Friday, February 29, 2008

Izannah Walker Dream - Part 3

I watch as the lady from Denmark picks up the beautiful, haunting doll and walks to the table with it. She checks out and walks to her rental car with the doll cradled in her arms. I see her strap the doll into the front seat, climb in a drive back down Old Washboard Road with one of the most beautiful dolls in the world.


The auctioneer is pontificating again about the merits of a lot of EAPG glass. I'm not really interested, but since it's such a beautiful spring day, I decide to stay and watch the auction and have fun. I see a mounted moose head sell for $700, a box lot of old fashioned gartered girdles sell for $37.50, seven boxes of old books go for $300...the objects of others' lives moving on out into the world to begin another life.

It's getting closer to the close of the auction, and there are only a few of us left as the sun is going down outside the barn. Tall Man is still there, and Harry, and myself and a few others who are mostly watching. There is a Linens Lady at every auction, and this one is no different. She looks sweet on the outside, but inside she is made of steel. If you even think of stepping into her territory she will make you pay and pay high. She and I have traded winning on lots all afternoon. We both have spent a bit more than we normally would have. The offerings are dwindling and I see that the Linens Lady has packed up her things to go home. Harry stopped bidding long ago, but Tall Man has been bidding high here and there on things that are of interest to him - mostly things like old tools and weapons and stuff like that. Most of the others are just interested bystanders.

I have learned that if you are one of the last people at an auction you can snag some great bargains. It's how I picked up a $150 piece of Arts and Crafts pottery for $5. You can also buy a lot of junk. Out come a few more enamel pots and pitchers. A couple of hunting knives go to tall man for $1. And then the runners come out with a beautifully painted antique flat-top trunk. It is painted in and old blue and stencilled with a floral pattern.

The auctioneer looks at the crowd of three bidders, looks at the trunk and then grouses to the runners, "Why didn't we bring this out earlier?"

I turn to see if Linens Lady is still here just in time to see her driving away in her SUV that has a license plate that says LINENLADY. Yes, really.

So it's down to Tall Man and myself.

The auctioneer turns to us and says, "I pride myself on running an honest operation. That way we all win. If I didn't run an honest operation I would pull this thing and save it for another time. But I advertised I'd be selling everything and that it's fresh, and so here we go. You two have fun, but don't hurt me too bad, please. Boys, open that trunk and show this little lady what's in there."

They open the top of the trunk and begin pulling out the wardrobe meant to fit the Izannah Walker Doll that the lady from Denmark walked off with.

"Do I hear $300 for the stencilled antique flat-top trunk that is filled with antique doll dresses?"

"$300," I say humbly.

Auctioneer turns to Tall Man, "I have $300 do I hear $400?"

Tall Man nods.

"$400, do I hear $500?"

"Yes," I say, "$500!"

Tall Man looks at me. Then he shakes his head.

"Well, ma'am," the auctioneer sighs, "It's all yours for $500. You ma'am are getting the deal of the lifetime. There are 12 dresses and an assortment of other doll garments in that trunk, which by itself should get over a thousand."

To be continued

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Izannah Walker Dream Part 2

Hi, folks! Remember my little daydream I was writing that was "to be continued"? Someone left a comment on the previous installment saying, "Don't forget, I'll be at that auction, too." I told her I'd write her in, and maybe I can be generous and give her a bit of success...but it is my daydream, so I shall triumph in the end.

The auctioneer says, "A dollar? A dollar? Well, all right, Jay, but don't you think that's a trifle low? Let's see what else is in this box."

He practically winks at the crowd as he forages around in the box. The cutting board is lifted off the top and you see a painted doll head with side curls. I am sunk. I expect him to carefully lift the doll up, but he moves her aside and pulls out something wrapped in a towel. He unwraps the towel, lays it aside and cups a
pottery jardiniere
with a scene painted on it in both hands. He holds it as if it is his newborn grandson. I swear if he'd had gold fillings they'd be glinting in the bright April sun.

Brainwaves are computing and colliding all around in the spring air as the auction attendees decide how high they should bid, but not one facial muscle twitches on any of them.

The silent computing is interrupted by the auctioneer crowing, "What we have here, folks, is a Weller jardiniere from around 1900, with a dutch girl walking a path in the foreground and a house and windmills in the back. It does have crazing and some slight stains from use over the years, but has no chips, cracks or repairs. It's all good, folks. the original deal. It has a mark of SA before the usual Weller mark. I've never seen that before. I tell you what I'm gonna do. To make this more interesting, let's auction this thing off by itself... anyone feeling a bit more generous?"

