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

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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!

Barbie, Clearasil and ‘Green Ear’

Note: This article was written many years ago. There may be new, better products available now.

clearasil - a fix for barbie green ears

I have a great, vintage Barbie® doll in a red swimsuit and her original box, complete with stand. However, Barbie had green spots–stains in (not just on) the plastic–where her earrings used to be. It was a developing tragedy as the green spread a little more each year.

Then, I read that Extra Strength Clearasil will remove most of the green (but sometimes the skin dye, too) by leaching out the color. To the best of my knowledge, nothing will remove all of the green discoloration. The active ingredient is Clearasil’s organic peroxide.

The cleaning process can be slow, taking up to a month, sometimes longer. First, I scanned Barbie’s head so that I’d have a permanent record.

I changed the Clearasil every few hours, after each application had dried. I don’t know if this makes any difference. The most dramatic reduction of green appeared after the first application, in about two hours.

I’ve heard that the green may get worse before it gets better, as the green inside Barbie’s head is leached out, and becomes visible. We’ll see.

And, before you choose one approach to the ‘green ear’ problem, it’s not wise to mix treatments if one doesn’t work. (The plastic can turn brown.)

Because the Clearasil may leach out dyes as well, I was advised to apply the Clearasil with a toothpick or Q-Tip, just to the stain and avoiding any painted areas, or “just fine” skin-colored areas.

But remember, most doll restorers say that the green stains cannot be fully removed from most dolls.

Important: I accept no responsibility for results you may have, so please test the Clearasil on a not-important part of any stained doll (or other vinyl item) that you want to clean. This is strictly for items where the staining is so severe, you have nothing to lose, and safer choices haven’t worked.

Also, Twin Pines of Maine makes “Remove-Zit”, a product with organic peroxide that is intended specifically for treating plastics safely.

I would not consider selling this Barbie, and I’m delighted to be able to (mostly) restore her so that I can display and enjoy her!

Disclaimer: This information is provided as a guideline, not as specific advice for your dolls. The author assumes no responsibility for your repair & restoration efforts, and speaks only from personal experience, providing opinions about repairs.

If you have any questions, please consult a qualified doll hospital.

Related Links: (From the original article – links may not be current.)

And, if you want to customize your Barbie–new hair, different makeup, rebend her arms, and more–there are the books on this subject, listed at right.

Remember that the BarbieTM name has been trademarked and is very protected by the Mattel company. Instead, use the phrase “fashion doll” when you’re searching for more information.

This website has no connection with the Mattel Corporation.

Advice about fashion dolls, including BarbieTM, is provided as personal opinion. When restoring valuable dolls, always consult a professional before attempting any repair.

The name “Barbie” is a registered trademark of the Mattel Corporation.

Let’s see… did I say enough about trademarks, Barbies and green ear to protect myself..? *LOL*

Voodoo Barbie

Voodoo Barbie
Voodoo Barbie – an experiment!

Barbie® brings out the worst in me, sometimes. This is a good example.

She’s not quite Toy Story, but she certainly is strange.

I replaced her torso with a cloth body, and reinforced the (cloth) neck so it will hold her head up.

Her arms and legs are jointed, attached at the hips and shoulders with antique buttons.

She is a new Barbie that I bought for this purpose, so she has bendable knees, too.

The reinforcement in her neck makes it possible for you to angle her head how you’d like, too.

Around her neck I’ve hung a “fetish”-type necklace that I made from glass and wooden beads, bits of fabric, and feathers.

She already has a few (removable) “Voodoo” pins in place. The next owner can decide what to do about that.

(I mean no disrespect to those who practice Voodoo, Hoodoo, Vodun, or any related spirituality. This doll is pretty far removed from those actual beliefs and practices.  She’s more closely related to the tourist-y “Voodoo” dolls sold in very commercial shops in New Orleans & Salem, MA.)

In my mind, this doll was created to amuse everyone who’s ever shuddered or sighed when dealing with airhead blondes (by nature or nurture) who aspire to be Barbie.

I also say that with the greatest respect.  In the 1960s, I desperately wanted to grow up to look like Solo in the Spotlight Barbie.  Instead, I looked more like a very skinny Pitiful Pearl, for most of my teen years

Mostly, Voodoo Barbie was made for every mom who’s spent two weeks hitting every Toys R Us in the state, looking for the exact Barbie doll a little girl asked for, for Christmas. (Not that I ever did that, mind you. Ahem.)

