If you have a book lover in your life, you don’t just show up at Barnes & Noble or scroll across Amazon, and then pick up the first cover that catches your eye. A person loves books, but what she really means is that she likes to read and lose herself in the magic of the printed page. Who is writing the words and what they are saying really matter to her. A person who adores a romance novel, like the Diana Gabaldon “Outlander” series, would not ordinarily be overjoyed to receive a copy of football coach Chip Kelly’s winning tactics or John Madden’s recommendations for the best tailgating experience. Of course, there are always exceptions, but most people like a particular kind of book genre. The same holds true for doll lovers. Buying a doll is a lot like buying perfume. Each and every collector has her own personal preference.
That’s why it’s so fascinating when a person talks about wanting to buy a doll for a friend, family member, or anyone who has been deemed a doll fancier. With Christmas shopping in full swing, and Hanukkah over but perhaps money received during the eight-day celebration, doll lovers have an opportunity to speak up and announce what kind of doll they desire. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. A music lover who adores show tunes and easy listening would not be happy if she received an armload of rap, hip-hop, death metal, or alternative rock. It just wouldn’t be accepted.
For Christmas 2018, there are so many dolls to choose from, and here are just a few highlighted images that were sent my way by doll companies over the past couple months. Twelve photos, in fact, the exact amount to mirror the melodious 12 days of Christmas. What’s so obvious is that doll collectors don’t fit into any single mold. And that, in itself, is a point of distinction among collectors. There are some doll lovers who will only acquire one-of-a-kind pieces, or some who will only pursue limited-edition runs. For these folks, it’s all about the numbers. Anything that is created and offered in editions larger than 10 is a no-no. These people want to have the rarest of the rare.
It’s a sense of pride and personal satisfaction to possess one of these truly limited artworks. It’s akin to a bibliophile who chases down the first-edition printing of a 200-year-old book. There are so few of these pristine tomes left in the world that a book collector is over the moon when she can show off the perfectly bound and perfectly pristine Dickens original, let’s say.
For doll lovers, there is a reason why dolls speak to them. Doll artist Susan Gibbs, who is known for her reborn artistry and her bassinet bags, shared a very intimate and heartfelt reason why she pours so much of herself into her reborn creations. “I love babies, but I don’t have kids. I have tried many times and failed. Now that ship has sailed. So I guess I draw my inspiration from that void in my heart. What my babies would have looked like. How I would have dressed them,” she revealed. That bond between a doll collector and why she chooses to love the dolls that she does, it cannot be underestimated. For every doll lover and doll, there is a private, personal love story that colors that connection.
Baby dolls have had enormous success over the centuries, not decades. The reverence that women have shown to their precious baby dolls is astounding, and keys into the affection that mothers show toward their newborn arrivals. Much like “pet parents” who dote on their little dogs and cats because they will never grow up, never leave home, never strike out on their own, many “doll mamas” love their doll babies because they reflect when the collectors were the happiest in their lives. These doll lovers loved when their own children were infants and reliant upon them. Their dolls help to keep that connection alive.
Dolls are still thought by many to be the pastime of little girls. However, men and women collectors everywhere can attest that that is not true. For many adult doll lovers, it is all about the fashion. For many people, the years have added wisdom and experience to their lives, but it’s also heaped on calories and inches to their frames. Dolls permit fashionistas the opportunity to deck out their surrogates in formfitting, attractive, and silhouette-hugging outfits. No matter how lifelike a doll might appear, it will never have to struggle with gaining weight, yo-yo dieting, or just watching the pounds add up on the bathroom scale. (That’s something we all can agree on: it would be ideal if one’s body weight had a limited edition to it!)
For doll lovers, dolls act as wish fulfillment, helping them to attain careers and success that they might never achieve in real life. (How many of us get to become teenage fashion models who grow up to be astronauts, pilots, chefs, politicians, and veterinarians? I can think of one doll who did all that, Miss Barbie.)
Dolls can also send us back to our cherished childhoods, reminding us of our own innocence and dewy-eyed look at what the future might hold for us. In that sense, dolls are the ultimate time machine, and doll lovers are bona fide time travelers. We seek out the dolls that we love, and we allow them to take us where they lead.
“I love dolls that remind me of favorite movies and books” is a statement that glides through so many interviews that I conducted this year with doll artists. So many of our favorite doll artists are inspired to create by images that have flickered across movie screens or have leapt across page-turner novels. Literary creations and doll characters have much in common, and so many doll lovers are themselves writers, readers, teachers, and people who respond to language and the visual arts.
For Christmas 2018, I hope that the dolls that you receive, or the dolls that you gift to others, send your heart, your mind, your spirit, and your soul to places and moments that are special and significant to you. To doll lovers everywhere, the dolls that you get this year are not just markers of the calendar year, but they are emblematic of who you are in this moment of time.