The cranky baby is detachable, with a wool jersey body and hand sculpted original head, hands and feet. His dismal baptismal dress is a ragged antique lace hankie.
The lining of the shadow box is the ghost of a silk ball gown, with a “halo” of antique child’s tart pan and tatted doily. The ribbon and details along sides and bottom were salvaged from a tintype case.
The box is, I think, a school project, made from fragrant cedar, gessoed and faux gilded. I found it on one of my hunting and gathering forays at St. Vinnie’s.
I was inspired by memories of mothers in my childhood neighborhood chatting over morning coffee comparing their baby-raising techniques – “he’s a bottle baby,” meant he was either weaned from the breast or raised on infant formula from birth. If he was a bottle baby, I could make a couple of quarters minding him while his momma got some R&R. It didn’t mean he wasn’t fussy – we lived in Atlanta, and the summers were hot enough to make a baby sweat, and they did get fussy, what with those little wrinkles of sweat around their pudgy necks where the red clay dust would get stuck and make smudgy rings.
This piece was in the ”Show and Tell” feature of Art Doll Quarterly last year, and is one of my first miniature baby dolls. It was a lot of fun reproducing the traditional style of antique cloth body babies and adding my own two cents’ worth.
And now, the po’ cranky lil’ thang goes home to Gail’s house, in Pennsylvania, and I am grateful to have shared a memory that has been persistent, for some mysterious reason. I can still see those smudgy, sweaty red clay rings -- maybe they were itchy!