In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I went through my 10-year archive of dolly pics and selected a variety of my girls in green. Some of these beauties have moved on, but most have stayed with me and continue to bring me joy. I hope they bring a smile to your face as you celebrate today with kisses to your loved ones and a nice frothy mug of green beer.
Anyone who reads my blog knows that Robert Tonner’s dolls hold a special place in my heart. I discovered Tonner’s dolls in 2003, when Tyler Wentworth and her world reigned supreme in Robert’s offerings. I was primarily enticed by the dolls’ uber-realistic, beautiful faces. They were so full of personality, and each one was distinct from the others. I loved that Robert injected racial diversity in his collections, regularly adding gorgeous African-American, Asian, and Hispanic characters into the mix. Today, I have hundreds of dolls from Tyler’s world in my collection, and they remain first in my heart.
But, of course, doll lines have short shelf lives in the world of high-end fashion dolls, and Tyler and her world were gradually phased out as collectors’ tastes changed. Tonner went on to create other doll lines. Cami, Re-imagination, DeeAnna, Antoinette, and Deja Vu took their turns in the spotlight, and many were gorgeous dolls. But while I purchased several of these dolls, none grabbed my attention like Tyler and Sydney once did. Back in those days, it was difficult for me to winnow down the list of dolls I wanted to purchase in each subsequent line unveiling. Like many collectors, I’d count down the days until Tonner’s latest unveiling, quickly emailing my dealer my wish list in hopes of getting to her first before my favorites sold out. But with Tonner’s subsequent lines, there were usually only a couple that stood out to me, and they rarely sold out.
It could be that I’m romanticizing my early collecting days, and the Wentworth family is a source of wistful nostalgia. It could be that I’ve matured as a collector, and I am now choosier with what I add to my collection. After all, I have to be out of necessity. My collection is bursting at the seams of my many doll cabinets.
At any rate, the point of all this rambling is to say that Robert Tonner just released a collection that has captured my imagination more than any other line since Miss Wentworth entered the scene. Her name is Miette, and she is far from a fashion doll. Miette’s back story casts her in the role of a character in the fictional, fairy tale-esque French village of “Faire Croire.” As described on Tonner’s website:
“Once upon a time, in a far off corner of a very southern part of France, lies a tiny village called, Faire Croire. Don’t bother to look on any map, you’ll never find it. It’s a lovely village where the people enjoy a life of beauty and peace. Every house in the village is a different color and has window boxes filled with flowers of all kinds. The moss covered thatched roofs slant in all angles. There are no locks on any doors or windows. The narrow cobblestone streets are lined with fragrant flowers growing in beautiful pots adorned in jewels. The air is always thick with the scent of freshly baked pain au chocolat. It seems like a place you would hear about in a fairy tale. Although Faire Croire is well over 500 years old, no one knows it’s there. But, Faire Croire does have a quality, something sinister that hangs over the heads of all the villagers. Something like a dark cloud. Could that feeling be coming from the castle on the hill?
How could a village be over 500 years old with no one except the people that live there knowing of its existence? Miette, the lovely daughter of the Mayor of Faire Croire, intends to find out.”
I love Tonner’s quirky back stories, and I hope he expands on this one. Miette’s aesthetic is full of pastel colors, ruffles, and eyelet fabric. Her face is open and innocent, her lips ever-so-slightly parted as if she might speak. She reminds me a great deal of one of my other favorite sculpts of Robert’s, Euphemia, one of Cinderella’s wicked stepsisters. But while Euphemia is pouty and cross, Miette is sweet and tender.
It seems that I am not the only collector enchanted by Miette. She was just released yesterday, and the status of many dolls has gone from “in stock” to “coming soon,” which I assume means they have sold out of much of their first shipment. While I’m delighted for Tonner Doll, as I can’t remember this happening for some time, I’m disappointed that I wasn’t able to place my order today. I’m going to start out with a raven basic, and if she is as lovely as her pictures, I’ll likely add a dressed doll. If money were no object, my wish list would consist of the Raven Basic, Dainty Miette, Fanciful, and Enchanting Miette.
I wish Tonner the best with this new line, and I’m looking forward to adding Miette to my dolly world. Who knows, perhaps she will fill the empty place in my heart that Tyler left when she exited the scene.
