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Her name is Mary, the joy of doll restoration.

Updated: May 24, 2021

Christmas is almost here. I have not spent much time in my doll studio lately. My time has been spent shopping, baking and wrapping gifts. As I prepare for Christmas, my mind tends to think of the loved ones that are no longer with us. I think of my grandmothers often, one taught me to bake and sew; the other nurtured my love for dolls. It is a pleasure restore and repair dolls for clients and friends that are holding on to those precious family heirlooms. The joy it brings to them is truly payment in full. I want to share some of those outstanding stories today.

Her Name is Mary

One of my very first client restoration jobs was for Phyllis. Phyllis called me and told me she left her baby out in the rain. She had been holding on to her for years and wanted to have her restored.

Mary is a 20" Horsman doll. Phyllis said she had a blonde wig. Fortunately, there was molded hair under the wig.

Mary had a lot of damage. Her arms and legs were as crazed as her head. Unfortunately, Phyllis couldn't afford a complete restoration. In addition Phyllis didn't have the money for a wig.

I removed Mary's head and eyes and stripped off the paint/glue layer of composition from her head.

You can see staple marks on her head. I am guessing someone was trying to keep the wig in place. She has a complete loss of lashes on her right eye and severe paint wear on her eyelids.

I primed and repainted her head. I replaced the lashes on her right eye, cleaned her eyes, repainted her lids and sealed the eyes with clear varnish. Her head was beautiful. Not so with the arms and legs!! I just couldn't send Mary home half done. So.......I sanded the legs and arms and did several coats of primer to smooth the heavy crazing. Finally, several coats of oil based flesh paint and blush in all the right places.

Phyllis was eager to be reunited with Mary. I was moved to have the privilege to be there. I delivered Mary to Phyllis at her home. She greeted my with pleasant chit chat, but when I pulled Mary out of my bag, Phyllis was transformed. She literally forgot I was there and began to talk to Mary. She said "Oh, you look just like you did when you were new, just look at you!" She hugged Mary tight and had tears in her eyes. At that moment, the extra time and expense of a little more paint and primer was worth it. The JOY Mary brought Phyllis was payment in full.

Fran's Baby Donna Mae

A close family friend asked me to repair her mom's doll. She was an Americana all compo baby doll "Donna Mae". Unfortunately, I didn't get any before pics of her. She had a hole in her head, she was missing the bar inside the head and needed to be restrung. I was on a bit of a time crunch. Fran was a late stage Alzheimer's patient. I quickly did the repairs and Shelley took the baby to Fran for the reunion.

The reunion was beautiful. Fran seemed to recognize Donna Mae. Shelley shared the memorable moment with me. I just heard from Shelley and Donna Mae is posed under her Christmas tree, a cherished treasure. Again, the joy of the work = payment in full.

Betty Lou

The final story of joy is my own. My love of dolls began in the 1970's in a little farmhouse on the Sill Road with my grandmother's Betty Lou. Betty Lou came into Gram's life as a preteen. Her childhood home actually burned down and everything was lost. Gram earned the money to buy Betty Lou herself and oh my, did she have great taste! Betty Lou is a 25" Miracle on 35th Street Ideal Baby Beautiful. Photo credit:

I was not the original recipient of Betty Lou. She originally was willed to my aunt. I was very disappointed by this, and had decided to buy my own doll and just know that she would be just like Betty Lou. Twelve years ago, right around this time of the year, I got a phone call from my aunt and she had decided that I should have Betty Lou! I was so overjoyed that I had to pull over. I couldn't drive because I was crying. So my beloved childhood plaything came to live with me. Poor Betty Lou was in rough shape.

With the help of a friend and doll mentor, I found a restoration artist and shipped her off for a complete restoration. I was overjoyed with the results!

In my quest to discover what a new Baby Beautiful was dressed in, I began to notice all the composition dolls out there in really bad shape. That made me sad. Those babies were once loved dolls and deserved a second chance. I found a class to take within driving distance and spent a week with Janie Nafsinger at Antique Child learning the art of composition doll restoration. I have been rescuing dumpster dollies for the last ten years. Ironically, Betty Lou still isn't redressed in her factory original repro outfit. I am hoping to find time for that soon! It has been such a joy to develop my talent. I will continue to restore and sell these babies so that they can be loved for generations to come!

This has been a rough year for everyone but this year has also brought so many joyful moments and blessings to my life. Washington State was locked down for two full months in March. Dental hygiene care was not deemed "essential". I had two months off. I had time to really work on doll restoration and loved every minute of it. I was denied unemployment but able to earn an income selling my darling dumpster dolls. My beloved Betty Lou inspired me to venture out and develop a talent that brings joy to so many people.

I want to wish you all a safe and happy Christmas. May you find peace and JOY!

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1 Comment

Classes are so far for me to take in order to restore these wonderful compo dolls. So I've learned by doing. I started with cleaning dolls, and have worked my way up to seriously damaged dolls. Your work is beautiful.

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