I have published this story before. I am putting it in again because I love it.
I was visiting my brother and we
were chatting in his storage room where he has his exercise bike set up. I noticed the clown, Clowny, sitting on some magazines. It was Clowny, my brothers doll from a long time ago. Long enough to be on the edge of collectible and antique. So I asked him where he came from. *Oh,* he said, *I was putting things away and found him in a box.* This is an important find. So I told him that I thought he should get Clowny restored. His clown suit was frayed, his cap was chewed off, his shoes were
almost worn to the skin, and his nose was patched. My brother knows about restoration because he has some old Native American textiles and old maps and things. He treasures old things. He liked the idea.
We went online and googled dog restoration. It seemed as if Clowny was from the family of Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls. We tried a couple of Ann and Andy restorers, but the chemistry wasnt right. We found a doll
clinic in Atlanta - ah the joys of the internet and the US Post office. Yes, Linda would see him and tell us what she thought. So my brother sent Clowny off in a box.
The first message came back as a functional exploration of what needed to be done. My brother's replies to the clown restorer are italics:
Well, interesting project.
#1, clean clown body, as from years of use, he will dry rot most likely, if NOT done. OK
#2, replace black boot feet. Is it necessary to replace ?
#3, replace head, re-stitch features on new face, (keeping color of fabric as close to original as possible) - will not match exactly, but when dressed, one won't notice particularly. Is it really necessary to replace?
#4, re-attach old hair to new head. *I removed the "patch" to see what type nose was there, appears to be a green triangular one? Advise if you
remember-am I correct, most of it is long gone, I see only faint evidence of the original for my clues. I see the stitch marks of the brows, black thread, think they were black. OK
#5, re-stuff Mr. Clown. What is his name? OK - "Clowny"
#6, Clothing: Either clean up and patch old suit, or make a new one
using a fabric with the flavor of the old, but we are minus the material for the hat. We can make a new suit/hat, or restore the old, making some sort of hat to accompany the suit. Definitely clean up & patch old suit.
The old suit is mangled at the sleeve edge, but I could add a ruffle on the end of each sleeve to hide the damage on the one sleeve, and they would both match then. The hole in the center of
the neck ruffle can be hidden with a pom-pom. I prefer to retain the integrity of Mr. Clown, because if I change him in a dramatic way, he is no longer (YOUR CLOWN)! I completely agree.
Once I clean the the body, I remove the head and I iron the face. I trace very carefully the features, they are my pattern that I will use for thr needlework for the features. Originally the mouth and eyes were
outlined in black. I follow this carefully, so as not to alter what was original. I even try to hand stitch as was original to it. Great
The one problem is the hat. There is a wee bit of fabric still on the head, remove it, perhaps incorporate a tad of it onto the new one, perhaps a dot on the new hat so it adds a connection. Good
What I am attempting to do, in my own sneaky artistic way, is to restore Clown, not make him look like he rolled outta Walmart! Oh yes.
I mark the old head, so that I can replace his ratty (but clean) old hair back onto the head, even tho pieces are missing. You wore it off, it stays that way! If I add more, not your Clown guy anymore! You chew end of his hat? Not nice!
Okay, there you have it. It can be done successfully, little bit of magic to make it happen, but we can get the job done. Trust me, I love these brain teasers.
Please let me know what your desires are, and thank you for contacting me with your needs.
So they came to agreement to proceed. And then something started happening. Here is Lindas next note:
I'm alive and kicking. Clowny and I are having a great time. He is presently in his "birthday suit", because his "suit" is soaking in chemicals and coming out remarkably clean. I'm
impressed. I removed his hat, and there is some fabric there. I believe the original had a rolled stuffed brim all the way around like a skinny donut. The hat possibly might have come to a point like a clown hat with perhaps a pom-pom attached to the end, or was a dome attached to the donut like brim. I'd bet on the clown pointed version with or without pom-pom. You ate it, what was it?
1. Shoes. The original
will not hold up to restuffing, but I will use the old ones as a pattern, "age" the black fabric so it will not "bounce" off his legs visually. As I force the stuffing into his feet, they will not hold the filler, they will split apart, too dry rotten. I need that foot support to stuff the remainder of the legs.
Another thing. I'll bet "Mom" made Clowny and I also retain the stitch integrity, as I open up each
leg/hand compartment individually at the side seams, I do not undo the original hand stitching, but go into the machine stitching instead. Whatever set of "loving hands" did the work, those stitches remain intact.
Each compartment is emptied before cleaning is attempted. Nasty old stuffing is removed, patching is done before the "bath", detailing, afterwards.
2. I was thinking about the head all day long, as it is so important to his originality. I am going to "patch" him from the inside, support the torn face from the inside, and try to hide as best possible, the damage. It will show, but it will not be as obvious as the "patch". Once I put the nose back on, which is totally gone, less a few telltale stitches, it will draw attention away from the rips. He will just look well loved, but original too. There is
plenty of thread in the mouth, also, someone tried to paint it red at one point.
I think we are in agreement in that saving his face is paramount, and we both give the Walmart approach the "boot"!
I just had a couple of dolls come in that were "restored". They were the total pits. As I was speaking to my customer, I was
systematically ripping the wig off one of them and the look on her face was hysterical. I was speaking very matter of factly, waving around this wig as I spoke. Too funny. Something as inappropriate as that wig, bit the dust immediately.
The fact that the "white" of his suit is coming clean is great, then the additional hat fabric will not stand out. I will also trash the pom-poms to give them a little
His body is VERY fragile. Saliva, tears, grease/grime, acidity, etc., break down the fibers. The face is the MOST fragile part. The body must be cleaned SLOWLY, any stitching is done without any tension, as it would rip right out of the existing fabric.
I believe you will be well pleased with the end result. I
love the abstract part, the challenge, to see what I can pull off. Personal challenges engage my mind, oddly enough, easy stuff bores me to no end! In over 30 years, I never thought that there was something that I could not fix. What is really weird is that I'll accept a job period, and figure out HOW I'm going to fix it LATER, go figure! Guess the abstract/artist thing gels. Not a clue.
Anyway, we are rolling
with Clowny, he is sleeping, I covered him up, he was freezing! Wait till I "operate", and screams of agony resonate from my studio.
My brother and I started talking about the time he had Clowny. I knew he had him when we were in Tucson because I remember seeing pictures of him carrying him. As we talked, we both had this image of Clowny in Milwaukee, just after I was born. Clowny when Peter was in
the snowsuit and Mom had a new baby. And we talked about the fact that Clowny was a homemade doll, not a Raggedy Andy type fellow. It seemed to fit, maybe a Midwestern doll from a church sale. We hung up.
I was smiling thinking of that little funny dolly. Then Peter sent these emails along and the idea that *Mom* made the doll stopped me cold. It is possible, I thought. My mothers mother was an
incredible seamstress. She made all sorts of doll clothes for my mother by hand. Tiny stiches, little dresses with smocking on the front, little knickers and undershirts to match. So my mother learned to sew. And that winter she was at home, not working. She could have made Clowny. Somehow that idea just fill me with peace. Sort of like Moms loving being restored.
Linda seems like my kind of woman. She does
dolly restoration...I do people...
I hope you like this story as much as I do.