I’m no photographer, but, through the miracle of digital photography, I’ve found that if you take enough photos, there’s bound to be a few that don’t turn out that bad. Those of us of a certain age will recall taking our film rolls to the local drug store, waiting a few days for development, and then going back to pick up our pictures to discover what those photographs looked like. Most often, mine looked like crap. Out of a couple dozen pictures taken during a summer vacation, two or three weren’t blurry. Now, of course, we have the luxury of deleting the crappy photos before sharing them with others and we don’t have to pay for our prints sight unseen. With the dawn of cheap digital photography, everyone has become an amateur photographer. The younger set tends to document every moment of their lives–whether notable or not. Women of my age are most likely to photograph our children. My five-year-old is one of the most documented little boys around. The number of his childhood pictures will dwarf the number that my mother took of me.
And then there is the doll collecting set. We love to take and share images of our dolls. Mostly, I believe, because there are so few of us, and we rely on the Internet to bring us into contact with one another. Online, we can share pictures of our latest discoveries and learn about new dolls and upcoming artists. Some of today’s doll photography is an art in and of itself. Nearly every day I come across some new doll imagery online that leaves me scratching my head, thinking, how did she do that?
My own photos are amateurish at best, but once in a while the photography gods align around me and I take a pretty decent image. Prego, one of the doll boards that I frequent, adopted the theme of doll photography this week, asking members to post some of their favorite photos. I was inspired to dig into to my 10+ years of collected doll photos to locate some of my favorites.
Doubtless this will be a trip down memory lane for some of you more seasoned Tonner collectors. Looking back on the many, many images of dolls that I’ve taken throughout the years, I’m reminded of how much pleasure this hobby has given me, how much it continues to give, and how much more I’m sure it has in store.
First up, the Sydneys:
And a few more recent lucky shots…
I met Tyler Wentworth in 2003. That was the darkest year of my life, but meeting Tyler helped me through it just a little bit. And I needed every little bit I could get that year. When Tyler and I met, my world was spinning out of control. It had been just over three months since I lost my first husband to cancer. He died three months after our wedding day. At age 29, I found myself both a newlywed and a widow.
Overwhelmed with grief, I was unmoored and devastated. I quit my job and barricaded myself inside my apartment most days, where I wept continually and surrounded myself with photos and reminders of my late husband. My mother was desperate to pique my interest in anything that would motivate me to leave my apartment and live again. So she dragged me to the doll industry’s now-defunct East Coast Doll Expo in Washington, DC.
Mom had read about the expo the day before in the Washington Post. She knew nothing more about it, except that it had to do with dolls. And mom and I loved dolls. We’d been collecting Barbies together for about ten years. So she drove to my place, dragged me out of bed, and pushed me into the Metro.
As we traveled to the hotel that was hosting the expo, I began to feel guilty at the prospect of possibly enjoying myself at the event. In those early months of my grief, I feared happiness as much as I did my constant misery. Being miserable at my loss somehow kept my husband’s spirit more present to me. In those days, grief was tangible, and the only thing I could rely on.
When we arrived at the hotel, mom and I were taken aback at the size of the event. I will never forget the moment we walked through those ballroom doors into the massive showroom. There were dolls of every shape and size as far as the eye could see. Mom and I had previously only attended small doll shows dominated by a pink sea of Barbie and friends.
I like to say that it was at that moment of taking visual stock of a room full of artist dolls unlike any I had before seen that Barbie died to me. This was especially the case when I stepped up to the Tonner Company’s considerable display and beheld for the first time Tyler Wentworth in all her couture beauty. Barbie was a pathetic little fairy in comparison. It was clear our relationship was over.
I quickly pulled my mother over to the booth and showed her Tyler. We thought she was enormous compared to Barbie, and I had never seen outfits so exquisitely tailored and detailed. Everything fit her so well. There were little buttons, little belts, sparkly jewelry, and handsome handbags. There were business suits and swim suits and gowns. Mom said she would buy me one of these little masterpieces, and I poured over Tyler and the members of the Chase Modeling Agency, looking for the face that spoke to me most.
Now what mom and I failed to understand was that these particular dolls were not for sale. The primary purpose of the expo was to provide a showroom for retailers looking to put in their orders for the year. So when I picked up a brunette “Super Stripes” Tyler and brought her over to no less than Tom Courtney, asking to purchase it, he gave me an indulgent smile. Tom, who headed up Tonner’s marketing and design team at the time, gently explained to me that these dolls were not for direct sale, and he handed me a piece of paper that listed the dealers that sold Tonner’s products, mostly online.
My mother and I spent the next few hours wandering around the room, discovering new artists, some of which I still collect to this day. But no other doll made quite the impression that Tyler did. When I returned home, I immediately logged on to my computer, and Savvy Stripes Tyler was on her way to my apartment. My mother would tell me years later that it was that day at the expo that she saw me smile for the first time since my husband’s death.
