a late submission, and also asked when I'd have to have her done by.  Jill was very receptive to the idea and told me to take my time.  This was good news, and also a relief, time wise  I had my doubts that I would be able to pull off making the wig.  As it is, her wig is one, and pieces from three others.   I also had to begin thinking about an alternative to the silk from India.  But, first thing's first.  If I couldn't make the wig, she would never be Miss Unity.

The wig is one that held pig tails of sausage curls.  I began by pulling each curl away from the others and wrapping them in both clockwise and counter clockwise twists around the band that held the pig tails, then hand stitched these rolls into place.  This wig is completely hand stitched.  I did not trust glue to this effort, and wanted it to look as "natural" as possible.  Earlier, I had purchased one of Tonner's 6 1/2" resin dolls to work from.  I measured the width and height of his hair sculpt and calculated how the dimensions should be according to the doll's head I was using. (See Tonner's little resin to the left.) 

A couple of days were spent trying to figure out how to make the hair piece that is the most recognizable piece to this doll's image.  Let's think about this for a minute.  If hair is parted down the middle to create side rolls, it is also parted down the back.  Where does the hair come from that is on top?  It had to be a hair piece.  So I made one. 

This hair piece consists of three twisted rolls, one on top the other at the base, then a profusion of rolls nestled into the crown.  I tried using a wig cap as the base from which to work, but found that a piece of buckram, dyed dark brown, would work better as it was stiff and could support all that I had to sew to it.  I saved the soft wig capping to sew to the bottom of this piece to provide a base to sew the top curls into.  So its sort of like a little hat of hair that eventually got sewn onto the wig with the side rolls.  I think I put just as much effort into making this wig as designing and creating the clothing.  More, maybe.

After finishing the wig, I did something easy to get the doll dressed.  I made her stockings.  Then I made her slippers.  These little black leather slippers have the same criss-cross strapping as Gay Event's did.  Has anyone made the connection that I took to making this doll since she was from the same year as Gay Event?  1830.  I'm drawn to the styling of the costuming from this era. 
Next I made her pantaloons.  I used a fine Swiss batiste to create them, and edged them in a Swiss embroidered lace with a simple design.  They have a small waistband and are closed in back with a small white button and thread loop.  I don't expect this "cabinet doll" will ever be undressed, but I wanted to make sure that if someone looked, the finishings were all finely done.  I don't know about you, but one of the first things I do when I pick up a new doll, is lift her dress up to see what's beneath.  Why do we do this?  Good question. 

Last week, fed up with India, I bought some very lovely and expensive sateen with which to make her gown.  Upon receiving it, I knew this would have been the best choice after all, since the drape and color were glorious.  I chose a batiste Swiss embroidered lace that would lend itself to three ruffled layers for the collar.  Two just didn't seem quite enough. 

Her billowing sleeves with wrist bands were a delight to create.  The two rows of black silk ribbon were a little more difficult to do.  When I add rows of ribbon or soutache, it takes a lot of measuring and marking on the cloth to stitch them equidistant to each other.  There is a relatively simple design to this dress, but I think you can make it into "more" if you desire.  The back is closed with a hook and thread loop at the neckline and waist, and two little black glass beads with thread loops at the back.  A black double sided silk ribbon is the tie around her waist.   

The last thing I did to Miss Unity, was change her eyes from brown to blue.  I'd originally thought her eyes would be brown considering the color of her wig.  But, after reading about her and studying the dolls and paper dolls done of her, I knew that she'd never be Miss Unity unless she had blue eyes.  I hope Jill will be pleased with her as an addition to the Helper Room.

I have started work on another dress for Mary Lennox and with Miss Unity completed, I'll pick up where I left off.  June flew by.  I did a little traveling at the end of May into June, and it seems that one day quickly blended into the other after that.  Last week, we suffered a horrid heat wave bringing daytime temperatures into the triple digits.  I do plan on having a more relaxed month in July, then its off to convention on August the first.  I hope you're enjoying your summer and getting out to enjoy the sunshine, doing the simplest and happiest of things.  Even reading a book under a shade tree is "summer" to me!

Miss E. Mouse


Tonner's 2" Resin

Peggy Jo Rosamond's Miss Unity Paper Doll

Miss Unity Dolls at the UFDC Headquarters

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Victorian Sailor Stripes for Mary Lennox

 "Oh! the things which happened in that garden!  If you have never had a garden, you cannot understand, and if you have had a garden, you will know that it would take a whole book to describe all that came to pass there.  At first it seemed that green things would never cease pushing their way through the earth, in the grass, in the beds, even in the crevices of the wall.  Then the green things began to show buds, and the buds began to unfurl and show colour, every shade of blue, every shade of purple, every tint and hue of crimson."

