Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Art of Topsy Turvy

The history of the topsy turvy doll is colorful and imaginative. The idea that you can flip a doll over--and instantly find another one beneath intrigues us somehow, like the skirts are a magician's cloth. Reversible dolls are easy to find in every doll's field, including the primitive and folk art world, where so many of the early topsy turvy dolls were created.

{--Many of the early topsy turvy dolls were the traditional black-and-white dolls like these, in a range of colorful costumes and calico.

Fairytale stories were also popular in topsy turvy dolls. As the dolls progressed from simple homemade cloth items to newfangled rubber and man-made materials, the traditional themes were still emphasized. My first brush with the topsy turvy world was an article about the 1926 Cinderella topsy turvy, a Woolworth's item inspired by "A Kiss for Cinderella" the popular moving picture of the time. Cinderella seems very plain and worn in the pictures below, but her history, story (and innocent little face) made me wish I owned one, too.

(from rags to riches in gold...)

I still haven't found one abandoned in a flea market booth or at the bottom of a garage sale box....

When I drew the pattern and details for this week's topsy turvy Cinderella, the themes and elements were the same as the traditional topsy turvy doll. A few elements of my own were added, like the gold-threaded sari fabric, inspired by my deep fascination with India's rich history (the design of her gown reminds me of Belle from Beauty and the Beast). Her stained workskirt was primitively hand-dyed, to give the worn, waterstained look of fabric left out too long in the weather.
(Needless to say, I'll be making another one of this doll for myself...)
We also encourage you to check out the many traditional and unique topsy turvy designs of our fellow Ebay artists...the primitive and folk art community creates many rich and colorful retellings of Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, and other stories, as well as the black-and-white dollies that were among the first beloved primitive dolls.
Our "rags-to-silk sari" Cinderella pictured above is auctioned this Tues.-Sun. (ends Feb 17).

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