Twenty Questions (More or Less) with Robert Tonner

A while ago, Robert Tonner graciously allowed me to ask some questions about Ellowyne. I met him in the late 1990s when Tyler Wentworth debuted, and spoke with him frequently when I was writing my book, Contemporary Fashion Dolls: The Next Generation, which was published under my former name, Beth Owens. I learned that he is truly as nice as he is talented. It was my privilege to interview Robert for insights on his new Ellowyne Wilde doll.

Bethany) You made so many collectors—myself included—so happy with the new Ellowyne doll. What factors influenced your decision to bring her back?

Robert) Good question. There were a lot of things that influenced my decision to bring Ellowyne back. The first was that I never really wanted her to stop in the first place. However, the head molds, after many years, had worn out and I was going to have to do something. I did do a new head (before I switched to the fashion doll body) but was never happy with it. To make that head I scanned a vinyl head and tried to use that to make another mold. We did, but there were things I saw that bothered me with it. Then I tried the one with the fashion doll body but I don’t know if anyone was happy with that one. Anyway, after thinking about it, I felt that if I could make a new head that felt more like Ellowyne to me, It would be fun to continue with her. In addition, the body had some issues. I didn’t know if I would be able to fix them, but we did–so I just had to do it.

B) You have said that the new Ellowyne is closer to your original concept. Can you please elaborate on that?

R) I loved the first Ellowyne at the time, but I lived with her for so long, and my art has developed to a point that I thought I could get closer to what I had in mind–and to me, I accomplished it. She’s slightly younger and has a bit more of a “dreamy” expression.

B) How has 3D technology impacted the creation of the new Ellowyne?

R) New 3D sculpting technology has changed everything about how I create a doll. With the new Ellowyne head, I was able to scan the original head and start from there (my goal was to resculpt–not copy the old head)–it gave me a firm foundation to start with. With my 3D program, I was able to manipulate the original and work on it until I saw Ellowyne the way I thought she should look. I love the new head, but I was still a bit nervous about changing her. However, once I saw her wigged and painted, I knew it had been the right move. The new head looks like the first Ellowyne but still slightly different–to me, this is now Ellowyne.

B) How many face molds has Ellowyne had? I hate to say this, but the Ellowyne dolls on the RBT-101 body just didn’t seem like Ellowyne to me. They were more like Evangeline to me.

R) There were actually five molds. We re-did the mold before I switched to the RTB-101 body. It’s hard to tell that head from the original. I changed to the RTB-101 body because I thought that I could have Evangeline, Ellowyne and some of my character dolls share outfits. Sounded good in theory, but it just wasn’t Ellowyne. I do still like those dolls however. Actually it was the Ellowyne body that I was most concerned about. It was starting to have issues, but the factory really worked with me to get it back into shape so I wouldn’t be afraid to re-launch Ello. Production from overseas has become difficult and that fact can sometimes influence decisions. It’s not the factory–those people are the best and some of them have worked on Ellowyne from the start and they love her. It’s raw materials and labor shortages that are the main issues.

B) Interest in Ellowyne has skyrocketed. Some original painted eye dolls are going for close to $200 for a nude doll, and NRFB dolls are going for even higher. Interestingly enough, it seems that the demand is for original painted eye dolls. I don’t see the same demand with the inset eye or resin dolls. This is a good thing, of course, because having a healthy secondary market is vital to keep collectors interested. In fact, there are some collectors who never got an Ellowyne before the VDC. Sadly, there are buyers who will turn around, put a doll on eBay for an astronomical price. It’s frustrating to want an item only to find someone who didn’t want to collect get it. I suppose we will always have to put up with that. Is there a chance that at least some edition sizes will be increased so the speculators can’t sell them for quite so much?

R) That’s a very difficult thing to try to maneuver. If I make too many and saturate the market, that’s not good for anyone. However, over the years I’ve found that some collectors buy a doll, caught up in the moment, and then decide it’s not for them. Then the doll is put up for sale on Ebay and you know the rest. I guess there are people who buy dolls just to resell at a profit but it’s impossible to stop that. I know I’ve purchased event dolls or small edition dolls at a premium–not always happy about it but at least I get a chance to purchase it.

B) Please tell me about Neema. The rumors are that she is East Indian and will have dark skin. Will she be released sometime this year?

