I know that dolls over the ages have been made out of all sorts of things. Wishbones, nuts, corks, paper, apples, other fruits, etc. So, when I saw the illustration of the Clay Pipe Doll shown in the picture above from the National Gallery of Art I wasn't quite sure what to make of it. Was that a pipe covered with fabric to form the doll's head or what?
Credits: Iverson, Jane, American, 1910 - 1997, Clay Pipe Doll, c. 1936,watercolor and graphite on paper, overall: 40 x 29.2 cm (15 3/4 x 11 1/2 in.) Original IAD Object: 7 1/2" high, Index of American Design, 1943.8.15616.
I thought...Hmmm.... A doll out of a pipe. Now that's an unusual doll.
I was picturing my grandfather's pipe which was a typical bowled pipe. So, I went to get it.
In looking at it I wondered how I would make a doll out of it? I'd love to make an heirloom doll - but, how?
So, I decided to do a little research. Here's what I found out.
The LeRoy Historical Society produced a wonderful little .pdf article entitled "Save The Wishbone" shown above and written by by Lynne Belluscio.
According to her article which was part of the:LeRoy House Hands-On-History Program, Christmas Long Ago: Dolls were made of lots of different things - - spools, wooden spoons, clay pipes, handkerchiefs, clothespins, corn husks, apples and bed keys - - the wooden wrench used to tighten the ropes on a bed.
Well, here was confirmation that dolls were made out of clay pipes. Okay.... Still....
Then I ran across a how-to article on Page 356 of The Puritan Vol VIII under the Dolls Market section where it talked about all sorts of different things that can be used to make dolls, including clay pipes. Ah! Ha!
According to Page 356 of The Puritan Vol VIII - April to September 1900: The clay pipe makes a delightful old lady doll. The little hump where the bowl joins the stem is her nose, and her other features must be drawn to harmonize with this. A Quaker bonnet or high backed cap covers the rest of the bowl, which is, of course, the back of her head, and her costume consists of a full, plain skirt gathered round the pipe stem about halfway down, and a shawl neatly folded round her shoulders. These garments may be made of tissue paper even better than woven materials.
So, the clay pipe was used for making dolls and they would make delightful old lady dolls. Then I read: The little hump where the bowl joins the stem is her nose, and her other features must be drawn to harmonize with this.
What? For sure my grandfather's pipe didn't have a little hump on it? I still wasn't sure what a clay pipe was.
Image Courtesy of Pipedia.org
So I did an image search on clay pipes and found the picture above which was part of an article entitled "A Short History of Clay Pipes, by Heather Coleman" on the Pipedia.org website.
Here's what I learned in Heather's article: Clay pipes came back into fashion again in the 19th Century along with industrial revival and population growth. By then Dutch, French and German designers as well as English were competing for attention in a huge world market where production was also elevated to a grand form of art. Almost every aspect of everyday life was celebrated on a clay pipe including: plants, animals, birds, Coats of Arms, Royal events, names of Inns, Masonic symbolism, sporting events, advertising, heads of celebrities and even characters from mythology.
Okay, I get it now. Can you see the little hump on some of the clay pipes in the picture above? That's what a clay pipe looks like. Definitely not like my grandfather's.
Well, it turns out that clay pipes are antique and vintage pipes that are sought after by archaeologists and were considered quite the art piece in the 19th century. If you'd like to see pictures of and read more of the history on the clay pipes please see The Art and Archaeology of Clay Pipes by Heather Coleman gallery.
Colonial Williamsburg also has an article entitled "Hunting for a Little Ladle - Tobacco Pipes by Ivor Noël Hume" that has more information on tobacco pipes during the colonial period.
Also, the Cambridge Archaeology Field Group created a .pdf in November 2012 entitled "Evolution of Clay Tobacco Pipes in England" which provides more information on clay pipes in England.
I would have loved to make a heirloom doll of sorts out of my grandfather's pipe which is now over 100 years old, but that isn't going to happen. It's the wrong type of pipe.
Maybe one day I'll be lucky enough to get the right type of pipe - a clay pipe and can make my own clay pipe doll. That would definitely be a conversation piece.