"The seeds Dickon and Mary had planted grew as if fairies had tended them.  Satiny poppies of all tints danced in the breeze by the score, gaily defying flowers which had lived in the garden for years, and which it might be confessed seemed rather to wonder how such new people had got there.  And the roses - the roses!  Rising out of the grass, tangled round the sundial, wreathing the tree-trunks, and hanging from their branches, climbing up the walls and spreading over them with long garlands falling in cascades - they came alive day by day, hour by hour."  (The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett)

It was on a day such as this, described by Hodgson Burnett, that Mary chose to wear a bright and jaunty dress of blue and white stripes in a fashionable Victorian sailor style.  I love this dress.  When I first saw the illustration in the Peck Aubrey paper doll book, I knew I'd make it for her as a summer frock.  Even Ben Weatherstaff's eyes brightened up upon seeing Mary enter the garden with an empty basket, ready to pick some flowers for Medlock's vases.

This dress was given us opposite the one I just finished with the elaborate lace collar.  It was not planned that I do things page by page, but it could push me to creating ones I'm not certain of.  So far, the dresses in cloth have paid tribute to the illustrations, and I will continue to attempt to finish the wardrobe thusly.

When I first bought the striped fabric for this dress, I'd chosen a navy and white stripe.  ???  Even my mind plays tricks with my eyes.  No, it was royal blue and white stripes.  So I went back online to Ebay and started searching.  I found this particular stripe from a fabric seller in the U.K., and once again, it was fitting.  If I ever get back across the pond, fabric shopping in England will be at the top of my list. 

Mary's dress would prove to be another puzzle as I began to design the pattern.  I  had rather hoped that the red debut silk dress would provide me a basic, but the sailor collar and the front bodice crossing one "lapel" over the other took me back to square one.  This was made in two full pieces, each consisting of the front and back bodice with sleeve, fully lined, then stitched together at the middle front waist to be added to the skirt. 

Beneath the dress is where I began.  Mary wears a sleeveless waist of cotton with a high collar trimmed in the same blue soutache I used for her red wool coat's trim.  It is closed in the back with four little buttons with loops, and a hook at the collar.  As I began the design of the dress, I had to pay careful attention to what I was given to work with.  Normally one would choose white soutache trim for the cuffs and sailor collar edging, but these were thick stripes.  Stripes the same width as those of the dress.  So tried something.  I pieced the solid blue to the blue striped fabric about 2mm into the color edge that would display, and in doing so, created a fabric I could work from.  

While doing this, I took a photo of a collar pattern (good ol' paper towels - still using them!) to illustrate how this was done.  As you can see, when I would go to cut out the solid blue of the bottom layer, I would sew 2mm into the blue stripe, just enough to give a blue edge below the white stripe.  This is not a no-brainer exercise.  I would have to do this with the cuffs as well as the border on the bottom, exacting the stitch where it should be. 

I learned something with the cuffs, maybe relearned?, that I'd either forgotten or hadn't done before.  If you notice that the cuffs stand out when turned up, creating this look took a little puzzling.  Basically, if you sew the edges of the cuff to the sleeve edges, leaving a pucker in the middle, when you turn the cuff up, it will stand out to the side free of the sleeve.  The pattern for the cuff is longer on the top, smaller on the bottom and angled down.

The skirt of the dress is lined, too, to avoid unslightly hem stitching.  The dress buttons up in the back with loops and a hook at the edge of the collar closest to the neck.  Why don't I make buttonholes?  Again, I don't trust my machine to do them well, and to have a machine stitched buttonhole not come out nicely on a well made dress - well, its a disaster because you've ruined the dress.  I feel that hand sewn buttonhole can be done when needed, but they do take time.  And, Mary's hair covers the closures in the back, so...   Moving on...

Mary's tam was made from the same fabric as the solid border of her skirt.  I call it my Pie and Donut hat because those are what the pattern pieces look like.  The band was embellished with three brass star studs.  These were kind of fun to work with.  I did order them from a seller in China.  I hope I find another use for them because I have 47 pieces left!  Once the prongs are pushed into the fabric of the hat band, I put a piece of cloth over the star, then used my trusty pliers to bend the prongs in.  This saves the metal star from any damage or scratches.

