Mar 9, 2012

A visit with Royalty.

Back in February at the show, I met a lovely doll collector who, upon seeing my Izannah Walker inspired dolls, told me she had an original.  Oh my.  I would never have dreamed of this, of finding a real one this far south.  Not that there aren't great antiques down here, just a definite dearth of real Izannah Walkers.  Facts are facts, and I thought I'd faced this one pretty well.  Life proved me wrong, and offered this incredible opportunity.  I was never so glad to be wrong.

So...this lovely doll collector lady (I'll call her Lady from now on) invited me to her house to visit this doll...and I've been about to blow a gasket keeping my mouth shut about it ever since.  Not wanting to assume or impose, I waited so to ask her about the blog, about pictures, just to be sure it was okay.

Well, yesterday I went.  And Jackie was right: The clouds opened up, a chorus of lovely voices sang, and rays of light shone on this Holy Grail of dolls.  I was entranced.  My dolls were understandably jealous.  Lady was sweet, open, and generous, saying it was fine to get pictures, so I did.  I was able to pose my Izzies with Nan.  (Lady calls her Izannah, but I've dubbed her Nan to avoid repetition.) 

I've been studying these dolls online now for about a year.  Nowhere nearly as long as Dixie Redmond, under whose expert tutelage I've gone from my first attempts to my most recent, but all my experience has been via pictures.  Pictures can't convey the surprising heft, the petite delicacy, the three-dimensional beauty of shape and texture.  Having only touched my clay-over-cloth dolls, my hands expected the hard surface of cured clay, not the slight yielding of this molded cloth.  A resiliency that amazes me when I think of how old the doll is, and how much she has seen.  Would that we all could be as resilient at 150 yrs old.

So typical of these dolls, and yet so unique.  There is a pink cast to areas of the skin, on chest, arms, legs, etc. that Lady was told resulted from natural dyes in Nan's clothing.  Owing to the delicate nature of the doll, Lady preferred that I not remove the clothes, but offered to let me copy a photo she'd taken the time she did once remove them (and dear Lady, I do plan to take you up on that, if I may.)   But her beautiful gown had fine cartridge pleating at the waist, and covered a lovely set of unders--chemise, petticoat, and drawers--all original.  I could have sat for hours, studying every detail.

My Izzies, once their curiosity got the better of them, decided Nan had some interesting tales to tell, and settled down to listen.  I can only imagine what they discussed.  But while they discussed it, I took pictures for comparison's sake, so that I might better sculpt in the future.  Not having the heavy press that Izannah Walker made for the molding of her pasted cloth faces, I have nevertheless vowed to make a mold of my own sculpts so that I can make the molded cloth dolls instead of the cloth-over-clay.  Long way off, maybe, but a definite plan.

More later on my visit to Lady's incredible doll collection--she let me visit with her first generation Kathe Kruse dolls, and they broke my heart with their sweetness.  But for now, I've got to study.
I hope you have enjoyed this little visit with Nan.


  1. I am almost speechless! Wonder of wonders, how fortunate you are to have this opportunity. I have no doubt you will end up with a close likeness to the lovely "Nan." Thanks for sharing these incredible photos! Best wishes!

  2. How lucky for you Jan! I must compliment you on the fact that your dolls have certainly captured the essence of an original and the down cast eyes on your dolls is spot on. :)

  3. Thanks for sharing this, Jan. I can only imagine how thrilled you were to see this doll in person.

    It was a treat to study Izannah. I noticed her detailed and substantial ears.

    Your interpretation of Izannahs are just as beautiful.

  4. How wonderful to see one of these lovely dolls in person. I have to say that after seeing your dolls along side an original yours measure up very well indeed. I'm not at all surprized as I've always thought they are as beautiful as the original Izannahs.

  5. Oh, how wonderful for you! Love seeing the Izzy photos. :-)

  6. This is great. thanks for sharing the pictures. Seeing the original IW should help you with your dolls alot. Nan is beautiful. All the dolls in the picture were beautiful.

  7. Fabulous! What a great interview with Nan and her owner too. Thanks for sharing!

  8. OH how beautiful! The picture of them cloud gazing is just wonderful.

  9. Back to look again and have shared a link on FB. I love your last picture!

  10. Jan ,
    You are so dang close!!!!!!!!!! Like a blonde hair close!!!!!!!!!!!! Confreakin grats, girl!!!! Love the cheeks on that Izzy!!!!!!

  11. Thanks for sharing wonderful pictures. Your dolls are great!

  12. Thank you for sharing your visit. I am just taken with the Izannah dolls and am a budding want to be doll maker. I will get there some day at making them.
    Love them all cloud gazing.

  13. Such a treat to see not only this original, but yours beside it! Your dolls are very special and unique, make sure you don't lose 'yourself' in the sculpting. You want people to be able to know in a glance, 40 years down the road, that they're holding a Jan Conwell a Helen Pringle. If all Izannah inspired art dolls looked exactly like an original, they wouldn't be special! I think yours are amazing and certainly tell Izannah's story.

    1. I'd like to think that was a danger--that my doll could be so confused with a real one--But I love your point, and agree completely. I believe that no matter how close we get, there's just something in the creative process that keeps a doll unique to its maker.

      And I'm glad about that. I can spot a Robin doll a mile off. :~)

    2. Monica Bessette6/1/13, 1:37 PM

      Dear Jan. I had this page saved on my favorite places but never got to comment until now.

      The original Izannah of course if fabulous, and you're right in saying that she is unique to her creator. She looks sweet and lovely, but a bit sad and forlorn. Your dolls look reflective as well, but sweet and hopeful, and a little bit of pixie in their faces.

      Don't try to copy Izannah, but blaze your own trail as she did. Keep up the good work. Your dolls, too, are fabulous!

  14. TY for sharing.How lucky to have experienced a REAL Izannah. I envy you in a good way-I think it would certainly help me in a positive way for future sculpting of these dolls, were I to see a real one. Your doll beside the real one is a priceless moment-and your doll fits right in. As I commented before, you did a great job on her. Wendy

  15. Something that very few of us will ever experience, what a wonderful opportunity, and, yes, love the photo of all the girls together <3. She's a beauty too, I'd love to know more of where she came from etc...:).

  16. Jan I could feel the excitement in your writing about seeing and holding a "real" Izannah, and such a pretty one.
    I would think being able to see Nan beside yours was a real advantage to be able to be able to think, hmm this is where I should add or take away.
    I would think that it was a real treat for Lady to share the opportunity with someone who is a wonderful doll artist that has the love of a doll that Lady is the caretaker of.
    I just feel all warm and excited for you Jan, and I would also love to thank you for being able to get a closer look at a real Izannah, and maybe ask some questions of you later.


  17. What a treat to see a real Izannah. I think yours are gorgeous and i wouldnt change how you do them. I wish i could do clay over cloth sculpting, it is on my list of things to try.

  18. Thanks for sharing your images- it is a lovely doll.


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