R) I’m pretty excited about Neema. I am hoping she will be released this year; She’s a VDC exclusive so a kit of that will be up to Rachel. Actually, I’m still working on the story so I can’t say too much about that, but I can say she will definitely have dark skin.

B) Will we see any new characters in the line like Freddie, a SE Asian female friend, and maybe some other guys. A Black male friend, a SE Asian character? (I don’t ask for much.)

R) Wow, that’s some list! Due to production constraints, I can’t always do what I want to do. It would be nice to get Freddie out there though!

B) And let’s not forget Ellowyne’s other friends. Will any of them (please) be re-released? I feel hopeful because the stories on the VDC website that mention different friends. It is interesting that Penn and Amber are not mentioned, Hmmm.) The revamped character I most want to see is…

R) I have a real fondness for Lizette and Pru

B) Prudence. She has such a beautiful face but that great, big, round pumpkin head. I would love to see her in a slimmed-down head, similar to Ellowyne’s. I’m trying to think of how you could re-imagine Lizette because her face is so beautiful as is. Amber has a tiny face but toning down the big eyes might make a difference. Penn needs some guyliner and maybe smaller (painted) eyes. However, they are not mentioned in the doll stories so are they are gone for good?

R) None of the characters are gone (everyone is in good health:)) Again, who comes back depends a lot on factory capacity and collector demand.

B) And then there’s Rufus. I love that boy and would love to see him brought back. The story for Pedal Pushers seems to indicate that he and Ellowyne are finally a couple. Maybe there should be a “Requited” Rufus. It sounds as if Ellowyne has come to her senses and realizes that intelligence, kindness, and a sense of humor are more important than looks. I’d like to see him as a hipster: stubble on his face, fedora or knit cap on his head, and a man-bun. Would you bring him back? Please?

R) I’ve not thought about bringing characters back only if they’re reworked–but it’s not a bad idea. Rufus is one of my favorite characters in the Wilde world and I love that he’s not classically handsome but he’s a decent, smart, kind person. He might be fun to revisit!

B) A friend pointed out that on the VDC website, there is something about Ellowyne having a new story. Does this mean she no longer has ennui?

R) Ellowyne is back to therapy–that’s what I was referring to. Her story line remains the same–it will just develop.

B) What can we expect for the future? Will there be an inset eye version of Ellowyne or will she again? (However, to tell the truth, I like the new painted eye girls even more than the inset eye dolls.) Will there be any changes to her body like flat feet some of the time?

R) Due to production hurdles, I’ll have to take this slowly. I may do an inset eye Ello, but no plans quite yet. I do have a mold with flat feet that works, but no plans yet to bring it back (again, it’s the minimums to cast plastic parts-there would be a lot of flat footed dolls)

B) Will you sell separate outfits? Wigs? Shoes? Purses? Stands? Other accessories? Would you ever consider creating with the 3D printer shoes, sunglasses, or other items?

R) We are currently selling additional outfits and I’ll continue to do so. Wigs are coming later in the year and as far as the shoes and other accessories–probably. I am working on the stand and I may sell those separately. You may not know, but I do have a digital shop at Shapeways (a 3D printing company) I have a link on my website. I plan to add Ellowyne shoes and glasses and other accessories later in the year.

B) Last but not least—when can we expect the second wave of Ellowyne and her friends? I hope we have at least a little time to let our wallets recover!

R) There will be another group later in the year. Again, VDC will be selling those so keep a lookout on that site.

B) Thank you for your answers. More importantly, thank you—and Rachel–for bringing back Ellowyne. In my opinion as a veteran fashion doll collector, Ellowyne is the ultimate doll. Perfect for play, stunning to display. She is the muse for many collectors who want to customize her, sew for her, or write stories about her. I quit writing my blog during the pandemic because I wondered if collectors still cared about her. Now I know—collectors still love her. So do I. Again, thank you for your time and for sharing your creative vision with us all.

Virtual Doll Convention/New Ellowyne Review

I had planned to write a review of the new Ellowyne—and the Virtual Doll Convention–weeks ago. First off, never ever update all of your computers or software at the same time. I’m practically on a first name basis with Microsoft customer service over Office for Mac. Additionally, I’ve had some lingering health issues post-COVID and some particularly nasty fibromyalgia flares. When I haven’t been curled in a ball, covered with an afghan and at least one cat, I’ve been playing. There’s one Ellowyne who has the lioness’ share of my time and I seriously can’t stop dressing her or putting on new wigs.

