Monday, 29 August 2022

This is Susan, completed!

It was time to put Susan back together, and a double thickness of towel was spread out on the table. 

My visit to Ellie’s Doll Workshop was so helpful. I came away with some beautiful new elastic and some good advice. When you see the elastics side by side it is a great wonder Susan stayed together at all. I think she wore knitted leggings for some years to keep her legs on! The old elastic is so delightful though, and very much part of Susan. So if you are reading this in the future, let me assure you it still is part of her!

I secured the elastic inside a pouch of soft white fleece, just an off cut from making my Edward Tulane Dolls. This I have slipped inside Susan’s torso, and my Raggyrat lable identifies her too! Stringing involved getting loose wires and hooks (they are not joined to Susan) all places and threaded onto the elastic. Below, I’m using my forceps to keep a little tension on, stopping the wire inside her head from slipping. The crack on Susan’s back might break if moved so it was strengthened with epoxy and a piece of sugru, which had plenty of time to cure. 

Here is a close up of Susan’s right hip, showing the roughly cast pottery, and another sugru repair. It also looks like wear and tear has removed quite a bit of her paint. 

Once Susan’s head and legs were all connected it was time to tighten them. I asked Mike for help, and he pulled the elastic tight so I could tie three knots. It was a two handed job, because I wanted to avoid using forceps against the ceramic too much. After my repairs I used the metal ring insert and the elastic to add her voice box back. I tipped Susan back and forth, despite her having no arms yet, but the mama-voice-box never even squeaked! I removed it for safe keeping, and used the new one from Ellie’s Doll Workshop. It was all pink, so I painted the top with Culture Hussle / Stuart Semple’s Black Gold. Just a couple of thin coats made it look way more authentic. Susan speaks! 

Looking through Susan’s right arm socket you can see the voice box resting on the elastic. 

Previously the arms were simply hooked onto the one piece of elastic, but I cut a second piece, and used tension again as the wire and hooks kept slipping back down inside the limb! I had to try a few times to get everything lined up and connected, then clamp with forceps before asking Mike to help me get everything tight. This is so different to jointing the soft toys I’ve made, where I use disks or threads that don’t stretch. 

But we did it. Susan can safely sit again. And stand, if she’s leaning safely! Susan, I think this repair has taken years off you! 

She will be wearing the clothes my Nan knitted later in life, because these too are unique and part of the doll’s story. 

My children didn’t much care for susan when she arrived in 2010, a little worse for wear. They still say her face is a little strange, but that she’s quite nice to pick up and carry on your hip, and yes, she really fits! It takes me back to having my babies, just a little. 
I must say though, for a girl in your sixties (at least) you have lovely legs Susan …

Saturday, 20 August 2022

This is Susan, too …

 After carefully taking poor Susan apart and visiting the Doll Workshop in Kinson, it was cleanup time. I washed all her clothes in cool water and used some Vanish for some stain spots, before a cool rinse and spin in the machine. This items were handmade by Nana many years before her death in 2010 so I’m having to replace the elastic on her knitted knickers too. 

And Susan needed a bath too, but being low fire ceramic, and pretty porous, soap and water really isn’t on the cards for her. I found an older paintbrush (not hard for an artist of many years) and also one of my soft, ostrich feather dusters. Ostrich feathers pick up dust using static, then you can shake them off outside. The paint brush loosened a lot of dust. I did wonder who’s skin cells were in there! 

Inside her newly dusted head you can see the eye mechanism. The gentle duster was good to use around her eyes and teeth area. 

The teeth are glued onto a piece of felt, and were poorly attached. Someone got glue all over her teeth but I decided that to try and clean them up might damage the old plastic so I brushed them dry, and used UHU to fix them back behind her bright red lips. 

I think Susan’s face is in great condition, and her colouring very unusual, more like one of my chickens brown eggs than any of the white dolls I’ve seen online. Her eyes seem to be dark grey, not blue or brown. 

Now at  Elllie’s Doll Workshop I bought some new elastic and a new voice. I met another pot doll who was in the shop for a re-string too. I also got Mike’s help to open the old Mama voice and see if we could perhaps hear it again. You can see how I got on in this video on YouTube. I really would like to put her old voice back in! 

Tuesday, 16 August 2022

This is Susan

Susan is in her 60s and wears aged six-month clothes. She’s been staying with us for a few years. But this year we both became orphans when my mother died of cancer, in March. 

She belonged to my mother, but lived most of her life at my Nana’s house, where sometimes I might be able to reverently hold her. I remember her wearing a pink dress but she came to me some years ago, in this set hand knitted by Nana. Her old head injury was caused by a drop in her early years. It’s got a nice patina on it now. 

Poor Susan was simply made, a post war pot doll. That’s a low fire clay if you are wondering. All of her limbs were held together by elastic which being over 60 years old hadn’t been very elastic for some time, and poor Susan gained a few chips around her joints. One piece of elastic held in everything including making a platform for her voice box, which you can see in the photo below. 

The voice box didn’t work. But I remember Nana tipping her upside down for me when I was a little girl. In her 20s, Susan would still meow like a Cat. But now the little device only goes ‘clunk’. 

So I’m going to do right by Susan. I feel confident to do it now. But I’m heading to Ellie’s Doll Workshop just to check a couple of things, and buy a new voice box and some new elastic. 

Sunday, 14 August 2022

Of Serpents …

I’ve loved Ragged Bears since having children and beginning to bring books into the house again. And my first child is now 24! And living in Dorset I’ve kinda made friends with them, I even have a ‘pass’ from them for one of my picture books!

So it’s nice to be able to share some of their books with my teens and with you too. My 16 is currently reading both books. I read them quite quickly, because I really wanted to know how the stories would resolve. Both books are full of beautiful imagery, scents, flavours and rituals, and both have a lot of mystery. The dreams book is the most exciting as it has so much more at stake, but you do need to read both books. I was so glad Ragged Bears sent me both! 

Read these if you like girls coming of age books.