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Thursday, March 28, 2019

Throwback Thursday review: Morimura Brothers bisque doll

It's the Moon Girl again, and it's impulse buy time!  Well, actually this doll is one of two impulse buys in a twelve-hour period, as I'd bought Cheerful Tearful several hours before I bought this one.  As could probably be expected I belong to a number of doll-themed groups on FB, and a post on one of these groups prompted the purchase of this particular doll.  One lady shared a picture of one of her dolls, this drop-dead gorgeous little baby that I assumed would be either a Simon and Halbig doll or a Kestner Hilda.  The doll turned out not to be German at all, but rather a product of this Japanese firm I'd never heard of called Morimura Brothers.  Of course I promptly got the galloping greedy gimmies, and within fifteen minutes I'd picked this little fixer-upper off of eBay.
Now that I'm honest-to-God LOOKING I could've told a Morimura doll from Hilda since they're quite different.  The Morimura Brothers were based out of...NEW YORK CITY???  I was expecting Yokohama or one of the larger Japanese metro areas!  Anywho, Morimura Brothers had an import house in NYC and were active from 1876 to 1941.  During World War I it was a no-no to have anything to do with Germany, and that may be why Morimura Brothers started producing these little bisque dolls that look a lot like honest-to-God German dolls.  Not ALL of Morimura's dolls had the western aesthetic, though, and the ones that were done up like Oriental children are to die for.  Given the fact that the import house disappeared in 1941, I can't help wondering if yet another world war put an end to Morimura Brothers; remember that 1941 was the year that Pearl Harbor got attacked (by the Japanese), and the year that we entered World War II (fighting against the Japanese, among others).  Japanese-Americans were not treated kindly by Americans during WWII, so I wonder if Morimura Brothers was put under due to misguided patriotism.  The few sources I found say nothing of this, but the years do line up pretty well so I can't help but wonder if the two situations are related.  Anywho, Morimura Brothers produced both dolly-face and character dolls, plus dolls made of celluloid, rubber, compo, and china.  I think they also did other items besides dolls, stuff like vases and that.