First of all, kudos to Rachel Hoffman for getting this convention together. She had a ton of work to do and handled it with aplomb. Thank you so much, Rachel! You are appreciated!

This was my first—but NOT last–experience with the VDC. It’s been going on for a couple of years now but I didn’t pay attention until I heard that a new Ellowyne was going to debut. I loved the format—exciting yet casual–and I appreciated how I could watch events live or see the videos I missed online. I can even access those videos today! The events/videos I liked the most were teddy bears and dolls that I don’t collect. There’s something to be said about admiring a collectible without having to actually own it.

That’s not all. There were paper dolls to print and dress, a coloring page, patterns, and sewing videos—all for Ellowyne and other dolls. Convention camaraderie was possible via the VDC’s Facebook pages. Attendees are still posting pictures of the dolls they bought or dolls that they just want to share. The only thing missing was a glass of wine to be sipped on while watching the videos. Next time I will be prepared!

Now, about those new Ellowynes! I was beyond thrilled when I saw pictures of them on Facebook. Okay, it was love at first sight. The process of acquiring the dolls, however, seemed as daunting as trying to schedule a COVID vaccine. Thoughts of sniping on eBay and having to hit refresh, refresh, refresh, and refresh constantly nervously danced in the background of my mind. When the dolls were up for sale, I didn’t get a notice. It turned out that I was looking on the wrong FB page! Adrenaline surging, I messaged my dear friend Jeanne Grandchamp, who virtually held my hand, I was able to get two Ellowynes—Pedal Pusher and Taking Shape—and the Face Time outfit. The process turned out to be easy peasy, and far less painful than the COVID shot. Next time, I’ll know what I’m doing! I missed out on Baby Doll and Puff Piece but I figured I didn’t need them. Yeah, right!

The dolls were not going to be sent for several weeks after the convention ended. Tom Petty was right: The waiting is the hardest part! But the dolls were worth the wait. I thought it was impossible to improve on perfection but the new Ellowynes prove just that. The face is thinner, with an angular chin, and I think she looks more mature than previous Ellowynes. The bodies seem slightly heavier. So far, the dolls’ hips are tight and there’s no loose left leg, a problem that plagues most earlier Ellowynes.

The dolls did not disappoint. However, there was a hiccup in that the mass-produced Taking Shape doll had different hair than the prototype, which had sleek red hair. The production doll had a gorgeous mess of curly red hair that took her from a ten to a fourteen! I’ve been collecting fashion dolls for thirty years, and I have seen changes from prototype to production in Barbie, Gene, Tyler, Ellowyne, and others.

Something else that I like about the new Ellowynes is that they look so good with other Wilde dolls. With her smaller face, she looks perfect with her painted-eye friends Rufus, Lizette, and Amber. Unfortunately, she doesn’t look quite as good with pumpkin-headed Pru. I would love to see Pru come back with a smaller head. Her face sculpt is so beautiful and it would be nice to see her updated. (Robert Tonner DOES listen to his collectors!) And of course I’d like to see a new Rufus, preferably with some facial hair and a man-bun. Who knows what Mr. Tonner will do in the future?

Anyway, I ended up getting Puff Piece and Baby Doll Brunette on the secondary market. They were both worth what I paid. Baby Doll is quickly becoming my favorite play doll. I amassed a bunch of wigs for her, and have dressed her in everything from handmade streetpunk wear to official Ellowyne outfits to jeans to hard-to-find gowns. Puff Piece looks like she could be fun to redress.

Once again, a huge shout-out to Robert Tonner and Rachel Hoffman and who brought our girl Ellowyne back. Thank you!!

Well, no more words. Time to look at pictures! (Is it obvious that I have a favorite?) As always, thank you for reading!