Since that fateful day nearly thirteen years ago, my life has gone in totally unexpected directions. The raw pain that ravaged me upon the death of my first husband slowly dulled with each passing day, month, and year, and today I am able to recall him with warmth and joy rather than pain and sorrow. He is always with me, but as a source of comfort rather than sadness.
I have since remarried a wonderful man and gave birth to our beautiful son. I have a successful career and good friends. I can’t complain. Life has tossed me occasional curve balls, but I have successfully fielded each one and come out on top.
Doll collecting continues to play an important role of my life. I have made many friends in the community, and I even founded a local club. I’ve gone to several conventions and have been delighted with the kindness and creativity of the doll collecting circuit. And, of course, I started a blog that has attracted an enthusiastic following for which I am so grateful.
I still have that first brunette Super Stripes Tyler. She has traded her striped swimsuit for a sharp business suit, and I’ve accessorized her with glasses, stylish boots, and a brand-name handbag. I like to think that she represents me after I was able to dig myself out of the deep hole of grief that once threatened to consume me. She has seen me through a period of tremendous change, and she will likely see me through much more.
The doll who started it all – Super Stripes Tyler
Like many long-time Tonner collectors, I have vivid memories of my first encounters with Ms. Sydney Chase. Sydney made her entrance into Tyler Wentworth’s world of high fashion in 2001—just two years after Tyler’s debut. Sydney’s beauty was entirely different from that of Tyler’s, a notable contrast that quickly captured the imaginations of her growing legions of fans. Whether intentional or not, Tyler’s wholesome beauty stood in stark contrast to Sydney’s haughty sophistication. Their physical differences sparked the creativity of their fans, and different forms of fan fiction soon surfaced. Most fans agreed on the dichotomy the two dolls represented—Tyler the wholesome, over-achiever, and Sydney, the world-wise, scheming business woman. While Tyler cultivated friendships and family bonds, Sydney thrived on duplicity and deception on her way up the New York City social ladder. While Tyler designed wholesome outfits for her prep-school tween sister, Sydney bought and sold the models at her Chase Modeling Agency like so much chattel. While Tyler slept exclusively with her boyfriend, Matt O’Neill, Sydney slept exclusively with everybody.
I began collecting Robert Tonner’s dolls in 2004, three years after Sydney made her appearance in the Tyler Wentworth line. She was then at the peak of her popularity, often selling out on pre-orders. I recall those heady days of anxiously awaiting the newest Tyler line to go live on the Tonner website, jotting down which dolls I wanted to order and quickly forwarding my list to my dealer, in hopes I would get to her in time. Most dealers gave modest discounts to attract business, but in those days there was no need for deep reductions. Those dolls went like hotcakes, and, even though their edition numbers ran into the thousands, they could multiply in value several times over on the secondary market. Accusations of dolls scalping ran high as people bought low and sold high.
The vast majority of my early Sydneys remain in my collection. Dolls like “Black and White Ball,” “Love Is Blue,” and “Absolutely Aspen,” with their fantastic fabrics, exquisite detailing, and perfect tailoring have remained classics long after their novelty faded. Many of my dolls remain dressed just as they were they day I received them. “Cocktails on the Plaza,” “Beyond Envy,” and “Just Divine” are all perfect combinations of sculpt, color, and style. Looking back on Sydney’s numerous incarnations 15 years after her debut, it’s astounding how few of them were fashion “misses” (I’m looking at you, “High Style 1.0”). That’s quite a feat when you consider how many fashion dolls Robert Tonner was churning out at the time. Once he introduced Tyler and Sydney and their fantastic fashions to the world, Tonner’s reputation in the hallowed halls of doll artistry was sealed.
And so I begin what will be my new weekly feature, “Throwback Tonner” (#TBTonner), with a brief homage to Ms. Sydney Chase with a handful of the many photos I’ve take of her in years past. Here’s to you, Syd. May you remain as beautiful—and as bitchy—as you were the day we first met.
Since my husband has always vied with my dolls to be first in my heart, it was important to me to accommodate both of them on my wedding day—which took place eight years ago today. So not long after I said “yes” to the ring, I suggested to my fiancé that we place doll bride and groom centerpieces at each of the tables at our reception.
That did not go over well.
Instinctively jealous of his long-time rivals, my husband demurred, refusing to share our day with my beloved vinyl works of art. This, of course, got my hackles up, and we ended up nearly divorcing before getting married in the first place.