In this redesign, Barbie’s cloth torso is a “normal” size and shape. In other words, the chick has hips. This makes her legs far enough apart to straddle New York City, but I like the effect.

It makes her look just a little off-balance and dangerous, and perhaps more normal… whatever that is.

She now lives in the home of a doll collector who appreciates this kind of art.

I have three more Barbies that I view with a slightly deranged look, on days when stress catches up with me!

Altered Dolls

Not quite an altered doll
Not exactly altered, and not exactly a doll…

Altered dolls usually (but not always) start with ready-made, store-bought dolls. They may be modified or even deconstructed to make a different art doll or mixed-media figure.

These can include anything from themed, customized BarbieTM dolls, to Raggedy Ann gone wild, to McD’s doll toys that are made into jewelry or chess pieces.

However, that definition of altered dolls is the tip of the iceberg.  For many doll artists, “altered dolls” mean anything that even vaguely resembles a doll.  This takes altered dolls into paper arts, mixed media, and beyond.

My doll in the photo above is from around 2002 or so.  She’s more an assemblage than an altered doll.  My initial concept was to create a futuristic Kachina doll.

The face and feet were cast from existing dolls, using my mold process.  The torso/body was a clear plastic cube filled with opalescent Easter grass.  The arms were a single lucite rod, decorated with feathers.

(Thread didn’t attach the feathers as well as I’d hoped, so the thread was also glued in place.)

That doll was small enough to sit in my hand.  (She was one of several I made at the time, and all dolls from that series are now in private collections.)

Here’s what’s important about altered dolls: There are no limits to what you can do!

December 2011 update

If you’re intrigued by altered dolls, here are some more recent altered art doll articles to inspire you. (If any of these links are broken when you visit, let me know in a comment. Thanks!)

C. Dianne Zweig – Kitsch ‘n Stuff: Altered Doll Assemblages: Using

Altered Doll Assemblages: Using Up Your Vintage Junk. Creating Dolls Out of Vintage Junk I would love to be able to try my hand at making Altered Doll Assemblages out of vintage odds and ends. Like many of you who are

Dianne’s illustrations look similar to the altered dolls and assemblages we used to make when I taught at Artfest. They’re quirky and strange and generally wonderful!

For me, those represent some of the roots of assemblage and altered dolls, going back to the Dada movement and maybe earlier.

Next, scroll down this linked article to see a few interesting altered paper dolls. I think this concept could be taken in very wild directions.

inkspired musings


4, 9am – 4pm. I had a fun discovery today -. several completed altered paper dolls! 2 of them are Halloween themed, but I’ll still put them out. Here are 3 that I have scanned. The others need to be resized, etc. and I will share!

If you like those altered paper dolls, you may enjoy the next examples of altered paper dolls:

Jumbled Crafts: Altered Dolls at Craft Room


Well I have never done anything like this before but it was so much fun. I didn’t know where to start really but the ideas just kept coming as I went along. What a great idea it is to alter a paper doll and I am pleased

And another:

Sue’s Art of Craft: My First Altered Paper Doll – Love It!

My First Altered Paper Doll – Love It! This month’s challenge at Craft Room is to make an Altered Paper Doll. Click the link in the sidebar for Craft Room Challenge to take part. I’ve never tried anything like this before and must

Next, some art deco-style altered dolls at Etsy. What intrigues me is that the faces look like the ones I’ve made since 2002 (maybe earlier) using homemade molds. (The same kinds of molds I used for the futuristic kachina, above.)

I love seeing my ideas spread throughout the dollmaking community! (If you have other ways to use cast faces or other doll parts, please let me know. Leave a comment below.)

thechildrensgardenandseedcompany: My Latest Altered Dolls on Etsy


Create a garden that will delight children. Become sensitive to what delights children- smells, textures, tastes…Create a place for adventures! Friday, October 28, 2011. My Latest Altered Dolls on Etsy

Now we shift to another extreme, a downright creepy altered doll. It’s one of Natasha Morgan’s stylish dolls, inspired by the DC Comic Book character, the two-faced Mr. Dent. (However, it’s not one of the creepiest dolls I found, when I was searching for altered dolls to share with you.)

Natasha Morgan Art Dolls: Harvey – A Two Faced Altered Doll Portrait


Harvey – A Two Faced Altered Doll Portrait. Named by my Husband after the Two Faced vintage DC Comic Book character Mr Dent, I was inspired to make Harvey by a challenge I was asked to take part in on behalf of my

If you liked that doll, be sure to see more at Zuzu’s Alter It Monthly.

