Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Guys and Dolls

I am the mother of five sons (no daughters).  They are all grown now, ranging in age from 19 to 28, and they are an absolute delight to me in every way.  My husband always promised, when they were young whippersnappers and resembled a litter of very energetic and noisy puppies, that one day I would be surrounded by strapping young men who treated their mother like a queen.  That day has come, my friends, and I am the luckiest woman who ever walked the earth.

When my boys were little, I spent a few years taking a weekly porcelain doll-making class. The first step was to pick out--among the many antique reproductions and modern dolls that my teacher had in her shop--the head, hands, and legs that I would use.  Then I would smooth and clean these fragile green ware pieces to prepare them to be fired in the kiln. Next, I would paint the hardened pieces to prepare them for the second firing.  And finally, I would construct a body for them out of wire, cloth, stuffing, and glue.  The process of completing one doll took weeks, and by the time I was done I had fallen in love with each and every one of them.  They were like my babies.  I found doll-making to be a very satisfying craft, particularly because I've always loved dolls so much myself but had no one to buy or make them for.  So I made them for family members and friends...and I made them for me!

One of the first projects I worked on was making a porcelain image of each of my boys, ostensibly as something for them, something to take one day when they got married and had houses of their own.  (Now, I'm afraid I love them too much to see the set of five get split up; so they may not get them until after I'm gone!)  Here are my guys, as dolls:
That's son #1 in the back row, left.  The mold I used is from an antique German "Character Doll" made by Simon & Halbig in the early 1900's.  I chose it for this son's doll because it resembled him a little.  It has a rather long face and eyes that turn down a bit at the corners--features that run in my husband's family and have been passed down to my firstborn.  I dressed my oldest boy's doll in gray pants and a white button-down shirt, because that was the uniform they all wore at their Catholic grade school.  I cut up an old shirt and pants that my guys had actually worn to school to make these tiny clothes. Since he's dressed like a schoolboy, I gave him a tiny backpack (with a tiny lunch bag in it!) and a math book to hold.

In the middle of the back row is son #2's likeness.  This doll is also an antique German "Character Doll," but I don't know the name of the company that produced it.  I chose this mold for my second son's doll because it reminded me a bit of him--especially because it had his round cheeks, a feature that runs in my family. He is dressed in jeans, a sweatshirt, and a baseball cap (which began its life as a key chain), since that is the uniform this son wore when he wasn't in school.  The jeans and sweatshirt were crafted from old clothes that my boys had worn.  He holds a football in one hand and a paint palette in the other, because he was really into both sports and drawing.

Son #3 is in the back row, right.  I used the same mold for his face that I used for son #1, because the two of them have similar Pearl features.  I dressed him in the maroon sweatshirt and sweatpants that was the gym uniform at their Catholic grade school (and again, I cut up an old uniform they'd worn to make a tiny replica of this ensemble--which I found adorable, but by junior high the boys unanimously viewed as hideous).  There is a backpack over the doll's shoulder, since he's wearing a school uniform.  And he's holding a basketball and a baseball bat, because this middle son of mine was/is an ESPN-watching sports nut of the highest order.

In the front row on the left is son #4.  I chose this mold for his doll because the face reminded me of his, right down to the deep dimples in its cheeks.  This German doll was originally made in the 1920's or 30's, and my teacher always referred to it as "Laughing Child."  My fourth son is dressed in a tiny handmade sailor suit, because when all of my boys were little, I had their photo taken in the same sailor suit...and I just like how little boys look in sailor suits!  This son went through a nutcracker-collecting phase, so I gave him a little nutcracker to hold.  He's also holding a sneaker, because by the time this boy went off to college, he had amassed an impressive collection of funky, brightly-colored athletic shoes.

And finally, that's my baby in the front row, right.  I used the same antique German mold for his doll that I used for son #2, because he, too, had very round cheeks when he was a little munchkin and the two brothers had a definite resemblance.  I dressed him in a tiny sweatsuit with Simba on the front of the hoodie and lion's ears on the hood, trying to replicate a favorite Lion King outfit from his toddler years.  He holds a dinosaur, a soda fountain drink, and a pail filled with legos and a miniature King Mufasa figurine--and now you know what his great loves were when he was a little guy.  You also know which classic Disney animated movie was his favorite.

In truth, all five of my sons were so crazy about many of the same things growing up--dinos, Jurassic Park, drawing, Disney movies, football, and lacrosse--that I could have given them all similar accessories to hold. But with these dolls, I tried to capture their unique personalities.  So that's it, then; these are all my guys, as dolls.

(And lest you think that I never made a porcelain likeness of my #1 guy, my husband, guess again.  But that's a subject for another post.) 

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