Still Believing in the Power of Play

A few days before Christmas, Robert Tonner announced that he was refocusing his creative talents and collaborating with a new company, Phyn & Aero to produce at least three new doll lines in 2017. He will continue to do licensed products like characters from DC and Gone with the Wind. Sadly, Robert discontinued his proprietary lines. There will be no new Déjà Vu dolls. It’s also an end of Tyler and Marley Wentworth—just when I decided I really liked the Chic body. But for me, the biggest loss is that of my beloved Ellowyne Wilde and her friends. I’m so disappointed that we’ll never get to see characters mentioned in Ellowyne’s journal entries, like little brother Freddy or her new friend Hazel. There will never be a painted eye Penn—the poor guy never got a last name, nor a basic Rufus with inset eyes. And we won’t get more ethnic diversity in Ellowyne’s world. I had hoped against hope that we’d get a couple of Asian characters or an African-American male. But. Not. Going. To. Happen.

I am disappointed that Ellowyne’s tenth anniversary didn’t merit a grand celebration. Instead, she went out with a whisper rather than a brass band. Of course, I realize that it likely would have been a financial burden, perhaps one too great for Tonner/Wilde Imagination to bear. But I feel her many fans deserved to see her off in style.

I don’t want to spew platitudes like there always is always a secondary market, where we can find dolls who might not be new but they’re new to us. We know that already. Nor do I want to be a Pollyanna and refuse to deal with the end of these beloved dolls and smile when in fact we want to bawl like babies.

Still, it isn’t easy to be in a consumer-driven hobby when there is nothing new to collect.

So, what do we do? Some collectors might sell off their Tonner/Wilde Imagination dolls. Others might decide to collect different dolls. Still others will love Ellowyne regardless. Whether you are dismayed or disappointed, if you decide to sell, buy, or diversify your collection, it’s up to you. The fashion doll police will not (and should not) condemn you for your decisions.

In graduate school, I learned about the theories of subjectivism, a theory that holds that people create their own meanings, and thus we co-create what we perceive. An example of this is how people perceive art. The artist has put him/herself into the creation of a piece. But the other part of this is that the viewer of the art has a reaction to the art. Does the viewer see the work as aesthetically pleasing or as a mishmash a five-year-old could do? Is the art provocative and make the viewer think? Or does it leave the viewer puzzled, even disgusted? Thus, the artist has put out his/her art but we interpret it as appealing or not, as edgy or as junk. In that sense, we become co-creators of that piece of art.

In this vein, while Robert Tonner has worked magic for us in the creation of Ellowyne and her friends, we co-create our realities of what those dolls mean and how we perceive them. For example, when I started collecting the Ellowyne line, I swore I would never get Rufus. Once I saw him customized, I embraced his unconventional appearance and co-created his character as a slightly awkward, scary smart nerd. And now, Rufus is my favorite character in the Wilde world.

Indeed it is disappointing to think about no new Ellowyne line dolls. I had so hoped for Freddy, Asian and African American friends—not to mention my vision of the “ultimate” Rufus. I wrote earlier that I wasn’t about to emulate Pollyanna and maintain that we put on our happy faces despite the loss of something that mattered in our lives. It’s up to us as collectors to continue to love our dolls even though they’re discontinued. We can sew, make jewelry, create dioramas, take photographs, re-paint faces, and write poems and stories. It all boils down to the Power of Play. Regardless of how we play and when we play, we strengthen our love for our dolls and spark our creativity. There will be no more Ellowyne dolls but no one can take away our passion.

Again, I feel it necessary to apologize for not updating my blog for a while. It took me much longer to recover from the health issues I had last summer. I haven’t felt much like writing for quite some time.

Thank you for reading and I’ll be back soon.

The Trouble With Real Life…

is that it tends to interfere with our hobbies! I’m sorry that I’ve been AWOL. To make a long story short, I was hospitalized with an electrolyte imbalance and acute kidney failure. If you want to read the rest of it, here goes.

It started out innocently enough; I scraped my ankle on a plastic box in which I kept some of my Ellowyne clothes. A few days later, the scrape looked red and puffy and I was concerned that it could develop into full-blown cellulitis, especially since my husband and I were to go to Iowa to visit his parents and my mother. Mom is in an assistive living facility and we’re trying to get her house ready for sale. Anyway, I went to the local ER and got two broad-spectrum antibiotics. Good to go, right?

A couple of days later we were on the road to Iowa. We stopped at a rest area in Illinois and I fell when I got out of the car. I tried to avoid walking into a puddle but lost balance and fell into it anyway. I wasn’t too concerned because I’m an utter klutz and had fallen a few times the past couple of months. That evening, when we got to his parents’ house, I fell twice heading down their stairs. It was strange but not necessarily a problem at that time.