A quiet, tall man lifts his hand and says, "I'll give you $10."

And off it went...if you've ever been to an auction, and most of you have, I'm sure you know the patter. The jardiniere ends at $695 with the tall man giving the final bid. I was breathing a sigh of relief, thinking I could bid freely on the egg beater, cutting board and doll.

"Okay, folks, now we're ready for the scrambled eggs box lot. We have a cutting board, egg beaters, an old fallin' apart tied quilt and an old doll. The doll has some primitive appeal, but I couldn't find any marks on her. The quilt would be good for using the back cloth for something. Who'll give me $10 for this lot to start off with?"

"I bid $50!" a pretty blond woman with an accent calls out. Darn it! Where did she come from?

"75", I say in my best impassive Mainer voice, sounding a bit bored as I scuff the mud with my foot.

"$100!" says the blond one.

"I have a hundred, do I hear $125?"

Tall man lifts a finger.

"$125, do I hear $150?"

Blond woman raises her hand emphatically, "$300!"

Darn it all, darn it all, darn it all!

"Hmmm," the auctioneer says. "Maybe I missed something with this doll..." He begins turning her over in his hands, "... the dress is made like it might be from around the 1850's, and she does have some sweet little painted boots with painted on laces, and the hands are interesting, but the paint is cracking a bit. The head is painted, but those are some ugly ears."

He looks up, "Kind of like Harry's over there!"

The crowd laughs and Harry laughs, too, but his ears turn a bit red. Harry must be the regular mascot at these auctions.

"Okay, the last bid was $ I hear $400?"

Up my hand goes to make my $400 bid. My husband did say to have fun. If I win this doll, and if it is a real Izannah doll, then I am not going too high, I know. At this price, it's a gift.

"I have $400, do I hear $500?"

"Do you take a credit card?" the Swedish (Danish, German?) woman calls out.

"Yes, ma'am! We love those credit cards."

"Then I bid one thousand dollars."

Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! Oh, no she didn't!

"I have a thousand dollars, do I hear $1200? Going once, going twice..."

"1500!" I call out, forgetting my impassive Mainer persona.

"2000!" Blondie calls out.

My husband did say to have fun. But I know that's a lot of money to spend on a doll. I don't know if I can justify it when Old Bessie has $93,000 on her and needs replacing.

"I have two thousand dollars, do I hear $2100? Two thousand going once, two thousand going twice....SOLD to the nice lady with the blond hair!"

He pats his belly and actually snaps his suspenders. Yes, really.

"This is why I like being an auctioneer, folks," he tells the crowd as if he is giving them a gospel truth. "I can't know everything, but through the bidding I learn, y'see? I'm really just a student of old stuff. Now if I ever see another of these here dolls, I'll know they're worth something. Ma'am...I sure am glad you came. Where are you from?"

The pretty blond woman smiles, "Denmark."

"And what are you doing in the states?"

"I'm visiting all the museums with Izannah Walker dolls in them. That is an Izannah Walker doll."

"Well, I sure am glad you came. How did you happen to come to this auction?"

"I was staying at a Bed and Breakfast on the coast and wanted to come to a Maine auction. I saw your ad in the paper. I am so glad I came."

Enough all ready, pretty lady.

"And I am glad, too, ma'am." He turns to the next box lot.

"Well, I have a flight to catch in Bangor so I need to go - where do I pay?" Ms. Denmark asks.

"You can pay Sally at the table on the porch, ma'am. Have a nice flight home."

~ to be continued ~

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Izannah's Boots

A note about pictures in the albums at the right...

When I took pictures of the Izannahs in the albums at right I was thinking like a dollmaker documenting how they were made and not taking beauty shots. That's why you see pictures at odd angles like straight-on from the side of the head or a shot of the bottom of a foot. This gives those who study Izannah dolls some profile to use when making an Izannah inspired doll. There's nothing more beautiful to an artist than seeing how an old master does things.

~ Dixie

Skinner Izannah boots -
the Izannah in the floral dress at right.

Boots below are from the Blue Izannah

It's interesting to see what could be straw,
grass or excelsior in the boot below.

These legs on the Red Izannah have seen repair -
I think it was surgical tape.
I love that the name "Perry" is written on the surgical tape

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Izannah Walker Dream

Coffee with Tea, a dollmaking group I'm in, has fantasized about ways of discovering an original Izannah Walker doll.

Here's my particular day dream....

