JJ Buch – doll artist interview – part two

Q. Did you play with paper dolls as a kid? Do you have a favorite vintage paper doll that still makes you smile?

JJ Bush's doll, Vanessa, Latin dancerA. Yes, yes… the Ginghams little girls from the 70s, and Betsy McCalls from my Grandmother’s magazines. I made a paperdoll of my Grandmother in her honor, it is called “Amazing Grace”.

I was a tiny tot–not even two, they said–when I sat on her kitchen linoleum and made a paper coatdress for my doll out of the waxy paper liner from a cereal box. It was primitive, a basic rectangular shape with two carefully torn holes for the doll’s arms to go through. I know, it’s not exactly a paper doll per se, but I think it counts.

Q. What’s the most rewarding part of being in the paper art doll business?

A. The responses! Sometimes as an artist I think, “Well, I wonder if my art is as good as they told me it was?”

You know people won’t say it’s awful even if it is, so I wonder…Am I really a good artist?

The responses to my art have been overwhelming, just beautiful! I’ve made friends and they make me feel like making more art. Even if it never gets me famous or rich…even if I die a pauper, I made someone smile! I made them love me! That’s really all it is.

Q. If someone wants to pursue this as a career direction, what’s your best advice? What are the best books to read, if any?

A. First, go to eBay. Look at all the types of paperdolls there are, what sells commonly, and what is considered “rare”.

Realize that there are stupid people who won’t recognize true art but will pay ridiculous sums for things that can be easily mass-produced and resold on auction sites.

Then realize that one day you may be one of those stupid people because you’ll pay a million dollars for a tattered old stained copy of a Ginghams girls paperdoll booklet. Heh heh.

Then notice what the original artists’ works are going for; it may be exciting or depressing. I felt both.

You may notice other things selling by the same artists in other categories, such as art or books or jewelry. This is common because it’s very very rare to make enough money creating paperdolls alone, without a side business to help support it.

Most paper doll artists, serious ones, also make things to be sold at paper doll conventions, paper doll parties, and online at their websites. They have newsletters and fan-based groups to help support their promotions. They give programs or speeches at doll clubs.

Some famous paper doll artists are collectors or experts in related fields, such as regular dolls or dollhouse miniatures.

The really savvy artist will make use of all these things together to bring new viewers to their work.

Here are some important points:

  1. Make a website. Title it with the word(s) “paperdoll” in it, and submit it to the major search engines.
  2. Join several webrings to bring traffic to your website.
  3. Begin a list of contacts and send them updates on your latest works, life, everything! Let them get to know you.
  4. Also start a paper doll collecting group in your area. This helps with networking and keeps you busy!

From there it’s up to you. I wish you the best of luck!

Aisling’s note: JJ has generously shared one of her fun paper dolls, here. Right-click on that link to save it to your hard drive, and then print it at 200 pixels/inch. (216kb) To use it at a larger size, I recommend using VectorMagic.com to vectorize the image, then adjust it to the size you want.

Be sure to look for JJ’s websites for more of her paper dolls and related art. As of mid-2015, I don’t have a current link for her work. If you do, please leave the link in a comment, below. Thanks!

The following links were part of the original 2005 article. They may not be current.

JJ on Webring (2005)

 

 

 

 

$1 Download Paper Dolls by JJ Complete Catalog w/ Viewable Thumbnails http://www.angelfire.com/fang/jjspds/thumbs

Owner of “Portrait Paperdolls” To join, send an email to: portraitpaperdolls-subscribe@smartgroups.com

Owner of “Ephemera Restoration” To Join, send an email to: ephemera-restoration-subscribe@smartgroups.com

JJ Buch – doll artist interview – part one

JJ Bush holding a small paper doll (older photo)In January 2005, I had the great good fortune to interview paper doll artist JJ Buch.

She’s one of my idols, because her art has a very clear “voice” and her concepts are consistently innovative and often delightfully witty.

Here’s the interview*, on two pages:

Q. How did you get started with paper dolls?

A. In 1998, after receiving the grim news that I would never bear any children of my own, I was surfing the net for distraction. I happened upon the OPDAG (Original Paper Doll Artists Guild) website and saw all the inspiring paper dolls and artists there…I said to myself, “I can do that”, and made my first official paper doll.

The doll got rave reviews from my friends so I made another, then another, and now I have over 100 sets under my wing.

Q. What inspires you? Why paper dolls… instead of some other medium?

A. Emotions and anything that draws them out…the news, counter culture issues, the black market, tragedies and also victories of science and, yes, even religion. But moreso spiritual things than religious ones.

I feel more inspired by caves and tunnels and falling down gorgeous old architecture than I do cathedrals, but gorgeous stained glass does take my breath away.