Mary's tie is that lovely cotton silk.  It is attached to the front of the dress through an embroidered thread loop sewn beneath where the collar crosses over.  Her belt is the same fabric as the sleeveless waist she wears beneath the dress and was embellished with two shiny brass buttons. A hook and loop closes it. 

Finally it was time to make the flowers for her basket.  I found this lovely little basket on Ebay.  I  have doll sized baskets, but I needed one with a long handle that reached across the round basket.  There are a lot of "Easter" and "picnic" baskets out there, but ones like this can be difficult to find.  I was lucky. 

The flowers are all wool felt, similar to the ones I made to decorate Alice Illustrated's Peck Aubrey hat.  I worked them with my mini glue gun and it was a mess.  At least it was in particular for the flowers with individual petals.  I have tried sewing these to the center and they do not come out as nicely as a flower would using the hot glue gun.  I set a layer of green wool sheet in the bottom of the basket then glued the flowers into the basket, seating them on the wool beneath.  This is for the case that I wish to reuse the basket at some point, although I seriously doubt that will happen.  Its Mary's flower basket.  But, should someone years from now wish to remove the flowers, there won't be a glop of hard, dried glue at the bottom of the basket.

Mary Lennox will continue to be a bright spot on my doll shelf, and now in bright royal blue and white stripes.  On Monday, I'm traveling up to Vancouver, B.C. to visit with my needle felting friend, Lesley.  From what I can tell, Vancouver has gardens to rival Mary's!  A little holiday is in order. 

Miss E. Mouse 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Memories of Alice - A UFDC Convention Helper

Summer has finally arrived where I live in California.  It looks like the sun has finally decided to stay one step ahead of the clouds, rather than shyly hide behind mountainous waves of rain.  Finally.  And, its also during this time of year when I begin finding it difficult to stay indoors - which means, less time in my studio.  So I thought I'd best work on this one little project before the fairies came and carried away with me.

Its been several years since last I attended a UFDC summer convention, and for many reasons and non-reasons (who needs a reason anyway?), I'm going this year.  I was visiting with a friend of mine yesterday, justifying to her why I'm spending the time, and money, going, and came up with a really good excuse.  Inspiration.  The reproduction Huret is still going strong as the doll to acquire and dress, and while I do have one, she is wearing the Robert Tonner outfit he made for a luncheon from last year's convention (got it on Ebay).  Not one by me.  Shame on me.  I know.  But, the doll has a really strange body and I've not bonded with her yet.

Another reason is that I need to get outside my comfort zone, and live a little.  A true introvert, I'd prefer to read on the patio, design, sew and needle felt in my studio, and play with my dogs.  And, yet...there will be DOLLS there.  Lots of them!  And, people who love them as much as I do.  Who needs an excuse?!  Right?  Right.

Helen Kish will be the artist of this year's souvenir doll, so interest in her dolls is once again on the rise.  I use to collect Kish, yet as my interests changed, I kept just a few, and sold the others.  Interestingly enough, I kept two of the 16" dolls she sculpted for White Balloon.  For one thing, I'd amassed an incredible Boneka wardrobe for them.  So when I was considering doing a Helper doll for the Helper room, I thought of dressing a Kish.  The Helper Room is one filled with dolls donated by UFDC members that get raffled off.  The proceeds go directly to this non-profit organization.  I also wished to express my gratitude to them for getting published in their 2017 spring journal.  I wrote an article about Gay Event, and the editor seemed to like it.  Since I enjoy sewing for this size doll, a 16", I kept an eye on Ebay and found the Summer doll and put a bid in to try and acquire her.  Which I did. 

It was pretty obvious to me that I'd dress her as Alice, and I had two yards of this gorgeous blue silk that I'd not done anything with yet.  I bought her a human hair wig, which did wonders for her, and one of the last pairs of size 65AA black shoes by Boneka out there, then set to designing an Alice outfit for her. 

The dress is your basic, full skirted, puffed sleeved Alice style.  Its terribly difficult to be original when it comes to "dressing Alice", so I used elements of design that I felt best to portray her on a Kish doll.  The skirt has three horizontal pleats at the hemline, which is always a challenge to do.  I still haven't quite figured out the mathematics of placing these pleats, so I kind of wing it.  Actually, I do that with all I create, so there's nothing new there.  The puffed sleeves have gathered lace edges that are sandwiched in between two bands then sewn on - rather than making a sleeve band and sewing the lace under the edge.  I've found this practice gives a much more polished look to the sleeve edges.  The cotton collar lace was inserted the same way.  Collars are becoming slightly easier for me, and the angst, I believe, comes directly down to my wishing things to be so precise - they just take time and patience. A gathered Swiss lace edge embellishes the attached "peep" slip. 

