The not so flat world of paper dolls

We may be way beyond the golden age of paper dolls, but their enduring presence over centuries does not lie. They are fun, engaging for toddlers, and usually affordable for parents. Today, we owe their survival more to book publishers and artisans than toy makers. It can be tricky to navigate through what is on the market, if you are mindful of stereotypes, diversity and body image issues that can arise. In our opinion, Dansereau by Dominique Dansereau and Paper Thin Personas by Rachel Cohen offer the best commercial options.

Better yet, say Kelly Burstow of Be A Fun Mom, make your own, from family photos. Use your photo cutout to draw a silhouette and create a paper wardrobe. Drawing them is also so simple. Making a paper doll brings a fine opportunity to draw, cut and manipulate images and to stimulate imagination for family story telling.

There is of course the long history of paper dolls and a vast vintage market out there, for history buffs and collectors. Paper dolls and the fashion industry are inseparable. For this reason, like their 3D cousins, paper dolls too carry a long history of woman’s body representation and gender roles. For a brief women’s perspective on the history of this “innocent” toy, see this documented articles published in 2016 on the (American) National Women’s History Museum website.

On the contemporary arts scene for grownups, it is impossible to ignore the life size realistic works by New York artist October Lane. The Paper Doll Project makes you think and will serve as an excellent helper to parents with teens.

Clothing in color sample. Source: Dansereau.co, 23 Janurary 2022.

Hooray! Goodera!

We raise two thumbs up for Goodera who came up with a new sleek introductory video presenting our mission and Collection. Friends at Goodera are kindly watching over us, as difficult times drag on.

We are a cultural charity with a specific educational, archival mandate, so understandably our organization has not come out at the top of foundations or philanthropists’ list of priorities since the beginning of the pandemic. Getting the word out is important to us and we invite you to share this post as much as possible. Today may be a good day to make a donation, we thank you in advance for doing so.

As a global platform, Goodera facilitates corporate volunteering. Like other charities, the pandemic has prevented us to hold in-person events and meet our regional community directly. Goodera’s online global reach and technical expertise is a much appreciated support. On top of all they do, they have just launched their Karma App, in partnership with Zoom and you will find it at Zoom App Marketplace. The application lets people take ten minutes of their online meeting to make a group contribution to the cause of their choice.

An Introduction to Children’s Design International Collection. Production: Goodera. Source: CDIC-CIDE.

Miniature art, big time!

With the successive imposition of lockdowns and access restrictions during the pandemic, artists and other creative people are rediscovering the charms of tiny art. Reports about free little galleries or FLAG, have proliferated in the past year. The Seattle Met, the Washington Post (twice), TimeOut, Urbanicity, the CBC, the Toronto Star, even the Smithsonian Magazine have all showed interest in little galleries.

According to these reports, FLAGs are already thriving across the United States in Seattle, Portland, Austin, Oakland, Phoenix Atlanta, Washington D.C., Brooklyn, Hyattsville, as well as in Edmonton and more recently Hamilton, Canada. Artist and self-proclaimed FLAG tracker Elaine Luther has spotted some in Sweden, Polan and Mexico. She created a website to help us follow the expansion of the empire.

This growing phenomenon is good news for artists. It provides a much needed outlet for their works and also a way to reach out to a diverse audience, both locally and online. It is also good news for kids and for community spirit, because it is inclusive of all sorts of works, as long as it fits the space, and everyone can leave or take a piece of their art. It is the same exchange system as the well-known free little library network.

Washington State artists are definitely leading the trend. Stacy Milrani was one of the first to launch and now seemingly has one of the busiest FLAG. Sculptor Jennyfer McNeely took the adventure to new dimensions with the creation of fictional curator Margaret Supperfield, a doll with her own Instagram account. As for long time professional doll maker, Katy Strutz, the appeal of free little galleries was irresistible.

Interestingly, this newly found passion in miniature art comes at a time when, at the supersize end of the spectrum, so called immersive art is also taking off. Now attracting renowned large museum institutions, immersive shows of images by Van Gogh, Klimt, Schiele, Klee and also contemporary artists are scheduled in places likes Miami, Atlanta, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Toronto, Bordeau, Dubai, Shangai, Macao and Tokyo. These events use new technologies to attract new audiences to visual arts and boost tourism. Bea Mitchell’s top 11 list in her Blooloop article is enough to appreciate the contrast this is compared to miniature art.

Miniature art has long been part of major historical collections. It also never left the contemporary art scene, even if it had not been considered blockbuster by large institutions, with big buildings. The Biennale Internationale d’Art Miniature (BIAM) has presented miniature works in the small northern town of Ville-Marie, Quebec for 30 years. More than 10 countries were represented last summer. Across the pond, in Paris, visitors have a few more days to visit the Small is Beautiful exhibition. At this event by Encore Productions and Fever, 20 artists present their miniature works, and children can take part in miniature art workshops.

Pictured below is the latest free little gallery that just opened its tiny door in Hamilton, Canada. As I visited it with a limited edition contribution of my own, a local artist was already there with her own contribution. An initiative by art teacher Matt Coleman, the Mappleside Museum of Miniature Art (MMoMA) is however a bit of a misnomer. We get the pun of the acronym, but a museum usually has a collection conservation mandate, as well as educational programs, while a gallery shows art for trading purpose. The MMoMA is actually a free little gallery.

