I guess it all started many years ago. A young, but passionate, woman deciding to forge a new future. She needed more money and so she spent some time working at a big greenhouse at the base of the Rocky mountains. Early Spring it was and the plants were starting to grow, the 'new arrivals', everything was fresh. She was given the opportunity to man one of the outside cash registers, and in those early days of the gardening season there was much time spent just watering plants and getting to know the names of everything. Something must be done.
After a visit to a big library, she purchased the fattest book she could find. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. It opened a faraway world, in time and place, of french rooms, soirees, ballrooms and napoleonic wars. An incipient love for french language alongside a rising passion for russian culture started to sprung in this young woman, much the same as the flowers, trees and bushes outside.
She never read another russian author after this, but the memories of those pages and that time in her life were etched in her, like a thin scar. She moved to Spain and started to learn so many things, she discovered a big world. She met the love of her life. She had children. She became a dollmaker.
Last year she dreamt of a russian princess. Nothing really to do with War and Peace. Time did not allow for her dream to come true. At the end of the year, under motherly guidance, she started listening to the history of Russia and all those memories started rushing in, now there were visions of samovars, singing cedars, gulags, beautiful plays and ballet lessons, Maslenitsa, winter palace conspiracies, pashka (traditional Russian Easter dessert) and kulich (yeast cake), hussars and cossacks and dragoons, dynasties, jewish diasporas, xenophobias, huge deportations of ethnias, eating bread mixed with sawdust under the long days of St. Petersburg's life during World War II, songs, pain, but after all a big lesson on the power of the human spirit and cooperation.
The ideas and need to make a girl like Ebba were congealing. Creative processes are always in motion, there is nothing stagnant and where it does happen I like to see it as a pause, a time to consider what you are doing and where you are going. There were many pauses in Ebba's creation but I like to think of that first dream as the actual first step of her creation. Many things, and months, had to happen in order for me to fully grasp what I wanted to convey with her and in a moment of brightness here she is.
One of the explosions of creative juice came to be while reading "A World Elsewhere" by Sigrid MacRae. The life of her parents, her mother an american woman, her father a destitute baron from a Baltic German family. It is from his recollections, from the words written in his letters to his family, that Ebba sprouted. I will quote you a few brief passages:
"Before the First World War, much of Saint Petersburg gave the impression of a wealthy city. Pink and cream and pistachio-green palaces perched along the canals like oversize petits fours, their pale, delicious colors reflected in the Neva River's green water. The Nevsky Prospekt's shops offered English soaps, fine leather, Italian ices, champagnes. At Yeliseev, a temple of gastronomy, style moderne lamps of glass flowers drooped over an epicurean array".
"Grandpapa Nikolai was an enthusiastic naturalist and huntsman who still enjoyed multigenerational mushrooming expeditions with his children, grandchildren, and ever-present manservant, Dimenty Zacharievitch. Deep in the woods, the cool air redolent of moss, soft earth, and resin, with baskets filled with mushrooms, they would find a spot among towering firs for a picnic. Everyone except Grandpapa sat on the spongy forest floor; for him, Dimenty Zacharievitch brought a folding stool to keep his aged joints off the damp ground. A cloth was spread, and bottles, pates, and chickens were brought out of hampers while Grandpapa recalled mushroom hunts of long ago".
There are many passages as beautiful as these so I highly recommend reading this book. It has opened another view of a painful time in human history but it has also given me so many new words and a renewed interest in classic authors and writing. Ebba was the name of one of Sigrid's aunts.
I hadn't planned however for a budding sister. Katyusha just happened. I decided to name her after one of the most famous songs of the period, and I insist you find it and listen to it, it is very beautiful. Katyusha is a term of endearment for Ekaterina, so I suppose that is her actual name. Both Katyusha and Ebba are very special to me and I can only hope they become the same to someone else out there, wether you love Russian culture or not.
I must explain that these photos were taken this morning, under −35C (-30F) weather, so please excuse if there was not much "styling" and taking off clothes. Such inclemencies are welcomed in the name of doll photography, but not withstood for long. Massaging my cheeks was actually needed in order to regain proper feeling, and the dolls were neatly wrapped in a cozy blanket with a book and sat by a window, so that they could admire the wintry scenes after this morning's ordeal (and with no mittens! said a clever doll maker and friend).
Ebba is a 20" tall figlette, made with cotton interlock and stuffed very firmly with wool. She has a suri alpaca locks, wefted by hand, crochet into a wig cap, and sewn to her head. The nature of these locks is sturdy, they are firmly attached, however the fibre is frail and her hair must be handle with care (and patience!). Ebba has many of the signature design features of the figlette: long and lanky arms and legs, thin torso, sculpted bum with an outy belly button, a resemblance of little knees (not sculpted), long feet, a neck, ears and a head proportionate to her body which resembles a 6 year old. She wears a cotton peasant-style top, that gathers at neckline with woven cotton twill ribbon; a polka-dotted flouncy long skirt, that closes with a waistband and sewn-in snaps; a pair of long underpants with leg cuffs and elastic waist; wet-felted wool boots, made to resemble traditional valenki footwear, with leather ties; a cape in melton wool, lined with matching cotton stripes, that closes with a handmade button loop and wooden button; a traditional kerchief, which she really likes to wear around her face and a big fur hat that she adores to wear. Ebba is a doll suitable for a child 6+, due to small parts and the frail nature of her hair. Her price is $1,150 USD plus postage charges (taxes apply to Canadian residents).
Katyusha is made with my MiniFig pattern, that used to produce dolls up to 9,5" tall but that with the addition of a slightly long neck and a little bit longer legs, now produces an 11" tall doll. She is very petite in construction, and therefore is not a doll advisable to small children. She is made with the same materials as Ebba, both in skin tone and hair. She wears a cotton long dress, lined, with cross over design and closes with sewn-in snaps. Her dress and cape are trimmed in cotton ric rac. She has a pair of long underpants with elastic waist on legs and waist. A pair of little wool crochet boots, a melton wool cape lined with matching cotton stripes, that closes with a handmade button loop and wooden button. Katyusha also has a pretty kerchief, and she insists she must wear it around her face if she is to keep her hair off her eyes. Please indulge her. Katyusha's price is $305 USD and is recommended as a toy for a child 6+, due to small parts and the nature of her hair.
If you would like to bring either one of these girls home, please fill in your details in the form below. I will leave the form open until Monday Feb. 16th at 9:00 PM EDT and proceed to pick a person to purchase each doll then. An invoice will be sent shortly to you via paypal and payment is due upon receipt.
—Ebba and Katyusha's entry form has been deleted. Thank you so much for your interest!
I wish all of those entering good luck, in the hopes that these two dolls find the home where they belong. I hope they bring some of their winter spirit and Russian love into your life.