There is nothing quite as exciting to a doll collector as the exquisite anticipation of a doll event. Those of you who have been to one know what I am talking about. A doll event is the one place we can go to in which we are completely surrounded by people who “get” us, or at least “get” our passion for our hobby. It’s the one place we don’t have to explain our hobby to the uninitiated—those who can’t understand why a grown woman would buy 500 “Barbie dolls.” It’s the one place where we aren’t judged for putting down $300 for “just a doll” crafted by an amazing artist who should be getting much more for her efforts. And it is the one place where you can literally squeal with excitement upon winning a doll raffle and not be carted off to the Funny Farm.

Tomorrow I will attend Metrodolls in Iselin, New Jersey—an annual event founded by the Metrodolls club about a decade ago. I attended once before nine years ago, and, as I do at all doll events, I had a lovely time. The souvenir doll was a beautiful raven Tyler in black and red, and the companion doll was a pretty Shauna with variegated hair dressed in a bedtime ensemble. Both of these dolls are still in my collection.

Metro Style Tyler
Sweetheart Style Shauna

While Metrodolls is a terrific time packed with the events all doll collectors hold dear—vendors, raffles, auctions, presentations, and the great souvenir doll reveal—it is also all too short. Given that I’ve been looking forward to this event since I decided in February to attend, that’s a lot of buildup over a one-day event.

But as I sit in my hotel room in New Jersey and write this, I am reminded that I am here for more than the dolls—I am here for the doll people. I reunited with several people in my former doll club this evening, and I had a wonderful time catching up with them and chatting with collectors I haven’t met before. Doll collecting is as much about the personalities that make up our community as it is about the art we collect.

So tomorrow when I squeal with joy over being called as the winner of a raffle, or when I gasp in delight when the souvenir doll is revealed, or when I squeeze through a crowded vendor table to lay claim to that perfect little black doll dress, I will know that I am in the company of people who understand completely where I am coming from.

Happy Dolly Fourth of July!

This is just a quick post to wish my American readers a festive July 4th. I am currently in Colorado visiting with my husband’s family. My in-laws live in a mountain community of less than 1,000 residents. No more than a dozen businesses line its main street, and there is no stop light. It is a quirky town, and breathtakingly beautiful.

When we visited last summer, I took a doll with me and photographed her against the mountains, valleys, and lakes we came across. This year I am doing the same, with the added bonus of sharing my doll photography time with my 7-year-old niece, who brought along her American Girl doll. It’s been so much fun getting to share my love of dolls with a little girl who is just starting to become enchanted with them. As soon as I arrived, my niece unpacked her backpack of American Girl clothes and accessories, and we both began redressing our respective dolls. I adore my son, but it is so magical to be able to relate to a child through doll play. Playing cars and trains with my son just isn’t the same.

Today my niece and I took our dolls outdoors to photograph them for the Fourth of July holiday. A holiday craft project created by my mother-in-law provided a festive backdrop.


Even Barbie joined us for a while.
Even Barbie joined us for a while.

This year, my travel doll is “Sage,” a platinum Cinderella Tonner doll repainted by “K.” Sage wore some older Tonner separates for her photo shoot. I love the pieces that Tonner created for Tyler and friends when that line was in its heyday. They remain the basic staples of my dolls’ closet, and I return to my favorites (like Sage’s top) again and again.

Last year, Blush and Bashful Tyler accompanied us to Colorado. I was able to get some terrific photos during several day trips we took.

After our photo session was done, my niece and I headed for a playground, where our dolls joined us on the swings. It will be difficult to leave the crisp mountain air for Florida’s heat and humidity when we return home in a couple days.


Cold, dead hands

Doll people have an interesting lexicon exclusive to their community. Besides our acronym alphabet soup (BJD, FBJD, BW, AR, SA, NRFB, MIB, etc.), we coin terms that often betray our tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. “Hoo-hoo stands” in particular springs to mind. But my personal favorite by far, is “grail doll,” also occasionally referred to as “cold, dead hands doll.” (As in, “You would have to pry this doll from my cold, dead hands.”) Every collector I know has, at one time or another, used this phrase to refer to that special doll that, were their house engulfed in flames and they had time to rescue just one doll from their collection, this doll would be the one.

Sometimes one’s grail doll is an OOAK piece that has been repainted by a favorite artist and wears a piece of couture created by a talented seamstress. Sometimes it is an exclusive, limited edition factory doll that they’ve pursued for years. It may be a particularly expensive doll that took them months to save for. Or it could be a doll whose value is purely personal, perhaps a gift from a dear friend.

My local doll club chooses a theme each month and encourages members to bring to every meeting a doll or dolls that fall into that category. February’s theme was “grail doll,” and the variety of dolls that members brought in represented a wide interpretation of what constitutes a grail doll. There were factory dolls and customized dolls–repainted, rerooted, and redressed. There were resin dolls and vinyl dolls, fashion dolls and child dolls. The owner of each doll gave a mini-presentation explaining why their doll was special to them, often sharing the story of how they came to own the doll after pursuing it for years or working with artists to create their vision of what it should be. There were widely varying interpretations of what makes a grail doll, but a common theme was the strong emotional connection collectors have to their dolls as miniature pieces of art created by respected artists.

It seems to me that when we take time to think about which dolls in our collection that someone would have to pry from our “cold, dead hands,” we reflect on why we have taken up this hobby to begin with. What do we appreciate the most about the hobby that occupies our spare hours? The art? The creativity? The “power of play”? The friendship? The sense of community? Often, it is a combination of all of these factors.

Even though you may not personally prefer what another collector calls her grail, you can always respect why she does.