Sunday, 8 September 2013

Primitives ~ Cloth Dolls and Figures

Primitive cloth dolls have a definite timeworn, well-loved, homely appearance that is so appealing.  Indeed, these dolls share features characteristic of Naive Art, a term applied to work produced by untrained artists in which charmingly simplistic awkward looking representations are created by unsophisticated drawing techniques, inaccurate use of perspective and unsubtle use of colour. 

The simplicity and uninhibited charm of Primitives seems the embodiment of children’s unpretentious drawings and is undoubtedly part of their enormous charm.

This style of cloth doll, which are also known as Folk Art dolls, dates back to the first American settlers and Native Americans,
who used any suitable materials that were available to them to produce dolls for their children. Since store produced dolls were considered a luxury and women loved to sew, redundant sugar and flour sacks were transformed by mothers, aunts and grandmothers together with scraps of material from their sewing baskets to make dolls for their children.  

Primitive Dolls remain a popular and recognizable style in modern doll making. Yet despite their ordinary, rustic look, the primitive cloth doll is believed to be one of the most difficult to achieve. Enormous attention to detail is important to give them an authentic old, worn and grubby appearance, whilst others are given the classic appearance without too much aging and wearing embellishment. Today antique, tribal and whimsical folk dolls all fall into this 'primitives' category.
So how is the look achieved? Well, the self-sufficient, 'make do and mend' aspect of these dolls is recreated in various ways. Making the dolls in homespun wool and other natural materials in muted colours and by giving them simple, often asymmetrical heads and features. Some have no facial features. 

Their heads tend to be bald or fairly bald. Also using mismatched fabrics/ buttons (often large sized buttons) and applying crooked stitching to their bodies and clothes contributes to their characteristic look. 

Some Primitive dolls have cinnamon stick arms and legs and nuts for heads and sometimes the dolls hold flags, teddies, bird houses, garlands, sewing notions, or miniature quilts. 

The clothes are often embroidered with sayings, verses and decorative stitches. 

Red white and blue, 'stars and banners' often seem to be a theme in colour schemes for the doll's clothes, although rustic, autumn colours are also very popular.

Plantation Dolls are replicas of dolls made during the American Revolutionary War. Church services lasted all day and dolls helped occupy the children and if they were dropped the church service would not be disrupted. Plantation Dolls were revived during the American Civil War.  Mothers would also make handkerchief dolls (made from men's cloth handkerchiefs) and put sugar cubes or candy into the doll's head  for the children to suck on during church service.

Fabric deteriorates with age and is affected by strong daylight, which can bleach and discolour the fibres, whilst dust and dirt can also rot the fibres. Fabric also responds poorly to excessive handling. So these factors are borne in mind when reproducing authentic looking Primitives. The dolls can be intentionally 'aged' by giving the fabrics a deliberately distressed and worn look, through techniques such as: dyeing, fading, tearing & mending, adding roughly sewn on frayed patches and using paint effects: varnished and crackled finishes.
Hand made is definitely the desired look and these dolls are usually regarded as 'homely', whilst some might even call them ugly. 
'Good Friends are always together in spirit' This Prim is dedicated to my late friend Sue Rogers, PEI Canada, a wonderful caring person who adored bunnies

It may be a case of you either love them or you hate them. Well, in that case I love them!   

< Goth Prim and Goth Raggedy by Madeleine Sara Maddocks