After we dug in our respective heels, intense negotiations followed. The upshot was a compromise in which we agreed to one dolly bride and groom to be placed on the gift table at our reception. It wasn’t what I originally had in mind, but I had been told that marriage was all about compromise, so I was willing to be the bigger person just this once.
After much long-distance preparation for a Colorado wedding, the Big Day arrived. The ceremony was lovey, if unconventional, and our guests entered the reception hall in fine spirits. The doll display generally drew smiles, particularly from the groom’s guests, many of whom had not been told of his now-wife’s obsession. But we were legally hitched at that point, so it was too late for them to talk him out of his obvious mistake.
Since many guests were the parents of young children whom they had made someone else’s problem for the evening, the dancing carried on until late, and the alcohol continue to flow. When I took the occasional break from the dance floor, I noticed that my wedding dolls were frequently changing positions, and it pissed me off a bit that my guests were taking liberties with them. But being a new bride made me temporarily indulgent of such behavior, and I so dismissed my concerns as petty.
When the festivities finally came to an end, and my new husband, our parents, and I were clearing the hall of decorations and gifts, I went to gather my vinyl bride and groom. To my dismay, I found them laying down, the bride’s gown hitched up around her neck, in what is traditionally referred to as the”69” position.
Part of me felt violated. A larger part burst into loud laughter.
About a month later, my husband and I developed the photos from the disposable cameras we gave our guests so they could snap pictures during the reception. (This was a common practice in the pre-digital Dark Ages.) Among the photos, we found picture after picture of my poor dolly bride and groom in nearly every sex position imaginable. Apparently, my dolls were more of a hit than I had realized. And our friends were much more immature than I had given them credit for.
Looking back, I am now grateful that my husband prevented me from placing my dolls on each reception table. It would have been a veritable dolly orgy.
(Editor’s note: Today’s post is dedicated to my husband of eight years. It’s been a crazy ride, and I think we’re stronger for it. I love you, Shawn. We have an exciting road ahead. Just keep swimming.)
Now that you’ve saved enough money to attend a doll convention this year (see my previous post for instructions), you of course need to decide which one to spend your hard-earned dolly dollars on. This year’s lineup of fashion doll gatherings takes place on the east coast, west coast, and everywhere in between—some even overseas. Doll conventions are surprising diverse, each attracting a different type of collector, so you want to make sure you choose the one(s) that you will get the most out of.
Conventions held by the major doll manufacturers are of course the most professional and polished, while others, which can be acts of love by volunteers, can have a more “homemade” feel. I’ve attended several Tonner Doll conventions, two Integrity Toys conventions, and several Modern Doll Collector conventions, so those are the only ones I can personally comment on. One of my perennial dreams is to attend the Paris Fashion Doll Festival, but as of now it remains just that—a dream. Feel free to donate to my “Send Barb to Paris” charity if you like, and I promise to write you a kick-ass blog entry in return.
For some convention-goers, location can be a significant factor in their decision regarding which event to attend, as they like to make the event a “family affair,” allowing spouses and/or kids to explore the surrounding area while they surround themselves with dolly madness. (In my experience, spouses and kids are rarely interested in attending the convention itself. And that’s usually a good thing.)
Last year, the Integrity convention was held in Orlando (big bonus for me, as I live in Tampa), and several attendees enjoyed a few days in Disney World before and after the convention. That said, most of the collectors I know don’t care where a convention is held, as the convention itself is the big draw for them—many would travel to Jupiter, if necessary, and just put up with the weather while they play with their dolls.
Below is a list of the major fashion doll conventions slated for 2015. If I’ve missed any big ones, please let me know, and I will add it to the list. I am including brief descriptions taken from convention websites and all necessary links. Enjoy your planning! (And if you need me to talk to your spouse to convince him/her that this will be an essential expense for the year’s budget, I’m more than happy to do so.)
International Fashion Doll Convention (IFDC): Las Vegas, July 8-11Theme: “42 Street – Dolls on Broadway”
From the IFDC website: You are cordially invited to the 13th Annual International Fashion Doll Convention! Bring your family and join your friends for a full 4-day legendary adventure in Las Vegas. There will be the Goody Bag, Big Salesroom, $15 and under Salesroom, Competition, Raffles, Exhibitions, Rock of Ages Bowling Tournament for doll prizes, Sister Act Slot Tournament for doll prizes, the Freebie Bags, Workshops, Seminars, A Treasure Hunt through the Casino……..and there will be surprises!
