Collecting Black Americana Part One: Antique Black American Folk Art Rag dolls As a lover of American Folk Art, my choice for the title “Folk Art at its Finest” are Black American cloth or rag dolls! Why? The answer is LOVE!
When I look at these wonderful handmade dolls I don’t
News-Antique.com - Nov 30,-0001 - As a lover of American Folk Art, my choice for the title “Folk Art at its Finest” are Black American cloth or rag dolls! Why? The answer is LOVE!
When I look at these wonderful handmade dolls I don’t see just a doll, but I see the love that went into each & every stitch!
Black American cloth dolls were generally made from rags or left over fabric preserved by Black American women for the specific purpose of crafting these dolls for their children. Some rag dolls were also made for the children these women frequently cared for when requested to do so.
For the most part White American children received composition dolls, not cloth. Black composition dolls were rare, generally made in European countries & remain today very expensive. While those dolls are beautiful, they are unable to convey the love & comfort of the cloth doll, a doll made to hug when ill or sleepy & tote around by one arm while playing.
Among the characteristics sought by collectors of Black American dolls are the beautifully embroidered facial features, Their little mouths tell a story in themselves. Lips were generally smiling, seldom frowning, some had very tiny rosebud lips, a very few show a tooth or two, some have eyes that are outlined, others filled in with embroidered stitches, eyebrows were also added by some.
Other sought after features include delicately made ears, while other dolls had hairdo such as pig tails that would cover the location of ears. Still other “artistic mothers” added the cutest little fingers & less frequently stubby toes. Black American dolls of the early 50s generally had chubby feet with embroidery outlining “pretend toes”.
The bodies of Black American dolls were made in a wide range of fabrics from socks to cottons, , to those made of velvet! The dolls made from socks are less detailed than the dolls made of cotton. Some dolls have full one piece bodies that were then stuffed with soft cotton or rags. Civil war era dolls were generally stuffed with straw. The more detailed dolls had their arms, & legs each made separately, then attached to the body with cord, twine or buttons, this type of construction allowed the dolls to sit & be positioned.
Then there were “Topsy Turvey” dolls that had a Black American dolls head on one end of the torso, when the skirt & doll were flipped over, a doll with a White American head was revealed.
The more artistic the mother, the more finely created was the doll. As stated some mothers made the dolls body & head of one piece, while other more talented mothers made the dolls head by sewing sections of the head & face together with several pieces of cloth, thus giving a more realistic look to the face.
Though I prefer embroidered facial features many dolls had painted faces. Later dolls often used a preshaped fabric mold for a face. Most dolls made before 1950 were fabric