Why I Bought an Izannah Walker Doll Kit

This may seem like an odd post from someone who sculpts her own Izannah Walker inspired dolls and has designed her own Izannah Walker doll pattern AND writes a blog dedicated to original antique Izannah Walker dolls since 2008 (the Izannah Walker Chronicles). 

Why buy a molded head if you can sculpt your own
and you own an antique Izannah Walker doll?

Molded doll head from molds owned by Lynda Hampton.
Painting by Dixie Redmond. 
I have two heads made from the molds which Lynda Hampton of The Little Hamptons now owns. One was given to me as a gift by a friend (not Lynda), and the other I purchased to finish for a friend, because that specific face/head mold is meaningful. After having spent some time working with and painting this molded head I have some thoughts to share. These are my thoughts and others will have other opinions. That's fine. 

First off.  There is nothing wrong with making reproductions and 3D copies of original antique artworks as long as you are not passing them off as original antique dolls. Think of the many posters or reproduction giclees out there of master paintings.  We can still enjoy them, knowing that we are only seeing a piece of what the original work is about.  These molded heads do that - they give some of the feeling of an Izannah Walker doll.   Some.  But they cannot convey the complex beauty of the original cloth antique dolls.  

Will these casts of original Izannah Walker doll heads hurt the market for one of a kind artisan-made dolls inspired by Izannah Walker? Maybe in the short term. I think they will be their own kind of series. It will be interesting to see what people do with them. As the ability to easily make 3 dimensional copies of things increases we will see more of this.  But the very technology which makes it easier to make 3D copies will eventually underscore the value of the completely handmade item by an artisan. 

It was fun to paint this head.  I suspect many people out there would enjoy painting them, especially people who feel they cannot sculpt.  But you still have to have (or develop) painting skills in order to end up with a satisfying doll.  A plus for working on a head like this is you get the feel of the shape of the volume of the original Izannah dolls while handling it.  Not that you want to copy the head, (Not at all! Never!) but handling gives you a sense of mass of the original head when you work on your own one of a kind sculpts. A con to making a doll with this head is the most I can lay claim to is the painting.  I would sign it, "painted by Dixie Redmond."  I like to be more fully involved than that.  And I like painting on a stockinette fabric covered head. 

Bottom line?  Doll Artists, keep at it.  There is something special about a creation sculpted and painted by one hand.  But there is room for both kinds of creations. I wrote a similar post on MAIDA Today a few years ago when dolls made from molds of original Izannah Walker dolls first came on the scene.  The reasons I will still be making Izannah Walker inspired dolls are there.  


Dottie Dollie said...

It's great to hear your thoughts on these dolls Dixie. I've bought one too, and I'm really looking forward to painting her. As I live in the UK, there is no chance of me seeing or handling a real Izannah doll up close, these kits give me something approaching that. It will be an amazing learning resource which will help in my sculpting. People have been making reproduction antique bisque dolls for years, but there is still a market for antique dolls. People still sculpt and sell original doll art too. I think there will be space for hand sculpted, as well as 'cast, Izannah inspired dolls. When I add a doll to my collection it is an emotional thing, I have to fall in love with a doll. I believe collectors will still fall in love, and appreciate hand modelled dolls.

Dixie Redmond said...

Truthfully, I prefer a hand sculpted artisan doll. Along with an antique Izannah, I own a collection of Izannah inspired art dolls. I love them. They are the result of the artist's search which honors Izannah's work.

Martha said...

I enjoyed reading this post. I went back and read the earlier post too. I also bought one of the kits from Lynda Hampton. I bought one that I liked for study. I would have liked to have another one, but I want to try to sculpt my own doll from a picture of the real antique doll that I have seen in old pictures of this particular antique doll, so I couldn't buy that copy as you cannot reproduce the mold. I am using this kit for study and of course to make a doll for myself. I will enjoy that. I do think as you do that it will definitely hurt the individual hand made dolls that I and several other people are putting on ebay or etsy. I think it might be useless to try to sell any artist dolls right now, but I have seen one or two more well known makers continue to sell their dolls despite the kits right now. the kits are almost irresistible to someone who wants to make Izannah dolls. The price at the moment makes getting one a lot easier. Eventually the desire and the need and the realization that these composition heads, although they look like antique Izannah heads, will ease off. The pressed cloth head dolls have a presence and weight and warmth that the hard composition head can never have. I am grateful to Lynda to give us an opportunity to get a exact copy of a certain doll even though it is not the right size as the real antique. This will definitely be helpful and satisfy many people.

Dixie Redmond said...

Martha, you are one of the people I refer to when I say I prefer to see artisan works. I'm not disparaging what Lynda and Paula are doing with these kits. There's a place for them. I don't like that they may sideline the works of artisans. That will be too bad if that happens. But each person and artist has to decide whether the time spent on a creation is worth it. I suspect we all will be evaluating that. Already, some wonderful doll makers stopped making Izannahs because of how many hours they take. If you put 40-100 hours into a creation, you want to be able to sell it for something which honors your time. And/or you have to love making them.

Pleasantridge said...

I have to disagree with you - I think the kit dolls will help the artist doll market. As a teddy bear artist, I have taught classes and sold kits for years. I can tell you that very few of my students decide to become teddy bear artists. They gain a real appreciation for the process and I can't tell you how many times I have heard "Now I understand why artist teddy bears cost so much!"

The process of making an Izannah-inspired artist doll is much more involved. I purchased a head and patterns from Lynda and have three others that I have been working on for a year. Some day I hope to finish these little gals for my own collection. Working on them makes me appreciate and desire an artist doll even more! I have a couple of artist made dolls, but I am usually too late when one comes up for sale or don't have money set aside at the time. I especially covet a small Dixie-made Izannah! :)

Dixie Redmond said...

Peggy, you make an interesting point. Sometimes when I try to explain the complexity of making these dolls people's eyes glaze over a bit. It's a small circle of artists who really push through to be better at it. It takes practice, developing skill in sculpting and painting and application of fabric. I like your perspective. I think for a while there were a group of people who were all neck and neck in a friendly competition to see who could get close to a likeness of Izannah's works with our own sculpts. It will be interesting to see what happens, for sure.

"Do not let what you cannot do
keep you from doing what you can do."

John Wooden