Can you hum the theme from the Twilight Zone?
Ooh very good. (Isn’t it amazing how much shared culture there is globally? If you couldn’t it goes: doodle doodle doodle doodle ooowee owweee oow doodle doodle etc.)
Anyhow (good humming, by the way, I had no idea you were so musical) how Zonal is this?
Oh wow, what is this?
I think it’s the soul of a doll. The doll belongs to Mrs Williams, who fell in love with him and took him home from Miniatura. She has been very kind to him, even taking him to classes to learn how to make clothes for him. She had expended time and effort to be nice to him, when, just like a man, he came over awkward and chucked himself on the hard kitchen floor with this dreadful result.
His face has smashed off completely and he has also broken his wrist and his finger. I’ve turned his poor smashed face away but the ghostly insert with the eyes is what was inside his head.
It certainly proves I set the eyes in plaster of Paris, because that’s what the ghost head is but it’s amazing how well the plaster has taken the shape of the inside of the head. It looks like the Phantom of the Opera, or possibly, the phantom of the soap opera.
Happily I had a spare head ready and a spare left hand, which was really handy, the likelihood of having both parts ready-made being quite remote. Hands and heads are the hardest parts to make and get all through the processes intact, usually the number of dolls I am able to make before a show depends entirely on the number of heads and pairs of hands. So a man with a new head, new eyes, a new lower arm and a new hand is on his way back to Mrs Williams. Whilst I cannot always replace doll parts, if, for example, it is for someone who I stopped making years ago and threw the moulds away, then I’d have to find the masters and remake the moulds, which would be lengthy and costly, if the dolls are current then I’m happy to restore for a small cost, depending on how broken the doll may be.
Porcelain dolls are quite strong, you have to drop them from a height on to a hard floor; tiles or concrete will usually do it. On carpet, if the dolls are well dressed, they often bounce. Nevertheless, if not dropped, they will outlast most other artefacts in the dolls house. Which is why I’m making them. And they are lovely so you can fall in love with them. Which is why I’m happy to restore them if a dreadful accident befalls them. Once I am gone, because I have made them by the traditional methods that have been used for a couple of centuries with no new fangled short cuts, any competent museum will know how to restore them.
The really interesting thing is what came out of the doll, which I am convinced is a dolly soul. In this case he looks horrified he broke and quite upset that Mrs Williams was upset.
He does, doesn’t he?
Years ago when I was first making dolls the process involved poking a glue soaked pipe cleaner into the head. (This was many years before glass eyes.) I had cause to remove a pipe cleaner. My son, then aged about 8 said, ‘Oh look! The doll has grown a brain.’ What came out of the head bore no resemblance to the clean white glued pipe cleaner that went into the head.
What came out of the head, after several months of me talking to the doll, was a misshapen orange and brown wrinkled lump which, spookily, was moist. This is really unlikely. Porcelain is porous, moisture in the glue should have evaporated within days of the doll being assembled. It did look, indeed, like a tiny brain.
Have you noticed that if you talk to dolls, especially dolls with glass eyes, that, after a while, they start listening? I very carefully do not talk to dolls I am making to sell because I have a shelf full of dolls that I did form a relationship with who cannot, now, leave home.
As I child I did it with all my toys. Most of all I did it with Andy Pandy. My Andy Pandy arrived with Teddy for Christmas 1953, poking out of the top of a sock on the end of the bed at my grandmother’s house. I still remember waking up and seeing them. Andy was state of the art for 1953, which is to say he had rubber hands. The rest of him was cloth, printed, sewn and stuffed, but the hands and face, in every respect the image of those of the puppet on the children’s television programme, were moulded rubber. This was nice for Andy but also nice for me; unfortunately I cut my teeth on them. As I first gummed and then chewed away at the hands the number of Andy’s fingers declined in a rate in direct proportion to the number of teeth I gained. It didn’t matter to me, I loved Andy with or without his fingers, he was my best friend. Unhappily his stuffing then began to leak out of the holes and the rotting rubber pieces that had been his hands and he began to get a bit insanitary.
So my mother threw Andy Pandy on the fire and I watched him burn.
The trauma of making a four year old witness the burning alive of their best friend has stayed with me ever since. She did eventually, possibly, realise what she had done and bought me a pattern from a women’s magazine to make a new Andy Pandy myself when I was about ten. I still have the pattern but, of course, could never bring myself to construct the imposter.
Which is why for you I will always remake, reconstruct and save any best friend that you found here. People can be difficult to say the least; they will trash your heart without even asking if you mind.
A porcelain doll is there for you for as long as you want. It is safe to tell it every secret and pour out all your woes. It will never blab or flounce off. You will always be the focus of all its affections. The more love you pour into it the more it will listen. Years after you have gone, if you have dressed it and played with it and loved it and cared for it, the love will still be apparent to all who come after you and they will treasure it because you loved it.
Andy Pandy was lost but Teddy lived on. I gave him to my son for a christening present. Though my son left home ten years ago (in theory) Teddy still sits in state on his bedside table. Every now and then I peer into his glass eyes and, through what have become his bushy grey eyebrows, he peers back. His soul is intact and the love lives on.
JaneLaverick.com – sentimental old fool.