The next day, we went to my mom’s house. You remember the song “Stairway to Heaven”? Mom’s house has the stairway from Hell. It has a split foyer, which means a person has to go up or down when coming into the house. The steps downstairs aren’t bad but the steps going upstairs—the living space— were awful. They’re narrow and steep and I warned my mother that they were an accident waiting to happen. I had no idea I’d be the one having the accident. That night, I fell up the stairs. I was one step short of getting upstairs and fell forward. I also developed tremors in my legs and arms, especially when trying to move. I suspected that a couple of meds lowered my blood pressure and I stopped taking them. suspected of lowering my blood pressure. The next day brought more of the same, a couple  of falls and more shakiness. But that night I had the worst fall of all. I was heading up the stairs and, on the same step on which I had fallen the previous evening, I fell backwards. I knocked my husband over and landed flat on my back.

I probably should have gone to the ER but the hospital in Iowa was out of my insurance’s network and I was worried about the cost. Besides, I’m a nurse. We nurses tend to be a stubborn bunch, not willing to see ourselves as sick, injured, or vulnerable. We also tend to diagnose ourselves Of course I was trying to figure out what my symptoms meant and I was afraid that I had a brain tumor or some other scary neurological disorder.

The next day, we were going to take Mom out for lunch but I fell twice in the foyer of the assisted living facility. The nurse manger came to help and told me I needed to go to the ER.  By that time my tremors got so bad I could barely walk with a walker and at least one person helping me. I went to urgent care. The nurse practitioner told me to go to the ER and the doc hospitalized me. I had blood work done, a CT scan, x-rays, and an MRI. The head CT and MRI were negative—and that doesn’t mean that I have no brain (heh) but there were no scary neurological disorders lurking in the background and no evidence of head trauma. The x-rays indicated that I had sprained my ankle, broke my coccyx and the little toe on my other foot.

In the end, it turned out that I had developed high levels of potassium and lactic acid and that I was in acute kidney failure. Had I not been treated then, I would likely have developed chronic kidney failure, leading to dialysis or needing a kidney transplant. Or I could have died. The culprit ended up being one of the two antibiotics I took to address the cellulitis on my scraped ankle. Looking back, I see how the symptoms led to the diagnosis. I will never take that antibiotic because  I don’t want to go through that again!

I’ve spent the last month or two trying to get better. I occasionally have issues with my balance and a nurse practitioner told me to get shoes that offered more support. Goodbye cute shoes, hello Birkenstocks. Eh, save the cute shoes for Ellowyne. My girls never complain too much about wearing fashionable shoes—-with the exception of “My Feet Hurt”, who was created for one of the Paris fashion doll events.

Onward! There are a couple of stories brewing in my mind and I will try to bring them to fruition soon. I’ve realized that my beloved Rufus has been the main protagonist in my stories so I’m trying to focus on some of the other characters. Perhaps the story will be all about Prudence or Lisette or maybe…

Thank you for reading. I hope to get that next story written soon!

 

 

Still Here!

Sorry for the absence. I have been traveling a lot these past few weeks and tomorrow I am going to my first Tonner Convention ever! I was supposed to go to the first one but I had a slightly unexpected neck surgery. But finally I get to go to a TonCon! Yay!

I will share some of my experiences when I return home.

Speaking of Names…

Have you noticed something different about Penn? Unlike the other characters in the Ellowyne line, Penn does not have a last name! We have Ellowyne Wilde, Prudence Moody, Rufus Rutter, Amber Stanhope, and Lizette Dione but Penn’s surname is but a mystery. Is he meant to be iconic like Cher, Madonna, or Prince, who left us way too soon? Or did our friends at Wilde Imagination simply had a cognitive hiccup that left Penn without a proper family name?

Let’s change that! When Penn was introduced, a few raucous collectors (mea culpa) got on Facebook to explore possible last names for this dear boy. We came up with several silly surnames like State (Penn State), Satucky (Penn Satucky), Tagram or Tagon (Penn Tagram or Penn Tagon), and my favorite, Gwynne (Penn Gwynne). Can you come up with other names? Let’s be creative! In a couple of weeks I will make a poll with your answers and send the results to Michelle at Wilde Imagination.

