The “Early Adopter’s” Dolls

Have you ever heard of people called: “Early Adopters?”

Early Adopters like to be the first ones to buy and try ‘new.’ They’re the ones who line up to get the newest iphone, try the latest app, wear the trendiest clothes, go to the newly opened restaurants, move into the newest up-and-coming gentrification neighborhoods.

I wish there was such a thing as Doll Early Adopters. In my fantasy, there are hundreds of them out there… constantly checking the internet for the newest dolls, searching ‘twitter’ and Instagram, checking Etsy and Pinterest… wanting to be the firstest and the fastest to find a new doll. Sigh…

Because if such a customer did exist, I could show them my two new (exclusive to The Pattycake Doll Company) Black Dolls from Precious Moments.

When I ran into Linda ‘The Doll Maker’ Rick at The American International Toy Fair (she’s the one who makes all the precious moments dolls) we had a nice discussion about how nice it had been several years ago when we carried Black Precious Moments dolls.

And then she surprised me with a very generous offer. If I would pick a few styles that I liked, she would make a few small batch runs for me to carry at www.pattycakedoll.com.

So she did, and we did and they’re available now on our site. (You can click on either

Thousands of people come to our store every week. Some looking for Black Dolls, some looking for Boy’s dolls, some looking for Learn to dress dolls etc.

Unfortunately, very few of them are early adopters… our visitors are usually buying gifts for kids, not because they are early adopters looking for the newest dolls.

Oh well. Maybe some of you readers are early adopters?

One can always hope, right?

 

Kokeshi Dolls – Creative & Traditional

It didn’t take me long to discover that there are two kinds of Kokeshi: Creative and Traditional.

But it took a while and a bit of a learning curve to discover that Traditional was itself divided into many different styles.

This post isn’t to give you a long PhD dissertation on Kokeshi, ☺ but to give you a quick overview with a few examples so that you can at least tell the difference between the two major styles.

Take a look at the two traditional examples here

Traditional kokeshi doll

Traditional Kokeshi

The most noticeable differences between the two are the shape of the shoulders, the shape of the eyes (the one on the left has a single top eyelid, the one on the right has both  top and bottom eyelids), and the comparative size of the head to the body. Another difference is the oval shape of the body on the right compared to the concave body shape on the left.

Why they are different, is because of geography. In different areas of the country, the craftsmen follow the same ‘styles’ generation after generation, often in the same family even http://cialisviagras.com/female-cialis/. To the best of my knowledge, and I’m no expert, there are about a dozen different ‘traditional’ designs within the traditional style. And the different markers I have mentioned (and a few more like hairstyles and decorative flower design) are how you can identify which area the traditional Kokeshi doll came from.

Here are a some Creative Kokeshi:

Kokeshi dolls

Creative Kokeshi dolls

Here the craftsmen (perhaps even the same ones who have made the traditional Kokeshi above) have departed from the traditional patterns. There is alot more freedom in colors – they are not locked into the red, green and black and the artisans have gotten a lot more creative with the kimono designs.

But what all Kokeshi have in common, is that they are wood, turned on a lathe, and in my eyes, very beautiful dolls!

Why Waldorf Dolls are Like Crayons☺

Giving your child a Waldorf doll is like giving your child a box of crayons and a blank piece of paper, instead of crayons and a coloring book.

Your child is still going to color, but instead of just coloring inside the publisher’s lines, your child is going to use their own imagination and originality to create their own art.

And that’s what we as parents want to do: stimulate our children’s imagination and creativity.

In the doll world, Waldorf Dolls are those ‘blank pieces of paper.’ They have sweet and simple faces. Dots for eyes, a small stitched smile.

A Waldorf Style Doll

A Waldorf Style Doll

In theory, a few days after receiving their new Waldorf Style doll, your child will have unleashed his or her imagination and will have created a whole personality and ‘story’ for that doll.

And that’s the beauty of Waldorf style dolls.

Music Box Dolls

I know that everybody has their favorites when it comes to dolls. The most common group of doll lovers are the doll collectors, and they are divided into hundreds of sub groups such as the antique doll collectors and the Barbie® fans. There are doll shows all over the country, each catering to their own audience… Madame Alexander doll collectors for instance, or those who love Reborn Dolls.

The number of paper doll books published each year is amazing as well, many by Dover, with paper dolls representing everything from  Wedding Dresses & Medieval Gowns to Presidential families and Hollywood actresses.