Now that that's out of the way, here's my girl.  Some of Morimura's dolls look more Asian than German, but my doll hits the German aesthetic hard.  Nevertheless I've chosen to name her "Katsumi," which means "to win or overcome" in Japanese.  With her wig missing a fair amount of its hair Katsumi certainly looks like she's overcome something, but let's look at size first.  Katsumi is twelve inches from head to toe, meaning that she is smaller than most of my other baby dolls (Morgan and Anita are shown).
Baby Peep is closest to Katsumi in size, and even she is a little bigger.
That may make clothes sharing interesting, though I'm hesitant to redress Katsumi in modern clothes.  It just wouldn't look right!  Now let's look at this wig...or rather, what's left of it.
Con-sarn it, why is it that whenever I get a doll with a human hair wig the wig is falling apart???  I think human hair wigs are fascinating!  Oh well, can't be helped, I guess, considering that human hair is a natural fiber with a limited lifespan.  Once it's cut from the head it eventually dries up and falls apart, so I should not be terribly surprised by the state of Katsumi's wig.  Katsumi had pretty hair, though.  See what a lovely color the remaining fibers are?
Hattie, as y'all may or may not remember, needs a replacement wig ASAP (I think I've found one on Etsy), and Mabel got a replacement soon after I received her, so will Katsumi be needing a new mop as well?  Actually...seeing as she has fringe all the way around the edges I may just get her a cute little cap, something like what this Morimura girl is wearing, maybe?  A good hat can hide a multitude of evils, as we'll soon see, but I might also be able to repair this wig, if y'all can believe that.  The hair is sewn in, and the cap is in great shape. 
Here's what Katsumi's pate looks like.  It looks like the wig was solidly glued in place at one point.  The pate has a few cracks, but it is holding strong otherwise.
See how nicely the pate fits in with the contours of her head?  It's a nice pate.
Now to the face.  Katsumi has had some repaints here and there according to her eBay seller, but I don't think any of them are on her face!  This face looks flawless except for those tiny black flecks on her nose and cheeks, and that is NOT dirt for once.  I tried to rub them off, but they're just flecks baked into the bisque.  Otherwise this face is for the most part pristine.
She's certainly better looking than poor Mabel is!  Please ignore their sliding wigs; Mabel's is too far forward, and Katsumi's is too far back.
According to the eBay seller these eyes are...number 22 eyes, whatever that means.  If she were a ball-jointed doll I'd know that 22 eyes would be a reference to size, so maybe that's the case here as well.  Katsumi's eyes are a lovely shade of blue, but they're also...I'll admit that they're kinda creepy up close.  It may have something to do with that lazy right eye.
First bisque doll I've got that can close her eyes!  Hattie never could close her eyes and Mabel's have been set to fixed.  I do have to shake Katsumi a little to get her eyes to close, but they WILL close.
Mabel's poorly painted mouth was a big problem for me, but it looks like Katsumi has dodged this bullet.  She has orange-red lips and blushed, peachy cheeks.  And dig that cute little chin with its baby fat rolls!
Like Mabel and Hattie, Katsumi has inset teeth, and very fine teeth they are.  I didn't photograph this very well, but they have a dab of glaze on them.  Thus when the light hits these teeth they look quite realistic.
Here's Katsumi's head mark.  Not all bisque dolls are marked, but I've been very fortunate to get three that are.  Note the letters "MB" inside the circle; that ain't Milton Bradley, y'all!
I wonder what the holes are for?  They're molded in, not drilled, so they have to serve some sort of purpose.  God knows what that purpose is, though. Maybe they assisted in the placement of the eyes somehow.  The numbers also make me scratch my head, as both "22" and "3" were molds used by Morimura Brothers for their dolls.  I suspect that Katsumi is supposed to have a 3 head, as the 22 head is an obvious character head with big dimples in its cheeks.  But as is often the case with me, I'm not sure.

Lastly, Katsumi has little simply molded ears.  They've collected a little dust over the years, nothing a damp Q-tip can't take off.
I like this head!!!  It's in better shape than poor Hattie's, and it's well panted, AND it...well, I just like this head.

Most bisque dolls this size have bodies of wood, composition, or kid, and Katsumi is in the compo category.
This composition is completely unlike any other composition I've handled.  It feels very solid in my hands, not lightweight like the bodies and heads of my other compo kids, and it makes a different sound when I tap it with my fingernail.  It has your typical wear and tear at the joints...
...and your typical cracking and crazing (some of it painted over)...
...and your typical "old composition doll" stuff, but nothing serious.  And hey, her arms are attached!  That's more than I can say for my poor Hattie!  The shape is your typical rounded baby shape, with bent legs and arms, plus outstretched fingers.  To my delight, Katsumi's fingers don't have a lot of wear.  Composition fingers sometimes do, but not this time.
The shapes of the arms are subtly different.  The right arm has a hand that's flexed inward, while the left wrist is cocked back a bit.  The left arm is also ever so slightly straighter at the elbow.
The soles of Katsumi's feet are a little grubby, which surprises me since she can't stand.  Her toes are in good shape though, just like her fingers.
The joints have your typical rotational movement, meaning that Katsumi can sit, lie back, and raise her arms.  Her head is a socket head, meaning that it can turn and tilt like Hattie's head can.
Very typical of bisque dolls, or at least typical of the few that I've handled.  I must say that Katsumi feels more substantial in my hands than Hattie and Mabel do, and she also feels sturdier than my other composition dolls, even though her head would shatter if dropped.  I love the way this body is constructed though, and I now want to see if this sturdy body was a characteristic of Morimura dolls.