Thanks for reading!

Gallery

Wilde Imagination Spring 2016 Releases

First of all, I need to apologize for being away from my blog so long. My elderly mother lives over 500 miles away and I’m busy getting her house ready for sale. I don’t have easy access to the Internet when I’m away.

Second, I dislike trying to review a doll unless it’s in my hands. Some dolls are simply not photogenic and look much better in person.

And finally, I am saving for TonCon 2016. I’m reticent to post my thoughts on the new releases because I will turn into a screeching banshee if I don’t get my picks. So there—enjoy reading about the new releases but don’t buy any until I have mine. Thank you!

I remember waiting breathlessly for new releases of various doll lines rather long ago: Gene, Cissy, and, of course my favorite at that time, Tyler Wentworth. But major life changes took priority over collecting and I no longer cared about new or existing dolls. However, I had gotten into Ellowyne during a rough time in my life and was looking forward to the new releases for Fall 2014. I didn’t buy many dolls at that time because I was concentrating on retired dolls and outfits that I missed out on since I got interested in Ellowyne so late. But I’ve found most of the things on my Ellowyne wish list and I can indulge in some of these new releases. Here are some of my picks from the Spring 2016 line.

First we’ll look at A Dream of Marigold and Cinnamon. This girl is radical. Made with the Ellowyne face mold but a honey skintone. She is aesthetically gorgeous but I’m on the fence about her. How does she fit into my stories? She also reminds me of Madame Alexander’s Cissy, who was made in three different skintones. I have unpleasant memories of contemporary Cissy dolls, so perhaps I need to take a pass on this girl.

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Next up is A Magical Mystery Tour. Although her name comes from The Beatles, her outfit looks like something Stevie Nicks would wear. I love Stevie and might have to get this girl. She even has her own video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3gLiltyT_I

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There is a resin Ellowyne this year, Royal Rock. She is beauteous. I like her face, gown, and wig. But I’m on the fence about resin. I worry that I am just too clumsy to have a resin doll.

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Here’s a different take on Ellowyne. Not only does she have flat feet, she also sports a pale, natural face with freckles. Ooooh. Freckles! Some collectors feel this is a “young” version of Ellowyne but, in my opinion, Right On White reminds me of the tabloids that one can read while standing in the slowest line in the grocery store. You know the ones: Stars Without Make Up!

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There are several painted eye girls as well! Amber, Autumn Haze features painted eyes and a “non-removable” wig. Brave and crazy collectors (like me) know that all wigs are removable. She is selling fast, so if you want her, get busy!

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The two basic Ellowynes have painted eyes. Pretty Pale Ellowyne has two light short wigs while Wilde Ellowyne Wigged Out has two brown wigs.

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And there’s more. More outfits, including one for flat foot dolls, a few more dolls. Maybe it’s because I’m still new-ish to Ellowyne that I’m really excited about the Spring line. Oh, bother…

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Thank you for reading!

The Naming of Dolls

RATING: K (Appropriate for all ages)

According to T. S. Eliot,

            The naming of cats is a difficult matter,

            It isn’t just one of your holiday games;

            You might think at first I’m mad as a hatter,

            When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.  

Although Eliot, aka Old Possum, wrote about cats, his eloquent words serve as a template for naming our dolls. He spoke of three names: a common name, a particular, dignified name, and a name only known to the cat. Similarly, our dolls have everyday names, the ones bequeathed by their creator. Some have second names that we give to them. And finally some dolls seem to come up with their own names, whether they are new in our collections or dolls that have been with us for a while.

            First of all, there’s the name that the family uses daily,

            Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo, or James,

            Such as Victor or Jonathan, George or Bill Bailey—

            But all of them sensible everyday names.

The first name given to a doll is the one bestowed to it by its creator such as Prudence Moody and Rufus Rutter. Interestingly, Ellowyne was intended to be Gwendolyn Wilde but that name was already copyrighted by the author of a children’s book. The advantage of using the first name of a doll is that it’s an easy way to identify a doll. In this vein, I use the common names in my stories so readers aren’t scratching their heads, wondering who Kirsten and Will are.

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Wil and Kirsten. He is named for Wil Wheaton, to whom he bears no resemblance

and she is named for an old friend from nursing school.