I’ve never been to an IFDC convention, but I hear that it is a great event that incorporates a significant number of activities. A number of doll companies are represented at this annual event, including Tonner Doll and Integrity Toys, which usually turn out pretty cool souvenir dolls.
Modern Doll Collectors Convention: Reno, NV, Sept 16-19Theme: “My Favorite Things”
Modern Doll incorporates breakout events from a wide variety of artists, spanning vinyl fashion dolls, fantasy resin BJDs, child dolls, and many others. I’ve attended this event twice, and each time was very enjoyable. In addition to adding to my collection exclusive dolls from artists I already collect, I’ve also discovered new artists who have made my collection more diverse. In 2014, the Modern Doll convention was hosted in Orlando (again, awesome for me), and Tonner Doll furnished the final banquet’s souvenir doll, from the Déjà vu collection. This year, Connie Lowe is creating the convention doll, and collectors who do not wish to purchase the doll have the option to pay a reduced registration price to attend. Modern Doll has even made a photo of the in-progress doll to help collectors make their choice.
Last year, I attended several breakout events hosted by artists I do not typically collect, and I was delighted by the dolls I received from Connie Lowe’s lunch and Helen Kish’s breakfast. If you do attend the convention this year, make sure you go to artist Nikki Britt’s event. Nikki is a young resin BJD artist of all of 23 years, and she is producing imaginative dolls unlike any other in the BJD market. I did not attend her event, and boy was I sorry when I saw the adorable BJD that was the souvenir. Nikki is headed places; don’t miss the opportunity to add one of her fantastic dolls to your collection.
One final comment on Modern Doll: It is clearly an act of love by a small group of retirees who work very hard to bring it together each year. They do a great job, but, that said, there are some noticeable bumps and bruises that at times give it a “homemade” flavor. Both times I attended the event, the participants tended to be much older. Not a lot of partying going on with this group. At the final event, organizers arranged for a cash bar in the back of the ballroom. I think myself and one bedraggled husband were the only patrons. The bartender did not look pleased with her empty tip jar.
Integrity Toys: Long Beach, CA (date TBD)
Integrity generally does not announce its theme and convention date until later in the year, although they have announced that this year it will take place in Long Beach, California. The 2014 convention was over the Halloween weekend, and it also took place during Halloween in 2013, so I’m assuming that trend will continue. I’ve been to the Integrity convention twice now—when it was held in Orlando in 2011 and again in 2014. (There are definite perks to living in Florida.) I was left giddy with doll happiness each time. Integrity gives you a lot for your money (and it’s not cheap to attend), and they work hard to make sure you enjoy yourself. I also think the attendees of Integrity’s conventions are among the doll community’s most colorful characters, and that makes it all the more fun.
One note of caution: Collectors who attend the Integrity convention generally know their dolls. I consider myself an Integrity collector, but my knowledge of body types, characters, storylines, and sculpts paled in comparison to those around me. These are hard-core core collectors, and—more so than others of their ilk—they take their hobby very seriously. So, unless you can carry your own weight during a conversation regarding the multiple incarnations of Vanessa’s face sculpt over the years and which one is superior to which, be prepared to smile and nod a lot.
Tonner Doll convention: Dallas, TX, May 29-31
Theme: “Guilty Pleasures”
From Tonner Doll website: Don’t be shy – we’re all guilty here! Welcome to the wide world of guilty pleasures! Like decadent desserts, binge watching your favorite TV shows, and frivolous luxury, the 2015 Tonner Convention is going to be Wilde… especially since it’s in Dallas, TX – the Wild West! Famous for hosting more restaurants per capita than New York City, local celebs Bonnie and Clyde, its sheer love of country clubs and more, Dallas is an exciting, urban city that will no doubt be the perfect backdrop for all our Guilty Pleasures!
This year’s fun will kick off with registration starting Friday morning, from 10a-12p, with events beginning later that very afternoon. For those that delight in ‘evening’ wear, the PJ Party is BACK with a ferocious appetite for fun! AND prepare yourselves for a super fabulous 16” fashion doll souvenir – a BRAND NEW collection debut that we are excited to welcome (back) to the Tonner Family.
I’ve been to more Tonner Doll conventions than any other. Until my mother got Alzheimer’s, we went together each year, and each year, we had more fun than the previous one. For a long time, Tonner held its annual gathering in Chicago, but this year they are venturing into Texas. Like most doll manufacturers, Tonner’s employees work their butts off to make sure their attendees enjoy themselves. There are generally more hits than misses with their souvenir dolls, and their comedic presentations are invariably laugh-inducing. (This is the company that staged a doll wedding when Tyler Wentworth tied the knot with Matt O’Neill.)
