In 2004, I was cruising ebay for modern collector dolls when I spotted a composition Patsy Ann doll. I was stunned! My mother had a composition doll that she kept from her childhood, but it was ugly.I had just assumed that all composition dolls were similarly unattractive. BOY WAS I EVER WRONG!
Ugly or not, I always felt compelled to drag out my mother's doll and play with it whenever we visited my grandmother's house. My grandmother loved dolls and I only wish she could have lived to see mine. We would have made a great team.
When I saw the Patsy doll I was smitten with the utter cuteness not found in today's dolls. I began to search for other composition dolls and found the "Big Fat Baby," dolls that I have given the name "Boom Boom McCutie-kins," since they seem to have no real name of their own.
I purchased some dolls, fat babies, that looked ok in their pictures but were actually pretty bad off in real life. I vowed that one day.... one day I would learn how to fix them and make them as good as gold, and better.
I'm not gonna lie, it wasn't over night that I learned what I know now. It took many years of trial and error and tons and tons of endless research. That's right. Research. If you want to be good at something and you want to do it the right way, you have to do your homework. I wanted to make assembly repairs identical to the original manufacturer's methods. In order to do that, I had to see how it was done. I had to do my research.
Now that I have restored so many dolls (more than a thousand), I can tell you who made an unmarked doll just by looking at the hands and the hooks that attach a full compo arm to a cloth body. I can tell the difference between Canadian composition, USA composition and German composition just by looking at the texture. If there were such a thing as a PhD in composition dolls, I believe I would have one, for my dolls are not just aesthetically pleasing, but I have the knowledge of how they were made and assembled, which gives me the basis for the best practices I have created. In addition to that, I have the artist's background to understand the workings and form of the human anatomy. That last remark may sound lofty, until you have a [non drinking] bottle fed doll with no lips.
I am an artist, both fine and commercial. I sold my first work of art at the age of 12. I paint, draw, sculpt and I absolutely adore coloring, silly as that may seem. I graduated from the Art Institute and I spent 15 years in commercial graphics.
Over the years I have discovered what is bad for a composition doll and what to totally avoid in my repair process. I find that sometimes it is impossible to remove all the old paint from a doll but painting over the original paint is just asking for future problems and if you paid a lot for a restored doll, shouldn't it last another 100 years? I should certainly think so. I have my ways of getting around stubborn paint.
I use top quality materials that are best suited for composition wood pulp and a "sealer" that is air tight and water tight, to protect the wood from future problems. Yes, my dears, it is the wood that causes the deterioration of a composition doll, not the paint. A compo doll can have the most beautiful paint job on earth and be ruined in a single humid summer. All because of a thing called osmosis.
Osmosis is the method by which plants allow water into it's cells in order to absorb water and maintain it's shape. Think of a wilted plant; Most of you have had the experience of adding water to the plant's soil only to come back an hour later to see it standing tall and proud again. That's osmosis. Well, a plant's cells do not stop the process of osmosis even when the plant is dead because osmosis requires no energy to occur. The plant, or wood, in this case, then soaks up moisture like a sponge. Can you guess what happens when an 80 year old piece of dried up wood gets exposed to much moisture? It swells. When the atmosphere becomes drier, it shrinks again. It is this movement of the wood under the paint that causes the paint to lift and crack.
It is important, that a restoration artist know about the nature of the material they are restoring, what will work best to restore it, what issues will need to be taken into special consideration as well as what chemicals will and will not react with one another. There is a lot of science involved in the process. It is equally important for the restoration artist to have excellent craftsmanship and most importantly, talent. So knowledge, ability, and talent are the 3 major keys to a good restoration. Always check credentials, look at the before and after pictures, listen to what they say. If they ever say, "I'm not a doll expert," you do not want them touching your doll!
In short, I have spent countless hours perfecting my craft in dolls so that you can be sure when you buy a SwankyKitty doll, you are not just buying a doll, you're buying quality. After all, they are not just dolls, they're art.
Please also be sure to "Like" my facebook page for more doll talk and personal interaction with myself and other doll collectors.
Over 1,000 composition dolls restored