It's Memorial Day today. Many of us have lost a father, brother, husband, partner, daughter or son in the line of duty to our country. I lost my father. He was a United States Navy fighter pilot, and he was killed in 1973 when I was 11 years old.
I don't usually make 'boy' dolls, but in the spirit of this day, I decided a month or so ago to make a little boy. Every young man who has fought for this country was once just a wee innocent little boy, playing with his toys, blissfully unaware of what would be expected of him in just a few short years...and unaware of what he would be willing to sacrifice for future generations of little boys and girls. Because of my dad, who was once just little Dickie Dan...riding his tricycle and making paper airplanes, I made Little Boy Bleu in honor of the thousands of little boys who had to become men too soon, and who, like my dad gave up their lives for us.
I took my inspiration for this doll from an old primitive folk art portrait, painted I presume about 1850. I really immediately connected with the naive simplicity of it. And while I realize that many will think this is a girl, he definitely is not. We can tell from his side part and the whip he's holding. Most little boys in the Victorian era were dressed nearly identical to little girls.
It's most likely this little fellow, who was approximately 3-5 years old in the painting, found himself on one side or the other of the bloodiest war this country has ever been involved in. He'd have been about 15 years old at the time of the Civil War. Whether he was from the north or south, he was old enough to fight, and it's likely he did not came home in one piece, if at all. He was scared, exhausted, starving and sick, and wanted nothing more than to go home, hug his mama and be a kid again.
In this painting, the little boy is holding a whip and a pull toy. The image of the pull toy is obscured so I took creative license and decided it must have been a horse, which was very popular during that era. Plus, you'd need a whip for a horse, wouldn't you?
I made Little Boy Bleu's dress to emulate the dress in the painting, from reproduction cotton fabric in use from 1820-1860. It's completely handsewn in the period correct manner. I made him with a cloth body and head handsculpted from Paperclay, a clay form of papier mache.
I made his horse from Paperclay as well. I don't 'do' animals, and thus far have made one snake, a Cheshire Cat and this horse. It's handsculpted and painted to give it some aged patina. My wonderful husband was nice enough to help me construct it's little pull base. Difficult to tell in this photo, but I painted the stand base to emulate the carpet the little boy is standing on in the painting.
Since I don't have room for Little Boy Bleu, and in hoping that someone out there has a special place for him in their heart and home, he's available on ebay: