Wednesday, August 5, 2015

An Interview with Elizabeth Ann Coleman

When did you start collecting? 

As pre-teen children my late sister, Evelyn Jane, and I were each given what we were told were “antique” dolls. Today they would have been referred to as “vintage” as they were not as old as then thought. They were low brow chinas. Because family members were busy doing genealogy at the time, the Hertwig named one had to be rechristened because “Ethel” was not a family name. These two dolls joined a selection of play dolls from our own and our mother’s generation and regional dolls that had been bestowed on us since infancy. But it was these two dolls that piqued our interest in older type dolls which we were then lucky enough to expand over a two year period in Europe, where we put allowance and gift monies into the acquisition of genuinely old but affordable dolls. Santa helped, but with newer collector-type dolls created in England. Many people think that it was my late mother, Dorothy, who had the interest in dolls but actually that honor goes to my sister and me. My mother joined in because, like us, her intellectual curiosity was piqued.

Christening Party 1864  Elizabeth Ann Coleman Collection

Have your tastes changed over the years? 
Not really, early dolls are still favorites and all my dolls, whether old or newer, are viewed as a learning opportunity. The collection I have is extremely eclectic as often the dolls were acquired for the research opportunities they offered. For instance I have a visually unappealing but extremely rare early 1890s composition doll head marked under its peeling surface: FADF – First American Doll Factory. This was the company founded by a Russian immigrant, Solomon Hoffman, whose composition and production techniques formed the basis of the whole American composition doll industry that was to be so important in the first half of the 20th century.
Constantinople Couple c. 1840  Elizabeth Ann Coleman Collection

What are your favorite types of dolls?
Porcelain shoulder headed dolls (china, Parian and tinted bisque) are definitely number one, followed by the unusual in any category. I also appreciate dolls in original attire, regional as well as those dressed in western fashions, dolls with wardrobes, and dolls with interesting histories. Presently porcelain shoulder headed dolls have taken a front seat as I try, with the assistance of a friend, to complete the work started by my late mother and sister. Hopefully, in due course, we will be able to share with interested collectors our ever-increasing connections. At present collectors only recognize a few of these products by company name when there are hundreds of possibilities.
Elaine Elizabeth Ann Coleman Collection

What are the characteristics that attract you to a certain doll?
Age; something’s place in the history of doll making and usage, and if applicable, condition-preservation issues are all something I think about when acquiring a particular doll. Because I have such a rich library and archive at hand, it is perhaps easier for me to track the background of many dolls. Over the years I have been able to assist many scholars and interested individuals both within the doll collecting field and without in their quest for information on not just doll identification, but matters of appropriated apparel, provenance, merchandizing, etc. 

Do you sew for your dolls?
Definitely not. I like to say if I want to increase my four letter word vocabulary I will pick up a needle. I leave that, what I see as a chore, to those who gain so much pleasure from that exercise. It would be a dull doll collecting world if we all strove for the same goals. Very few of my dolls have “vintage” or currently made apparel. The majority have appropriate period or commercially made attire, moth holes and mouse chews included as they are all part of the venerable story which an old doll continues to tell.
Haas Fischer Nauman “Allan Albert”  Elizabeth Ann Coleman Collection

Are you looking for anything in particular, etc. 

Porcelain shoulder headed dolls that expand my current work; they can be either common or unusual, as they all are pieces in a huge and very complex puzzle. Also any documentation that expands on knowledge of all aspects related to dolls – play, production, collecting, etc. Oh yes, I am always looking for more space in which to display and store my doll related holding. This latter point however is only a dream.
Wax Over “Charles” Elizabeth Ann Coleman Collection

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