Thursday, 18 July 2019

A Generous Spirit

Something special happened to me recently. Just out of the blue, totally unexpected.

Once a month I meet with a local gardening group to share seeds, produce, expertise and occasionally, muscle. We weed and dig and admire each other's garden's, sharing cuttings and a delicious afternoon tea where we all contribute our home-made cakes and biscuits. One of the gardeners, Belinda, brought along her childhood doll to show us (well, me mostly, as I'm an avid collector and maker of various treasures).

Belinda produced  a hand-woven basket she had used for her own babies when they were small, with a lumpy towel inside. It was exciting to unwrap her. Sadly, her eyes were stuck shut as she'd been stored a while and the blinking weights had become gummed up.

I was totally gobsmacked when Belinda offered her to me to enjoy, to appreciate and look after. The doll, an antique German bisque doll with a composition body, had been given to Belinda when she was about 13 by a friend of her mother's. Belinda called her Josephine, shortened to 'Josie'.

Since this doll was made in 1910 and about 109 years old, I was worried about how to open her eyes without damaging her. I checked the Internet but didn't feel confident to attempt it. That night, I rang the convener of a Sydney Doll Fair, who gave me the number of  'The Doll Doctor,' Barbara Hancock. She kindly explained how to peel back the wig, check the head markings and fix the eye blinking movement mechanism from inside the head. What a relief when her eyes moved after several moments of gentle prodding! After cleaning her eyes with a cotton bud, she was as good as new. How amazing to think she is still in such beautiful condition after all these years.

Here she is wearing the smocked dress Belinda made for her in school sewing classes. What a sweet dress! Belinda decided to hold on to her dress.

The doll was uniquely numbered and marked, made in 1910 by Armand Marseille, who was born in 1856 in St. Petersburg, Russia, the son of an architect. He emigrated to Germany with his family in the 1860s. In 1884 he bought the toy factory of Mathias Lambert in Sonneberg and started producing porcelain dolls' heads in 1885, after acquiring the Liebermann & Wegescher porcelain factory in Köppelsdorf. At the height of his business, the factory produced a thousand doll heads a day. These were produced until about 1930.

I love this vintage floral fabric which Belinda's Sewing teacher gave her to use.

I spent the next day rummaging for suitable clothes for her to wear, dressing her in them, and photographing her. She is quite large, about 60 cm tall, and vintage baby clothes fit perfectly.

That afternoon I made a collaged hanging for Belinda with heartfelt thanks. I tried to find fabric scraps that matched her dress, and kept to a vintage colour scheme. I included a feather from one of my Laced Wyandotte chickens as Belinda had loved her own Wyandotte chickens years ago.

Lace Collage

Here's Josephine wearing her vintage crocheted silk dress which I had collected and mended.

I've given a delighted Belinda her wall hanging, and she's seen the new outfit, and taken her smocked dress home as a momento.

Lace Collage

What a generous-hearted gift, and I am still stunned! 

Thank you, Belinda!

Here she is with a new friend...

This special gift reminds me of other kindnesses I've received over the years. Once when I was going through a hard time in my thirties, a lovely gift of $200 appeared in my mailbox, in an unmarked envelope. I never did know for sure who it was, but I suspected a gentle family who I used to visit. I was feeling sad as I'd gone through a couple of years waiting for a court case over workplace stress, and broken up with a boyfriend. With that money I bought a beautiful Birman kitten who purred and snuggled with me for 21 years, bringing so much happiness. 

This is a collage I did of Tara after she died. Her full name is in the frame... Her Serene Adjacency, The Lady Tara Fluffy Bum.

Birman cat

Now it's my turn to offer some kindnesses back to the universe as the opportunity arises...

I'd love to hear of special gifts of kindness you might have received or given, too.



  1. Jesse, what a gorgeous gift, a real Armand Marseille doll is such a treasure , and so special. I think they made the most beautiful dolls faces ,ever - and you was so lucky ,- also to have her new dress ready for her, she looks beautiful, and ofcourse your friend should keep her adorable school sewing project . The hanger you created for her is so lovely and fits her well.
    Beautiful Tara , such a delight for so many years dearJesse.
    Sending you hugs and wishes of a wonderful weekend my friend. xoxoxoxoxoxo

    1. Yes, Dorthe, this doll is a beautiful treasure. It's lovely to hear from you. Hope your week is crafty...
      Jesse XXX

  2. Hello to you Jesse,
    What a warm and inspiring post~ Lovely, lovely Doll! And now her eyes are open to the world again! You have credited her beautifully with a 'new' dress, a little friend, and lovely collage; gorgeous layers so well done in vintage style~ And there is your precious cat Tara! (I myself am deathly allergic to cats, but I think they are beautiful:) You must have so many great memories~
    Thru the years I have had many blessings from 'generous spirits' like your garden friend; probably too many to remember! It is always a good thing to pass along and pay forward : ) Hugs to you and yours, karen o

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Karen. Hope you are doing well and creating beauty in your life.
      Love and hugs,
      Jesse XX


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