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Originality within a style

Natural Kids: Originality within a style

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Originality within a style

There has been a great deal of discussion on our group message board this week about that sincerest form of flattery. While this seems to be endemic in any crafting community (there are threads on the Etsy forum all the time like this one, or this one, or this one. There are more, but I will stop now...), the issue is much harder to address is a Waldorf/natural toys crafting community. Isn't the point of making a Waldorf doll to, well, make a Waldorf doll?

A Waldorf doll has a unique history and a unique style. While the first retail Waldorf doll is credited to Käthe Kruse, many surmise that these dolls have been around since the late 19th/early 20th century. The dolls are called Waldorf dolls because of their deep connection to the Waldorf/Steiner educational philosophy.

You can make a doll for a child by folding up an old napkin, making two corners into legs, the other two corners into arms, a knot for the head, and painting eyes, nose and mouth with blots of ink. Or else you can buy the child what they call a ‘pretty’ doll, with real hair and painted cheeks. We need not dwell on the fact that the ‘pretty’ doll is of course hideous, and apt to spoil the healthy aesthetic sense for a lifetime. The main educational question is a different one.
If the child has before him the folded napkin, he has to fill in from his own imagination all that is needed to make it real and human. This work of the imagination moulds and builds the forms of the brain. The brain unfolds as the muscles of the hand unfold when they do the work for which they are fitted. Give the child the so-called ‘pretty’ doll, and the brain has nothing more to do. Instead of unfolding, it becomes stunted and dried up.
~~Rudolf Steiner, The Education of the Child in the Light of Anthroposophy

There are several key components to a Waldorf doll that all Waldorf doll makers include:
  • The doll is made from all-natural materials. This generally means cotton and wool, though, with the advent of newer natural materials, some dollmakers are using bamboo, silk, and other materials in their dolls.

  • A firm, molded head, generally made from wool and string.

  • Minimal to no facial features, allowing the child's imagination to fully engage in the emotional life of the doll.
Within these criteria, there is lots of room for similarity!

Summer Girl by Orit Dotan Dolls

Steve by FaerieRebecca

Arlo by MoonChild Studios

There's also lots of room for creativity and originality that spans far beyond what the originators of the Waldorf doll might have ever imagined!

Moranna by PrismKids

All of these dolls are definitely "Waldorf dolls," and while they all share those basic components described above, they are all undeniably different. Each creation carries a spark inside of it--a bit of the dollmaker herself. I have done workshops with beginning dollmakers and am always amazed at how different each doll looks at the end of the day. The participants are all working off of the same pattern--and in most cases are using pre-sewn bodies I provided!--but each and every doll looks different from the one next to it.

There is room for inspiration from other artisans within any crafting community. At its heart, it's the soul quality that the artisan brings to her creation that makes it truly unique and original.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautifully said. I love each doll in it's own way!

June 18, 2008 at 12:33 PM  
Anonymous Rebecca said...

Wonderful article. Well said!

June 18, 2008 at 12:40 PM  
Blogger Rebecca V said...

Fabulous article!!!

June 18, 2008 at 12:55 PM  
Blogger about denise said...

Well done. :)

June 18, 2008 at 12:57 PM  
Blogger TheSingingBird said...

"The brain unfolds as the muscles of the hand unfold when they do the work for which they are fitted." -this seems to me to be THE most important work of a child's play time and reminds me of sections from the book "The Continuum Concept" by Jean Liedloff.

Thanks for a great article FaerieRebecca!

June 18, 2008 at 1:26 PM  
Blogger FairiesNest said...

Oh, wonderfully put! There is so much magic in the act of creating a doll, they can't help but be individuals!

June 18, 2008 at 1:53 PM  
Blogger woolies said...

"it's the soul quality that the artisan brings to her creation that makes it truly unique and original."
Great article!

June 18, 2008 at 2:24 PM  
Blogger Genevieve said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

June 18, 2008 at 2:33 PM  
Blogger WoolComesAlive said...

Thank you for shedding brighter light on the wholesome and unique dolls we make and enjoy! Wonderful article!

June 18, 2008 at 2:35 PM  
Blogger oritdotandolls said...

Thank you so much for this article!
Waldorf dolls are a great mystery-I hope one day to be able to sit and write about it.
I can tell now, from my life exprience in teaching and creating waldorf dolls -these dolls can be healing dolls-for the creator and for the children.

June 18, 2008 at 3:34 PM  
Blogger The WoolPixie said...

Very beautifully explained! Thank you for bringing more information into the community. The love and warmth that comes from within those dolls is amazing and every time I send one of my dolls to a new mommy I feel satisfied.

June 18, 2008 at 11:58 PM  

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