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The Eyes Have it!

Elizabeth I, Armada dress

As I mentioned in my last letter, I have been working diligently on the Armada dress for Queen Elizabeth I. The detailed embroidery is a challenge but there is simply no other way to do justice to the dress. I’m probably 75% of the way there and once I’ve finished that I can get on to the assembly process which is where the doll starts to come alive.

Lord Henry Darnley

I said that I was going to load my Lord Henry Darnley doll onto the site in a recent letter. I was about to do this when I discovered that the photographs I had in hand have gone missing! I will have to set up a photography session as soon as I have some spare time (Ha! Ha!) and then load those. Here’s the one photo that I found of him and Mary taken at the National Museum of Scotland’s Mary Queen of Scots Exhibition:

Lord Darnley - 'Mary, Queen of Scots' exhibition

He is certainly a striking doll and looks great with Mary, although their marriage was a disaster in so many ways. Interestingly, the site of Darnley’s murder was at the corner of the current Museum (built over the original site) where this doll was exhibited – a homecoming of strange sorts!

Incidentally, if you ever visit the Museum – look on the wall opposite the elevator bank where you’ll see a list of the Museum’s major donors and you’ll see my husband, David’s and my name up there (David and Victoria Cairns) – so you can feel an association perhaps!

An Eyeful! I’ve also been in correspondence with one of my Collectors who has been promised my original porcelain Anne Boleyn. The problem is that – as I’ve discovered after doing some web research – the eyes that I have used, while deep brown when they were installed, seem to have developed a violet hue. From a distance of 18 inches or more, you can’t really notice anything, but closer up - if you know what to look for - the colour has changed over time. Apparently, this is something many other doll-makers have experienced too.

Name brand dolls that I hear have been affected include Baby Born, Annette Himstedt Dolls, Jan McLean Dolls, Franklin Mint, Danbury Mint, Heiti Ott, Gotz, American Girl, Lee Middleton Dolls, Hildegard Gunzel dolls and many more. There seems to be no rhyme nor reason as to why this has happened and for many owners this has not been a problem. It appears to be isolated to glastic or acrylic eyes that have been used in many expensive artist dolls – although it hasn’t happened all the time. Most of my dolls have been made with glass eyes, but there is a certain quality to the acrylic eyes that appeals and I have used these in some of my porcelain dolls.

The solutions proposed by Jan Wrate ( are:

1) Replace the eyes (which involves deconstructing the doll, removing the wig and head, soaking the head to soften the cement, removing the eyes, then replacing and reconstructing the doll or

2) Try using a Sharpie Ultra Fine Tip BROWN permanent marker to re-colour the outer surface of the eyes to return them to brown (if they were this colour in the first place) or

3) accept the doll as it is! The problem with the first solution is that there is a significant danger that in removing the eyes you will break the porcelain and destroy an expensive work of art. It will also take many days of effort. The problem with the second solution is that I’ve tried it and while it does help, it is not a perfect solution and I am a perfectionist!

I guess I’ll have to struggle with the problem a little longer.

Queen Victoria is live

I’ve also put up my Queen Victoria porcelain doll on my site under the Classic Porcelain section. I have sold both fabric and porcelain versions to other collectors. I only found out recently that she was fifth in line to the throne when she was born and only inherited because her father's three elder brothers had died without surviving legitimate issue when she was 18 years old.

I also found out that she was going to be crowned Queen Alexandrina (she was baptised Alexandrina after one of her godparents, Tsar Alexander I of Russia, and Victoria after her mother). Additional names proposed by her parents - Georgina (or Georgiana), Charlotte, and Augusta - were dropped on the instructions of George, the Prince Regent. However, she was obviously not a fan of the name and instead instructed that she was to be known as Queen Victoria.

If we look at the current line of succession and transpose it on Victoria's situation, Prince Louis, the three-year-old son of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, would become King today. Victoria certainly seems to have a fascination for collectors. I wonder if, in the century ahead Elizabeth II, with her longer reign, will be as much in demand?

Enough of my musings; as always, please contact me if there is anything you would like to see or hear about from my studio. So, for now, stay well and all the best from me and my two shelties, Freddie (who is snoozing in my studio) and the ever boisterous, Robbie!

All the best,



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