Monday, March 12, 2012

Angel Egg Dolls


Last year I stumbled on a photograph of an astonishingly lovely porcelain ball jointed doll and my first reaction was that of delight. I was instantly reminded of a childhood memory I'd nearly forgotten. It was early evening, the light slanted low into a shop window, bathing the objects in a golden veil. It was the first time I'd ever seen antique dolls like this, dressed in ancient lace and velvet, their hair braided with pearls, their painted smiles serene. I remember standing with my mother for a long while, studying the beauties and pointing out little details I liked and wondering aloud about who the dolls were and who they once belonged to. I found myself feeling the same way about the doll in the photograph, intrigued, delighted and longing to know more.
As someone who is not new to the doll world ( I love collecting and making them!) I was delighted to see an artist I'd never seen before. I learned the dolls are called 'Angel Egg Dolls' (because the artist imagined the dolls born from the eggs of angels) and are created completely by hand by Marmite Sue, an artist based in Tokyo, Japan. Each doll is created from a set of molds, then hand carved to customize each piece. The parts are then painted with china glazes, each light layer of paint fired in the kiln until the colors are bright and saturated. Porcelain is a delicate material, translucent and fine, a perfect canvas to allow light to diffuse throughout the piece and through the layers of china paint,creating a luminous quality.

While porcelain may be delicate, it is also one of the most enduring substances known. Beautifully glazed pots have survived thousands of years, the glazes as clear today as they were when they emerged from the kiln. The amazing thing about porcelain is the chemical change that occurs during firing, the silica becomes glass, which is then impermeable to stains, discoloration or fading. The idea of how long the dolls will be around is very appealing to me.... I like imagining the world they'll exist in far in the future.
One of the most appealing qualities of an Angel Egg Doll is the options for customization. On a basic doll the faces can be swapped, carved to look completely different and painted with one's choice of makeup. The eyes can be changed from the back of the head, altering the appearance greatly. The wig is removable, so the possibilities for shifting personalities is endless.

Another unique feature Marmite Sue offers with her dolls is the possibility of carved cut outs, or pierce work. This unusual look borrows from porcelain china tea services, where borders are delicately pierced and carved to resemble lace. Little roses can be added to the neck or ankle, as well as beautifully sculpted flowers and swirls. Tattoos can be incised into the clay, so pigment can be rubbed into the surface, like intaglio plates or scrimshaw.

My favorite thing about these dolls is the jointing. They seem very fluid and natural. This appeals to me for a couple of reasons, the main one being that with most forms of sculpture, you experience it from a distance, but these seem to have an interactive, almost intimate quality in that they are the perfect size to hold and pose. The other reason is that these joints seem more human, which to me, is one of the reasons I love dolls in the first place. The imitation of life and the creation of characters and personalities is endlessly interesting to me. I guess that's why I like these dolls so much. They are so different from anything I've ever seen! I've really enjoyed looking at this talented artists work and can't wait to see more.


17 comments:

Janet said...

Really really lovely dolls! My Mother made dolls and I made some too they are really beautiful as well. And once you hand paint them its hard to go back to buying. But thse dolls are very exquisite I wouldnt hesitate to buy one!

moonlitfantaseas said...

over all the dolls are beautiful, but why did
they make them look so tired, their eyes just make them look exausted or sick

Unknown said...

These dolls are amazing. I truly love the way you describe the feelings and memories that they invoke in you. What a wonderful post! I will definitely have to check out this artist!

Andrew Thornton said...

Fascinating! Even though I've met my quota for doll owning... you make me want one so bad! I love how you've described these dolls and really think the patterning is a lovely touch I haven't seen before!

Charlene said...

Cynthia,

They are gorgeous and the story you tell about them is equally fascinating. Love the carved lace details!

Jean said...

what a super lovely job you did describing this entrancing type of doll!, As a long time doll lover,(and my great grandmother collected antique dolls--we still have them!), and a person who got to know a bit about procelain during her time at Tiffany's selling chna, you had me fasincated! Do you own one of these dolls? She is a beauitiful one--the one you focused on. Is it the same one in a different wig in the last photo? All I can say is WOW! I love them and have never been introduced to them before! xox! jean

Jean Campbell said...

Thanks for sharing this, Cynthia! I'm not a big doll person, but these are so artfully done, so haunting, so beautiful that I'm completely mesmerized. Again, thank you!

Cindy Cima said...

These look so intricate! My mother loved dolls and made them as well - she would have adored these!
I have to use some words from Jean's comment - They are hauntingly beautiful!

Lori Anderson said...

Oh wow, these are antique? They're AMAZING and right up my alley. When I was little, I had one doll I played with, and the rest I collected -- put on shelves and dusted and kept pretty. I still have them.

I've seen modern Japanese ball-jointed dolls before and love those, too -- but these are amazing!

brenda Salzano said...

Awesome photos of these dolls and the history of them. I am a great admirer of them but have never made any. I once ordered a cloth doll done so well I had to have her and I don't collect dolls! She was from Russia and hand crafted from a poor artist there. She has a site of all her work on flikr. This story just inspires me to want to make some, I too love the jointed ones the best. To pose them into life like positions. Thank you so much for sharing this, I will be tell my friends about this too!

Penny said...

I have loved dolls since I was a little girl and have carted them from place to place hoping one day I will have a room that I can display them. About 10 years ago I made some dolls that have been added to my collection, that was a very fun time, building them from scratch. These dolls are so intricate and delicate, I have never seen lace engraved right into dolls very unique. They have a serene almost spooky quality. Thank you for sharing your lovely post and passing on another great artisan!!!

Margot Potter said...

Like Jean Campbell, doll's are not my thing. Still I can see why you are drawn to these hauntingly beautiful creations. They are magical indeed, much like you, Ms. Thornton.

Best
Margot

Sharon Wagner said...

Like others dolls are not my cup of tea. However, the addition of lacy cut outs and tattooing is beautiful. This artist has taken doll making to a completely different plane of artistry. Truly lovely.

Tammy said...

These are gorgeous. I'd never heard of them before. I used to collect dolls & still have a few of my Madame Alexanders, which are also porcelain.

Sheila said...

Wow, these dolls are beautiful. So lifelike, they are a bit creepy. I like the last one the best with the red eyes and lace detail.

BTW, your paper dolls are kicking butt!

AJ said...

What a wonderful marriage of the elegance and life-like colors of a porcelain doll, with the pose-ability of ball-jointed dolls! I can see why you're so in love with them.

Jkd Gary said...

Cynthia, Im a huge fan of your work. I saw one of your sculptings in Amazing figure Modeler magazine and am trying to buy it. Its the Frog Woman from around 2006. Ive tried to reach Eeriestuff.com but have not heard back from them concerning purchasing that wonderful kit. I love your imagination and talent on this piece and would love to see more of your work. I can be contacted at moondoggary@yahoo.com......thanks so much and keep up the great work.