Site hosted by Build your free website today!


Vol. 5, Issue 2                               September 2006


by Debbie Garrett

Index  | Welcome | Mailbag | About the Editor | Collecting NewsProfile of an ArtistDoll in the Spotlight! | Doll Care Basics | Resources | FAQ | Closing Words  


The prior discussion of doll creativity resumes in the "Doll Care" column of this issue of The Black Doll-E-Zine. Shared below are a few doll creativity endeavors:


Jennifer from the "Wonders of a Winter's Night" series by Helen Kish 

Most Black-doll collectors at one time or another have felt frustrated because a Black doll was not included in a doll line.  While one of my favorite artists, Helen Kish, does create dark-skinned dolls, I felt a slight twinge of frustration because an African American doll was not included in the "Wonders of a Winter's Night" series.  This two-doll series only includes a brunette and a blonde, Jennifer and Nicole, respectively.  To ease my frustration,  through my own special process, I decided to "melaninize" not one, but three Jennifers... on two separate occasions.  The contrasting dark skin and grey eyes of the first doll resulted in quite an exotic look.  After realizing I could do this with relative ease, the latter two were darkened simultaneously. The first doll is darker than the latter two dolls, which are now have a café au lait complexion.  The first doll, Melanie (which means dark-skinned) will remain part of my personal collection.  One of the latter two dolls is being enjoyed by a dear friend, and at the time of this publication, the remaining "melaninized" doll is an eBay® auction listing*.   The three darkened dolls are pictured below. 


Originally white dolls, these girls' complexions are now warm, "melaninized" shades of brown.

Magic Skin dolls were introduced to the doll market in the late 1940s.  While some companies did make Black dolls with bodies composed of this stuffed Latex material, little did they know that the bodies of all of the dolls would eventually darken... including the white ones!   Because of the eventual body transformation to colors that varied from brown to black, the dolls truly do have "magic skin."  Unfortunately, the heads of most Magic Skin dolls were made of other materials such as composition and later hard plastic.  While the bodies darkened, the heads did not, resulting in a truly biracial doll.  See photo below:

Magic Skin doll by Effanbee with darkened body

On a Saturday afternoon in April 2006, I purchased a 19-inch Magic Skin doll by Effanbee (F&B) at an estate sale.  The doll was part of the estate of a woman whose mother was the former owner of a doll shop/doll hospital.   The doll's composition head is marked EFFANBEE/Made in U.S.A. The stuffed and now darkened Magic Skin body is unmarked.  This doll was the first one I noticed as I entered the doll-filled room of the estate sale.  From its left hand there dangled a price tag of $40 with "1940's Effanbee" written underneath.  Because of its darkened body, which no longer matched its white composition head, the doll had not sold.  Obviously, other collectors, who had swarmed the room like children in a candy shop hours before I arrived, preferred the vintage dolls by Madame Alexander, American Character, Ideal, and other manufacturers.  I did not allow the doll's evident imperfections to overshadow her potential for restoration.  The attendant, who noticed my interest in the overlooked doll, showed me a 1960s newspaper article written about the doll shop/doll hospital owner after she closed her shop and moved the doll hospital into her home.  He informed me that several other dolls had sold earlier that day and responded, "No," to my question, "Were there any Black dolls sold?"  The only Black doll in the estate sale was a modern porcelain mammy that did not interest me.

The attendant told me all of the remaining dolls would be half price the following afternoon, the final day of the estate sale.  He further informed me that I could make an offer on the F&B, which would place her on hold until the next day, unless someone else placed a higher offer.  I declined to do this, deciding instead to take my chances and wait to see if the two-toned baby would be there the next day.

I received an answer to Saturday's silent prayer.  That Sunday I purchased the doll for $20.  Ironically, as I stood in line to pay for the F&B and another dark skinned, but not AA, doll by Heidi Ott, 2 people commented on the lovely "Black dolls" that I found.  Ahead of me in line was a happy camper who purchased the porcelain mammy for $7.50.  I was happy for her but even happier for myself.

After arriving home with my two finds, F&B doll was immediately disrobed and bathed.  I soaked her clothing and later repaired her arm/shoulder separation.  Before washing her clothing, I removed the frayed blue ribbons from her bonnet.  I replaced these later.   After exhausting my own extensive research and soliciting help from experts to identify the doll, I decided that I would make her one color – brown like me.   See the photos below:

Magic Skin doll by Effanbee after her makeover

One doll expert informed me that my doll is "one version of Effanbee's Mickey after the company no longer made all composition [dolls].  However, by this time they had changed him to a girl."  According to the expert, "The romper and bonnet are original, [and] the 1940's date is correct."  The expert could not remember the name Effanbee gave this version of the doll; therefore, I kept that name and updated the spelling to Mikki.  She looks so much better as a brown doll… even her flirty green eyes appear brown now, too.



American Kit doll, Keisha by Robert Raikes (from last issue) and now with her new school dress and new Heidi wig

I ordered a custom personalized paper doll for my niece who turned a year old this past July.  I was quite pleased with Reghan's paper doll and decided to order a customized paper doll of one of my favorite dolls.  Janae, the paper doll, looks quite different from the doll.  Because of this, I "created" a Janae paper doll using the body created by Midwest Original Paper Dolls.  Their custom paper dolls include the paper doll, 4 sheets of colorful clothing and accessories, and 4 sheets of uncolored clothing and accessories.  Both dolls are pictured below along with 1 sheet of clothing.

L-R Janay paper doll and clothes by Midwest Original Paper Dolls and my "created" Janae paper doll


Speaking of paper dolls, Cheryl Bruce's embroidered paper dolls were featured in the June 2006 update of The BDE.  I ordered a Baby Lily set in medium skin tone and am quite impressed with the professional appearance of the doll, her accessories, and pouch... not one stitch is missing!  My Baby Lily is 3 inches tall.  She has four outfits and accessories.  Pictured below are Baby Lily, her colorful pouch, outfits, bottle, rattle, and teddy bear:  

Embroidered paper doll, Baby Lily, with pouch, outfits, and accessories by Cheryl Bruce


As confirmed by this article, doll collecting can involve activities other than adding new dolls to a collection.  Changing a doll's ethnicity, its wig or clothing, and other creative activities can help a collector thoroughly enjoy the dolls s/he collects.  Are you being creative and fully enjoying your dolls?  I certainly hope so.

*See the Resources page for links to the Jennifer auction, or to contact Midwest Paper Dolls and/or Cheryl Bruce for customized or embroidered paper doll sets.

If you would like to share  doll care tips, doll makeovers, or other doll-care-related  topics  with  The Black Doll-E-Zine please write to: (Deb).