Identifying The Dolls Correctly

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I was looking at the stats today to see where people live who have checked out this website. Lately a visitor checked us out from Novo Sibirsk and just yesterday I sent off a book to Alberta Canada. In all people in 15 countries have visited this website and that gets me excited for sure. Thank you all for the interest you have shown. There have been visitors also from India, Thailand, Philippines and Japan and of course Australia and Brazil. It just warms my heart.

Girl from Kautokeino, ca 1965 45cm

Girl from Kautokeino, ca 1965 45cm

It has been interesting to see what is offered for sale of dolls, the condition they are presented in, if the costumes are correctly identified, etc. etc. It does not matter so much which site they are offered on. This is one of the reasons I finally wrote and published the book. I can easily understand why costumed dolls are misidentified. It isn’t easy to keep so many different costumes appart, if one is not Norwegian. I have to use reference material if I look at the costumes from Poland, Sweden, Hungary, Greece, for sure. Also my mother Rønnaug Petterssen began making dolls during a time when the regional costumes were more standardized. By that I mean everyone from a specific distict wore exactly the same design. In the last couple of decades, it has become more common to go back to the earlier way of doing it, with often some variations within that region.

Sami girl ca 1936, 15cm Courtesy Sandy Smith

Sami girl ca 1936, 15cm Courtesy Sandy Smith

Something that should not vary is that a doll  should be presented with whichever costume parts it was obtained with and the costume parts should be correctly put on. If one uses the book as a reference it should be fairly easy to see how each of the costumes are to be presented. A doll should not be sold with costume peaces obviously made from newer materials without being  so marked, nor should a doll be offered for sale with costume pieces that do not belong to that doll or that costume.

An interesting question came up with a small pre-war Sami doll recently.  Did it depict a boy or a girl. Usually a girl wears caps  and boys wear hats that sit more on top of the head. But in the Lule and southern Sami  costumes for example the men and women wear same type hats.

Sami boy ca 1936-37, 17.5 cm

Sami boy ca 1936-37, 17.5 cm

Just about all the men’s costumes have shorter skirts (the part that is below the belt) on their Kofte (costume). The women wear much longer skirts. The dolls depicting girls also have longer hair than the boys. I understand that all this may seem confusing, and certainly it helps having a reference guide like the 3 volumes of Norwegian Costumes, by Bjørn Sverre Hol Haugen which was published in 2006.

 

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Book Signing Party

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I just got the word today that I and my book will be part of the Takoma Park Annual Book Fair which will take place for  the sixth year on November 15 from 2 -5 PM, at Trohve, a home good and gifts store in Takoma Park. Light refreshments will be served. Trohve does a lot of community events and we are lucky to have such a nice and accommodating venue to be in. The store is located on Carroll Avenue one block north/east of the Metro station. More details to come soon.  But mark your calendars, I would so love to see you there.  Besides there are many great restaurants to have you dinner if you stay late. Do come and check Takoma Park out if you haven’t been here before or in a while.

Samisk barn

Sami girl courtesy Sandy Smith

I also received word today that a Norwegian antique doll fair took place last weekend at the Viking Ship House a historic cultural art museum in Oslo, not far from the Norwegian Folk Museum. The attendance was great, the selection of dolls wonderful and the book was a great hit. Some of the collectors there who had bought the book were using it as a guide to find new treasures. It will please me greatly if it will increase peoples understanding of what they own, what they may buy and what they  may sell. I hear the same from collectors who have attended doll fairs here in the US as well.

Then there is the issue of those outfits who offer author’s books recently released in the same internet stores as the author, in direct competition with the author. I understand reselling such book, in this case at a doll or antique fair, but on Ebay and Amazon I don’t understand. Goes against my sense of fair play.  Just having my say and all. But I guess this too is a form of flattery.

Next week I will talk a little more about identifying, especially the early souvenir dolls.

