Sunday, February 2, 2014
Sherman Smith On September 22, 1907, an amazing woodcarver and doll artist named Sherman Smith was born. For many years, his work was unknown to mainstream doll collectors. Now, there is an thriving interest on eBay in his creations. A recent book has been published, and collectors are specializing in his wooden dolls, and wooden dolls with bisque heads, some antiques, and some artists reproductions by Phyllis Park and Jean Johnson. My first encounter with a Smith doll took place in 1975 when we visited the now defunct Dollie Dear Clinic, one of our local doll hospitals. [The demise of the doll hospital will be another topic]. The owner sold a few dolls and parts now and then, but while she was a lovely lady with a first-rate collection [Bru, Jumeau, complete Schoenhut families, rare china, wax, and Parian, all mint!], she was a terrible doll snob. As a teenager, she had hopes for me, but she sneered at the small lowbrow that needed parts I had brought. She sold me the Smith doll, about 8 inches, with a porcelain “Marie Antoinette” head for about 12.00. My mom shelled it out, even though she thought the price was high. A similar doll was selling on eBay this wee for 225.00. I have seen it as high as 350.00. Mr. Smith was from Utah, and began making dolls and carving after a heart attack in 1955. Allegedly, he was on bed rest for three years. His first projects were heart shaped pins and interlocking chains, good exercises for a man who had been a whittler since age 8. Soon, he was winning prices, and inspired to carve a doll pastern featured in a craft magazine. A meticulous craftsman, Smith spent a year perfecting his doll making skills. His first dolls were up to 24 inches high; these are rare and can command over $1000.00 on eBay. He soon decided to care dolls between ½ inch and 7 inches. Smith dolls were never dressed, and early dolls were not signed. Later Examples made in the 60s were signed. Sherm, as he liked to be called, carved Hitty, Miss Unity, Mary Poppins and other characters. He did tuck comb dolls, and tiny brooches with wooden dolls on them. The brooches were numbered, and he began making the bodies with bisque heads. Some had the artists’ initials, some not. These bisque headed dolls resemble early china heads with wooden bodies featured in John Noble’s books. He carved souvenir dolls for the UFDC in 1963 called Miss Angelita, and Patty Reed’s Doll for the Sacramento Doll Club. This doll represented the doll belonging to one of the hapless children of The Donner Party. The book is called Patty Read’s doll originally Caxton Printers, and now Tomato Enterprises, 1984. Miss Angelita sold for 179.00 in eBay in 2012. There is a Sherman Smith Doll Club, and I have a Raggedy Ann they made, with their logo of a wooden doll and his name embroidered into the doll’s body. Smith died in 1977, just two years after I bought my first Smith doll. Shortly after, a 5 inch, unsigned Penny Wooden joined my Marie Antoinette. Two four inch bisque headed twins joined them last year. Prices have spiked on eBay; I see ranges from 95.00 for small dolls with bisque heads, to 400.00 for characters with bsique3 heads like Lincoln. The larger dolls, about 12 inches, are rare, and far more expensive. Now, there are books, newsletters and articles about his work. An Internet search will provide many good sources to learn about this talented doll maker.