Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Maraja's Alice - 1959

When I was a little girl, I spent many a rainy day, and sunny one, studying and immersing myself in the books my sister was given for the holidays.  Having been born five years before me, and the first child, my mother seemed intent on enriching her life with beautifully illustrated children's storybooks.  When I came along, and having noticed that my sister showed no interest in the books, book gifting seemed to have lost my mother's interest.  However, the books were there, and I innocently claimed ownership of them. 

One of them was The Adventures of Pinnochio, illustrated by Maraja.  These fabulous pictures captured my imagination, and while I never read the story, I knew it by heart through the lavish paintings.  It was a curiosity to me because they looked nothing like the ones Disney drew, and of which we were supposed to relate.  For all I knew, this was the only book someone named Maraja illustrated. 

It wasn't until the advent of the Internet, and my keen collecting for antiquarian children's books, that I began a search for my own copy of The Adventures of Pinocchio.  When I did, I discovered a wealth of other childhood stories illustrated by Maraja, and one by one I began collecting them.  

Libico Maraja (1912-1983) was one of Italy’s top post-War illustrators. Born in Bellinzona, Svizzera, Maraja studied in Lugano and began his career working for the Ala studios. In 1940, he moved to Berlin, where he cooperated with IMA Film, among others for the animated film ‘La Rosa di Bagdad’. After the war, he became well known for his book illustrations for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Adventures of Pinocchio, Peter Pan, and many other classics. These were the years he worked with the Italian publishing house Fabbri.  Pinocchio was his first published children's classic in 1955.  These beautiful books were printed in Italy for the publishers Grosset and Dunlap (NY).

Many of these old books can be found today in various stages of condition.  I'd like to think that they were just as loved as my sister's was, when I sat quietly for endless hours admiring the gracious Blue Fairy.  I purchased my own copies of Alice in Wonderland, and recently Alice Through the Looking Glass, to add to my collection.  When I completed Delamare's Alice, I knew there was just one more art doll Alice I'd need to do before the end of this year - Maraja's. 

Having desired to make a needle felt Humpty since I began dabbling in the craft, I chose Maraja's for his simplicity of clothing and innocent appeal.  I'd recently found a Wendy Lawton "Phoebe Preble", minus her Hitty doll, and purchased her for the purpose of turning her into Maraja's Alice.

Alice began her transformation with a new set of blue eyes, and a little blonde wig.  The wig was particularly difficult to find since the style Maraja gave her wasn't one my supplier, Monique, had available.  I'll admit that I enjoy using human hair wigs for their richness and beauty, but acquired a wig targeted for the BJD market instead.  When Monique Trading is out of stock, do check Ebay for the style, color and size you want.  Many Ebay dealers purchase Monique stock for their online stores.     

Alice's dress is a heavy cotton sateen.  This would not have been my first choice in fabric weight, but the color was just perfect.  I had the most difficult time, again, with the collar.  The bodice, of course, is everything.  That's where all the detail is nine times out of ten.  I had to make that collar four times before I had it correct!  For one, the fabric has such a tight weave that I had to use a jeans needle to get though all the thicknesses.  Also, this doll's body is all porcelain, like Asian Alice's was, only along with the round tummy Wendy gave these dolls, the arms are huge and bent.  Fitting the clothing on this body as you construct it takes a great deal of patience. 

I was very happy with the outcome of the pinafore though.  After making apron after apron in all the various styles, this one came together rather quickly.  Although I was running out of Swiss Pima Batiste.  One of the continual problems I have is judging the length to cut the fabric for skirts.  I should know better by now.  Make it longer and you can always shorten it at the top of the waist.  In this instance, having goofed the first time around, I used the shorter version to make the apron ties at the end. 

But, prior to dressing Alice, I'd begun work on Mr. Dumpty.  Like I mentioned, I'd been wanting to make one for quite some time, but knew that he would require armature hands with fingers.  I had hoped this friend of mine would show me how to make then in person, but like all good intentions, this one went awry.  Hence, the first try on Delamare's monkey last month.  I do think this second pair went a bit better, but they're not easy to do.  The reason you want wired fingers is so that they can be posed, hold objects, shake Alice's hand at the right moment. 

Humpty Dumpty took me twice as long to make as Alice's garments.  Maybe longer.  Yes, I'm still learning to sew.  I always will be, but needle felting is still very new to me.  It was just last year at this time that I made that slice of pumpkin pie. 

The very shape of the egg man needed to be appropriate in scale to that of the illustration.  I don't know how many people follow to the letter, an illustration like I do, but many artists have much more imagination than I do. One of the best things you can do when felting the base form, is to get as tight a felting as possible.  This allows you to add features and top clothing without misshaping the original form as you proceed.  I had a great deal of difficulty with this.  But then, he was my first Humpty, and I do plan to do more.

I used several illustrations to get his facial features, which changed throughout each picture.  One illustrations was used for his ears.  Another was used for his upraised brow and sweet smile.  Was Humpty a nice Egg?  No, not really, but I wanted a sweet Humpty for Maraja's Alice.

I noticed while browsing on Pinterest, the different Humpty's others have felted, and none took photos of him from behind.  Getting him to sit properly was fairly difficult even with armature legs that could be bent into shape.  His bottom is an egg shape.  He doesn't have a proper bum to sit upon.  Why didn't I put him on a wall?  Because a wall would take an awfully long time to sculpt out of wool and I simply don't have that kind of room to display such a thing.  However, one that was possibly only a brick or two might have helped him sit better.  He rather "rocks" like an egg would.  Maybe I did do this correctly?  That's the A Type in me coming through.

I love Libico Maraja's work.  I have loved it for a life time already, and this was a precious and joyful project to work on.   I may just have to do a doll as his Blue Fairy, an a needle felt of his Pinocchio.  Someday.  The Blue Fairy had blue hair...but wait!  I think you might be able to get blue wigs for BJDs.  See?  Not so bad after all.

Below I've shared some of my favorite illustrations from Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.  These are very typical of the characters and figures he drew for Pinocchio.  I don't know quite how to describe them, and being at a loss for words has never been a problem for me - while writing.  They are caricatures in the extreme, but so fabulous that they illicit instant emotion within.  You feel them.  Experience them.  You can't just look at them and say, "That's a lovely illustration."  Each makes you feel the character, whether it is an alphabet, a fish or a old man. 

For those not so familiar with Through the Looking Glass, Alice encounters a knight who recites a poem to her, a song really, titled A-Sitting on A Gate. "I'll tell thee everything I can: There's little to relate.  I saw an aged man, a-sitting on a gate."  Maraja drew him fishing as he "set limed twigs for crabs".  I simply love this illustration.  I hope you enjoy this and the others as well.

It is now November and time to think about the coming holidays.  The cooler nights, the coming rains, the change of the clock.  Halloween was marvelous this year, and there's so much to look forward to, especially when we have an imagination.  Walk through some crackly, crunchy leaves and dream.

Miss E. Mouse    

Libico Maraja (1912 - 1983)

1 comment:

  1. Oh goodness, this whole set is absolutely wonderful! Alice's dress and pinafore are beautiful, surprised to see the all porcelain body, what a chore that must have been fitting clothes on her, but very lovely! I'm over the moon in awe and love with your Humpty Dumpty, he is adorable, he's one of the cutest characters in many children's illustrations and your's is so much fun to see come to life! I knew you would make the cutest Humpty!!!