Today, I have blogged my hundredth national costume doll and when I started with my Kandy Devil Dancer, I never thought how much time and pleasure this hobby would give me. It was also a trip down memory lane not only about those dolls I have bought myself when abroad or at flea markets but also the wonderful dolls given to me by my parents and friends throughout the years; from my first Italian doll at the age of three given to me by my mother’s employer, Mr Kaye, to the ones I got a couple of weeks ago from a cribbage companion (55 years later).
I have been really lucky to have parents who from when I was very young instilled in me a love of beauty and an interest in the other, foreign parts of the world either by taking me abroad on holiday or when my father travelled as part of his job, bringing me exquisite dolls back from his destinations.
I have also been lucky in a dear friend, Fritz W, who in the last 30 years has kept his eyes open for national costumes dolls whilst combing the flea markets for his beloved ceramics. I can only hope the ceramics I have found for him have been just as rewarding, despite the fact we obviously have serious differences in taste – the more I think something is ugly, the more he loves it (a useful criterion in my decision-making). My collection would not be so large nor so varied without his far-ranging searches.
Learning about these dolls and their costumes to help me with this blog has opened up even more about human history than I knew before as well as making me realise that humans wherever they are have the urge to adorn themselves over and above the simply practical need to protect the sensitive bits. Not all my dolls are beautiful, but they are all interesting, from the 2.5 cm Guatemalan worry dolls to my largest blogged so far, my Hungarian lady at 40 cm.
I still have a long way to go, having only blogged 30 of my 47 countries (see map and table below). The world has roughly 200 countries depending on how they are counted, so I only have dolls representing ca. 1/4 of the countries, but when one looks at the huge variation in costumes within even small lands, what I have is only a tiny part of what is truly out there.
I have learnt a few additional things. It takes time, lots of time, to find out information even with the internet. Information about dolls bought at flea markets can be severely misleading. I check and double check and still sometimes get the designation wrong (a special thanks to all those who have kindly put me right). In addition, fantasy can play a large part in the design of a doll, so they are not always true representations of the real costumes for a particular region or culture. Still that does not really matter, the sheer wonderful degree of artistry and craftsmanship make most of them worthy of respect.
Here’s to the next 100.