As one collector told me: “Your book really helped me see the doll in clearer detail…such as face fabric, painting and stitching of features.Th  wedding couple I own have the stitches (for the facial features) but I never noticed them before.”

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Keeping The Dolls Clean And Tidy

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It interests me greatly when I see Petterssen dolls for sale on the internet that they  are so often poorly posed and also often very untidy looking.  For folks selling dolls regularly I suggest  buying the book so one can see whether the doll being sold have all the costume parts or correct .

Magazine ad 1937

Magazine ad 1937

I have seen dolls offered with entirely unrelated costume pieces. I have even seen in one instance costume pieces replaced with with pieces from another culture all together.  It will look a bit odd. My mother would, well you can imagine.

Damage to dolls or clothing may occur if the dolls are displayed in direct light, especially direct sunlight and left to gather dust, because they are unprotected from dust and moths. The best of course is to place them in a display case. A display case does not have to be extravagant or expensive. Many are constructed from simple pine with glass shelves, glass front and sides. But depending on the space available and the budget available, they can have just a grass front (as door that can open).

Nisse wife

Nisse wife

Displaying them this way protects your investment against (further) damage, because you are keeping them dust free and also can place some form of moth protection with the dolls.  My mother used fabric natural, like cotton and wool. To keep the dolls clean you may want to consult the book which has a chapter on that. But let me say, even in a display case, inspect the dolls a couple of times a year for any damage and brush theme off a bit. This will give you a chance to “play” with them and perhaps rearrange the display to suit your current interest.  The dolls from the smallest to the largest are eminently posable (check earlier blog). If you find you need to part with a doll and have kept them clean as possible and also know how to pose them, that will make the doll far more desirable to a buyer.  We respond to the dolls because of their inherently individual personality. Be with a doll for a bit, it will reveal to you who she/he is.

Here is the full review from Antique doll collector Magazine. Click on the image and it will be large enough to read. It is also posted on the Review page, accessible at the top.Antique doll review 1014

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Interesting History Unfolding

Ronnaug Petterssen – the Artist and Her Dolls available at Amazon.com

The Halling girl a cousin received

The Halling girl a cousin received

Just the other day I was talking to a third cousin in Norway. He tells me that his mother and her twin sister, my cousins. had been the first little girls in the family to be able to chose a doll for themselves from the very first dolls my mother made.  The surviving twin, his mother, is now 90 years old. Three other cousins some five years younger than her were also in the group of cousins to chose for themselves a special doll, made by their aunt.  I know the dolls two of the younger girls received, I now own them and it makes me happy to know that my all my cousins had such beautiful dolls to play with just like I did.

I had been wondering if interesting bits and pieces of information about the dolls would surface once the book was published. I would love to know. Well so far only the above has surfaced, but no doubt more will, so just wait for updates.  I did hear this morning that the book is travelling to the largest yearly antiques fair in Norway with a collector and contributor to the book where she, another contributor an two other doll enthusiasts will have a booth. I also found out that the Antique Doll Collector Magazine’s October issue started hitting the mail boxes yesterday. I know this not only from reports, but also from the number of copies sold since the mail carriers started their deliveries. Another interesting update also came that an additional review was published in Bladet Vesterålen today, supposedly a full page spread.  I have yet to see a copy, but I am waiting as we speak for a copy in PDF format to share with you as soon as I have it in my hands. All of this is fascinating and immensely gratifying to me, a complete novice to the world of publishing.

New review from a Norwegian newspaper is also available. Check it out.

Setesdal couple, 18cm

Setesdal couple, 18cm

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Book Party

To buy: Rønnaug Petterssen – The Artist and Her dolls 

meleney_artist&herDolls LIGHT_300dpiYou may be interested to know that we are planning a book party which will take place here in DC.  When one is the captain, cook and bottle washer things have their own pace. I will of course keep you posted as the plans firm up and hope to see you there. The somewhat vexing issue with self publishing is that there is no pre-planned launch date that can be used as a specific date to plan a “hot off the press” book signing party around. When the book is ready, it is ready and rolls automatically off the press which ever day that happens to be. So while this book party may see a bit after the fact, it should still be a lot of fun.