Even though I detest the time and effort it takes to make knickers or any kind of under garment (they don't show!), I made a lovely pair of knickers for her.  The edge of the knickers combine two laces - an insertion lace, then a band of the same Swiss lace used for the slip's ruffle.  Understand that while I'm not doing anything particularly new, I designed this outfit from scratch.  I wasn't trying to follow a particular illustration.  More thought went into what I wanted to do, than the actual assembling.  Pale pink and white striped stockings go beneath the lovely knickers. It was the apron, and its design, that I spent the most time designing and working on.

About a year ago, I'd purchased this delicate batiste Swiss lace with peachy-pink embroidery on it.  I thought it was just gorgeous, and bought a yard of each type, just to have on hand.  For some reason, I always envisioned it going towards an apron, or pinafore.  I puzzled the laces together so many times trying to see just what might make it prettiest and work with all three laces.  I simply could not figure out how to attach the three inch lace to a length of similar, but plain batiste to lengthen the skirt.  Finally I came upon this 1/8" insertion lace amidst my lace bags and gave it a go.  Part of my quandary was that mistakes could not take place.  I can't find this particular peachy-pink embroidered lace any longer, so if I blew it, I'd have ruined the lace and would have to try something else.  The pink in the stockings matched this color, too!  Luckily the idea worked and gave the skirt of the pinafore a dainty appeal. 

The waist band is an insertion lace on its own.  In order to easily zig-zag the edge of it to the skirt, I pleated the skirt, rather than gather it.  The ties were made the way I do the silk hair bows and were attached to the insertion directly.  All these edges are doubled under or overcast stitched for a clean finish.  The straps are an edge lace that I pleated as well then banded and attached to the waist and ties in the back.  I wanted to retain the sheerness of the Swiss lace, the lightness and delicacy.

Finally, I had to decide on an accessory.  Something Alice.  Something I could attach to her.  Second pieces, like for instance a rabbit, could easily get separated from the doll when you take it to the Helper room, so I pondered on this for a couple of days.  A key is a logical choice, but I took it in a different direction and made her charm bracelets.  Charm bracelets are memory keepers, and so I call her Memories of Alice.  The second charm bracelet is a little faceted glass frame that holds tiny cards.  I had these cards on hand from when I created the miniature Alice trunk sets.  Its a touch of steam punk, for certain, but the bracelet effect maintains the look I wished to achieve.  She wears a black velvet ribbon head band.  So very Alice.

While putting this all together, I pulled out my old White Balloon Kish and dressed her in the Sasha size Alice outfit I'd acquired by Boneka.  No, it doesn't fit her as well as it would a Sasha doll, but that's okay.  I attached a photo of her below.  She is still wearing her synthetic wig.  Her eyes are not as deep a blue as Memories of Alice's are, but she is lovely in her own right. 

The days could not be prettier right now, but I have already started a new project.  I'm continuing with Mary Lennox for awhile so that I stay on task.  Besides, I really love this doll!

Miss E. Mouse 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Spring at Misseltwaite Manor

Spring has come to Misselthwaite Manor.  A time for gentle rains, flowers blooming forth, and lambs being born.  Foxes nurse their cubs, heather colors the moors in purple, and geese lead their young about in a marvelous parade. 

Ben Weatherstaff, the gardener, is busy pulling weeds, pruning shrub and roses, and making polite nods with the tip of his hat to Miss Mary as she skips through the garden grounds towards the door that will lead her to a sanctuary she tends with love.

The wardrobe illustrated in the Peck-Aubrey paper doll collection for Mary Lennox,  is one for a year's worth of fanciful beauty.  Mary is ageless, forever young, forever the child of The Secret Garden.  While I must admit that the Red Garden Coat was one of the brightest spots on the doll shelf opposite where I work at designing these costumes, it was time for a change.

I've not forgotten that my goal was to make all nine of her costumes this year, and I'm not sure this is going to happen.  But its nice to have a plan!  I might be able to accomplish this if that was all I wished to do until December thirty-first.  And, my goodness.  The days and months pass almost like a "time lapse" production for me these days.  Where did April go? 

