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Wax Dolls

Friday, July 24, 2009 @ 10:07 AM Karen Hood

Wax dolls come in two main types. Wax over composition dolls were made by applying a thin coat of wax over composition heads and limbs. They were easier and less expensive to produce than the poured wax dolls. The wax over composition dolls had a more natural appearance than the ones made of only composition. They were made from the 1830’s to the 1900’s, mostly by German doll makers. In the 1870’s, the English started producing some wax over composition dolls. These dolls by the English are usually well marked with body stamps, therefore, wax over composition dolls with no marking are assumed to be German.

Unfortunately, these dolls were subject to the changes in climate, much like their all composition counterparts. Changes in temperature and humidity caused the composition bases to shrink and expand, resulting in cracking and crazing of the wax covering.

Poured wax dolls originated from the widespread Roman Catholic practice of creating religious effigies and votive offerings from wax. The craftsmen expanded their art into wax doll-making. This was developed in London and between 1850 and 1930, most of the fine wax dolls were created. Wax dolls were much more realistic looking than any other type of doll. The wax was translucent, luminous and warm to the touch. The properties of wax allowed the artists to create portrait dolls which accurately depicted the facial features and expressions of their subjects.

Poured wax doll modelers all used basically the same process to create their dolls. First, a doll was sculpted from either wax or clay, which was then used to create a plaster mold. The molds were then used to cast the doll pieces. The techniques used to finish the dolls are what made them unique. Some wax dolls have inset hair where strands of clumps of hair were inserted into the scalp. This made for a more realistic head of hair than wigs produced. Blown glass or molded eyes were set into the cut-out eye sockets, and eyelashes were also inserted with a technique similar to that used to insert hair in the scalp. Most of the poured wax dolls have bodies made out of calico stuffed with animal hair or other wooly fibers. The arms and legs were cast at the same time as the head to ensure color match.

by Gary Sowatzka
Source: Sowatzka’s Dolls

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