Tuesday, March 31, 2009

An Initial List of People & Agencies Connected with Cloth & Composition Dolls in Hong Kong

1. Ada Lum - cloth dolls (attached ears and individual fingers) (see previous post)

2. Michael Lee (Micale, Mica-le) - composition and cloth (1946-1996) (see previous post)

3. Tripod Mark - composition & cloth dolls (attached ears and individual fingers)

4. Crown Brand - composition http://breezeb.tripod.com/dollschinese.html

5. The Christian Family Service Center (related to the Church of Christ in China) - a handiwork project which employs 125 families - composition?
A.B.F.M.S. in Hong Kong, "Ling Ling Say Say which, broadly interpreted, means Miscellaneous." the Hong Kong Peak Oct 1968

6. Hong Kong Christian Service HKCS (merger of Hong Kong Church World Service & the Hong Kong Christian Welfare and Relief Council -1967) - "the Handwork Department gives work to 116 workers who because they are (disabled) or for other reasons not easily employable would otherwise be dependent on welfare assistance" - cloth dolls (tagged?)
A.B.F.M.S. in Hong Kong, "Hong Kong Christian Service." the Hong Kong Peak Oct 1968

7. Lutheran World Federation Project - cloth dolls (most seem to have silk outfits, yarn hair, and embroidered features including the ears in black; the fingers are stitched, but usually not separated) These dolls seem very similar to the HKCS dolls which is understandable since in January 1976, "the Lutheran World Service (Federation) merged with the Hong Kong Christian Service and became the service arm of the Hong Kong Christian Council." (http://hkcs.org/about/overview-e.html)

1. The Catholic Women's League "formed Operation China Doll in the United States and marketed 25,000 economically priced cloth dolls made by Hong Kong's refugee women."
Surface, Bill, and Jim Hart. FREEDOM BRIDGE! MARYKNOLL IN HONG KONG . New York: COWARD-McCANN, Inc., 1963.156.

3. SERRV International (created 1949 by the Church of the Brethren, now independent) "The name SERRV is an acronym for Sales Exchange for Refugee Rehabilitation and Vocation.... The program grew from assisting WWII refugees to working with impoverished people throughout the world. SERRV began importing handicrafts from the world's least developed countries as a way to alleviate poverty. By 1960, with the help of Church World Service, a nation-wide network of churches were selling SERRV crafts as part of their mission work."

Dolls maufactured on the mainland:
1. Shaohsing Industrial Mission, Shaohsing, Chekiang Province, China (now Shaoxing Zhejiang) - miniature Chinese mission cloth dolls usually attached to a card.

"It is estimated that the population numbers three hundred thousand, of whom about one-quarter are engaged in the manufacturing of spirit money. You probably know that this is paper money in various shapes, covered with a thin coating of tin-foil and used in the idol worship of the temples. You can easily understand the acuteness of the problem of a man or woman who, engaged in this business, learns to know Jesus Christ and wants to acknowledge him in church- membership. He can not go on with his business and be true to his new-found faith, nor can he give it up and readily find anything else to do. How are we help- ing him to meet this situation ? Miss Dowling of Shaohsing began the manufacture of dolls and thus started an industry which now employs two hundred people, largely women, who are free to worship their Saviour without losing their means of livelihood. It also gives independence to some who can not live at home after they have become Christians. Today there is a successful business built up in Shaoh-sing, not only in the manufacturing of all kinds of Chinese dolls, but also in the cross-stitch work which is seen so much at present on luncheon sets and handker-chiefs."

A set of five family member dolls, ranging in size from about 3"(largest) to 2" (smallest) & still attached to the card bearing the mission name, just raised a bid of $107.50 on ebay (but the reserve price was not met). Other cardless ones have sold from $25-28.