It’s only things of beauty that are already perfect, that don’t seem to stir my creative urge as do things more carnal and dark.

I do love children, I feel very protective of all children. I do not think all of my paperdolls and art are appropriate for the little ones. But I do nevertheless make dolls of all ages and wages, heh heh.

By that, I mean dolls representing all incomes and ethnicities.

Also big women and voluptuous, even figures with overflowing flesh and aged to perfection…real life and unreal expectations: both the holy and the hideous, the innocent and the ones who’ve “seen it all, kid.”

Paperdolls are low cost to make, so no boundaries there. I made the first one out of a church flyer taped to my front door, a placemat from the local IHOP, and ink pens my husband brought home from work. Snip, snip… voila!

Q. If you were stranded on a desert island and could only take the bare minimum of supplies to make paper dolls… what would you consider “essentials”?

A. Scissors; it’s very tedious to tear out the dolls by hand. I suppose one could use berry juice and a stick to draw them on dried palm leaves…

Q. How long does it take you to create one of your fabulous doll sheets?

A. Ooo, a black-and-white one-pager only takes an hour or two. But to finish it out and make it flawless, I use a computer graphics program and I scan it with a scanner. I print it out with a good quality printer, and make back-up files on a CD.

To make a custom one-page 8 1/2 x 11″ full color paperdoll plus, say, 2 outfits and the background accessories, I can do it all in a week, or a few days if the pay is good.

Q. Do you sit down and the ideas flood your creativity, or is it something where you get the basics down, and then you add a little here & there as it occurs to you, until it’s done?

A. No, I am always thinking of things and they all go into a mental kitchen where there are always things cooking up in various stages of ready to finish.

The new ideas always go on a back burner to simmer UNLESS it is something for a paid commission or a publication.

Then, it gets a front burner and I move all the other pots full of ideas back, to make room.

Money definitely gets a paperdoll moved to the front and it will get done first!

I am a starving artist but do not intend to remain that way; I have a husband and 3 fat dogs to feed, after all.

Q. What would you tell someone who wants to find their own creative “voice” in paper art dolls?

A. Hahah! Don’t go into it without a job, or someone who is willing to support you financially and emotionally because the money that does come, has to pay for materials and postage and to pay the bills… to cut back on when the water won’t come out the faucet, the electricity won’t make the lights bright, the mortgage holder is going to come take the house away, and you’re so sick of ramen noodles you could throw up.

NOW! If–after all that–you don’t care to make a living with them, and just want to enjoy making them for fun and for love? It’s beautiful…you just keep drawing them and coloring until you realize one day, “Hey! My paperdoll art is really good! I like it… No I LOVE it!” And there you go.

I really like the first 10 dolls I made, before I saw all the other artists’ work.

Your own ingenious designs are always more authentic and more… BETTER… than after you’ve been influenced too much by other opinions.

Finding your own voice, is just not listening too much to the other voices. and let me tell you I am bipolar (manic-depressive) so I know all about other voices, Ha hah!

* Aisling’s note: When I interviewed JJ via email, she replied in mostly lower-case. I wanted to leave it like that, because I generally write in lower-case, myself.

But, to make this more readable for website visitors — and with very mixed feelings about doing this — I edited it into a more traditional format.

But, be assured that JJ’s unique “voice” in emails is just as clear as it is in her art; it’s another reason why I admire her tremendously!

History of Paper Dolls – Part Two

Note: This is the second part of a two-part article tracing the history of paper dolls.  Click here to read the first part.

20th century paper dolls

Mary Jane Hader paper doll imageIn the 20th century, other magazines followed this trend, including Ladies’ Home Journal  (Sheila Young’s “Lettie Lane”), Pictorial Review (Grace Drayton’s “Dolly Dingle”), Good Housekeeping (Sheila Young’s “Polly Pratt”), and the famous “Kewpie Dolls” by Rose O’Neill in Woman’s Home Companion.

At right, Little MaryJane, one of the famous Hader paper dolls from Good Housekeeping magazine.

The most popular paper doll of the mid-20th century was probably Betsy McCall, created by Kay Morrissey. However, children also enjoyed paper dolls in many magazines of that era, including Jack and Jill Magazine, and Children’s Playmate.

Since 1962, Barbie paper dolls have become the most popular among American children.

Paper art dolls, and fine art paper dolls

Today’s paper doll designers frequently have backgrounds in fine arts. Many of them work together as part of the Original Paper Doll Artists Guild, based in Kingfield, Maine.

Their collectible paper dolls often feature celebrities and fashions from history, and are intended for both adults and children.

Paper dolls by Aisling
One of my designs for Art Doll Quarterly, Winter 2004 issue.