 I'd originally intended to make the blue and white striped sailor collar dress next.  However, when I went to reach for the fabric I'd purchased several months ago, I stopped short.  What I had was a yard of navy blue and white stripe.  What was I thinking?  Its a royal blue and white stripe that was needed to make this.  So  I've reordered fabric in that color.  Naturally, it is coming from the U.K. so I selected another outfit to do.  I chose the green plaid dress with the double skirt and lace collar.

I do realize that the outfits in this paper doll collection are a bit unusual.  Or at least not what we're used to seeing in young Victorian styles, or colors and patterns.  However, after completing three of them to date, I find that the fabric interpretations are quite charming and its a challenge to see what I can do with them.

Mary's double skirted plaid outfit has this elaborate lace collar as its feature of focus.  I spent a good deal of time trying to figure out just what to call it.  It is a detached collar that fits snuggly around her shoulders almost like a cape, or a modern day shrug.  I asked my friend, Barbara DeVilbiss, who is an expert on historical costume design, just what I should call this.  Her answer was brief, as if it should be apparent to all who would ask the question, that what it would be called depended on whether it was American, English or French.  Thanks, Barbara.  LOL  Its a lace collar.

The dress is constructed of a simple bodice with a short, rounded neckline.  The long sleeves are puffed at the top, continuing the puff past the elbow to long, narrow cuffs.  The cuffs are edged in gathered, delicate lace, then lined before attaching them to the gathered puff. 

The double skirting is also fully lined.  It funny, but when I was cutting the lengths and widths for the skirt, I knew that the width should be 26" - 27", so I made it the same as the Debut Red Silk Dress, 31".  I guess it is better to have too much than not enough.  Silk will gather tightly like tissue paper, but a fine woven cotton will require less width, since when gathered, it is thicker and still must fit in the confines of the width of the bodice.  So I cut three inches off each end and redid the lining seams.  There was a lot of seam and stitch pulling in making this costume.  At first glance, you may ask, "What's the big deal?  Its a simple dress!"  Nothing I do is simple, and that's a fact I must face each time I create a new design.   

The lace collar was one of the more interesting pieces I've made.  When I first began collecting fabrics and notions for this wardrobe, I was tempted to purchase a finely crocheted doily to make into this collar.  This would have been the wrong choice for several reasons, and if I had to guess what was intended by the artist, I would suggest a custom bobbin lace collar designed to fit snuggly around the shoulders.

What I chose to do in creating this collar , was design a pattern with shoulder seams for a close fit.  I'm pretty sure the cape on the red coat would have been more easily done this way, too, but I was dead set against it.  With wide lace, the piecing worked out pretty well.  This wasn't the first time I was piecing different laces together.  I'd done this on the Sue Shanahan, Alice Illustrated outfit, too. 

The collar is two pieces of 4" lace off set, one laid over the other to create a smoother, more continuous scallop edge effect.  I must have looked at 2,000 laces before settling on this remnant of a roll at Jo Ann's fabrics.  The open weave was the defining decision.  A piece of insertion lace creates the threaded collar, and white gathered lace has been attached to the insertion for the ruffled edge at the neck.  A piece of the woven plaid was threaded through the insertion lace.  There is quite a bit of hand stitching on this, but the main body of it was done on the machine.  

I have a tip for those of you who would like to try this some time.  Use a fold of fine netting over the two pieces at the edge to be sewn, pin, then machine stitch them together in a zig zag.  This will hold the pieces firmly together.  I figured this out by detaching the netting that was factory sewn onto the edge of the 4" lace.  If you sew just the cut lace, the stitching comes loose through the open weave of the cut lace.  The collar was closed in back with teeny mother of pearl buttons and thread loops.  

While looking through my stash for buttons to close the back of the dress, I found these little German, brown glass shank buttons that had a relief of tiny tulips.  Perfect for a dress from a Secret Garden. 

The last piece to be made was the hat.  A little straw boater.  I did not have a PNB hat mold with which to make this one, and I don't believe they carry one either.  So I went back to basics and looked for a form that would work in which to build up the hat straw around.  The bottom of a chicken broth can did the trick.  I  filled in the bottom ridge of the can with crushed aluminum foil, then covered the can with Press n Seal wrap.  I marked where I wanted the straw to begin for the depth of the crown, and worked it top to bottom - the opposite of how the PNB mold hats are generally made.  The brim was made by marking the inside of a large yogurt tub top with the outline of the crown, then measuring and marking it with the width I wanted.  With this, I was able to build the straw on a flat surface, then attached the crown to the brim with another row of straw. 