Many more have joined the conversation in 2021

According to our web statistics, unique visitors and total hits for our website have increased by 50 % this past year, compared with the previous one. With over 12,000 visitors and 156,000 hits, we can say that more and more people are developing an interest in the preservation of children’s art and expression. It is not all, of those visiting, 13 % spend at least 15 minutes on the site and 11 % more than 30 minutes. We might not be the latest singing kitty with nearly 20 M views on the tube or on Tik Tok, but we purr to our own beat.

Our visitors come largely from Canada and the United States, but also significantly from France, India, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Japan and several others. We are also lucky to have dedicated volunteers helping out with our social media. A steady 800 subscribers follow us on Instagram. Pass on the word and help more people support our mission.

CDIC’s website stats for 2021, as per cPanel. Source: CDIC-CIDE.

The color of my snow

Winter has arrived all over the northern hemisphere. Now is a good time to reconsider how we draw or paint our snow. Sure your snow may still be white, but which white exactly? And why not another color? Time to step outside or dig into what art history has to teach.

Start with a safe palette of shades of the same color. John Hulsey and Ann Trusty of Hulsey Trusty Designs have the perfect to-the-point advices in this short article on Artists Network. Observation and an adventurous spirit are key. The pair have their own business at Artist’s Road. See their detailed how-to article Painting Winter: Exploring the winter landscape, and see what real plein air painting aficionados do.

Even scientists love winter landscapes. See some more paintings with their corresponding palettes in this fun blurb at the University Center for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) website.

Snowman, gouache on paper, c1963. By Yvon. Source: CDIC-CIDE.

More digitization in progress

We have recently signed an agreement with McMaster University Library for the digitization of nearly 150 objects from our Collection. These are oversize objects which we cannot digitize on our own at this time. The pandemic had stalled our discussion with the university for many months, while facilities were not accessible. We are happy this is now underway.

The university library had never opened its Digitization Centre to the community until now and we are glad to be paving the way to more collaborations in the future. A special thanks to Krista Jamieson, Digitization Services Manager, for her efforts in making this project possible. In these photographs, Krista unboxes the package after a special delivery to the library.

On a dark background

Solstice is just around the corner. We encourage you to take some time to draw with bright colors on a dark background. Follow the lead from contemporary artists such as Cathy Sheeter from , and Kay Lee. They perpetuate a method many would have thought had long disappeared among professional artists.

Explore the nearly lost history of pastel on velvet in Lisa Hix‘s daring article published on Collectors Weekly.

Some of our collection items are made on dark background. Like this one by Sri Dharshni, part of the Ganesh M fonds. We first notice the two black trees under the moonlight, but pay attention to the way bats fly among the stars.

Two trees at night, by Sri Dharshni, 2020. Source: CDIC-CIDE.org

Meanwhile in adolescence

If we judge by the vast scientific and non scientific literature about the analysis of children’s drawings, it is safe to say that art therapists mainly use drawing analysis in their work with young children and their families. It is also safe to say that, in general, adolescents draw less than younger children. This is for various reasons which are not the subject of this article. Instead, we have a first glance at art therapy in the treatment of adolescents. Literature on that subject is scarce by any standards.

Three researchers based in Israel, Adi Barak, Nurit Wolk and Dani Yaniv, published just last April, the results of their qualitative study of adolescents drawing from observation. Titled Different shade of beauty: Adolescents’ perspectives on drawing from observation, the article was published on the Frontiers in Psychology‘s website. It includes some interesting illustrations and quotes from the participants. It provides practical comments directed at art therapists. The observations about aesthetic judgement and self-acceptance will not be lost on them. Drawing from observation, combined with practice in mindfulness and a shared sense of empathy and reality, seem to be an effective approach in art therapy.

Another article drew our attention. It has however no illustrations and is quantitative in its approach. Prepared by Katherine Bottinelli, Cecilia Cheung and Yena Kyeong, the article is available on the ResearchGate website: Adolescents’ drawings and divergent thinking – Does culture matter? Here is no place to dive into what divergent thinking is, but you might find interesting that this study compares American and Chinese adolescents.

tree, pencil, paper, 1970s
Spruce and pine branches. Yvon, 14, c1972. Source: CDIC-CIDE.org

Broom with a view

We collect items that are very much part of the day to day lives of young families around the world. For this reason, it is natural for us to admire those collectors and curators who do the same. Near the city of Jodhpur in Western Rajasthan (India), Arna Jharna: The Thar Museum is doing just that by collecting and curating Jhadus or brooms.

The museum was founded in 2000, by late folklorist Komal Kothari. It displays 180 types of brooms, according to Supriya Newar‘s thorough article on Live History India. Simple objects provide amazing insights and the brooms helps visitors to explore the stories of the people of Rajasthan, their working and spiritual lives, as well as their natural surroundings. Another article by Chelsea Santos, Assistant Curator at The City Palace Museum of Udaipur, brings us closer to the Arna Jharna museum. It is published on mainlymuseums.com.

In 2016, the picturesque Musée Calbet in Grisolle (France) had also celebrated the broom in a special exhibition, from a different source and perspective.

Brooms at the Arna Jharna Museum, with tags that mention geographic location and name. Photo: Chelsea Santos. Source: MainlyMuseums.com, 30 October 2021.
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