Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Anatomy of a Doll Show by our Guest Blogger, Sandra Birkett Kean Bullock

My definition of a show is basically a twice a year mass business venture that usually takes six months to plan for a one day to set up, only for it to close 6 hours after opening the next day.  Average Promoter recovery time…one week.       

With 10 shows now under my belt, I initially believed that in order to promote a show, one only needed to love the product.  How dumb I was!  As many promoters may relate, what can go wrong often does.  Many times we attempt to do the best we can to overcome seemingly impossible odds.  One of my worst personal experiences was being notified a week before a show that the hall was 80 tables short and that I need to “go find some”.  That in itself caused me to question my reasoning in even taking on this effort.  We all live with anticipatory grief and do the best job we can to make the best of any bad situation because we know that some ill-fated “surprise” is right around the corner.   At the last show, my Porters did not show up and we all stood outside the building after 7:00 a.m. show day waiting for doors to be unlocked when the person with the keys decided to sleep in.   

Photo by Sandra Birkett Kean Bullock, of Alora's  Dolls Booth

I truly thought this idea of managing a show would be a wonderful challenge.   After all, how hard can it be???  As I trudged on in my ignorant bliss, it did not take long to feel my initial self-confidence slowly slipping away.  I assumed my company work experience of 35 years in Systems, Marketing, and being a dealer would be enough to pilot my “wonderful new show”.  I quickly learned that much more was involved then just love.  I also realized technology got ahead of me and when it became time to build a web site, enlisting the help of the 16 year old kid next door was imperative.    

Behind the scenes, one would never believe the battles that occurred when the booking agent replaced my first show date with a wedding while I was out passing out flyers & dealer contracts.  This is when I learned that my new show life was totally at the mercy of the “Hall Sargent” and that sending flowers went a long way in securing my future dates.  I do have to add that this is a very difficult thing to do when one would rather do great bodily harm to that person instead.        

After paying for the bride’s wedding cake in trade for that first show date and the “Great Hall Battles” subsided, a new realization quickly set in called “COST”.   Hall and table rentals, delivery fees, hall set up, and catering food guarantees, and l .  Health inspection fees all come into play.  Aside from that, my biggest prayer was that the Fire Marshall would not walk in and shut me down because a 36” doll was covering a fire extinguisher.   Locking in hotel rates also requires a contract agreeing pay 80% of each room’s cost that is not booked.  Hiring security a must to help offset the high price of liability insurance.  Developing magazine ads, printing contracts, flyers, and post cards as well as thousands of stamps are just the beginning.   

I like most dealers started out as collectors and my first experience at being a Dealer was sometime in the early 80’s.  Throughout the years I met many of the dealers that did the show circuit.  Thankfully, several jumped in for my very first show.  I give them credit for having faith in me to pull it off and still wonder if those friends actually did that first show because they actually felt sorry for me.  Something did work and about 600-700 people showed up.

Would I do it all over again and would I encourage others do this?  Absolutely!  Seeing all the eager customers coming through the door and seeing all the wonderful Dealers putting their fabulous displays together is such an indescribable and rewarding experience that I would not give up for anything.             


Dr. E's Doll Museum Blog: MIkki's Mysteries!

Dr. E's Doll Museum Blog: MIkki's Mysteries!: Look for more soon on unusual German character babies, which are becoming a great love of mine, but here are two unusual examples that belo...

Thursday, November 10, 2016

With Love from Tin Lizzie, Prof is Doll Collector, Academic Renaissance Woman by A. Miller, Shared Here by the Subject Herself

Below are excerpts from a very kind, and flattering article my school had written about me.  I am an administrator and teacher in legal studies, criminal justice, and English when I'm not "Playing Dolls."  She writes very well, and once wrote for Newsweek.  I was terribly honored by this, and touched, so I reproduced some of it for everyone to enjoy, and it is sort of an early Christmas card from  me. Seasons Greetings to all, and Peace in 2017!

With Love from Tin Lizzie
Prof is Doll Collector, Academic Renaissance Woman
When Dr. Ellen Tsagaris was a toddler in her native Greece, her mother presented her with a rubber yellow bunny doll that squeaked.  “I liked it very much,” she recalled.
Two Greek dolls dressed in national costumes followed that present. “By then, I was hooked. I remember as a child saying, ‘I’m going to collect dolls.’”
And collect she did.

Today, some ... years later, Ellen . . .  is not only the chair of multiple academic departments for KU. . . , but also one of the nation’s foremost collectors of and authorities on antique dolls.

