My name is Ellen Tsagaris and I am an author of doll books, doll collector, doll blogger, doll maker, museum curator, and doll historian. I have worked with and know many of the participants of this unique online convention, and do my part to support and encourage it. We just finished the second, very successful Virtual Doll Convention, (VDC) held June 19-23, 2019. Let me pause to say that June 19th is my birthday, and attending this convention was the ultimate birthday present. Its organizers helped make doll collecting the positive, creative hobby it was meant to be. As one who loves doll history, I'm thrilled with the presentations and the knowledge behind them. I loved the videos and souvenirs, too. Best of all, Virtual Doll Convention proved yet again that dolls bring the people of the world together in a positive, loving light. ‘La Fete De Parisiennes' originally aired as our closing entertainment at the January 2019 Virtual Doll Convention. It was entirely produced for us by Michael Canadas and David Robinson of The Grovian Doll Museum and the Carmel Doll Museum. You can watch it on The Virtual Doll Convention YouTube Channel.
This would be a good point to review VDC’s Mission: “Virtual Doll Convention has a clear mission - accessibility + affordability. We work to develop new educational content and present world premiere productions that contribute to the vibrancy of our doll and bear community. We work to unite doll collectors around the world, build thriving digital communities, encourage growth, development, self-love, and empowerment within those communities." (VDC.com)
Virtual Doll Convention is the first of its kind, a fully interactive doll and teddy bear convention presented entirely online. I love this format because it brings many more collectors together without the time and expense of travel. They enjoy all the perks and fun of an on-ground convention, but without the headaches of travel glitches, transporting dolls, missing connections, etc. For a nominal fee, those who might not be physically able to travel can enjoy the hobby they love without leaving their living room.
I loved that no stone seemed to be unturned; there was even a time converter for those of us who don’t live in Pacific Daylight Time. The printable souvenirs were amazing; who could top the Izannah Walker paper dolls? The sewing classes by Doll Artisan Guild top instructor Linda Wall were in-depth and included a downloadable sewing book, patterns, and supply list - ALL included in your $25.00 registration. The Dolly Dingle “mascot” on printable button covers, paper dolls, and tent cards were beautiful. The souvenirs were varied - check out this masterpiece by Stephanie Blythe which was given out on the third day - link to paper doll: https://bit.ly/2Y4b16d. Below is a photo from VDC attendee Melissa Turner of the wonderful Izannah Walker paper dolls by convention sponsor Paula Walton.
Dolly Dingle has always been a sunny little girl, inspiring happiness and contentment. Now she sails from one VDC to another a la Miss Fisher in her amazing plane, leading us to one of the best doll experiences of our lives.
All the activities were meant to engage the audience; from the coloring book challenge featuring a china head, the most iconic antique doll of all, to the interactive Huret High Tea. The High Tea featured a downloadable High Tea cookbook by David Robinson. (The scones are delicious!) The web field trips were wonderful; as someone who spent years developing and teaching an online curriculum, including web field trips, I appreciated the care put into the project. One of the most memorable visits was to the Philadelphia Museum of Art for the “Little Ladies: Victorian Fashion Dolls and the Feminine Ideal” exhibit. This video featured a private tour and walk through the exhibit with the curator.
Below are some photos from the Huret High Tea Event which culminated the wonderful week together at the June Virtual Doll Convention. Attendees from around the world hosted their own tea parties at home and posted pictures in the Virtual Convention Facebook Group. What fun!
Broken links were nonexistent, and we had the best “tech support” in the world. A roundtable discussion was also meaningful; collectors love to share the stories of their doll collections and how they got started. These doll histories inspire others and keep doll collecting fresh and alive.
In keeping with sharing collections, there was the wonderful video of Billye Harris sharing her personal treasures including her Maggie Bessie dolls and a case of smiling Lanteriner ‘Grinnies.’ The Barbie Programming from Billye’s sidekick Bradley Justice Yarbrough was top-notch.
