Saturday, January 14, 2017

January Interview: R. Lane Herron

R. Lane Herron January Interview

We are honored and privileged this month to post an interview with my friend, renowned doll artist and author, Mr. R. Lane Herron.  He and I have been fast friends and pen pals for over 30 years, and he helped me with both my dissertation on English writer Barbara Pym and my book on metal dolls, With Love from Tin Lizzie . . . He has written numerous articles for Doll Castle News, Spinning Wheel Magazine, and other periodicals.  He also has written the delightful Much Ado about Dolls, Herron’s Price Guide to Dolls, The Dead are Always With Us [a mystery], and much more.  His wonderful original dolls are real treasures, and his knowledge of dolls and collecting is phenomenal.  In the world of doll collecting, Lane is a living treasure. Dolls shown are from E. Tsagaris collection, unless otherwise cited. We thank Mr. Herron for sharing photos of his original creations.

Courtesy, R. Lane Herron

Courtesy, R. Lane Herron

Courtesy, R. Lane Herron

A Collection of Vintage and Antique Dolls like Those R. Lane Herron Enjoys

  1. When did you start collecting?  Like most bona fide collectors, I started collecting in childhood, at a very early age, but mostly unusual objects, and especially antique.  My grandmother was the daughter of a wealthy family, and there were 17 children.  Grandma was born June 17, 1864.  She loved beautiful things and being a lovely woman, attended many balls and parties, and she travelled a lot. When she married and travelled west in covered wagons, she brought many things along with her.  These antiques crowded her spacious Victorian home.  It was there my interest developed.  My parents likewise lived in a Victorian house which boasted exquisite antiques.  I recall my father’s 1890’s toys, a gorgeous hobby horse on rockers with a long, flowing mane and tail.  I was never permitted to ride it; it stayed in a large closet.  There was a little roll-top desk, and there were toys soldiers, etc.  My father felt that 1930s toys were cheaply made, so he took me to auctions, antique shops, and secondhand stores, to buy iron toys.  I remember a huge iron fire engine complete with horses, firemen, etc.  Once he bid on a huge wooden beer barrel, loaded with 19th century dolls and toys.  I was thrilled to bits when I got home and slowly took each toy out of the barrel for inspection.  It was there I really got the opportunity to hold and antique doll with a bisque heard.  The glass eyes and open mouth with teeth startled me.  The doll looked so real, like a human being, and rather spooky.  I loved being spooked!
Vintage Celluloid Doll from Brittany.  Herron likes dolls in
International Costume, especially older dolls.

My grandmother’s dolls resided in a cupboard with closed door s and I only got a look at them, no touching, but her least favorites were in trunks, and we children could play with them. Nobody, however, played with Mother’s large collection of French dolls and toys! I can hear her now and remember her wagging her finger as she said in her French accent, “No! No! No!” And, she meant it! She made clothes for them by hand, and as I study her delicate French stitching today, I can’t believe it, although I’ve dressed hundreds of dolls that I’ve made. I will not dress antique dolls, however, as I feel they require antique clothing, or clothing g made from antique cloth, laces, etc.  I’m an excellent pattern maker and hand-sewer.
Courtesy, R. Lane Herron

Courtesy, R. Lane Herron

Courtesy, R. Lane Herron

Maria Theresa, Courtesy R. Lane Herron

Courtesy, R. Lane Herron

Courtesy, R. Lane Herron

Courtesy, R. Lane Herron

When I was a child, my family lived for a while in a neighborhood that had an alley.  It was an upper crust area, and the garbage cans were in the alley.  Because it was the Depression, people were insecure, so they threw away antiques which they felt were useless. When I saw a lovely bisque headed doll sitting atop a metal garbage can lid, I grabbed it and dashed home.  She was in full regalia and mint, and happened to be an early closed mouth Emile Jumeau.  Of course, Mom kept it.   I was soon a garbage can invader and found many lovely things, which Mom gave away.  She hated clutter. 

I always got piles of toys at Christmas; many came from Grandma Ella, Dad’s mother. When the following Yule came, Mother gave them away, usually to the church charity, which was a large room in the church basement which had shelves and shelves loaded with cast off toys for the poor kids. 

Antique "Wax-over" Doll

Not many blocks from home was an antiques shop, usually closed.  I’d stand for a long while just admiring all the beautiful objects in the window.  A shop nearer our home, however, was the real jewel.  It, too, was often closed.  The shop was small, dark, with dusty, dirty window, but in the windows often stood antique dolls.  Some were small, and some were very large.  They, too, looked dusty with torn dresses on some, and hair that looked disheveled, but I was mercerized!  They looked so real, so human.  I dearly wanted all of them and the toys that surrounded them.  I was a glutton for old things. Yes, collectors are born, not made.   It’s in the genes.

  1. Have your tastes changed over the years?

No. I have always liked quality,, and the rare and unusual.  I dislike anything ordinary and commonplace. I’m really a discard from another era.  I prefer he quieter, simpler times, where everything was real and not synthetic.

  1. What are your favorite types of dolls?

I like dolls that look human and portrait dolls.   I love poured wax English dolls, French Fashion and bébés, open mouthed German bisque, rare hairdo chinas, papier-maches, wooden, metal heads, and modern artist dolls.

Jumeau Bebe Reclame, Tsagaris collection

  1. Do you sew for your dolls?

Yes, I use a combination of antique and old materials. I have many trunks filed with old fabric, lace, etc, and am always searching for more.  I’ve been making dolls cine the 1960s. I am currently dressing portrait dolls I made many years ago, but didn’t have time to costume.  My first 100 dolls were “experimental”, and I gave them all away or traded for old fabric.  My large dolls are art types and very time consuming, I spent a whole year completing Catherine the Great.  My work is detailed, elaborate and the dolls are dressed to character.   I am currently dressing a 30 inch portrait doll of Imogene “Bubbles” Wilson, a Ziegfeld girl, c. 1926.  She appeared in films as Mary Nolan.

  1. What are the characteristics that attract you do a doll?

Again, I like anything unusual, beautiful, “human appearing”, and quality.   Needless to say, anything from the past I find fascinating.  I enjoy museums and never tire of them.  I like lady dolls of fashion but I also like the old baby and child dolls, even old foreign costume folk dolls. I used to be very critical of the dolls I made.  Now, when I examine one I made many years ago, I can’t believe I made it.  All dolls, however, are collectible. Time makes them even more desirable.  We all have different tastes, and no doll collection should be looked down upon.

  1. Are you looking for anything in particular?

No. I am no longer a collector.  I prefer creating my own dolls, as I like to bring people “back to life” via a doll.  I am quite good at portraiture and I still desire to create more people form history film, theater, and Vaudeville. I find joy in creating.  I am never bored or idle.  Like some of my ancestors, my mind and hands and eyes are always alert and moving  I dislike TV, but I do enjoy watching old movies from the 1920s-40s, if only to study people’s faces, houses, rooms, décor, clothes, etc.  Brings back memories of happy times, people I miss, and inspiration.


  1. Wonderful article! Thank you for always sharing such interesting posts!