Robert Tonner is one of the nicest people you ever want to meet, and he cheerfully endures what can most generously be described as the “over enthusiasm” of many of his fans. The company has managed to keep the event exciting throughout the years. The addition of Wilde Imagination and Tonner’s multiple comic book and movie licenses has added to the diversity of the dolls offered.
The waning popularity of Tonner’s fashion dolls in recent years (he has a lot more competition now than he had a decade ago) has meant that the company often has convention dolls left over, which it makes available to the public soon after the convention has ended. This has dampened the enthusiasm of many convention-goers (admittedly, including me), as a big drawn of conventions is the exclusivity of the dolls offered. If a collector can purchase an “exclusive” convention doll just a few days after the event without having to pay for an airline ticket, it kind of defeats the point.
That said, many collectors point out that there is no way to replicate the thrill of “being there” and enjoying several days of being with other collectors who “get” you and your hobby. Should you go to a Tonner Convention, I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll agree.
P.S. It’s a poorly kept secret that an all-grown-up Marley Wentworth will make her debut at this year’s Tonner Convention. She’s the first addition to the Wentworth line in quite some time, so I expect collectors of the Wentworth dynasty (myself included) will be pretty psyched about this particular event.
National Barbie Doll Collectors Convention: Arlington, VA, July 29 – August 1
Unfortunately, the Barbie Convention site has been down for the past week, and I’m unable to find information other than the time and place. I’ve never attended the Barbie Convention (produced and hosted by Mattel), but I’ve been told it’s as polished a doll event as you ever want to attend. If you have any more information about this event, please feel free to add it in the comments section.
United Federation of Doll Clubs (UFDC): Kansas City, MO, July 16-19
Theme: “A Dream Come True”
From UFDC website: Join us for an exciting experience sharing our passions for dolls with friends and family. Fun filled days of educational activities, superb salesroom, themed meal events and sightseeing opportunities including tours of our UFDC headquarters and newly renovated museum.
UFDC bills itself as a no-nonsense, research-oriented institution. Local clubs that want to become officially associated with the UFDC must submit an application and pay dues. In fact, individual collectors must be formally invited to join an UFDC club, and likewise apply for membership and pay (modest) dues.
UFDC’s mission statement states that its global community aims to elevate doll-collecting by enabling the study of dolls: The home of our organization is our headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri. From this hub UFDC is able to support the goals of its membership: to promote and assist in the preservation of dolls and historical documents pertaining to dolls; to serve as a clearing house for ideas pertaining to dolls; to promote and stimulate interest in the establishment and maintenance of museum doll collections and other permanent and temporary exhibits for display in public places; to assist the educational process through the sponsorship of and participation in lectures, seminars, conferences, and symposia; to publish a magazine to encourage the above enumerated charitable, scientific and educational activities.
I’m told the UFDC’s museum houses quite the collection, representing antique through modern fashion dolls. UFDC’s 2014 convention likewise featured a wide variety of doll artists, including Denis Bastien, Susan Fosnot, Beverly Stoehr, Helen Kish, and Kathe Kruse, among others. Like Modern Doll, I’m betting that it’s a good gathering for collectors open to discovering artists who are new to them.
Madame Alexander Doll Convention: Dallas, TX, July 29-Aug. 1
Theme: “Bluebonnets, Boots, and Big ‘D’”
From Madame Alexander Doll Club website: Each summer the Madame Alexander Doll Club holds it annual convention. It has been in locations all over the continental United States. During the convention, there are Events, Workshops, Seminars, A Competitive Exhibit, Sales Room, Raffle Room, Special Exhibit and the Annual MADC Meeting. It takes countless volunteers to hold this event, and we are thankful to everyone who helps out with their support.
Paris Fashion Doll Festival: March 13-15, Paris
I’ve only attended the Paris Fashion Doll Festival in my dreams, but I hear that it’s a terrific affair for fashion doll collectors the world over. This year’s souvenir doll will be a Barbie produced by Mattel exclusively for the convention. Wilde Imagination and Tonner Doll are also typically represented, and their event dolls are almost invariably TDF. I’ve spent years chasing after some of them on the secondary market. This year, Superdoll will also be represented, although its souvenir doll has somehow already sold out two months ahead of the event.