The hat's brim is trimmed with a silk bias strip.  The ribbon was hand made of silk, by sewing the "stripes" together.  With a jaunty red bow, the hat was completed.   Now Mary Lennox can enjoy her garden tending in a suitable dress for the warmer days ahead.

Miss E. Mouse 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Asian Alice Inspired by Korean Artist Na Young Wu

If there's one thing I can say about myself, I'm consistent.  I love everything Alice, and will always be on the hunt for new and exciting Alice costuming to create, or dolls to make.  Often I look to Pinterest for inspiration, since I have a board there with several growing galleries.  So when last I was on the site browsing Alice in Wonderland, I came across the most brilliant and whimsical illustration of none other than an Asian Alice.  My jaw dropped.  I could hardly believe my eyes.  And, not only was there an Asian Alice, but there were several other fairytale heroines illustrated in such a manner.  The artist?  Na Young Wu. 

Needless to say, I just had to make a doll of Asian Alice.  And, furthermore, I've been intensely interested in this young artist.  Her beautiful work must be loved worldwide.  However, initial research with information on her was very difficult to find.  My first thought was that she'd illustrated the story of Alice in Wonderland, and I had to have a copy of the book.  I looked her up on Amazon.  I did an engine search of Na Young Wu and the book title.  Nothing came up, but the several fairytale heroine illustrations.  Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Little Red Riding Hood and a couple of others were presented.  My head was spinning with delight, yet I was equally perplexed because I love to do research on the artist whose work has inspired me.  Learning about them gives me an idea to their insight and their own inspiration.  But, nothing was to  be found on her.  Only a reference to "Asian Alice" and "an artist illustrates (I swear I'm not lying) DISNEY characters Asian style."  Disney?  Who writes this stuff?!  What happened to the Brothers Grimm, Lewis Carroll, Hans Christian Andersen?  I guess they did not exist until Walt Disney came along.  The only Disney she illustrated was Frozen.  Sorry to rant on here, but really.  Without being able to find a bio on Na Young Wu, or a gallery that represented her work, I had to start from scratch there, too.

After a couple of weeks, while trying to find a doll to make into "Asian Alice", I did find a blogger, or website, where I learned Na Young Wu was Korean.  Prior to that, it was my best guess that she was Chinese.  The costuming in the illustrations was not exactly traditional Japanese, yet didn't quite look entirely traditional Chinese either, and I have had little to no exposure to the traditions of Korea.  This brief bit of information intrigued me further.

About a week ago, while I was beginning to consider what I would write in this blog, how I would present this project, and Asian Alice, I started writing in my head a story, a chapter with a twist, her experience down the rabbit hole "Asian style" from the objects she passed along the way, to the bottle she drank from, to her entry into the garden.  It wasn't until I was nearly done with Alice's costume, that my curiosity was rewarded.  I was ready to make the skirt and had no idea what length it should be.  Something as simple as that spurred me to look up "traditional Korean costuming".  The first word I came upon was Hanbok.  I knew Hanbok!  Mihaela Hinkle, the designer of Carpatina Dolls, had created a Hanbok for Ana Ming, a doll I collected for several years ago.  Mihaela created Asian Dynasty costuming for Ana Ming from several Asian countries.  Now we were getting somewhere. (And, I was almost done!)

Hanbok (South Korea) or Joseon-ot (North Korea), is the representative example of traditional Korean dress, with vibrant colors and simple lines.  Although Hanbok's literal translation means "Korean clothing", Hanbok usually refers specifically to clothing of the Joseon period and is worn as semi-formal or formal wear during traditional festivals and celebrations such as weddings.  The style is a mixed foreign influence of indigenous designs.  While citizens of Korea may dress like westerners, in 1996, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism established "Hanbok Day" to encourage South Korean's to wear the Hanbok.  Once I began to study and learn of the styles of Hanbok, the costuming for Alice began to make sense for me.  However, I was very excited to learn that from what I'd been interpreting from the illustration my designs had been CORRECT.  (This is a lengthy blog, so go grab a cup of Jasmine tea!)

