It’s All About the Resurrection

Sunday evening I was casting about for something special to do. This was my first child-free Easter in a quarter century, and it was just feeling a little bit odd, despite a lovely church service that morning. Wanting to do something that would mark the day, I was looking for an activity that was different from what I’ve been doing lately – fresh and spring-like – but that also wouldn’t involve me for the next three weeks. I have enough projects going as it is. Then it came to me – Easter is all about the Resurrection! As soon as that popped into my mind, I knew exactly what I wanted to do – my own very humble tribute in honor of the event. I would bring my sweet little Wandie (pronounced Vahn-dee) Selene back to life.

Wandie arrived here looking like this.

Wandie head

She is an antique, German bisque head of fairly modest quality – nice, smooth bisque, but certainly not a stellar, top of the line paint job. There are rubs on her cheeks, and her mouth is painted somewhat lopsided. Even worse is that the lip paint wasn’t removed from her teeth before they were fired in place. Somewhere along the line, Wandie lost her body and her eyes. Sometimes this happens by natural causes, and sometimes it’s because there are people who have no problem cannibalizing lower end dolls. In Wandie’s case, her original German, blown glass, sleep eyes were replaced with set acrylic eyes. I might do surgery sometime in the future, but that wouldn’t have been the one day project I was hoping to do.

Wandie Markings

Wandie is actually a bit of a mystery doll. Because the logo incised on her head consists of two letters intertwined, it is difficult to know for sure what company produced her, and time hasn’t yet yielded enough records to identify with certainty which of two possible companies produced her – Strobel & Wilken or Walther & Sohn. Although Strobel & Wilken was an American company, they commissioned the dolls that were sold under their name, so that wouldn’t preclude them based on the German origin of this little girl.

Normally, I’m not strongly in favor of putting antique heads on modern reproduction doll bodies. However, being in favor of something and actually doing it can be two different things. The first problem is that unless one can have a substantial inventory of antique bodies and heads – or a good bit of dumb luck – it’s actually quite a challenge to get a legitimately good match between bodies and heads. There are many factors to take into consideration:

  • Head circumference
  • Height of head (not counting neck)
  • Size of neck
  • Age of child represented by the head (which affects the ratio of head to over all height

The second problem is that many of the lower end (think Dollar Store) dolls were produced with extremely fragile, chintzy bodies made of poor quality wood pulp or even hollow cardboard, stapled into a torso shape. These bodies haven’t stood the test of time. The bodies that have held up through the years are those of nicer quality, which aren’t really appropriate for the lesser quality heads. However, the even bigger problem in this regard is that the nicer bodies are appropriate for the better heads. Someone with a doll that might book at $4000 complete will pay more for that body than someone who wants to put together a doll that would only book at $200 – and it’s not unusual to see a good body sell for more than an entire low end, mint condition doll could be purchased. This creates a lot of orphaned heads with the most common and humble markings – both because ruined bodies are difficult to replace, and because some people who are more interested in money than historic value actually strip down the more common dolls and part them out like a wrecked car.

So, enter Wandie – a not very valuable head, but a very sweet countenance, and conveniently enough, the exactly correct size to mount on the common, popular, and affordable JN Bleuette body. Personal opinion, but I think it is better to get her up on her feet than to make her wait in a box for decades hoping for an antique body, so..

Wandie gets body

Head attachment surgery is quite easy, and if you would like to know how to perform it, click here to see the tips page. Wandie was up and moving around in minutes with no ill effects, and looking for a pate to cover the hole in the top of her head. (The hole facilitates setting the eyes.)

Wandie pate

The proper pate for an antique German doll, and for many of the French dolls, too, is made of a very stiff cardboard, which happily is now readily available and in quite a range of sizes. A bit of water soluble (very important!) glue around the edge will hold it in place, but allow for easy removal at a later date, should it become necessary to repair the eyes or do other work. I am very happy with Tacky Glue for this purpose. I didn’t want Wandie to be bored while she sat quietly waiting for the glue to dry, so gave her some books to read while I sat and knitted for an hour or so.

Wandie reading

The next part was lots of fun, as she tried on nearly every wig I have here in her size, trying to decide what was “her style.”

Wandie in Diana by Dollsparts Wandie in Helene by Monique
Wandie in Suzette Wandie in Kimberly Wandie in Justine

Isn’t it amazing to see how different she looks with the various wigs? (Don’t forget that double clicking an image will make it large enough to actually see!) It can sometimes be difficult to tell which is best, as wigs tend to arrive needing a lot of fitzing, and that can only be accomplished safely once the recipient is chosen. Most wigs today have a range of an inch difference in circumference which they will fit, and to do trimming and styling on a wig that is headed for a 6″ head can spoil it for a 7″ head if it is eventually deemed inappropriate.

Wandie finished

(Dress and dolly by Margikins, socks by 4needles4u)

We finally chose the Diana wig, with a bit of trepidation on my part, as it obviously needed a lot of work, and I’m very hair impaired. First step was to practice placing the wig on her head several times, marking the perfect location with light pencil marks. Then a very thin coating of Tacky Glue was applied just to the pate. Usually it is not necessary to glue the wig to the bisque, and it’s better to leave it free if possible in case removal is necessary at a later time.

The bangs were really bad, and once I wet them to straighten them out, they chose to stick straight out from her head! I tried wetting her wig and holding it down with a hairnet while it dried, but that produced a look that was a little too flat. A little work with a curling iron (Anyone know where I could find a 1/4″ curling iron?) improved things somewhat, but my problems managing hair showed up in leaving a slightly lopsided appearance that I can’t seem to figure out how to even up. I’m going to let it rest for a bit, as the weather is bound to affect the human hair from which it was made, but I will probably continue fiddling with it as time goes by. However, having picked out a pretty frock and a new vintage velvet hair bow, Wandie now feels ready to meet the world – no longer an old head stuffed away in a box, but a doll resurrected into a new life – and for me, a unique and continuing reminder of that first Easter.

Wandie Selene Portrait
Wandie Selene


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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. What a wonderful story! I love your resurrected doll!

  2. Thanks, Anna!

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