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Izannah Walker

One of America's earliest known female doll makers,

Izannah Walker was born in 1817 in Bristol, Rhode

Island. In 1873, Walker was granted a patent for

her improvements in the manufacture of dolls. In

her application Walker claimed her dolls were

“inexpensive, easily kept clean, and not apt to injure

a young child which may fall upon it.” They also had

a classic and enduring charm.

Comparisons have been made between Izannah

Walker dolls and the portraits of American folk artists

such as William Matthew Prior and Erastus Salisbury

Field. The instantly recognisable look their work shares

continues to inspire modern doll makers. Dixie

Redmond, an artist from Maine, has gathered together

a weath of information on her blog, the Izannah Walker

Chronicles. Today original Izannah Walker dolls with

their neatly parted hair and sweet finely painted

expressions are extremely collectible and can fetch up

to $20,000 at auction.

Anthony Scoggins. C ourtesy of M ingeiInternational M useum


From Jumeau to Bru the French have a wonderful

tradition of doll making. Manon Gignoux continues

their exceptional work although her ‘dolls’ are unlike

anything a 19th-century child would recognise.

Gignoux’s fabric sculptures, dressed objects, clothes

and accessories make their home in that difficult to

define space between art and fashion. “My creations

illustrate the meeting of clothes, body and decor”

muses Gignoux.

Whether life sized or scaled down to a more

traditional doll height most of these curious figures

have in common elongated limbs, strangely slender

heads and lumpen lower bodies.

They also share the same starting point. Their

origins can be traced back to Gignoux’s final year

in the Duperréé School of Applied Arts in Paris

where she studied the clothes worn by workers in

the early 20th century. After filling numerous

research notebooks she refined her study and

focused on themes embodied by the characters of

the ‘carpenter’, the ‘washerwoman’ and the

‘woman shopkeeper’.

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