I have learned a lot in my quest for marketing tips and edge. Never ending effort it is. In the process I have discovered a Welsh artist and author Jackie Morris through my artist daughter Karen Green and have enjoyed following Jackie’s blogs and effortless and frequent Tweets. My daughter made a commissioned weather vane for Jackie Morris some years back, the girl riding a polar bear. Now as any  Norwegian will tell you this old and much beloved fairy tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon is a staple of every Norwegian and Norwegian descended child’s growing up. It was one of my favorites as a child, besides the trolls and the mischievous nisse of course. But I would dream of this huge and gently bear and the beautiful girl who could not bear not to see for herself the face of her night time visitor, thus setting her off on a quest.

Pre war play dollOther marketing efforts are moving forward, with responses coming in from a series of marketing mailings I made. Most notably the review in The Antique Doll Collector Magazine is now in the print copy of their October issue. The winter issue of United Federation of Doll Clubs is likely to have a review in their winter issue. A review has just been written by a northern Norwegian collector and free lance journalist and I am waiting to hear where it will appear. Also Scandinavia House now has a desk copy of the book. Check them out they are located on Park Avenue if you are visiting or living in New York City. It is immensely gratifying to know that people are actually paying attention out there. But there is always that period of waiting and wating. If any of you have any good ideas, I am all ears.  Just send me an email. You’ll find the contact information here.

A corner of my brain has begun thinking of possible new projects. At some point, after eating, breathing and sleeping a project like this book it was bound to happen. One has to sweep some cobwebs, roll up ones sleeves, take some deep breaths, tidy up the office and put one foot forward to see where the road goes next. I have ideas, but it’s too early to share.Hans og Grete

Tea time

Tea time

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And So We Come To The End Of The Story

Østerdal and Fana boys 18cm

Østerdal and Fana boys 18cm

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Once home after my trip (2011) what remained was to pull the manuscript together and also continue the search for a publisher. The latter proved to be perhaps the most frustrating part of the project. As happens with any creative project one tries to “birth” into the public arena, one has to expect rejections. I knew this from my work as an exhibiting visual artist and was prepared for it, I thought. My initial forays into the world of publishing proved unsuccessful both in Norway and in the US. I then armed myself with other books in the field of doll making/collecting and took a hard look at what made them look appealing and desirable to own, interesting to read and easy to use as reference guides and went on to format my own manuscript to fit within those parameters. Along the way there were further rejections. I was told the book was too much a niche book, that the current economy would not support the investment of funds that such a book would demand. The clock kept ticking.

There were times of great frustration, I knew I had a good manuscript, good photos; a book that people wanted. That much had become clear from the response to the website and from website stats I had created and later a Facebook page and the number of people both in the US, UK and in Norway who asked to be placed on the mailing list and with other interested people world wide. But it was not enough to sway the publishing industry. It became clear that self publishing was likely the answer. Friends gave me advise and I did research, but with many self publishing companies the cost of just the printing of each copy was prohibitive and with the cost of distribution and shipping on top of it would make the book too expensive to sell. It was all quite depressing.

Eventually I looked more closely at Createspace. My initial issue with self publishing was that most of the companies could not provide coated paper which does show photographs to a better advantage. With Createspace the trim size options were also limited. But it became clear that it was either jumping in or permanently shelve the project. There were however little silver linings in all the waiting. I knew my mother had made certain types of dolls I really wanted to include photos of in the book but I knew no one who owned such dolls. I asked collectors I had come to know over the course of the project if they knew people who might have them and eventually a few collectors surfaced in Norway and the US who were willing to photograph their dolls under my guidance. In the middle of all this I was introduced to Alberto Ucles and Tom Knoll whose publishing company, Green Kids Press, eventually became my publishers. They understood the world of publishing quite well and after an afternoon of talking I too came to understand why it had all been so hard. I had a project on a topic that was no longer well recognized and I came with no large built in fan base, just a limited (in publishing terms) number of very dedicated people, many who were collectors. I knew there were many, many more behind them and more behind those again who didn’t yet know they wanted to own such a book. I knew from stats that they were located world wide.

