Friday, May 1, 2015

Chinese Cloth Folk Art Dolls - A Research Case Study - Part Two

Part Two

Hello there!

Welcome to Part Two of the Research Case Study for Chinese Cloth Folk Art Dolls.  In many ways this is a prologue to my previous article which includes notable mentions, some lessons learned, and some things which didn't quite fit but are worthy includes.

You can read Part One HERE.

One of my first Tips was to make sure you ask a lot of questions when you are making your purchase.  Not sure what you should ask?  Here's the skinny on the questions to ask so get the most information you can about a find.  Not only will it save you time researching it will add value.

If you are interested in finding more information on these dolls you can visit Mimi's Etsy shop CreekLifeTreasures.

Chinese Stockinette Tourist Folk Art Doll

7 Key Research Questions

Who, What, When, Where, Why, How, How Much?

Some of these may seem familiar to you...they originate from the 5 W's of writing.  Naturally they apply to research also.  Think:

  • Who were the original owner(s) and/or owners.  
  • Who made/manufactured/designed the item.
  • When was it made?
  • Where was it made?
  • How was it made?  Was it made by hand?  Made by machine?  A combination?
  • How much did it originally cost?
  • Why was it made?
  • What is it?  What was the function?

One of the mistakes Mimi made was not asking for the name of the owners at the estate sale.  He served in the military and would have had a very interesting back story which also would have been of interest to document along with the dolls.  While it doesn't affect the overall value of the dolls, it certainly would have been nice to pass that information on to the new owners.  The provenance of a piece adds intangible value over time.  I unsuccessfully spent quite a bit of time looking at obits to see if I could research the owners.  If she had only thought to ask...lesson learned.  Without this knowledge I went on to research and link the dolls to the history of the time of their creation in the hopes of gaining some insight into where they came from.

Linking History to Research

Here is how I connected my research subject, the Asian Folk Art dolls, to a place and time in history through historical fact combined with research.  I could be mistaken, but given the facts and evidence I have a good theory.

When researching vintage Asian dolls it's important to know China was overtaken by the communist in 1949.  Also through researching these dolls I learned missions, such as Door of Hope2 established in 1901 closing in 1949, had long used cottage industries to help the destitute.  Giving me a baseline of knowledge that doll making would have been an opportunity for women to earn a living as a cottage industry.

Since we don't know exactly where the owner was stationed, but knowing Mimi was told he was stationed in China, one can surmise he was stationed in Taiwan, the Republic of China.  Further, according to Wikipedia, "In 1957 there were 10,000 Americans in Taiwan, the great majority being CIA and military personnel and their families.[15]"1

With linear thinking about where and how military dependents would have lived during this time I researched "Military Housing for Dependent's in China during the 1950's".  When reading the history of the time, one can easily assert the Military Dependent's Villages would have had their own micro economies in addition to the tourist trade.

Additionally, individuals such as Ada Lum supported not only themselves but also had production employees. Her story is nicely documented on the Asia with Embroidered Eyes blog and is a worthy read and further supports this theory as researched by Stephany.

Ada Lum dolls photograph courtesy of Stepany, blogger of the Asai with Embroidered Eyes blog.

According to Stephanie's research,  "While the dolls/items started as a hobby for personal pleasure friends amongst the cosmopolitan social circles (of Diplomats, Consulate staff within the French and British Concession Territories) got to see the dolls and by word of mouth, everyone wanted one. That's how the 'business' started and only grew at the end of the 2nd World War (1945 and the presence of the U.S. Fleet and military personnel in Shanghai.) During this time, Aunt Ada added play-clothes, baby bibs, etc for children which were popular souvenir gifts. She (also) added costume jewelry, handicrafts, etc" 

My Theory

Given all the information, and this is purely supposition, it isn't difficult to theorize the original doll owners lived in Taiwan or they would have brought back Ada Lum dolls.  This is further supported by the fact that Mimi's dolls have the bindi marks on the forehead like the dolls in the Wing Luke Museum.  The doll creator could have been a woman who escaped or relocated from the Chinese mainland area of the Guangdong or Fujiab provinces which as I stated in my previous post have a history of Hinduism and are located almost directly across from the island which is now known as Taiwan.

Search Tips

Pictured above is one of my Pinterest boards which I created to show the diverse Asian Cloth and Folk Art Dolls.   Sometimes you have to find out what something isn't before you find out what it is, in other words, it's a process of elimination.

Tip #1

Mix up your search terms.  Here are some of the search terms I used to try to find information to help Mimi out in her search:

Mission Cloth Dolls
Antique Chinese Cloth Dolls Images
Door of Hope Dolls Images
Ada Lum Dolls

Mission Cloth Dolls
Antique Chinese Cloth Dolls

Tip #2

Read and follow through on related subjects for information even though they may not be an exact match.  More often than not they will provide clues which relate directly to your subject.

I hope you've enjoyed reading about the research process and learned a bit about Chinese Stockinette Dolls created for the tourist trade and researching vintage.  If you've found it helpful please consider following along either by Following the blog on Blogger or +Debra TheInspiredTrader on Google Plus.

Once again, I do not charge or accept any type of payment or trade for what is posted, discussed, linked or referenced on my blog.

1. Wikipedia Link to article.
2. Door of Hope Mission Information