2. And of course the exquisitely hand-carved wooden dolls with elaborately detailed costumes created by the Door of Hope Mission - Shanghai (early 1900's)
Kimport dolls - was one importer of the Door of Hope dolls

Lotz Door of Hope page

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Another Composition Doll

I believe that this Chinese looking composition doll may be made in America. I really like her, though, because of her unusual vintage print clothing and hand-embroidered apron. She has a sweet face too.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Composition Dolls

According to "DollCollecting@About.com," composition dolls are made with "a mixture of wood pulp, sawdust, glue and similar items." These ingredients were mixed and then "formed using molds and allowed to harden. Composition dolls were then painted with a thick layer of flesh-colored paint. On top of the flesh paint went painted features, such as the eyebrows, eyelashes, and lips.... On top of all of the paint went a layer of sealant or varnish to protect the painted features and seal the composition." (Wisegeek.com, 'What are Composition Dolls,"Katharine Swan) In some cases only the hands and head of the doll were made of composition; while the body may have been cloth and stuffing. Over time and particularly when exposed to a varied climate (hot and cold temperature shifts or humidity) the outer layer of paint on a composition doll can develop fine surface cracks called crazing.

This composition process seems a viable explanation of the make up of my non-cloth Chinese dolls. I am still uncertain, however, as to the actual substance of the under layer. I have some question as to whether it might be plastic. This would certainly date any doll with plastics coming in to use in the doll making process in the 1950's.

Monday, March 23, 2009

My Grandmother's Dolls

During one of our trips home from overseas, I discovered an old photograph of my grandmother. I think she is on a tour some where in China. It surprised me. She passed away quite some time ago. My children never knew her; and yet here she was in the very place that we would come to adopt as our home. I have a lot of questions which I never thought to ask until now.

There was a set of Chinese dolls laying around my childhood home for almost as long as I can remember. When I was young, I wasn't very fond of them because of their plain serious faces and dark clothes. But now I wonder about them. Did they come back with my grandmother from this trip? Where were they bought and who made them? They seem to be composition, soft bodies with molded hands and heads. They have a paint glaze "lacquered" over top of the harder parts.

My grandmother's photograph probably dates back to the mid or late 1970's as China didn't re-opened to the western world until after Nixon's visit in 1972. Someone had written "Red China" on the reverse side, which makes me think that it was taken pretty early on. That term for China was only used by the West from the the time of the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949 until the 70's. Anyway, I have posted a picture of the dolls below. They are like many other Chinese Character or "souvenir," "travel,"or "tourist" dolls (whatever you like to call them) that I have seen. They are definitely showing wear, but still remain precious to me because of the culture and memories that they represent.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Small Chinese Cloth Dolls

My collection includes these small (10.5") cloth girl & boy dolls in Chinese dress as well. When I originally bought them, the sellers said that they were from the Philippines. I do not know if they were just mistaken or that this type of cloth doll was actually also produced there. Their appearance is clearly Chinese. It should be noted that the Chinese boy dolls typically seem to have a ponytail, actually called a queue or cue. This "hairstyle consisted of the hair on the front of the head being shaved off above the temples and the rest of the hair braided into a long ponytail" (Wikipedia Queue - hairstyle). It's interesting that, while this hairstyle iconically represents a certain time period in Chinese history, it was actually forced on the Han men in the 17th century by their Manchu oppressors. The queue lasted on in to the early 20th century. (This information also came from the Wiki article linked above.)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Michael Lee DollMaker

While searching through web information on cloth dolls made by refugees in Hong Kong, I came across several references to the dollmaker Michael Lee. I confess I am a little confused in regards to the extent of his doll-making. It seems he was involved in the creation of composition as well as strictly cloth dolls from the time period of the late 1940's on in to perhaps the 1990's. A picture from the Mint Museum of Toys in Singapore shows Mr. Lee holding a female composition doll with painted features, attached black floss pigtails, and wearing a blue Chinese tunic and tan pants. Dating from 1946, she is recognized as his first doll. Information about the museum states that their "Michael Lee Collection speaks of an altruistic toymaker who migrated to Hong Kong from mainland China. He led a very frugal life, contributing the proceeds from the sale of his dolls to the education of children and livelihood of fellow refugees in Hong Kong." (http://wolfdesign.biz/h2ikidz/images/C07_Qing_Sponsor/Sponsor_Mint_Museum.pdf)