Front cover

Front cover

In early 2014 I finally uploaded a small trial copy of the book on Createspace to see how it would look with their trim format and paper type. When I received the trial copy back I realized I could live with it. Createspace proved to be extraordinarily helpful and were always available, 24/7, to answer questions or help solve problems.  The project now took on urgency. More hours than can be counted were spent battling the software programs I was using. I had mocked up the front and back cover and found a graphic artist who could pull it all together in the format Createspace required. While it all took time, it was eventually ready for uploading. By the end of July 2014 even the proofing process of the finished book was done and the book went to press. A project that had occupied my time, one way or another for 8 years was finished.

I hope you enjoy it.

Weather vane with Siamese cats

Weather vane with Siamese cats

This is what Rønnaug Petterssen’s grand daughter Karen Green creates at her and her husband, Gordon Green’s studio, Greens Weathervanes in Herefordshire, UK, not far from Hay-on-Wye She is the the third generation artist in our family.

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Trip to Sortland 2011

Just to remind to the readers that these little background stories are not a rehash of the book, but rather a story about how I came to write the story about my mother Rønnaug Petterssen and the dolls she created.

Foundation of the house Petterssen was born in

Foundation of the house Petterssen was born in, in 1901

I set off for Norway in May 2011 and arrived to light rain at Framnes, Narvik’s airport, but by the time the bus pulled into the Blue City as Sortland is also called, it had pretty much cleared up. I had barely registered at the hotel when Adrian Skogmo, the organizer of the Herring Festival came and took me away for an interview with the localpaper – SortlandsAvisa. The following day, there came a call for me at the hotel and a voice explained: “I am a cousin of yours. I have three other cousins right here with me and we are very eager to meet you”. I had some faint idea I had cousins up north, but no specific knowledge of who they might be or if they were still there. Four people showed up shortly and I knew immediately this was family. Three of them were third cousins; two brothers and a sister descendants of one of my maternal grandmother’s sisters. The fourth a fifth cousin of a slightly more distant fore-mother was married to the sister. Later I was to meet several more third cousins, all descendants from my great-grandfather’s second marriage. Without much ado I was moved to a cousin’s home where I stayed for the rest of my time  in Sortland and what a time it was. Here were people who had the same sense of humor and ability to observe. We told story after story and laughed a great deal. An uncle of mine had put together a family genealogy, which included a map with locations where the various members of the past generations had lived up here, all within a few miles of each other. I was taken to see many of these places and got a good sense of who my ancestors had been; the hardships of their lives as fisherman/farmers (see definition on Johan Borgos website) in a beautiful part of the world, but one that was rough on those who made their living off the ocean, fishing for cod in the dead of winter. Our great grandfather had been a well-known captain in that area about whom many daring stories were told and it was quite amazing when his name came up, strangers would invariably answer “Oh, him. Yes I know about Petter Hansa, I have heard many stories about him”. He has been dead for over a hundred years.

1947 Grandfather and I

Hildor with Bodil in 1947

House in BjørndalenI was taken to see the house my maternal grandfather came to from Gildeskaal south of Bodø, when he was seven, after losing first his father, then his uncle in storms on the ocean. This house would have been impossible to locate, had it not been for the extensive work of historian Johan Borgos. My grandfather had arrived in 1877 to live with a cousin in a small well-kept house in the innermost part of Eidsfjorden, the part called Bjørndalen. Even today there is the same kind of boat tied up at the beach below the house, that would have been there back then. One of my cousins who is very outgoing knocked on the door and we were welcomed in to see the interior of this small house, the rooms laid out exactly as they had been back then. We drove on to see the field where my grandparents first home had stood. The hole, still there in the ground, the foundation stones scattered around, even after a hundred years. We went on to see where they then moved, across the fjord by Sildpollen. The house was gone and it was hard to determine exactly where it might have stood, but then a man came walking by and by miracle he knew exactly where it had been. We drove on to see where the family had moved next, in 1906,further down the coast. Our spirited cousin again knocked on the door and  we were let in, this time by a young family who looked amazed at meeting people who knew the people who had lived there so long ago. Their young, 9 year old daughter remarked it was like reading a history book.