            But I tell you, a cat needs a name that’s particular,

            A name that’s peculiar and more dignified,

            Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,

            Or stretch out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?

I’m rather new to naming dolls. As a child, I had Barbie, Francie, Skipper and Skooter and I didn’t see a reason to call them anything else. On the other hand, I named my trolls because they had no original names. I also had a Revlon Doll knock-off that was the most beautiful doll my four-year-old eyes had ever seen. I named her Valerie. Years later, as an adult collector, I rarely deviated from referring my dolls something other than their creator-given names. Gene was always Gene, Cissy was always Cissy, and Tyler, of course, was always Tyler. But almost as soon as I got into collecting Ellowyne, I found the board Ellowyne’s Ennui. There I met a number of collectors, many of whom renamed their dolls. It sounded like a lot of fun to rename dolls and a great way to be creative.

Sometimes it’s easy to rename a doll. Inspiration can come from reading and watching TV shows and movies. I have a doll named Gabriela, for one of my favorite characters on Chicago Fire. The inspiration for another doll name comes from Chicago Med. One of my Penns resembles actor Nick Gehlfuss, who plays a character named Will Halstead on Chicago Med. But the name Will is already taken so I decided to call my new doll Nick. I noted a resemblance between Nick and my Brrooties Ellowyne and figured they could be twins. I like The Thin Man movies so I named Nick’s sister Nora.

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Gabriela

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Nick

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Nick Gehlfuss

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Nick and Nora

Some of my dolls have been named for real people. I’ve named several for friends. My first Prudence is named Becky while another Prudence is PJ, with the J standing for Jeanne. Some of my dolls are named after people who have made an impact on my life. An example is Emma, who was named for a man named Emmanuel, who helped me get through one of the most difficult times in my life.

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PJ and Becky

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Emma

Some of my dolls are named for someone I don’t know but admire nonetheless. I named a doll Maya for Maya Angelo and Maya Rudolph, who was the daughter of the late Minnie Riperton. Near the end of her song, Lovin’ You, Ms. Riperton sang the name Maya over and over, which makes me dissolve in tears.

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Maya

If I get a doll that has been previously loved, I try to use the name given by the original owner. I got a doll named Madeline by its previous owner but that was the name of my favorite cat, who crossed the Rainbow Bride several year ago. I tweaked her name and now she is Madison.

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Madison

I have at least two dolls that I named for dolls I’ve loved as a child. Hadley is named for vintage Midge, whose surname in the 1960s Random House Barbie books was Hadley. Another doll is named Valerie after the doll I loved so long ago.

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Hadley

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Valerie

Now, if I feel stuck and not sure what to name a doll, I venture onto websites that share ideas for baby names. There are sites for different ethnicities, names celebrities name their children, and the top hipster baby names. The name Rufus is on several hipster sites. Who knew that Rufus was hip and trendy? I was on one site that listed the name Elowyne, spelled with one “l”, and noted that Ellowyne was a doll’s name. But be prepared—if you check out too many baby name websites, you will get spam from sites selling maternity clothes, diaper bags, and all sorts of accessories for new moms and their babies!

However, there are a few names that I just can’t use. I can’t name any dolls after someone I’ve dated, even if that was over 30 years ago. My ex-husband’s name is out, as is my husband’s ex-wife’s, which is a shame because she has a lovely name. I prefer not to name a doll after a beloved pet; sometimes the memories of a companion animal just don’t fade and giving such a name to a doll brings back the feelings of deep loss and painful memories. I know that many collectors have no such reaction so for them, naming a doll after a pet is meant as a tribute. Some also name dolls after family members. Personally, it not my preference to do so but maybe someday I will change my mind. I can’t give my dolls names of people who have been mean to my husband, my sons, or me. Bad bosses or grad school bullies, take note! Seriously, I want to keep my collection drama-free so, for now at least, I avoid those names altogether.

            But above and beyond there’s still one name left over,

            And that is the name that you will never guess;

            The name that no human research can discover—

            But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.

The third name for a doll often seems to emanate from the doll itself. Sometimes a mere picture of the doll is enough to cement its true name. For example, a friend picked up a Penn for me at a recent Wilde event. I immediately said that he looked like a Brad. My friend agreed to the point that when she sent him out, the postal worker asked what was in the box and she said, “Brad”. And look at this dapper fellow. How could he be named anything else?