We also traveled to Nebraska where artist Shelly Thornton generously showed us her dolls, as well as classes and insight on color and how she created her cloth masterpieces.
Diversity was also a theme because there were presentations on teddy bears, Japanese dolls, artist dolls, Barbies, and fashion dolls. Bear expert John Port gave a loving tribute to his mother Beverly Port shortly after the convention ended. You can see it on YouTube.
Helen Kish led two workshops demonstrating her technique for creating dolls. It was great that you could buy a kit and work right along with her. It was as if the spirit of painter Bob Ross had descended on all of the would-be doll artists. Who but the wonderful Helen Kish would be so generous, sharing her tips with us? We learned clay sculpting and face painting techniques from the best.
The marvelous digital flipbooks are my favorite feature of VDC. I enjoy them with a cup of good coffee and can savor them any time of the day or night Click here for one of the Flipbooks - this one showcases the work of Shelley Thornton. Here is another by ‘Steiffgal’ Rebekah Kaufman about wonderful Woolie Miniatures by Steiff. One of the best flipbooks was a digital tour of the Steiff Birthhouse by Rebekah Kaufman - “Let’s Make Some Magic: A Behind The Scenes Tour Of Margarete Steiff’s Home in Giengen, Germany”. Click this link and you can enjoy the "flipping" of the book by touching the screen on a mobile device or using the arrows.
I am already getting a little carried away in the length of my review so to see just how much content was involved and the variety of programming, check out the June 2019 Virtual Convention schedule. WOWZA!
Recently, Rachel and many of the VDC personalities traveled to Nashville where there was a ‘secret’ meetup event with Robert Tonner + fun mini-programs recorded throughout the week. Below is a short program with Jonathan Green about Kathe Kruse Collecting 101. You can catch more video content from this week on YouTube.
Robert Tonner met with fans and signed 75 of his sketches for his January 2020 Virtual Doll Convention doll creation.
What’s best about VDC is that all of the activities involve sharing and gift-giving, sharing our dolls, our collecting secrets, our printable souvenirs, recipes, friendship, knowledge, and love for dolls. This is the difference between accumulating and collecting; collecting dolls is all about sharing them, and being the collecting muse for others who may be inspired to preserve history and culture through this beautiful medium we call dolls. (The program at the June Convention by The Grovian Doll Museum on living legend George Stuart will be one you will never forget!)
I can't wait for January 2020: Victoriana - A Take of Two Cities. There is also an exclusive VDC doll named “Grace Marie Fitzpatrick’ designed by Robert Tonner coming in December 2019. Rachel Hoffman and Michael Canadas announced it while on site at The Grovian Doll Museum after the end of the June Virtual Convention. Take a peek!
If you can't make the actual dates of programming release, you can catch the replays of everything at any time that works for you. You can also still register and experience the last two conventions - all-inclusive programming is only $25.00. Visit www.virtualdollconvention.com to learn more and purchase under the 'Register’ button. There is also a fun ‘VDC Gift Shop’ that is brimming with fun dolls, accessories, jewelry, tote bags, and more!
About the Author: Ellen Tsagaris is an avid doll collector who has made dolls, priced dolls, repaired, dressed, and studied dolls. She has presented papers on dolls and their history at the Midwest Modern Language Association. Author of numerous articles on dolls, and Antique Trader contributor.
Author of two books about dolls, "Bibliography of Doll and Toy Sources," and "With Love from Tin Lizzie; A History of Metal Heads, Metal Dolls, Mechanical Dolls, and Automatons."
Tsagaris has a BA in English and Spanish from Augustana College, an MA in English from The University of Iowa, a J.D. from The University of Iowa, and a Ph.D. from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.
Awards and Publications
Tsagaris has written fiction and non-fiction on a variety of topics but her work on dolls has been published in:
National Doll World
International Doll World
Hope and Glory
The Western Doll Collector