Paper dolls have been emerging for several years in the paper arts community, too. My own article (and pattern) in the Winter 2004 issue of Art Doll Quarterly is just one among many places to see examples of this emerging art form.

One of my designs is at right. The dolls were printed on vintage pages, and hinged with small, brass round-head paper fasteners.  The hair was tinted wool (designed as doll hair), accented with feathers.  Each doll was hand-colored.

Sometimes called “fine art paper dolls” and also “paper art dolls,” even the name is still evolving.

Today’s paper art dolls are sometimes drawn, painted or printed on paper. However, even more of them are one-of-a-kind, and more mixed media dolls than purely paper dolls.

For example, some artists swap hinged dolls on Artist Trading Cards (ATCs), and participate in exchanges and round robins involving paper art dolls.

This is a very exciting field, mixing a nostalgic love of dolls, with fresh and vibrant creative expressions.

References

(Note: This article was written around 2005.  These links may not be current.)

History of Paper Dolls – Part One

Today’s paper dolls evolved from the development of paper, ceremonial and performance figures, and dressmakers’ fashion dolls.

General history

Paper was invented in China around 105 C.E. by Ts’ai-Lin, a courtier from Lei-yang. Although the word ‘paper’ is derived from ‘papyrus’, this early paper was not a papyrus product.

With paper’s development in nearby China, it should be no surprise that the earliest paper dolls were reported in Japan, in 900 C.E. (or earlier) when a purification ceremony involved placing in a boat a paper figure and a folded kimono-like object.

China was likewise responsible for the Spanish pinata–according to legend–when 13th-century explorer Marco Polo brought the tradition home from his travels in Asia. And, it is possible that the western movement of paper dolls began in China, where puppets were used in shadow shows. These large puppets were often flat and mounted on sticks, to create dramatic shadows on a screen.

Some paper doll historians include the shows created for the upper class in France, where life-sized jumping-jack figures, like marionettes were used to satirize nobility. And, there were other cultures practicing a variety of paper arts–including the German scherenschnitte,–that may have influenced the development of paper dolls.

However, our modern paper dolls trace a more direct history to traditional dolls, not puppets or even paper arts.

Dolls in general date from earliest recorded history. Manufactured dolls trace their European popularity to wooden dolls made in Germany in the 17th century. To meet demand by the early 18th century, German dollmakers were employed throughout Europe.

Modern paper dolls

Paper dolls appeared in Western society in the late 18th century, when French dressmakers’ life-sized dolls were replaced with the “English fashion doll.” These eight-inch tall figures were printed on cardboard (invented by the Chinese about 200 years earlier), and jointed with threads. They came with underclothing as well as several changes of dresses and coiffures. At about three shillings (about $15 in today’s American dollars) for a complete doll and wardrobe–plus an envelope to store her in–dressmakers could afford to own several sets, and distribute these dolls among their favorite customers.

1810 paper doll - little fannyIn 1810, the London firm of S. & J. Fuller & Company printed the first commercially popular paper doll, Little Fanny, with a 15-page book that included seven figures and five hats. Fanny’s head & neck were separate, and fitted into various outfits as the moral tale, The History of Little Fanny: Exemplified in a Series of Figures,was told. (Fuller also published the earliest “peep show” books, which were hinged, tunnel-style books.)

At five to eight shillings for each book, their primary audience included wealthy families. (Today, that’s the equivalent of 9 to 15 pounds, or US$13 – $22.)

The success of Little Fanny was followed two years later in America, when J. Belcher printed a paper doll with a similar moral tale, The History and Adventures of Little Henry.Within ten years, boxed sets of paper dolls were popular playthings for children in Europe and America.

These dolls were often lithographed or hand-tinted, although some were left black-and-white for children to color.

Beginning in the 1830s, celebrity paper dolls featured entertainers such as ballerinas and characters from the P. T. Barnum Circus, as well as British royalty. And, in 1838 when Charles Fenerty made the first paper–newsprint–from wood pulp, the price of paper dropped dramatically. Paper dolls became affordable for more families.

McLoughlin Brothers in the United States–later purchased by Milton Bradley–quickly became one of the largest manufacturers of paper dolls, printing them from engraved wooden blocks. Dottie Dimplewas one of their most successful paper dolls, and McLoughlin was a leader in this field throughout the 19th century.

Several other American companies, including Crosby, Nichols & Company (Boston), Frederick Stokes, and–later–Selchow and Righter, contributed many different styles of paper dolls to meet popular demand.

During the Victorian era, Godey’s Lady’s Book, was the first magazine to publish a paper doll in their November 1859 issue.

This article continues in History of Paper Dolls – Part Two.