“When I was young, I loved portrait painting and I was interested in photography, costumes, and textiles, too. I found that doll collecting encompassed all those interests.  I’ve always loved having dolls, collecting dolls and reading about dolls,” she said.
Wooden dolls, porcelain dolls, dolls made of china and wax, Ellen has them all. And this year, she authored the first definitive book on dolls made from tin.
Entitled With Love from Tin Lizzie, A History of Metal Heads, Metal Dolls, Mechanical Dolls, and Automatons,” the book addresses the way dolls reflect cultures and civilizations, and how they have given rise to an international “doll economy.”  
Reviewers have described the book as an “academic text, a photo album, and book of memories all in one.” 
Ellen’s dolls hail from 50 U.S. states and most of the countries in Europe, Asia and South America.

Her Greek family, world travelers, have continued to bring Ellen antique dolls, folk dolls, costume dolls and souvenir dolls from all parts of the globe.
One of her favorites is her ‘Vogue Baby Dear,” the type of doll that Communist Party Secretary Nikita Khrushchev took back to his grandchildren in Russia after his iconic “shoe-banging” speech to the United Nations in 1960.

She received a Japanese Ningyo doll made of papier mache and covered in white oyster shell when her Uncle Tom visited Japan. At Knott’s Berry Farm in California, her father presented her with a strawberry blonde doll designed by celebrated ballet dancer and artist Suzanne Gibson.

When she’s not collecting dolls, Ellen is something of an academic renaissance woman. She holds a law degree, a doctorate in Modern British Literature, a Master’s Degree in English, and a Bachelor’s Degree in English and Spanish. She is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa.

Her interest in dolls has dovetailed seamlessly with her academic interests.  she has researched and written about dolls in literature and about Anne Rice, who was an avid doll collector.

Ellen's next frontier:  When she retires, she hopes to establish a nonprofit doll museum similar to the one Rice established at the former St.. Elizabeth's orphanage in New Orleans.  The museum will tell the story of human history though dolls, doll houses, and related objects.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

November Interview with Caroline Johnson

I'm very privileged to have as our November interviewee, my good friend Caroline Johnson, who has lived as a citizen of the world, and who has collected the magnificent dolls of the world's cultures, her entire life.  I started collecting cultural dolls and international dolls, then branched into antiques.  Like Caroline, many of my dolls were purchased all over the world.  We follow the tradition of former Pan Am Vice President Sam Pryor, who founded his own International Doll Library with dolls collected on his travels, and early doll author, Laura Starr, who wrote The Doll Book (1908).  Where international dolls like these are concerned, their popularity as collectibles continues, in art fueled by the love of the Disney Its a Small World Attraction. Shankar's International Doll Museum has a collections of them.  So do The Smithsonian and The British Museum.  For dolls, it is indeed a small world after all.
Close up of a Papier Mache War Memorial Doll, French.  Similar
Dolls are marked "Eden Bebe." Caroline Johnson Collection.

When did you start collecting?

 I always have loved dolls. My official collecting started when I was eleven and growing up in India. For my 11yh birthday my parents gave me 6 Indian dolls. Muslim dolls, Hindu dolls and my favorite, a snake charmer with a cobra in his basket. My mother grew up in India too and when I was 12 we went to the States on furlough and my parents bought me dolls all across Europe & Scandinavia. Then mom gave me her original collection. That's how my eclectic collection began.

Vintage Dolls from Asia
Caroline  Johnson Collection

 Have your tastes changed over the years?

Yes, I love cultural dolls, but have expanded to collecting vintage &  antique dolls. Dolls that have stories are my favorite.

Vintage Ad for Baby Blue Eyes; Caroline Johnson Collection

What are the characteristics that attract you to a certain doll?

 The workmanship and uniqueness attract me the most.

Unique Dolls from Mallorca

Do you sew for your dolls?

Yes I do sew & repair dolls.

Vintage and Antique Kitchen Toys
Caroline Johnson Collection

Dolls Commemorating a 2016 Expedition to Mt. Everest

Are you looking for anything in particular?

 If I stumble on an antique doll at a good price I buy it, but I'm very intrigued in small vintage & antique dolls

A&M German Bisque

Hertwig China Head

Friday, November 4, 2016

Rendezvous Celebrity Dolls, November 9th

Our friends at Theriault's never disappoint.  Here is another wonderful Rendezvous Auction coming up Novemberr 9th, this one on celebrity dolls. For more on celebrity dolls, you might like books like those once written by my friend, John Axe, or this short article from Atlas Obscura: Mears, Hadley, The peculiar history of celebrity dolls. Retrieved from

Photo below, courtesy, Theriault's