St. Louis BJD Convention: St. Louis, Missouri (Where else?), Nov. 13-15
Theme: “Pirates and Ninjas”
From the website: We geek out about dolls, learn new things, meet new people, and have lots of fun! We offer workshops to learn more about the care and design of your dolls – want to learn how to face-up your doll? Give it a manicure? Create your own doll? Perhaps you’d like to learn how to create and sew a corset for your doll using a sewing machine? Or make a wig? These are all things that we’ve offered at the convention previously, and we’re just getting started!
I don’t know much about this event, but, according to the website, this is a one-day gathering hosted by a St. Louis-based doll club is in its fourth year. The website states that the event typically draws about 50 people, so it seems to be a small affair.
Italian Doll Convention: Milan, Italy, May 16-17
Again, I don’t know much about this international event besides what I can see from its website. From what I can gather from the photos, good-looking men, drag shows, and alcohol play significant roles in the proceedings. And really, do you need any more motivation to attend than that? Barbie appears to be the main doll represented, and the 2015 souvenir doll is a Barbie dressed by Magia2000.
2014 doll convention photos:
In addition to these events, local clubs often sponsor “doll shows” in locations across the country. Rather than shows, these are typically one-day salesrooms, at which local retailers and informal sellers gather to sell their wares. There are usually one or two of these events within reasonable driving distance of me each year, and I enjoy attending them to see dolls in person that I can otherwise only see on the Internet. If you find one of these events near you (and most of them are held in the late winter or early spring), make an effort to attend. They are good places to meet fellow collectors in your area and perhaps pick up a doll you’ve been searching for. Doll Show USA lists events by state.
Once again, a post that I thought would take a few minutes to write has ended up being the length of a short novel. If you are still with me at this point, thanks for reading, and may all your doll convention dreams come true.
Wilde Imagination debuted its Spring Line today … Sort of. While 12 dressed Ellos and friends were introduced, only six came with production photos. Perhaps it would have been a better idea to hold off until most of the the completed dolls were ready for photography. But what do I know?
Along with the 12 dressed dolls, three basic dolls were released. As I observed yesterday, the brunette is my favorite.
My top pics
Of course, there are new Evangeline, Amelia Thimble, and Sad Sally offerings as well. I do not collect any of these, so my opinion on them probably isn’t worth much. Nevertheless, the new AA sculpt, Angelique, caught my attention. Tonner’s AA sculpts are some of his loveliest, I think. This one is no exception.
I also like “Sister Moon” Evangeline. She’s a nice alternative to Evie’s overdone (IMHO) gothic ensembles. I especially like the ornate hairstyle Tonner gave her.
Altogether, Wilde is offering nine dressed dolls, one basic doll, and nine outfits in this line. They’ve been working hard. I guess Evie and her friends are selling well.
No new Patience dolls, which doesn’t surprise me. I don’t think she’s gained much of a following. I suspect she’ll join the ranks of Tonner’s “in-like-a-lion-and-out-like-a-lamb” offerings. One Sad Sally dressed doll and three outfits joined the line, along with one dressed Amelia and one Hamish.
Now I’m waiting impatiently for the introduction of Tonner’s spring fashion doll lines. From the sneak peaks we’ve been given, the Diana Prince line looks promising for collectors who want to transform her from superhero into fashion model. And I’m really, really hoping that Marley will join the ranks of Wentworth this season. And dare I hope for a few more Tylers and Sydneys? Nah …. I’ve been disappointed too many times to set myself up for that kind of heartbreak again.
Last summer, I attended the Modern Doll Collectors Convention in Orlando with some dear friends. While there, I attended a collector’s presentation on Robert Tonner’s child dolls. Robert himself was in attendance, and he mentioned that he was in the process of preparing a significant number of his private collection of vintage fashion dolls for auction. I was immediately intrigued by the prospect of owning a doll from the collection of Robert Tonner. I have more Tonner dolls than any other in my own collection, and it was his work that introduced me to the world of collector fashion dolls. I think he is a tremendously gifted artist and visionary in the realm of doll art. Owning a doll that he personally selected for his own collection would, to me, be like owning a little bit of fashion doll history.
In the fall, I learned that Robert’s collection was to be auctioned off by Theriault’s—an auction house dedicated solely to the sale of antique dolls. While the auction would take place in New York City, it would also be telecast over the Internet, where people could register to bid remotely. I marked the auction date on my calendar. Theriault’s composed a detailed listing, complete with stunning photos, of the auction dolls on its website, so I could decide ahead of time which of the 600+ beauties I wanted to bid on. I know next to nothing about vintage dolls, so I solely went on which dolls “spoke” to me. Quite a few did.
