What are Primitive Folk Art Dolls?
This style of cloth doll, which are also known as Folk Art dolls, dates back to the first American settlers and Native Americans, who used any suitable materials that were available to them to produce dolls for their children. Since store produced dolls were considered a luxury and women loved to sew, redundant sugar and flour sacks were transformed by mothers, aunts and grandmothers together with scraps of material from their sewing baskets to make dolls for their children.
Primitive Dolls remain a popular and recognisable style in modern doll making. Yet despite their ordinary, rustic look, the primitive cloth doll is believed to be one of the most difficult to achieve. Enormous attention to detail is important to give them an authentic old, worn and grubby appearance, whilst others are given the classic appearance without too much aging and wearing embellishment. Today antique, tribal and whimsical folk dolls all fall into this 'primitives' category.
So how is the look achieved? Well, the self-sufficient, 'make do and mend' aspect of these dolls is recreated in various ways. Making the dolls in homespuns, wool and other natural materials in muted colours and by giving them simple, often asymmetrical heads and features. Some have no facial features. Their heads tend to be bald or fairly bald. Also using mismatched fabrics/ buttons (often large sized buttons) and applying crooked stitching to their bodies and clothes contributes to their characteristic look.
Some Primitive dolls have cinnamon stick arms and legs and nuts for heads and sometimes the dolls hold flags, teddies, bird houses, garlands, sewing notions, or miniature quilts. The clothes are often embroidered with sayings, verses and decorative stitches. Red white and blue, 'stars and banners' often seem to be a theme in colour schemes for the doll's clothes, although rustic, autumn colours are also very popular.
Plantation Dolls are replicas of dolls made during the American Revolutionary War. Church services lasted all day and dolls helped occupy the children and if they were dropped the church service would not be disrupted. Plantation Dolls were revived during the American Civil War. Mothers would also make handkerchief dolls (made from men's cloth handkerchiefs) and put sugar cubes or candy into the doll's head for the children to suck on during church service.