Ellen Tsagaris is the resident RJW Design Journal guest blogger. She has collected dolls since she was three years old. She has made dolls, priced dolls, repaired, dressed, and studied dolls and her blogging work can be found on the doll collecting section of about.com and on her personal doll blogs, Doll Museum, and Dr. E's Doll Museum blog. Ellen is a fan and collector of R. John Wright dolls and we were fortunate to have her guest blog for us about dolls in the colors of fall.
Nothing Gold Can Stay
Robert Frost, 1874 - 1963
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
This wonderful poem by Robert Frost, whose very name reminds me of Jack Frost and Frost Fairies that paint leaves, always reminds me of autumn. And with other seasons, autumn and its color inspire dolls with fall themes.
This post is dedicated to dolls dressed in the beautiful colors of autumn, those fleeting gorgeous hues that never seem to stay long, but that paint the landscape in gold, orange, red, yellow, dark green, purple, and brown. Some dolls even are made of acorns or other nuts harvested in fall, some are made of dried apples, gourds, cornhusks, corncobs, dried fall flowers and seed pods.
In 1945, Lois Lensky penned a wonderful story called Strawberry Girl, where, among other things, a little girl made dolls of gourds to sell.
Cornhusk dolls have a long history as well. I even remember my Girl Scout Guide Book had illustrations and instructions for making them. We even learned to create them in 10th grade art, collecting and soaking our own cornhusks. My project was a replica of an unusual cornhusk doll with a Victorian outfit and elaborate hat. Kids in our neighborhood used to make them from leftover cornfields. We would gather old cobs and the husks and sit on the ground in fall and use bits of cloth to make clothes. Even the boys joined in.
The cornhusk doll’s history is part of Native American tradition, particularly Iroquois, though I have a small doll that is Cherokee. Their origin dates to the story of the Three Sister, The Corn, one of the three sisters, created the dolls from husks. You can read more of the legend in the book Our Corn Mother, by Mather, Fernandes and Brescia, 1981. According to Native American Technology and Art’s website, cornhusk dolls have been made for 1000 years or more. To the Northeastern Native American, the dolls served as toys and in healing ceremonies.
Other dolls are made of gold, like jointed pre-Columbian figures found in tombs, or the precious statues and Ushabti found in ancient Egyptian tombs like King Tut’s.
The color gold is associated with abundance, wealth, and prosperity, which are also the characteristics of a good harvest. Harvest dolls and corn dollies are ancient figures made of spun and braided wheat that are hung from year to year in farm homes to ensure a good crop. Many have their origins in England, but Scandinavia and Eastern Europe hold similar beliefs. The belief in Pagan Europe was that the spirit of the corn or grain lived among the crop. Of course, the dark side of the myth morphed into Stephen King’ classic story, “The Children of the Corn.” Sir James Frazer wrote about them in The Golden Bough, calling them corn maiden or corn mothers.
Who hasn’t had the pleasure of gathering leaves of different colors to press among the pages of heavy books? A few of us ironed pretty leave between sheets of wax paper or used them to make stamps for leaf designs. Small dolls dressed in silk leave are popular as favors, but other dolls are made from banana leaves, acorns, nuts like Miss Hickory is, twigs, and other types of plants. Color figures in traditional costume are pointed on leaves from India.
Marie Gleeson Dolls are made of leaves, flowers, nuts, and fiber native to the Bahamas. Dolls made of banana leaves come from Africa, while moss trolls are products of Denmark.
Laura Ingalls Wilder played with Susan, a corncob doll. Garth William captured her for posterity playing with Susan while Mary played with Nettie, a rag doll.
The color red is associated with valor and passion. Orange symbolizes joy, sunshine, and enthusiasm. The most amazing autumn leaves and berries sport these colors. Dolls dressed in red and orange are vibrant and warm.
The Hazel-nut Fairy is part of the Autumn Fairies Collection created by R. John Wright. She is inspired by Mary Cicely Barker’s flower fairy illustrations.
Purple mums and late pansies abound in fall garden displays. Purple is associated with courage and valor. Doll dressed in autumnal purple can represent royalty, or Halloween figures.
Brown is another color associated with autumn and with Thanksgiving. It symbolizes protection, stability and security. It is also the color of earth. Many dolls dressed in brown represent pilgrims, Jack Frost, Brownies, sprites, and other characters associated with fall.
Dolls dressed in autumn colors and made of autumnal materials are as varied as the leaves whose colors they wear. They are a harvest of different styles and make a fascinating collection in themselves.