The first thing I had to do was find a doll to dress.  If you look closely at Na Young Wu's Alice, you'll notice her large round eyes.  This is not something we typically attribute to Asian looks.  Yes, it is in animee, but most Asian dolls. unless they are BJDs (expensive!) have lovely almond shaped eyes.  There was also the open mouth surprised look on Alice's face.  What are we looking at?  A young girl with a surprised expression falling down a rabbit hole with her clothing billowing up around her, her braids flying above and behind her..  How was I going to represent her?  I'm calling the term de-animation.  She is animated, in action, and what I needed to do was interpret this illustration for a doll standing.  And, the White Rabbit.  Wendy Lawton had made two dolls with similar expressions.  One was Little Miss Muffet (an Ashton-Drake production from her sculpt), and Goldilocks, one made in her studio in Turlock. 

I'd found a Miss Muffet for next to nothing and was planning on redoing her.  However, once the wig and pate were off, I noticed that the factory had poured resin glue into the impression of her face to set the eyes.  It was not going to come out, ever.  Goldilocks did not have the sweet expression of Muffet, rather a look of being horrified, or excuse me, ready to vomit.  Money wasted on both dolls made me wonder if I would even find a doll to use for Alice.  The porcelain, the large eyes, the look of innocence was what I was after.  And, then I found a Josephine at a decent price.  She'd do.  The only problem with Josephine was her huge belly.  Wendy seemed to like her porcelains done with huge bellies, and Josephine has a kegger.  Don't laugh!  I'm serious.  But, I was determined to make this doll, because I had to.  Josephine it was.

Alice would need a straight hair black wig to braid and brown eyes.  Two BJD wigs that were shipped all the way from China did not work (too fine), so I settled on one my favorite human hair wigs from Monique.  I found braiding this wig best done while the hair was damp, but it took about seven tries to get it tight enough and banded at a proper length.  All the little things one might take for granted, I never do.  Because I have to work with them.  The Korean style of Alice's hair is called Badukpan meori.  It is a hair style for very young girls and consists of two small braids, then combed into one long one in the back.  I do not have Na Young Wu to tell me how Alice arrived with two braids, but I can tell you that the ties at the ends are called daenggi.   This style is illustrated nicely in the photo of the "princess on her horse".  What a marvel to find this photo of a girl wearing a Hanbok so similar to Alice's!

Alice's Hanbok was created in four pieces.  To achieve the billowing effect of the costume, I worked with silk chiffon, the same silk I used for Gay Event's ball gown.  At least I'd had practice working with the dreadful stuff.  Finding a suitable blue took several tries as well and then there was the issue of the pattern on the skirt.  I read that one of the special features of the Hanbok was its shape, slim on top and wide at the bottom to create a "bell"shape.  The wide sleeves and full skirt were fashioned to flatter the wearer's gracefulness by hiding the movements of her lower body, so the wearer would appear to be floating on air.  Lovely as this sounds, this look would be difficult to achieve with a tubby-tummied doll.  However, not all children are slim, so we'll make allowances.

Back to the four pieces.  Alice's full Hanbok consists of a pair of billowing trousers, a hip length "kimono-style" top so that it fit nicely beneath the skirt, a full slip for the skirt, and the long skirt worn empire style.  I studied many styles of the women's Hanbok and there were some that consisted of a short jacket over the empire skirt, and even one where a hip length top was worn over the skirt.  There was no definitive style to adhere to, so I followed Wu's illustration.  I recall thinking at the onset that this would consist of a long kimono with a skirt over it, but at close look at the illustration showed a full slip with no split in the center (kimono wrap style).  The collar is unique as well with the red banding where the it attaches to the neckline.  This was a fun little puzzle to figure out.  Red cuffs, a white waist wrap, and a blue tie would complete the look.

For the patterns on the cuff and skirt, I went back to the process I used to "make" the fabric for Gay Event's Walking Costume.  I used a rubber stamp with that wonderful Tulip fabric paint.  The pattern of the skirt was done on the same grid I'd used before as well.  The "wheel" stamp used for the skirt was also used on her daenggi, hair ties.

And, here was something fun to do.  I needed to make her hair band.  From what I researched, and there may information missing, this ornamentation is called Baetssi daenggi.  It is a small ornament attached to a hairband, and I even found a blog site that featured a class that was given on making them, with photographs on how to proceed.  Alice's was unusual in that it had a zig-zag band, but the ornament would be traditional.  I can't tell you how thrilling it was to enter the world of traditional Korean Hanbok.  One website, one term would lead to another area of research in the clothing, and it was so much fun to discover.  The hairband was made from cloth wrapped wire (the kind I had on hand for needle felting), then wrapped with strips from her skirt fabric.  The triangular ornament is a piece of hard leather covered the with the same fabric, then decorated with a hand colored paper flower and green "star" backing.

