Alresford Crafts Doll’s head markings

DSC01991 alr crafts dollsAs with most manufacturers, Alresford Crafts wanted to be able to identify the manufacturing date and methods used on each doll sent out of the factory, in case they were ever returned with a fault or other problem. So following the traditional route, some code numbers and letters were placed on the back of the neck of the doll’s head, which was normally not visible, under the hair.

In their 1980 catalogue – they started making dolls in 1978 – these markings were explained, and as far as we know this system was not changed, but was modified a little. The doll’s heads were made in Alresford, in the moulding department of Alresford Crafts, which until 1982 was in a building near the Town Mill, which is on one of the streams emerging from Alresford Pond. During 1982 most of the production, and the ceramics department, was moved to the Station Mill site, near the Alresford Station, famous as the end of the Watercress steam railway line. The heads are made from porcelain, which is often referred to as “china”, as the material was first seen in Europe in cups and saucers, and bowls, exported from China.

acrafts 3Making the heads, arms and feet

The ceramic clay paste was formed into shape inside a mould, to create a relatively soft “green” moulding of either the head, hands or feet of the doll. These were then fettled (to remove the extra material from the feeder tubes that delivered the paste), and for the head, the eye sockets were cut through, and careful finishing produced smooth unblemished porcelain pieces, for the first firing, which took around 12 hours. This produced a “bisque” – a harder moulding – which was then decorated before firing again. Finely ground on-glaze enamels were then applied by hand, to achieve the final colour -after a further six hours in the kiln.

 

acrafts 7The typical marks on the back of the dolls head are seen in the diagram. All but one of these marks are moulded-in, at the first stage. At the base of the triangle “ENGLAND” is the country of manufacture: under ‘England’, the word “ALRESFORD” was usually added, outside the triangle, to identify the manufacturer. The “C A3” marks show the mould number, and the “80” refers to the year of manufacture, ie 1980 here. The initials (“AD” in this example) impressed in the head, are those of the girl who cast the head. The other initials (“DW” in this example) are painted on, and show the initials of the girl who then decorated the head.

 

scan185Staff in the moulding department

The only names we know are those of Denise White (DW), who was a decorator, and Colin Larkin (CL), who was the mould shop manager, seen in the picture on the left. The names of other ceramic workers would be of great interest, and will be added here, if anyone writes in.

The original moulds were formed from sculpted head models, which were created by skilled sculptors. One of these was Frank Garbutt, who lived in Stoke on Trent in the Potteries, and attended Glasgow School of Art in around 1934.

 

 

acrafts 5                  acrafts 4

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Julie Bhakta on November 11, 2019 at 1:01 pm

    Tracey newman was also a regular staff decorator. Colin Larkin was not jjust mould manager. He was ceramic factory manager and also production manager for soft toys

    Reply

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