Friday, November 27, 2009

In Search of Ada Lum

After first discovering the lovely cloth dolls created by Ada Lum, I began to feel very curious as to her life and background. It has not been an easy search, but a very interesting one. I would like now to try and string together some of the information I have uncovered with the disclaimer that the links are still not completely clear and some suppositions have been made.

In the "Sunday Oregonian, Portland," June 21, 1936; American born Chinese actress Anna May Wong writes of her first visit to China. The article is subtitled, "She finds social life of Shanghai even more glamorous than that of American cities." Please note that this is 1936, one year prior to the beginning of the 2nd Sino-Japanese War (which merged into WWII with the bombing of Pearl Harbor) and 13 years prior to the formation of the communist People's Republic of China (when all outside, western influence was shut out of China by the "Bamboo Curtain.") In this article Miss Wong mentions a visit with a woman named Ada Lum.... "After tiffin (a meal at midday; a luncheon) I had a delightful shopping trip with Ada Lum, sister of Gordon Lum, Australia's Chinese tennis champion. (Gordon made his home in Shanghai in the 1930's and perhaps Ada came because he was there.) We went to a number of shops hidden in the byways of the Chinese city, down alleys crusted with grime of past dynasties or in courtyards flanked by ancient temples."

In fact, Miss Lum's residence in Shanghai and her talents and abilities are noted in an even earlier publication. The Chinese Christian Yearbook of 1934 edited by Frank Joseph Rawlinson records that, "Bringing beauty into the home is the aim of Miss Ada Lum, who is a wizard with her hands- and an attractive one at that. Her specialty is decoration of the home, though anything she touches becomes a work of art. She has been most successful in the decoration of children's rooms and nurseries." (pp 87-88)

And Perry Burgess also came in contact with Miss Lum in Shanghai in the course of his leprosy work. He writes in his autobiography Born of Those Years,

"Miss Ada Lum, Chinese in descent and English (?) in citizenship, a friend of many years standing, was a writer who carried a column in one of the English papers. (It should be noted that Miss Lum's niece remembers the Lum family occupation as creating an early Chinese-language newspaper in Australia) Ada was on the Japanese blacklist because of her outspoken articles. Her friends were greatly concerned, but she shrugged her shoulders at their warnings, continued to write and speak her mind, and managed to survive.

She has a pleasing personality and was a leader in community and welfare activities, especially Red Cross work. Some of my most delightful evenings in China in peacetime had been spent in her company when she took me and other friends to restaurants for unusual native dishes. Ada is a cultivated gourmet so these dinners were memorable affairs, although she achieved her fine results by taking tyrannical charge of the restaurant's kitchen until the meal was served to her liking. Ada took it upon herself to be our guide, showing Cora and me the wreckage of the city. The people, their homes destroyed, simply camped on the streets or in the doorways of half-shattered buildings." (pp148-149)

This brings us to Miss Ada Lum's community service in the early stages of war. Evidently she had already begun working with the Red Cross as in "China Monthly Review," a Shanghai English language journal published by John W. Powell, she was noted for having written at least two articles related to this humanitarian work. One was a special Red Cross supplement of December 4, 1937 entitled, "Hospital for Refugee Children."

An article in the "Rochester Democrat and Chronicle," dated Sunday, January 2, 1938, and entitled "Priest Saves 115,000 Chinese Lives in War;" includes a photograph of Ada Lum dressed in her Red Cross uniform alongside French Jesuit Priest Father Jacquinot. The photo caption includes the information that Ada Lum is the sister of former Chinese Davis Cup player Gordon Lum and was then involved in the aid of Shanghai refugees. Father Jacquinot de Besange is known for courageously setting up a Safe Zone for Chinese in Shanghai. A similar Safety Zone was set up in Nanjing; but as with the rest of this city, it was not truly safe.

I will come to a close here noting that at some point Ada Lum removed from Shanghai to HongKong, but I will leave this and some family background for another post....

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Pauline Bjonness-Jacobsen

pictured (left) 1986 Liberty doll (right) 1985 Jade with Panda

I am always on the look out for lovely cloth dolls - those with sweetly painted or embroidered expressions and great attention to detail in their make and clothing. In doing so, I was naturally drawn to Dolls by Pauline, the company encompassing the fine workmanship, creativity, and heart of doll maker Pauline Bjonness-Jacobsen. While Dolls by Pauline have many delightful vinyl and porcelain creations, I have most admired their cloth ones.

This is truly a family business birthed out of the sensitivity, vision, and artistry of a special woman. Please check out their website and read the "inspiration story" of how as a girl Pauline choose the doll Emma for her own, how Emma comforted her through fear and suffering, and eventually how Pauline saw her own joy made complete in giving Emma away.

Pauline was born in Makkassar, Indonesia to Capt. Josef and Paulina Hoen. She survived internment in a Japanese concentration camp during WWII. Later her family was able to return to Holland. She studied in Switzerland and went on to live in Hong Kong. She met her husband Mick Bjonness-Jacobsen there; and they raised their family all over southeast Asia (Borneo, Singapore, Hong Kong, and the Philippines). Finally they settled in West Vancouver, Canada. Pauline loved drawing and sculpting and out of these passions by the 1970's Dolls by Pauline came into being. Her dolls have been sold on qvc and through other venues, and are quite recognizable by their delicate features and wide intent eyes.

On October 7, 2006 Pauline Bjonness-Jacobsen passed away peacefully in her sleep. She had been diagnosed with colon cancer 3 years prior; and yet continued to work on illustration and doll design. Her children Liesbet, Mikkel, and Ernst; who have shared in the business for over 20 years, continue in her rich tradition of careful attention to quality and detail and capturing the tender charm of childhood. For the love of dolls.

This above information is rewritten from DOLLSBYPAULINE's wonderful site.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Micale Cloth Dolls

I'm posting some photos comparing different Michael Lee cloth dolls. For more information on this doll maker please see my March 15, 2009 post....

Above is a photo of an older Micale cloth mother and baby side-by-side with the 1989 doll shown in my earlier post. In addition to the size difference, the flesh material has changed and the painting of the faces becomes more modernized and simplified. Thus far all of the cloth Micale dolls that I have seen, do have the five fingered hands with two mid fingers sewn together.

The sweet sister doll picture above is very similar to the cloth Micale doll on display at the Mint Museum in Singapore. Both dolls' outfits have the traditional Chinese frog clasps, and the little girl has two children appliqued on her tunic (one with individual loose pigtails).

I am assuming that this particular mother doll is a good bit older than the others, but currently have no way to verfiy this information.

Modern Dolls