Like Hattie and Mabel, Katsumi is dressed simply and comfortably...or she looks like she'd be comfortable if she were a real person.  Her sole garment is this white dress.
Or so I thought.  Look what I found underneath!
I'm not sure what to call this undergarment, but it has a flap that serves as a diaper, as the safety pin attests.
The neckline is trimmed with lace.  I'm not sure why since this part doesn't show when Katsumi is fully dressed, but it's a nice little touch anyway.
There...isn't really much to say about this dress!  It's got long sleeves with lace trim...
...and the loosely woven fabric has a nice criss-cross pattern.  This fabric thus looks a little like white-on-white plaid.
The back closes with two small mother-of-pearl buttons.
While fooling around with the buttons I discovered that the collar is also trimmed with lace, the same lace that trims the sleeves.
To my great surprise, the seams and hems are tidy and rock-solid. Gauzy fabric doesn't always take to seams well, but this time it did.
Katsumi's bonnet is not original, and here is where the fun begins.  Since I don't want to bother rewigging yet another doll I went with the next best alternative:  a nice hat to cover Katsumi's thinning mop (and to make her look more put together).  I ended up going through quite the ring-around-the-rosie with hats for Katsumi, as her head is a rather unique size.  My first try was with this vintage crocheted bonnet.
I wish it were white so it would match Katsumi's dress better, but beggars can't be choosers, and I love the combination of pink and yellow.  Look at these scallops!
Once in a great while I crochet, and not to boast but I'm...not too bad at it, though I've never attempted anything as elaborate as this!  But all the technicalities in the world don't mean squat if the bonnet won't fit, and...
...yeah.  WAY too big for Katsumi!  I didn't measure Katsumi's head before buying this bonnet, and indeed I never do measure my dolls' heads before buying hats.  In this case that proved to be a mistake.  Lemonade from lemons though, as I've got other dolls who can wear that bonnet.  Oh, and look what the seller sent me as a freebie! 
Perfect for my Day of the Dead-loving sensibilities!  I've taken to wearing goofy-looking hair ribbons to the library, so I'll sew this to one of the ribbons.

Readdressing the matter of hats now, Blythe hats turned out to be the best fit for Katsumi, though the two I initially had handy don't really suit her.
Okay, I forgot about the red one that my Blythe doll wears during cold weather.  I didn't even try that one on Katsumi yet.
Mmmm...meh.  That's a bit too fancy for a baby doll.  So back to Etsy I went, to get yet another hat.  This one was made specifically for Blythe dolls and can be ordered in a number of different colors, but since I didn't want to pick between blue and green I chose the intermediate, teal.
Mmmm...looks more sage than teal.  No worries, I love sage.  Since this hat IS intended for a Blythe doll it's a little big on Katsumi, but not too big to bug me.  I just pull the ties tight and all is well.  Problem with the wig solved for now, and as a bonus that hat is perfect for the season.  Not too heavy, but not too light either.  Unfortunately it's now made me wish for a matching sweater, but guess what?  I can make one!  Not a bad little outfit, though!  Definitely suitable for a baby doll, especially one from the first part of the 20th century.  Plus, it fits her!  Y'all may or may not remember that Mabel's dress is rather big on her.  I was able to adjust the fit, but that gets a little annoying after awhile and I'm glad I don't have to play that game with Katsumi.  If I had any gripes about Kat's clothes it would be that the clothes are hard to get off...but I can avoid that problem if I just don't remove them!

I think that's a good place to wrap this up.

BAD
*The wig is in bad shape, much to my chagrin.
*One eye is out of alignment ever so slightly.
*Uh...hard to undress???

GOOD
*Uh...EVERYTHING???