Another article written by a visitor to Hong Kong who sought out the dollmaker includes the details that Mr. Lee was originally from Shanghai and had passed away in November of 1996. This article titled "Dollmaker Lit Candles for Hope" written by Mary Chandler gives a sensitive portrait of a gentle and giving man with a unique and timeless philosophy on life. At the time of that particular visit, Mr. Lee was crafting cloth dolls with large round flat faces, big smiles, and brightly dotted checks. They also wore the traditional Chinese outfits and some carried babies. I'm not sure if he dated, signed (English & Chinese), and chopped (put the red Chinese stamp) on the foot of every doll; but clearly he did this on some. My composition doll above has the typical round "Michael Lee" tag with "Micale" printed on it, "Made in Hong Kong," and the Chinese Character doll's name - in this case "Sonny." The museum photo of Mr. Lee can be found at the following blog LEE PHOTO (as well as a nice picture of some of his composition dolls). The previously mentioned "Dollmaker" article also includes a photo of Mr. Lee.

I believe the following photos also show Michael Lee composition dolls (a mother & child) as seen in a picture from the Mint Museum.

I am adding a picture of a more recent Michael Lee cloth doll. She carries a baby on her back.

Addendum: An article in the "South China Morning Post "of November 15, 1996; reports that Mr. Lee passed away on November 10, 1996.

Friday, March 13, 2009

More Hong Kong Dolls

These two made in Hong Kong dolls are quite a bit smaller than the farming couple pictured below. They also have black embroidered nostrils instead of natural. The male doll probably represents an average Chinese man or scholar and the female, a countryside mother. An online search surfaced a duplicate doll wearing a cloth baby carrier that ties around her shoulders and waist complete with child doll. The tag attached to this doll has a three-footed Chinese urn printed on it as well as the words "Chinese Doll," "Tripod Mark," and "Made In Hong Kong." They are both quite sweet dolls that I bought off of ebay and are in great condition other than the water-staining on the face of the female.
Tripod dolls link

Ada Lum Farmer & Wife

It has been one of my real frustrations to actually live in Asia and not be able to find out any information about Ada Lum and the lovely cloth dolls associated with her. The male doll here is named the "Farmer" and I've seen the lady referred to as "Amah" and also the "Farmer's Wife." They do not have the normal stamped markings as far as I can see without having to dismantle their clothing more than I want. Each one measures 18" in length. Most ebay sellers say these dolls were made between the 1940's and 60's by refugees from mainland China residing in Hong Kong. The Museum of Shanghai Toys (MOST) in Singapore reports the dolls as being from the 1950's. In addition to these two dolls, I have seen eight other types of Ada Lum Chinese dolls listed at different times for sale online:

*a female dressed in a red tunic & pants with a red ribbon bow in her pigtailed hair and a male with a blue tunic, black vest, and black round cap (all in silk)
*Farmer's Wife dressed in a long qipao or cheongsam type cotton tunic over blue pants, she also has black shoes with an colorful embroidered flower, her hair is made up in a bun
*MeiMei (pronounced "maymay," meaning Little Sister) and a companion doll, DiDi ("deedee," Little Brother), both dressed in Chinese style wrap tops and cropped (possibly split) pants
*Precious Jade, a young lady in a qipao or cheongsam (Chinese silk dress) and stockings
*Boy in a white tunic and blue pants
*and a Hakka minority doll dressed in black peasant clothes (top & pants)

Previously on ebay, a seller noted that Ada Lum produced a "Country" and "City" series of these dolls, but I have not found this information posted elsewhere. Unfortunately their price, though generally reasonable for such lovely dolls, tends to be prohibitive for the low-budget doll collector, ranging in cost anywhere from $50-$200 per doll.

This is just an initial posting which I hope to revise and lengthen with time.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A Foundling

This little girl is very similar to an Ada Lum doll in that her fingers and ears are stitched on. But she is a good deal smaller and has no markings other than a few blue dotted lines (that show she had a pattern printed on her to guide sewing) and three Chinese characters on her leg (which may mean "only 12" or "only 20" - εδΊŒζ‰). She looks as if she's lead a full and adventurous life. She has a facial scar and many stains. And she had an additional handmade brown knit kimono-like jacket that she wore when she arrived. If anyone has any information or ideas to the story of her life please let me know. And thank you to the folks in England who sent her my way!

Modern Dolls