And finally, returning to altered paper dolls and doll-related paper arts, here are some interesting and elaborate dolls & figures. (The website has music that starts playing on its own. If you’re at work, turn down your speakers.)



Hi Betty, I’m so excited about your Matchbox Dolls tutorial…thank you so much! 🙂 I just love them!

I could have continued this list for pages & pages, but I think it’s enough of an overview to give you some inspiration and starting points.

The concept of “altered dolls” is huge. From altered children’s dolls (plastic, etc.) to altered paper dolls, to assemblages and found art, to cast elements and odd bits & pieces… there’s a lot to play with!

Annie Faerie Dolls

Annie Maloney Morey - pindoll
Pindoll based on my great-grandmother, Annie Maloney Morey of Co. Cork, Ireland

This is one of a series of pindolls that I’ve made by hand. These “Annie Faeries” sold out within minutes at Artfest 2001.

First, I create my doll collages digitally, using antique photos and illustrations.

When I’m pleased with the design and colors, I print each doll onto iron-on transfer paper.

Next, I apply each doll design to cotton, usually unbleached muslin, raw silk, or a light-colored cotton.

The edges of the fabric are treated with Fray-Chek, a product that prevents the edges from fraying. (You can find it in any fabric shop or sewing supply store.)

Then I sew, quilt, stuff, and bead the doll by hand.

(This is a very relaxing activity, and I often assemble my dolls when I’m traveling by airplane.)

Finally, I add the beaded antennae and a simple pinback, so you can wear the pindoll as jewelry, or attach her to a curtain.

Because these are sewn, quilted, and beaded by hand, not machine, each doll is slightly different, and one-of-a-kind.

These dolls are three inches tall without the antennae, and nearly four inches tall with them.

This design includes the face of Annie Maloney Morey, a wealthy young woman who eloped to America (from County Cork, Ireland) to marry her True Love, a dashing local lad with eyes the color of the Caribbean and the reputation of a rake.

They had six children and lived happily ever after.

Fresh Designs – free design book


In the early 1980s, I assembled a book of quilting designs. That is, they’re guides for stitching on completed quilts.

However, you could use these same designs for many other kinds of art, especially fabric art. And, I included some suggestions on a couple of pages in this book.

For example: For a non-fabric art application, I might use some of these designs as templates to cut random pages from magazine photos, and create a collage.

In felt or fabric, they could be great applique designs.

In the early 1980s, this book was sold in quilting shops throughout the US, Canada, and Australia.

Now, I’ve scanned the pages of this book, and assembled them as a free book for you to download in PDF format.

How you can use this book and its patterns

You can use these patterns for your own original art, even art that you sell.

You can also copy these pages–or the entire book–and distribute it to friends, or even to students in a class that you teach.

You can use these patterns at your own website, or even offer the book as a freebie at your site.


freshdesigns-page2I retain the copyright to this book and its designs. Here are the copyright rules:

You can’t charge for the book or its designs, but it can be a free handout in a class that you teach.

You must be sure that my copyright notice is on any individual pages that you distribute.

Also, don’t pretend that you created this book or its designs.

If you distribute the book–printed or online for printing/download–the last page in the book must be part of it. That’s where the copyright details are.

Please do not link directly to the PDF file at this website. You can link to this page… just not directly to the PDF file itself.

Download as a PDF

freshdesigns-page11smYou can download this book and print it at your computer. It’s in PDF format, which can be read by several programs, including the free Adobe Reader program.

To download your free copy of “Fresh Designs” in PDF format (about 5MB), right-click on this link and choose “Save to Disk.”

(Be sure to remember where you saved it on your hard drive, so that you can print it, later.)

right-click here for Fresh Designs download

(Please do NOT post the PDF link at other websites, forums or lists.)

Easy Embellished Vinyl Tote Bag

These are notes from my popular Artfest 2001 workshop.


sample collaged vinyl totebag
made on the airplane en route Artfest 2001

Supply list

  • Vinyl bag with at least one transparent side.
  • Plain white paper as your collage support
  • Collage elements – flat (or nearly flat) items and images
  • Some kind of paper adhesive
  • Clear laminating plastic, clear 2″ wide packing tape, or clear adhesive-backed shelf paper
  • Optional: beads and cord or floss, or small dimensional embellishments (see directions for ideas).

Guidelines (not instructions – this is your bag!)