On we drove up the easterAuthor with familyin Gullvikan side of Eidsfjorden, when I suddenly remembered the story of how my grandmother had single-handedly sailed a northland’s boat  with her family, livestock and belongings on board, several miles on their way to their new house we had just visited. My grandfather had been away. My mother would have been five years old. We stopped near a church and tried to figure out where Petronelle would have sought shelter when it brewed to a storm  the first night. Out of the parish house came a man who inquired what we were looking for and when he heard, he said “Oh, I have heard that story many times” and proceeded to point to a particular place across the fjord telling us that was where my grandmother had anchored up, to bide the weather. It was heartwarming to realize that my family’s footprint still lingered here. They were not truly forgotten.

Rønnaug Petterssen The Artist and Her Dolls meleney_artist&herDolls LIGHT_300dpi

 

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Book Is Now Available on Amazon WorldWide

Standing angel close up

Standing angel close up

My book, Rønnaug Petterssen, the artist and her dolls is now available through Amazon.worldwide  Up, up and away. Wonderful things are happening. We will be adding a map to track where the book has found a home.

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How The Book Came To Be; The Continuing Story

Three girls from Hardanger

Three girls from Hardanger

The story continues. Just to remind to the readers that these little background stories are not a rehash of the book, but rather about how the book came to be.

The summer of 2006 in Norway was beautiful, with warm days and long summer evenings. One evening I had dinner with a cousin I hadn’t seen for years. He had recently turned 94. We had been invited to another cousins who had an apartment around the corner from where I grew up and it was wonderful to catch up after all that time. I had long wanted to pick his brain about our family’s history and now I had to make the most of it. Because of failing eyesight he could no longer write, email or …, What a treasure it was to sit there with him and watch him remember as he told me about my parents from the years before the war; the first years of getting the new business going. He could even tell me how many people they already had working for them. A treasure trove of information on the whole family history way back to his uncles and aunts growing up in the north. I remember feeling so very lucky. He also had many amusing stories to tell from my father’s learning to speak Norwegian, something my father mastered extremely well in a relatively short period of time. When we left I had to chuckle as I worked to keep up with him. My cousin skipped down the stairs from the fourth floor and lightly danced up the street on the way to the tram with me trailing behind.

With the changes in the streets scape in my old neighborhood, I also went to Oslo’s City Museum and the staff were helpful in digging up old photos of the buildings on our block and information on the history of the street. Along with the development of the neighborhood had also been the tearing down of the old Rosenborg Movie theater, which had had two long murals depicting our street with some houses dating back to the mid 1700. What a pity it was to have such a bit of history lost.

Once home, I had a great deal of information to add and now the real work began to write it all down in a coherent story. Having never written anything like this before, I enlisted the help of my daughter, Karen Green, who was a wonderful writer as well as sculptor. For a while we worked together and I was so grateful for her insights and critiques, myself being far to close to the subject to be able to have enough perspective. Eventually, the demands of her own work of building her and her husband’s business as weathervane makers had to take precedence, but I was enough on the way to be able to see the story as a story with more objectivity.

