Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Why I collect dolls

From time to time the question comes up - Why do I collect dolls?  For some reason this is a hard thing for many people to understand.  I have loved dolls my entire life, or at least as far back as I can remember.  I never grew out of them, and for a while people seemed to see that as a negative thing.  I was in high school and still playing with dolls - although by that time I probably did more sewing than actual playing, unless my cousin was visiting.  My older brother AND my younger sisters made fun of me for playing with dolls.  The only defense I had was explaining that I planned to someday make money from selling the clothes I made for them.  Then it became OK.

I brought my American Girl doll, Samantha, to college with me, along with a couple of stuffed animals from my childhood.  I didn't really care if I got ridiculed.  Samantha was one of my oldest friends, and I didn't want to be apart from her.  She was also a connection to my cousin, who is also my best friend, as she always understood my love of dolls, and played and sewed with me.  My cousin had moved far away, and I missed her incredibly.

I didn't have as much time to sew for (or play with) Samantha in college, but I got really into Star Wars costumes, and decided I wanted a Padmé doll to sew for.  I researched and researched and found Laurie Leigh, an extremely talented doll repainter, and I sent my 12" Frankendolly to her for a makeover.  She came back an absolute beauty, and I started making costumes for her.

But through Laurie's website, I had found out about Tonner fashion dolls.

My first Tonner was a Tiny Kitty, because I was interested in customized Barbies and Barbie-sized dolls.  I loved turning dolls into characters from tv and movies, and one of my favorite shows at the time was Gilmore Girls.  I had seen pictures of Tiny Kitty dolls and decided that she had the perfect face to become a Rory for me.  I found a nude TK for cheap on ebay, and I originally planned to reroot her to become a brunette:

But then I just couldn't.  So I had to find a new Tiny Kitty to become Rory, and I decided that the redhead would be better as Anne of Green Gables.  (See my post just prior to this one.)  Then I also had to have her friend Diana as a doll, so now I have three total TKs.  (Rory's mom and best friend, Lorelai, is represented in my doll world as a Barbie.  I don't like my girls to be lonely.  :p)

I noticed, however, that more people seemed to collect the 16" Tonner dolls than the Tiny Kitty girls.  So I decided I had better get one so I could start making clothes for them, to sell.  I found a cheap Brenda on ebay, and although I originally only intended to use her as a model and mannequin for my designs, I fell in love.

Now I own nine 16" Tonner girls (and one boy) with another on the way.  :p  So I think I can safely say that I collect dolls.  Now, for the reasons why.

For me, dolls are primarily about creating. I'm the kind of person who would go crazy if I didn't have a hobby, or a job in which I had a creative outlet. I've sampled several different avenues of self expression - drawing, painting, ceramics, sculpting, quilting, cross stitch, knitting, crocheting, music, dance, fiction writing, poetry, costuming, stage makeup, scrapbooking, jewelry making - and the medium I most enjoy is dolls. I love sewing for them, styling them, posing them, photographing them, making jewelry and shoes for them, playing with them... They are my canvas and my muse. Of all the dolls that I have bought over the years, the vast majority are ones that I got specifically because they gave me a new body type to sew for, or foot size to make shoes. I really only have three dolls that I bought just because I wanted them, but I have a long wish list of others! All my dolls are models, but they are also just beautiful to look at. I like art to have a purpose, which is probably why I enjoyed ceramics so much. My dolls are all useful to me because they help me show off and sell my designs, and more importantly, they inspire me to create.
I can sew things for dolls that I would never have an occasion to wear myself. They give me an escape to a fantasy world where anything is possible. And I can make them into characters from my favorite books and movies, or name them whatever I want and create backstories for them. I think each of my dolls represents a facet of my own personality, so to me they are very personal. But I love to share them with like-minded people!

Which brings me to my last reason, which is that dolls are so versatile. The same doll given to two different people can become vastly different, whether those two people are repainters, rerooters, clothing/accessory/prop makers, or photographers. There are so many dolls that I will probably never add to my own collection, but I can and do appreciate the way other collectors dress and customize and display them. I love to look at the amazing photographs that other doll collectors post on message boards like Prego, and their own websites and blogs.  It helps to know I'm not a crazy person all alone. :p

Long story short, I collect dolls because they satisfy me. And to all the haters, I would say "Some people juggle geese!" 

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