First, select a vinyl bag. (My sample came from Michael’s Arts & Crafts store. In 2001, they were $1.99 each.  In 2009, they’re still under $5 if you shop carefully.  Sometimes, you can even find them at pound or dollar stores.)

Use a plain sheet of paper for your collage base/support. Otherwise, the back of your work will show through the other side of the vinyl bag.

Create a collage using modpodge, gluestick, gloss medium or other adhesives.  As long as it doesn’t pucker the paper, almost any glue will work.

You can use charms, trinkets & raised elements, but they don’t stick well. Sorry. Hang them from the bag, instead.

If you like, you can create two collages, one to go on top of the vinyl, and one to show through from the inside.

You can even cut the vinyl so the inside one shows through better.

central collage on workshop sample bag

Cut your laminating plastic to size. Trim closely, but allow at least a half inch around your collage, so the plastic will stick.

    I use shiny laminating plastic sold on a roll at A. C. Moore. A similar product at Michael’s is often matte, like Contac paper. I like the shiny stuff. Sometimes, you can find this at Staples or an office supply shop.You can also use 2″ wide packing tape, or any clear adhesive product that suits your mood and artistic vision.


Artfest logo, colored with oil pastels
on the workshop sample tote

Next, place your collage, face down, on the laminating plastic. When you pick up the laminating plastic, the non-sticky side and the collage should be facing you.

Stick the plastic-covered collage onto an appropriate place on the bag.

Embellishment ideas

IF you like: Punch holes in the vinyl using a 1/8″ punch. Add tiny grommets/eyelets using the tool, hammer, and wood block. Tap lightly!

totewordswords on foam board
strung from grommets at top of totebag

– String evidence or charms/trinkets from ribbon or thread, tied so they hang through the grommet/eyelets. (You can use my free words handout. It’s updated from the 2001 version, and it’s a PDF.)

– Attach more evidence at the bottom edge of the bag (only if you like). Grommets are not required here if you’re sewing something the width of the bag. Just go ahead and sew through the vinyl. If it rips later, use clear packing tape to repair it.

– You may want to replace the handles with something better. For example, a strong measuring tape may make a great handle, or you could use braided ribbons, or…?

– Use your tote, accept compliments, and make fresh tote bags regularly since these are easy, inexpensive, and fun!

Rust and Teal Pieced Bodice

This is another project started in the mid-1990s and not completed.  Clearly, even good projects are sometimes put aside.


Basically, I was going to make myself a bunch of great wearable art pinafores.

Note: In the States, a pinafore is called a jumper. I grew up calling them pinafores, because… well, that’s what my family called them.

But, I ran out of enthusiasm when I went through a time of equating pinafores with ‘tasteful floral print dresses’ and tossed out every one of those sewing patterns.

At times, I’m impulsive like that.   (Yes, it’s frustrating at times.)

So, this project was never completed.

Before I ran out of steam, I had strip pieced the front bodice shown above. It’s beaded by hand, and also embellished with some ‘crazy quilt’ stitching.

A lot of my fabric art embellishments have been inspired by the stitches on crazy quilts. I rely on Judith Baker Montano’s book, Elegant Stitches, shown in the right column. I’ve used her fabric art as references ever since I bought a copy of her hand-drawn notes that she’d photocopied to sell at quilt fairs in the 1970s.

I like to mix easy strip piecing with quirky color combinations, crazy quilt stitching, and glass beads… especially bugle beads and small seed beads.

For me, fabric art is about color and texture. The mix of fabrics, stitching and beads is, in my mind, a perfect combination for personal art expression.

Related links:

Judith Baker Montano’s website

    • – Samples of her art, and info about her books & workshops. Also see her crazy quilting instructions from her appearance on HGTV’s Carol Duvall show:

At Home: Jewelry: Crazy Quilting.

Purple Fabric Art Jacket 1

ppljkt25I’ve always loved the color purple.  Almost every shade of purple delights me.

This is an original one-of-a-kind jacket that I created around 1992, using a Vogue designer jacket pattern. The fabrics are all 100% cottons.

On half of the front, I have hand-beaded with glass bugle and seed beads. I’ve also painted it with glitter paint.


On the other half of the jacket, front and back, I’ve made small dolls from crafts clothespins. Each doll is unique, and all of them are a little wild and off-balance.


This is a flashy jacket and — as of this writing — it’s a little 1980s in style.  However, dazzle keeps returning to fashion, so this jacket will be stylish again in the future.

Meanwhile, it’s a great and whimsical display item.