In the fall of 2008 the economic crisis hit and it became necessary to focus on my work as a practitioner of Chinese Medicine. While the book project was never shelved, it got less focus. Also an old back injury resurfaced with vengeance and over the next two-three years this is where most of my energy went. However I worked on the book whenever I had time. I had become increasingly interested in my mother’s family’s background. I fortunately had quite a bit of genealogical information from an uncle, Anslem. One Sunday I was idly searching the internet and came across a website of a historian in the Vesterålen area. I emailed him, not sure if the website was still active, but three hours later on a beautiful sunny summer Sunday I got a reply from Johan Borgos which read; “I know who you are, you are the daughter of Rønnaug”. He knew my whole family and some hours later sent me my grandmother’s genealogy back to the 1600s. Wow, I was completely blown away. An idle question begetting so much information. So now some of my focus began centering on tracing my family, I wanted to know who they were, where they lived, what they did, what kind of lives they lived, what kind of people they were. I set my findings up on Ancestry.com and eventually also traced my grandfather’s family as far as I could and that of my own father as well. I felt it was important to know as much as I could about our background, to create a perspective on who we were, what kind of stock we came from.

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The Story Continues

Selnes, Eidsfjorden in Vesterålen

Selnes, Eidsfjorden in Vesterålen my mother’s birthplace

This is the second installment of How The Book Came To Be, started on July 29, 2014. Please note that there are no excepts from the book itself.

During the summer of 2005 a collector found me on the internet and contacted me. She informed me that a 45cm doll in a Heddal, East Telemark costume, a doll with glass eyes, was being offered on eBay. The bidding was going through the roof, she said, could I take a look, and what did I think of it? Suffice it to say I was astounded. Later that summer another call came from a different collector, this time in Norway, who wanted extensive and detailed information about my mother’s life and career. I realized there was a real interest in my mother’s life and work and I knew the time had come for me to tackle a book or someone else would beat me to it.  My mother had been a very private person, never talking much about herself or her life. She was sparing with information in interviews, sometime driving interviewers to distraction by retaining veto rights to view and strike information in the articles they wrote as a condition for publishing an interview. “You can trust nothing” was her view. As a result information would sometimes be assumed and written to fill in the gaps in various threads of stories that were written. When my mother read these, partially accurate writings, she would often roll her eyes and shake her head, perhaps even huff a little.

So the task of sorting the content of the boxes; letters, articles photos, etc. began. Everything had been stuffed into boxes as they were found some in the Atelier store rooms on the top floor of the worker apartments in the back of Professor Dahl’s gate 22. These apartments had long been abandoned as unlivable, but were still useful for storage. I had helped clean out these rooms in 1975 when the Atelier was closed, and had taken with me to the States all doll related materials. Some of boxes came from the Atelier itself others had been brought from the old apartment in Professor Dahl’s gate 18, some decades earlier. One of the amazing things I found were 22 original drawings of costume pieces that had been used as a base for the doll costumes. The task of sorting was enormous, taking hours, even weeks, but in the end they came into order and created a timeline and focus, which together with what I remembered myself became a great place to start. It was a way to come to know my mother and also myself.

During the summer of 2006, I finally made a visit to Norway again after 18 years. My wonderful aunt Gyda, my mother’s older sister died in 1987, the last of that generation, at 94. In 1989 I found myself separated with an impending divorce from my American husband and travel became financially difficult. It was therefore extraordinary for me to return to visit my birth city, old haunts, smell the smells and see family and friends. Of course some of the old landmarks were gone. I especially I missed Professor Dahl’s gate 22 which had succumbed to development. I am very lucky that my birth family on my mother’s and my father’s sides have all been blessed with extraordinarily good memory way into the deep senior years and this now became a real blessing as I tried to confirm and bridge bits and pieces of my mother’s story. The older generation was gone, but I had cousins. Also younger friends of my mother still lived to shed light on my mother as a private person during the years after I left in 1965. I had made an appointment to talk to the Head Curator of Textiles at the Norwegian Folk Museum, because I wanted to talk about possible support for the project and also wanted to confirm what the Museum still had of what my mother had given them to store in 1975. The curator was extraordinarily accommodating.  I had lunch with Aagot Noss, former Head Curator at the Museum as well. She had been instrumental in gaining my mother international recognition during the 1970 and later agreed to write the foreword to the book.

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