As I was making this costume for Alice, I grew a keen appreciation of what Na Young Wu illustrated for us.  She told the story Korean style and its brilliant work.

Of course Alice needed her rabbit (which I actually made first).  I think it was the White Rabbit, even more than Alice herself, that inspired me to work on this project.  I shake my head, still, at the thought of a dignified, high ranking rabbit, smoking an opium pipe, on his way down the rabbit hole.  Did I mention that his style of Hanbok was worn only by the highest officials?  I began to refer to him as M. Rabbit (Monsieur Rabbit) for this purpose.  I took him quite seriously, and you should, too (lol).  M. Rabbit.

I also loved this project because I could entertain myself with another needle felting project.  I was making him prior to Easter, so he was my Easter bunny as well as part of Alice's story.  As I studied the illustration, the objects in M. Rabbit's hole fascinated me no end.  Instead of cards, Na Young Wu used dominoes!  She's a kick!  I can't tell you how much I'd love to meet her.  And, notice that the tea set (The Tea Party), is an Asian one.  Can you imagine what the Mad Hatter would look like?!  But, yes, I had to learn how to needle felt a rabbit.

I looked up and viewed many felted White Rabbits and felted rabbits in general, and all I got was a general idea of "rabbit".  M. Rabbit is a Korean rabbit and a serious one for such a fluffy little bun-rab.  Fluffy bunnies do not smoke opium pipes.  Let's get real here.  I had to give him a serious expression.  He actually came together rather quickly while I referred to no less than eight different images of real rabbits and a couple of felted ones.  I think one of his most distinctive features, that others have passed on, is that a white rabbit's ears are almost transparent.  With light, you can see through the fur to the pink membrane of the flopping appendages.  M. Rabbit was a joy to make, and a study, as well, of balance so he could stand on his own.

His traditional Hanbok would be a red smoking jacket, kimono style.  If you've ever seen a silk smoking jacket, they are made kimono style, but with narrower sleeves.  I'd dressed a Robert Tonner resin White Rabbit in the Nursery Alice (Tenniel) style, so I was familiar with the notion that the arms, or front paws, are quite short.  I used a red cotton silk for the jacket and the collar was made with the white silk chiffon.  Why?  Because I like fabrics to complement each other and he had to look like he belonged to the Asian Alice set.  Only the finest for M. Rabbit.

The tiny opium pipe was also a fun project to do.  I've been able to find carving projects here and there over time, and I love working with wood.  This little pipe is all one piece of bass wood, whittled down, stained and lacquered.  A piece of straight pin, inserted in the tube at the mouth piece, allows M. Rabbit to hold the pipe in his mouth. 

His hat was another matter.  I didn't think it would be as difficult as it was, but I never do.  This traditional Korean men's hat is called a Gat.  It is a hat worn by noblemen and stems from the Joseon period that began in the 1400's which existed in Korea for 500 years.  These Gat are black, see-through hats often made from horse hair - at least traditionally, but I'll bet you can buy knock-offs in nylon today.  One of the reasons they have this tall crown, was to allow for the hair style that gathered up into a top knot.  M. Rabbit does not have a top knot, but he is a noblerabbit and can wear the Gat proudly.  I fashioned his from starched black cotton, needing a light fabric that would hold its shape.  I could not achieve an exact see-through style, but it works.

The last items I made were her slippers.  I noticed that they were constructed in a moccasin style, sewn together in such a way.  I worked them in red and black leather with beige thread on my sewing machine.  After doing Mary Lennox's wellies, the pattern came together fairly quickly.  Sewing them on the machine was like making booties.  The shoes are about 1 3/4" long, heel to toe.  Alice is 12" tall, and M. Rabbit is 4 1/4" tall.  The domino set shown below is an antique miniature made of ebony and ivory that I've owned for quite some time.  I'd ordered a little tea set with a blue floral design, and this is what was sent to me from China.  They were out of the blue floral and didn't think to ask if I'd mind.  LOL 

I have really enjoyed this creative journey and have a acquired a great appreciation for the exotic beauty of Korean Hanbok.  I hope that somehow in cyberspace, Na Young Wu might be directed to my project so she can see her work come to life.  Know how deeply inspiring her work was.  I have a feeling this delightfully talented artist would get a kick out of Alice and M. Rabbit.

Miss E. Mouse