Saturday, March 16, 2019

How Was Izannah Walker Influenced by Other Types of Dolls?

Recently I was looking in my workroom and found a little box of china heads I had purchased on EBay some years back.  I purchased the group lot because one head in particular reminded me of a particular Izannah doll I had studied closely when it was at Lucy's Doll House. When I pulled the little China head out to study it again I was struck by the similarity again.  I wondered if Izannah used China dolls as her models for some of her dolls?  We know that she set out to make a softer doll that wouldn't hurt a child if she fell on it, as could have happened with china dolls. This is mentioned in her patent.

So I sent the question off to my friend Edyth O'Neill.  She has collected dolls for many decades and I knew she would have an interesting perespective.

Edyth's reply:

"If working from a generic child, we all have a common human starting place. Germany being the doll maker for the world in the mid 19th century, German dolls surely would have been an influence on Izannah’s dolls. As we know Izannah was an inventor and a designer (of stoves!) she certainly may have had basic sculpting skills if needed. How similar is the Ruben Bates mold? (not very to me). There are many different Izzie heads, they may have been molded after or directly from many sources. The artistry lies in her design of the doll, its body its paint job, its concept if you will. Which face or faces she took off from is not a big question to me. As you have noted, some of the English woodens with heavy lidded eyes remind you of Izannah’s work, many dolls are bound to have a lot in common, just being a child’s head. Other than totally off the wall stuff like swirling a holey bucket of paint over a canvas, there is little in art not influenced by other art before it. When designing a new car we don’t re invent the wheel as it is said. We do not see in Izannah’s dolls the same thing as the Darrow being molded after a certain identifiable parian head, and the linen heads molded over identifiable German chinas and other such exact copies, or Emma Clear reproducing dolls. I do not think there is clear proof yet that Izannah used other dolls directly, but if so, no matter to me. What she made of them was a new thing."

In that, Edyth and I agree.  Even if Izannah copied a china doll exactly, she transcended the Original design with her methods.  Food for thought.


  1. Very interesting! I love the history behind the way a thing might have come about, the processes etc. Makes for more studying!

  2. Yes indeed. It will be fun to compare profiles of Izannah dolls to other types of dolls made in the time Izannah was creating dolls.


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