No joke, as much as I hate playing favorites I think I like Katsumi the best of my bisque group.  She is in better shape than Hattie and she's a lot prettier than Mabel, and I can't photograph this, but when I handle Katsumi she just feels nice.  She's got a nice weight to her, and she doesn't feel like she'll lose an arm or a leg if I touch her wrong.  Her composition body will likely stand the test of time better than Mabel's kid body will.  Of course Katsumi must still be respected like all bisque dolls should.  She wouldn't survive a fall or a drop, so I'll still have to treat her gently and not wag her around everywhere like I would with an American Girl doll or an older vinyl baby.  She's a very nice old doll though, worth every cent I paid for her.

With that, my bisque troop has expanded to three:  Katsumi, Mabel, and Hattie.  All of them similar in their own way, and yet all of them individuals with their own special stories.
To think that I once thought I'd never be fortunate enough to own a bisque doll, and now I've got three!  Morimura dolls are worth the effort for any serious bisque collector, though.  They have the aesthetic of German dolls, but they add a bit more variety by being neither German nor French, and as I said above they feel nice in the hands.  Furthermore, from what I can tell the Morimura dolls also avoid the quality cuts that hit the late-era German and French dolls.  Towards the end of the bisque reign some of those dolls had bodies made out of stapled cardboard, and their hair would be a poorly arranged, often tangled wad of mohair rather than an honest-to-God wig.  I haven't seen enough Morimura dolls to know for certain if they escaped such treatment, but the few dolls I've seen didn't have cardboard bodies or clumps of hair glued to their heads.  They're cute dolls, and they're very easy to find at a reasonable price.  Indeed, for every Simon and Halbig doll that I've found, I've found at least two Morimura dolls that were at least as nice, sometimes more so.  And yet the Morimura dolls rarely go for the price of even the cheapest Simon and Halbig, even though they ARE nice dolls.  I suspect that Morimura dolls often get lost in the not-so-great battle between the French and the German dolls, and that really is a shame.  I confess that I myself developed tunnel vision during my frequent eBay/Etsy browsing sessions and thus am often surprised to see a bisque doll that ISN'T German or French!  Time to shed that ignorance, I reckon, because Morimura dolls are worth the effort for any bisque fan.

I still want a Simon and Halbig doll, though, particularly a 570 head.  The 570 has a slight smirk that I find endearing.  Oh, and as a last little haw-haw, check out this Jumeau doll's opinions on her German rivals; I doubt she'd find Simon and Halbig 570's smirk terribly amusing!  My Jumeau fans may get a hearty LOL out of that one!

Happy spring,
RagingMoon1987

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Coincidence, I promise!!!

Another Barbie post.  With it being Barbie's birthmonth and all I'll be hitting the Queen of the Dolls pretty hard over the remainder of March.  In Wal-Mart there currently exists this Barbie, the pop star, a member of the career line.
Cute.  I like this doll a lot, with her side-glancing eyes, her purple hair, and her holographic skirt.  She's got a super-cute face, like she actually is singing.
Now it's time for the coincidence!  I, RagingMoon1987, do solemnly swear that this is indeed a coincidence!  Y'all will have to take my word for it.  I went digging around in my Barbie bin and came up with Annika, my old Fashionista #18, Va-Va-Violet.  Usually she wears a striped top and a green skirt, but shortly after I bought her I dressed her in a couple of separates.
A sparkly top, a holographic skirt, and purple hair.  Once again, I swear that I dressed Annika like this before I ever even saw Pop Star Barbie.  I love how similar these two are, though!  If I weren't saving a spot for the two new Fashionistas that I like, then I'd get the pop star instead and Annika could be her backup!

By the way...oh good Lord, I can't get all the gel out of Annika's hair!!!  Mattel's stock photos of this doll show her with a soft, loose Bob, but when I got Annika out of the box her hair was rock-hard.  I've washed this hair five times in the three years that I've owned her, and her hair is still gommed up.  She's still a fun doll to have, though!

Oh yes, and y'all will have to pinch me, because I'm only now remembering that it's St. Patrick's Day.  Funny, I love green, and yet very few of my dolls wear it.

Happy St. Patrick's Day,
RagingMoon1987