But among my favorites are musical dolls. Not that I can tell you exactly why mind you, it’s one of those “I just do” type of things.

I think part of it might be as part of owning a doll store… it is practically impossible to not fall in love with every doll that we carry. If I kept just one sample of every doll I ever fell in love with, I would not have room in my home for anything else, and I strongly suspect my wife would leave me should I ever become such a doll pack rat! Of all the musical dolls we have carried over the years. I have permitted myself to keep just one.

That special doll is much like the one below… an animated music box doll with a wind-up key on the back, a mechanism that slowly rotates the head while the music plays, beautifully costumed. They are small, maybe 5 or 6 inches tall, and the music box is the old fashioned ‘tinkly’ kind as opposed to the horrendous new ‘digital chip’ electronic music boxes that I absolutely abhor and refuse to carry in my stores.

Here… have a listen…

I assume that  among all of your dolls you too have a favorite. I hope it gives you as much pleasure as my little music box doll gives to me.

Too ‘White? Stacey and Kelie Have the Answer

There is a lot of talk in our industry about ‘where the next generation of toy makers is coming from.’ I’d like to rephrase the question: In an America where more than half of the children born are children of color, where is the diversity in toys, reflective of our children, going to come from?

I thought about this as I walked Toy Fair last month. This is not a criticism, it is an observation: Toy Fair looks pretty ‘White.’

Imagine a Black Mama with three daughters aged 3, 5 and 8. She walks  into any of the big box stores hoping to get three different Black dolls for her daughters. A soft and cuddly Black lovie for her three year old, maybe a cute 12 or 13 inch Black baby doll for her five year old – hopefully with ‘natural’ hair that she can style and play with – and for the oldest, an 18 inch African-American girl doll with a nice selection of fashions.

Yeah… right.

If you don’t know these two names, you should: Stacey McBride-Irby and Kelie Charles. What Madame Alexander and Ruth Handler were to dolls in the 20th century, these two doll makers are to the 21st century. Visionairies. Pioneers. Entrepreneurs. These two women are helping to bring American Doll making into the 21st century.

Prettie Girl Doll Lena

Prettie Girl Doll Lena by Stacey McBride-Irby

When you meet and talk to Stacey and Kelie you learn that they share the same story and the same passion. They’ve identified an itch – the lack of dolls of color, and they are doing their best to scratch it. It isn’t easy starting a new company from nothing more than an idea, but fortunately we live in a time and an America where it is possible.

Zaria Double Dutch Doll

Zaria is one of the Double Dutch Dolls by Kelie Charles

In the course of things it doesn’t really matter so much that I am proud of these women, or that I am proud to carry their dolls. I am but a humble doll merchant. But in an America that is changing from white to ‘of color,’ I want to stand and cheer. This is where the ‘next generation’ of doll makers is coming from.

Banning Barbie

In 2003 Saudi Arabia banned the sale of Barbie Dolls.

They were banned because they were Jewish. (The authorities believed that Mattel – the makers of Barbie – were Jewish. For the record, Mattel is a publicly traded company and has been since the 60’s.)

They were banned because their clothes were ‘too revealing.’

They were banned because they had a woman’s figure, and therefore were not proper for ‘yet-to-develop’ young girls to play with.

(Of course here in America there are many feminists who object to Barbie for a similar reason, but in their case because the figre is disproportionately womanly – but I digress.)

Ten years later Iran also banned the sale of Barbie. In Iran’s case it was because Barbie is a ‘symbol of corrupt western culture.’

Last week, there was a terrible attack in France against a Jewish supermarket on the eve of the Sabbath, and the murder of twelve people at a newspaper in France.

I’m not saying that Islamic countries banning Barbie led to the slaughter in France. Of course not. How could one possibly take such a leap – Barbie representing everything evil about the west?

On the other hand, avalanches are made up of single snowflakes.

Just saying, is all.

The difference between Barbie and Barbie®

If you ask a four year old African American girl to go get her Barbies, what do you think she’ll bring you?

A Christie doll – Barbie’s African American friend – or a Nikki, Christie’s sister?

Barbie® Entrepreneur African American

Barbie® Entrepreneur African American

Perhaps any one of the myriad of dolls with The Barbie name and ‘African American’ attached to it? Like ‘Barbie loves the Girl Scouts African-American’ or ‘Barbie Careers – Nurse – African American?’

Or perhaps one of the 1000’s of Barbie clones, not made by Mattel at all?

Actually, I think that that four year old might bring out all of her dolls… including Bratz, Monster High, Doc McStuffins and Disney Princesses or the new Prettie Girls by Stacey McBride.

