18thc Doll maker ~ Hand made & hand sewn. All in the neatest manner
Address: 2495 NE Darrar Drive. Madras, OR 97741
18thcentury Doll maker
My first sight of an early wooden doll nearly took my breath away. There was just something about her that touched my very soul. Her worn face, her black glass eyes, the sparse sprigs of her hair still there beneath the old stiffened lace bonnet. There was a sweetness and wisdom about her faded & worn little face. I knew I would never be able to own such an old doll. So I have endeavored to learn all that I can about these early wooden & papier mache dollies. To make them myself, to try and recreate that same feeling I had at my first glimpse of an early wooden doll.
I began making dollies to play with when I was a little girl growing up on my grandfather‘s farm, but the Deerfield Farmhouse dolls came to life soon after coming to Deerfield Farm as a young bride nearly 25 years ago. Both my husband & I come from a long line of farmer’s, teachers ministers & seamstresses dating back to the 1700’s in Plymouth, MA. I suppose that it’s that rich family history that draws me to become so immersed and passionate about anything to do with the everyday life in the 18th & 19th centuries. From the love of old houses & gardens, to early dolls and antique textiles, all elements which you will find that I use quite often in my doll making. I make my dolls in the original homestead house on our farm. It is just 1 room over 2 and all my own.
I began making dolls as gifts and then it grew to doing small juried shows in the Pacific Northwest, most notably, the wonderful Magic of region and Magic of Christmas shows produced by the owners of the Portland, Oregon based Stars & Splendid Antiques. I attribute much of my success in the beginning to being a part of those Magic shows as well as being a part of wonderful but now defunct catalogue called Holly Berry Hill. But especially to my wonderful collectors who found me there and continue on collecting my work to this day.
I have tried several different ways to market myself and my work over the years and have found that what I enjoy the most and works the best of all is being able to meet my collectors one on one. To be able to meet my collectors, old and new, to visit and catch up with them, like old family friends. I think the best of all is seeing them smile as they come upon my work for the first time or their 100th time, it‘s always such a good feeling. To know that they understand me and my dolls. I know that, for me, if I enjoy a certain artist’s work, I love to be able to meet them and visit with them. To see the real joy in their eyes and hear the pride in their voices as they tell me about their work. So I would have to say that this is why I much prefer selling my dolls myself. I like having complete control over how I do my business. Whether over the internet and the phone, this works best since we live and work on our family farm far from any large city.
I have been very fortunate to have had several wonderful articles written about my dolls & I and so, over the years, my dolls & I have become known around the world. My Queen Anne dolls were selected to be included in the prestigious Early American Life magazine’s “Directory of Traditional American Craftsmen” for the past 4 years. I do advertise on occasion, once a year during Christmas through the Early American Life magazine. For the most part I do all of my business through my website Deerfield Farmhouse.com and my blog, The Pastoral Doll Maker. I have monthly offerings for customers who are notified from my mailing list with emails letting them know what’s new at Deerfield Farmhouse and the dolls. I have “first come first sold” through my website offerings sales and that works wonderfully. If someone would like to commission a special piece, that is always welcome. Since my dolls are all hand sculpted and hand sewn using remnants of early textiles and trims, it’s usually best to keep watch for the doll that speaks to your heart and ask for her then. There are also delightful ongoing doll stories through another of my blogs, Deerfield Doll House~-Christine Crocker. Those are a lot of fun for my collectors and for those that just love a good story.
The economy of late has shown me that people will continue to buy what they love, but they may have to do it in “chapters”, so I ‘m always happy to offer a “layaway” of sorts for them should they need to. There are several wonderful old things in my home that if it were not for the kindness of the dealer in offering to let me pay in chapters, I would not have such wonderful old things. So I in turn like to “pay it forward” and offer that service to my old and new collectors alike.
I also make little poppets and doll treasures, such as little things that dolly might need, such as spring & winter bonnets and day caps, little cups and dishes, sewing endearments and pin keeps for them. Just being able to have a little something, even if it isn’t a doll, they can still find something to delight that is affordable.
My dolls and I have a bit of a love affair going. I do love what I do and I think that’s very important for any artist; that you love what you do. If you love it enough that you would do it whether anyone bought your work your work or not, that love will show in anything you do. That’s what will speak to the person who holds your work in their hands and can feel what you felt in making it. That’s what will draw their attention from across a crowded room. I only make what I would love to have in my own home. So far that’s been what guides me. That and my love of early things.
My inspiration comes from visiting historic villages and museums.
Seeing and learning all I can about early wooden dolls, early textiles and clothing, and learning how and why everything was done as it was in the 18th & 19th century. I just love it all and I love to incorporate all of that into my dolls. There is so much out there to inspire us all, the possibilities are endless.
My dolls are completely hand made. From the inside out. I hand sculpt and hand paint their faces, feet and hands from papier mache, I hand sew entirely, from their bodies to their little frocks, slippers and bonnets, their underpinnings and make reed and linen Pannier hoops for them to wear. I cut wheat and oat straw from our fields and weave little straw bonnets. I try to reuse and recycle everything so that nothing goes to waste. So in a way, my dollies are very earth friendly and really, leave no footprint other than a tiny one on the heart. Making my dolls myself, with my hands rather than having them reproduced is very important to me as an artist. Having it all original and hand made by my hands here in my little farmhouse in American farmland. That’s very important. It will last and hold it’s value for future collectors who search out and find your work long after you are gone. Can you imagine your work exhibited in a museum someday? That very thought is amazing to me. So, that being said I will leave you with my favorite quote of all:
~If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.~
Henry David Thoreau
Another one which I love and have always had hanging in my sewing room is this one:
~I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself,
than be crowded on a velvet cushion.
Henry David Thoreau
I love that one especially because I have always been one to dance to my own tune…and I think that following your heart is the best advice of all. Do what you love and follow your heart.
“ I have a great love of the 18th & 19th century decorative arts and all aspects of daily life as it was then.
I am a self taught artist and I believe that although I have not been formally schooled in the decorative arts, I do believe that my dolls convey the naivety and uniqueness of a doll hand made by the loving hands of a mother for her child.”