When I was eight, I wasn’t getting an allowance or any money of my own. I don’t remember even thinking that it was a possibility to ask for money to buy something. It just wasn’t within my realm of experience at that time. So you can imagine my incredible glee when, as I was walking home from school, dragging the inside of my foot along the gutter in order to kick-up the leaves, I spotted a one dollar bill. A one dollar bill! I was so excited, I scooped it up and ran the rest of the way home.
“Look Mom! Look!” I breathlessly yelled to my mother as I proudly held the crumbled bill up for her to see. She was very happy for me and told me to put it in a safe place.
From the moment I got that dollar I couldn’t stop thinking about how I was going to spend it. Maybe I could buy some Barbie clothes, or some candy. Maybe I could get a 45 record like my older friend, Gail.
The next time Mom went shopping, she took me to the variety store in the little strip mall. I walked up and down the aisle. I had never really gone shopping for myself before, and I must have taken a long time checking the inky adhesive price tags on every little thing. It soon dawned on me that most of what I had originally wanted to buy was beyond my reach financially. But then I went to the coloring book section, and there on the top shelf, spread out in all their glory, were the smooth, colorful covers of the paper doll books. I don’t remember which ones I bought, but I do know that they were only a quarter a piece, and that I ended up buying four of them — one for me, and one for each of my sisters. Mom must have paid the tax . . . or maybe there wasn’t any tax. I really don’t remember.
I do remember that when I got home to my sisters and pulled the paper dolls out of the brown kraft paper bag, I got my first memory of what it felt like to buy something for someone else and how good it felt. We played with those paper dolls for hours. And even though my youngest sister was a little too young to cut them out, I helped her, and we had a lot of fun.
Other times, I would take the old Sears catalog and cut out the pictures of girls and their fashions and try to turn them into paper dolls. I even would try and make those tabs around the edges to keep them on the “dolls.” But the paper was too floppy, and it never worked out very well. Still, I could spend hours just cutting and trimming and giving each girl a name and a family and a history.
I loved paper dolls when I was little, so when I saw some French paper doll sheets for sale at a flea market a couple of years ago, I bought them, thinking I could use them in my art. And then I found some more in some old editions of Ladies Home Journal that I had purchased. So I decided to scan them, clean them up a bit, and put them on the Public Domain Images page on my web site. Now I have about fifteen pages of Paper Dolls and other vintage paper crafts on my web site.
As I was working on these images on my computer, I kept wanting to get back to making my Gothic Fairies. It occurred to me that when I’m making these little collages I’m cutting and pasting paper dolls again, and giving them names, and families, and stories, just like I did when I was a little girl. So I guess that love for paper never went away.