Prettie Girl Doll Lena

Prettie Girl Doll Lena

Why? Because I think that after over 50 years, Barbie has finally become the generic term for 11 inch dolls. Especially the all plastic – removable fashions dolls.

It’s like Kleenex® is what everybody calls facial tissues, Vaseline® for petroleum jelly and Velcro® for hook and latch fasteners. Especially in our children’s minds. Children don’t ‘get’ ®! And to be honest with you, I don’t think most adults differentiate much between what is really a Barbie® and what might be something else similar. I think we call them all Barbies too.

What do you think?

PS: To my readers who filter everything through a P.C. lens: This post is about the difference between Barbie®, and Barbie used as a generic term… not about race. Because Mattel has both African American Barbies® and Black dolls that are part of the Barbie line but are not named Barbie, it made my point easier to explain. Get over yourself.

The Klimt Barbie

Do me a favor, please. Without a lot of deep thought, finish this sentence:

“Barbie is ………”

Possible answers:

  • A fashion doll
  • A doll for little girls to play with
  • A politically correct doll – as in the hundreds of inspirational roles she plays, Lawyer Barbie, Scientist Barbie, Teacher Barbie, Doctor Barbie, Fire-fighter Barbie etc.etc.
  • A politically In-correct doll (especially her unrealistic breast to waist to hip proportions.)
  • A piece of history – There are now three generations who have grown up with Barbie. And she ‘stands’ in multiple museums.
  • A financial juggernaut – The number one selling doll of all time.

And I’m sure there are probably dozens more thoughts that come to your mind when trying to complete the sentence.

Today I’d like to offer one more:

“Barbie is… Art.”

klimt barbie

Barbie® Doll Inspired by Gustav Klimt from the Museum CollectionGustav_Klimt_Adele Bloch-Bauer IThis is the painting that inspired Mattel’s Museum Barbie. It is known as Portrait of Adele BlochBauer I.

OK, raise your hands… how many of you know who Gustav Klimt was? Or Adele Bloch-Bauer?

And the question I would really love to know the answer to: Out of the thousands and thousands of paintings made in the last thousand years of western art, why this one to inspire a Barbie?

If someone knows, I’d love to hear the answer, but until then, I’m just as happy to enjoy this beautiful Barbie for exactly what she is: A work of art.

A Tale of Two Dolls

I was surprised the first time I heard a ‘less-than-enthusiastic’ comment about American Girl’s® Addy doll. It’s not that I think American Girl walks on water or anything, but as a competitor in the doll business, I had to respect the tremendous success of the brand, the marketing and everything that goes into making American Girl such a huge success.

The Pattycake Doll company didn’t always carry 18 inch American Girl type dolls. We were geared more to the baby doll and rag doll market. But we kept getting requests, and finally I asked one of the mothers who had called me – once again – to find out if we carried 18″ Black Dolls: “If you want a Black 18 inch doll, why don’t you just buy American Girls’ Addy?”

The answer floored me. “I don’t want to give my daughter a slave doll.”

18 inch Doll Portraits -12-2

So gradually, Addie and I added 18″ dolls for children of color to our store. First we just had one Asian 18″ doll, one Black 18″ doll, and one Biracial/Multicultural/Hispanic skin tone 18 inch doll; but we quickly expanded as we discovered that there was a definite need and desire for these American Girl clones. And the more we looked, the more we found… Black American girl dolls with straight hair, and Black dolls with curly hair, eventually reaching 12+ different skin tone – hair style – hair color combinations. And because none of them were ‘Addy,’ there were no books, or ‘background stories.’  They were just dolls. Beautiful Dolls.

But this year we started carrying a new 18″ Black doll, from Madame Alexander, who comes dressed as a Ballerina. And she is simply stunning.

Ballerina 18in Doll Portrait

And for all those mothers who were reluctant to present their daughters with a ‘slave-girl story,’ we could suggest something different. Because in America today there are some really beautiful Black ballerinas with tremendously inspiring stories. Like Misty Copeland and Ashley Murphy and Ebony Williams.*

American Girl’s Addy has a wonderfully inspiring story – but as we learned, it’s not for everyone. Maybe a Black Ballerina Doll, and your daughter’s imagination, can create an alternative story more to your liking?

* Neither Madame Alexander nor Pattycake Doll are inferring that this beautiful 18″ doll is meant to represent any of the real Black ballerinas mentioned in this post.