Saturday, March 9, 2019

How Many Dolls Did Izannah Walker Make?

Over the years my friend Edyth O'Neill and I have discussed how many dolls Izannah  might have made in her lifetime.We discussed this when we were working on  our article on Izannah Walker dolls.  Surely it was more than 500. Today in the MAIDA Dolls Group this topic came up again. If Izannah began making dolls in the 1840's and continued through the 1870's that was a span of more than 30 years.

If you figure one doll made a month for 30 years, then that alone is 360. These are not simple dolls. If Izannah had an assistant making bodies and limbs, then that would at least double the output. So then the number of dolls made is closer to a thousand. If she had more than two assistants, and if she had more than one person painting, then we are talking 2000 dolls made or more. But there is SO much we don't know! We know she was an inventor, and dolls were not her only focus.  

The number of helpers and assistants is really key.  Some parts of doll making can be done by non-artists. Did Izannah approach her doll making by having others make arms and limbs and torsos in a piecework way? There is surely a skill involved with sewing and stuffing dolls.

This brings up the question of where artistry begins and ends. Izannah, having an engineering brain, likely would have been able to design the dolls so that pieces of it could have been done by any competent seamstress, as sewing skills were part and parcel of daily life in the 19th century.

There is so much we do not know.

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