My husband is watching the kids and has said, "Take the day off. Have fun! And here's $100 ($500, $1,000? $1,000,000...) for you to have fun with. I won the fantasy baseball pool. Oh, and by the way, while you're out Vern Yip (or Martha Stewart, or Carter Oosterhouse) is coming over to redo the living room (studio, bedroom, whole house...)."

I did mention this is a dream, right? Anyway.

I run out and hop in Old Bessie, our Grand Caravan with 93,000 miles on it. Ah, you gotta love Old Bessie, she's not much to look at, but she's taken me on many an adventure. I take the road out of town off to the country to breathe some Mud Season air. It's one of those beautiful crisp days in spring when everything is coming alive. You can't quite see it yet, but you can sense it. I decide to stop in at a country store that has the best whoopie pies.

I select the most round Whoopie Pie and pick up a Diet Coke to go along with it. A girl's gotta set limits, y'know ;-) I set my items on the counter to pay and see a sign attached with masking tape to the customer side of the cash register.

Antique Auction - One Day Only!
102 Old Washboard Road
Rain or Shine

"That will be $3.50," the clerk with the puffy white hair says.

"Can you tell me where Old Washboard Road is?" I ask as I slide a $5 bill toward her.

"Ayuh. It's across the road there," she moves her head up and to the right behind her while she makes change. Through the road salt glazed window you can see a road with a green street sign and an Auction Today sign below it. A red arrow points the direction down Old Washboard Road, which follows the Penobscot River.

I find out quickly why the road is named Old Washboard Road. The frost heaves in the road on this spring day make you feel like you're driving over an old-fashioned washboard. A little further down the road is underwater at a low spot. All the spring rains and melting snow have overwhelmed the sides of the road for an 8 foot stretch. I take a deep breath, say a prayer and plow on through. Yes! Old Bessie is triumphant!

The road bends around and an old 19th century house comes into view. It's the kind of house that brings to mind the rhyme, "Big house, little house, back house, barn." About 25 people are standing just outside the entrance of the old farmhouse barn. They are dressed in parkas and gum rubber boots, because it's still a bit cold in Maine in April but it's warm enough that it is Mud Season. Some of them have their hands in their pockets and others are holding styrofoam coffee cups.

The old barn is stuffed with antique seaman's trunks and old baby carriages and tools and kitchenwares and rotting hay and rusty who knows whats. There are treadle sewing machines and old electrical Singer Featherweight machines and 50's toasters. In the rafters of the barn is the carcass of a very old airplane - and that's why most of these Mainers are here.

The auctioneer wheedles the crowd - dispassionate except for a couple of hecklers - for one more bid on a shiny 1950's scooter. The item ends at around $35 and the next lot is brought to the auction block. This is a box lot - vintage tin coffee pot, some 50's kitchen utensils, a cutting board with an old cloth doll arm hanging over the edge from under the cutting board. I can see that this is a painted cloth arm, and it looks like it has a separately attached thumb.

"Do I hear $5 for this box of treasures?" the auctioner asks.


"Aw come on folks, this is the first auction of spring, let's show a little spring action here." He holds up an old fashioned egg beater and turns the handle so the gears spin beneath his folksy auctioneer's grin.

"I'll give you a dollar for it, Harry, but you got to scramble me some eggs after the auction!" calls out a man in a bright red flannel shirt.

To be continued ~ Dixie

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Walker Dolls: A Family Affair?

Recently I was able to read two articles from UFDC's Doll News that shed some light on Izannah Walker. Both articles are by Monica Bessette.

The first article, entitled The Search for Izannah Walker, proposes that a picture that Ms. Bessette owns is believed to be Martha Chase as a girl, holding her Izannah Walker doll. This picture is on lots of collected picture albums on the web. To see the picture, click here. In the picture the little girl (Martha Chase?) wears a plaid dress and the Walker doll is dressed similarly - lots of volume in the skirts! The girl's right hand rests on an ornate chair back while her left hand hugs her Walker doll close to her heart - just the place for an Izannah Walker doll to be! This article is in the Spring 1994 Doll News magazine. You can sometimes find them for sale on the web.

The second article by Ms. Bessette is entitled Walker Dolls: A Family Affair. This article is in the Summer 1998 Doll News issue. In it, Ms. Bessette does extensive research and puts forth the theory that many of the dolls that we call "Izannah Walker" dolls were actually made by Jane Walker, her sister. Does this mean I need to rename this blog? ;-)

In any case, if you're at a country auction and box lot of Doll News magazines come up, snag them!

A New Record Set for Izannah Walker Dolls

The 18" brown-complexioned doll in Day One of Theriault's Rosalie auction netted $80,000 (plus buyer's premium). This is a new...