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Brad

Sometimes, the elusive third name is settled upon after a doll has been customized or when a new doll for which the name is more appropriate comes into the collection. For example, the raven-haired Ellowyne in the picture below was originally named Zoe. It seemed to fit her but then I got a different Ello who seemed a better fit for the name. So these girls are Zoe and Chloe (I’m not sure I know which is which!) while the original “Zoe” is looking for a new name. Her friend Amber needs a name, too. At least the Lizette in their circle is named Misty, after the ballerina Misty Copeland. If you have any suggestions, please feel free to post them in the comments section.

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Zoe and Chloe or Chloe and Zoe?

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The former Zoe, an Amber with no name, and Misty

And there’s the occasional Doll Without a Name. Sometimes you have a doll in your collection that is difficult to name. For example, I’m still on the fence over what name to give this fellow. He is my Travel Rufus and he and his Ellowyne (named Kat after her favorite necklace) go with me when I take a trip. As I was driving through Chicago with my travel couple perched on the passenger seat, the radio played my favorite Harry Chapin song, Taxi. For a while, I thought it was the perfect name for Travel Rufus. I was happy with his name until I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I’m confidant that I was the only person in the theater who thought, OMG, he looks like Rufus, when Kylo Ren removed his mask. I wasn’t going to name my doll Kylo, but then I thought about naming him for the actor, Adam Driver. And then I Googled Adrien Brody and thought he resembled Rufus a bit better. What do you think? Is this fellow a Harry or an Adam or an Adrien? Or maybe he’s really Brody. Please tell me what you think in the comments!

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The Doll Without a Name

Adam-Driver

Adam Driver

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Adrien Brody

Ultimately, the naming of a doll is up to the collector. It doesn’t matter if you keep a doll’s original name or decide to change it once or several times—it is all up to you. Have fun with your dolls and make sure to stop in when you can!

 

Reference:

Eliot, T. S. (1939; renewed in 1967) Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats

Cyber Blues

Rated K 

I consider myself to be computer literate. Thanks to my master’s program, I am fluent in Microsoft Office for Mac: Word, PowerPoint, and even Excel. I became proficient in managing virtual classrooms and two computer-based educational platforms, Blackboard and D2L. Although it seemed impossible, I learned how to do small group work and collaborate with classmates who lived hundreds of miles away. I became skilled in starting and editing Wikis as well as putting a document into PDF and getting it out again. I wasn’t exactly proficient in using Adobe Presenter, an app that lets someone create a virtual lecture, but I figured it out without pulling out my hair. To access some of the course materials that were only available on Windows, I downloaded a program that allowed me to switch from the Mac OS to Windows Seven. Scary stuff! I still feel a pit in my stomach whenever I hear the sound of Windows booting on my iMac.

When I started my ill-fated PhD program, I had not idea how my computer skills would be challenged. I took three statistics courses and each instructor had a different favorite program. I learned about SAS, SPSS, and R. If those acronyms mean nothing to you, consider yourself lucky! I also worked with NVivo, a program used by qualitative researchers to organize data gleaned from words or written work. In one course, however, I got an introduction to WordPress. The blog was clean and easy to navigate. So of course it would be easy peasy to put up my own blog.

I was wrong, so very wrong. I’ve learned that it’s much harder to blog than I originally thought. I thought it was nothing but writing great stuff, finding terrific pictures, and maybe put in a poll or two. So far, WordPress has been tricky and hard to master. Then I remembered how difficult it was to get through some of my prior experiences with computers. I remember the endless hours spent trying to use R or SPSS even though neither one would be relevant to my course of study. I had more of a stake in mastering NVivo because I was planning to use it extensively in a dissertation that I later knew would never be written.

Okay. So WordPress is sometimes a bit wonky—and sadly, my inexperience with this site has been difficult for many people to read. I apologize for that. It will get easier the more comfortable I get. I also learned from the Happiness Engineers that front page pictures in this theme turned to sepia with the movement with the mouse! Who knew? The bottom line is, I didn’t realize WordPress would have a steep learning curve but it is well worth the hassles I’ve had. Please let me know if you have additional feedback and thank you for reading!