On the day of the auction, I logged on and watched the action. The experience was very much like being there. There was a streaming webcast, and dolls were held up to the camera for a closer look. When someone on the Internet placed a bid, it was immediately noted at the live event. I bid on several dolls, but most went higher than my budget allowed. However, I did manage to snag two of them for a few hundred dollars. Again, I only went on what “spoke” to me, so I have no idea if I got a “deal” or not. All I cared about was that they were pretty, and that they had been owned by Robert Tonner.
Theriault’s turned out to be less than ideal to deal with. The auction took place on Nov. 23, 2014, and, although I paid promptly when I received my invoice, I did not receive my dolls until January 5. One of the dolls did not arrive with the extra outfit, case, and original box she was supposed to come with. When I called the auction house, I was told that the missing accessories were sent to another bidder in error. So now I have to wait for that person to return the items to Theriault’s, and for Theriault’s to send those items to me. *sigh*
The first doll I purchased was a 19-inch “Sweet Sue” doll from 1957 in a blouse, skirt, and—what sealed the deal for me—a wonderful hooded corduroy coat. When I opened this doll, I was first struck by the quality of the doll and her clothing. Sweet Sue was a play line doll, but her quality is more like what modern collectors expect after spending several hundred dollars on a doll for their collection. No wonder Robert collected these dolls. Today’s play line dolls—with their cheap fabrics and poor construction—do not hold a candle to the 1950s fashion doll. I recall listening to Robert at several conventions as he recalled how much he wanted a “Little Miss Revlon” doll when he was a boy, and how he coveted the one that his sister was given. How wonderful that he was able to succeed so much in his craft that that he could amass such a stunning collection of Little Miss Revlons and her sisters.
My favorite detail on my Sweet Sue is the trim on the hood of her coat. It is made of angora and is softer than soft. Just imagine! Angora on a play line doll! Those were lucky little girls in the 1950s.
The second doll I purchased is a 1958 14” Betsy McCall with a charming gingham dress and matching coat. It was her precious face and wool beret that attracted me to her. Betsy came with her original handtag, box, and advertising booklet. The booklet is like a miniature time capsule. It is part comic book, part brochure. The comic follows a little girl during a day with Betsy—a day that requires eight changes of clothes—all of which are advertised in the booklet.
I do have a few of my mother’s childhood dolls, but these are the first vintage dolls I have ever purchased for myself. I don’t suspect that I will purchase any more. My taste trends more toward the modern fashion doll. But I am delighted that these special dolls are now part of my collection. Holding them in my hands and being able to carefully inspect them, I understand what Robert Tonner saw in them and what inspired him to launch his own career as a doll artist. So, thank you, Robert, for continuing to share your art with us—and for making it possible for me to own a little bit of fashion doll history.
My husband loves to bring people into my doll room. He leads them up our stairs and into our third bedroom, where my “happy place” resides. He positions himself ahead of our guests so that when they enter the room he has a spectator’s view of their facial expressions. And he is seldom disappointed by their “shock and awe.”
After the guest picks his/her jaw off the floor, the most frequent question is, “How many dolls do you have?” which my husband, who has gleefully counted them, is more than happy to answer.
Such people are usually not doll collectors themselves, as nearly all members of the collecting community know that, once you pass a certain number of dolls in your collection, you’d better stop counting. It’s just best for everyone concerned not to be able to answer that question.
It’s true that most collectors I know have more dolls in their collections than they’d care to admit to. But reducing our collections to the number of units they contain trivializes the heart and soul that go into most of these collections. I started amassing my own collection more than two decades ago, and many of my older dolls represent precious time spent with my mother as we traveled to various doll conventions throughout the country. They represent Christmas gifts, birthday gifts, and “just because” gifts. Many of my pieces are one-of-a-kind (OOAK) dolls painted by extremely talented portrait artists. Many pieces of clothing were sewn by hand, their seamstresses achieving beautifully executed miniature-scaled couture. Others are dolls that I pursued for years before finally being able to acquire second-hand. I know the names that each artist represented in my collection gave to their creations.
My collection reflects my own creativity as well. I do not sew for or paint dolls, but I take great joy in mixing and matching their fashions, posing them, and photographing them. I do not excel in any of these things, but I enjoy it, and spending an hour with “my girls” at the end of a long day of work and motherhood is more effective therapy than that provided by the priciest shrink.
Yes, the number of my dolls can be visually overwhelming. But keep in mind that you are looking at much more than a collection of vinyl playthings. You are looking at unique pieces of art that represent the fruit of the creative endeavors of hundreds of talented people. So you will never hear me apologize for proudly displaying them—although I do reserve the right not to count them.