My soft sculptured doll thing today is this little old Golliwog, a vintage hand knitted guy I picked up along the way. Measures about 18″/46cm in length.
I could see Golliwog was vintage, that he had been well loved.
I could also see he was stuffed with what looked like small pieces of foam rubber (latex) or crumbed rubber. Remember this stuff? The filling we all used, back in the days, to stuff dolls, cushions, pillows and so forth, the days when man-made or synthetic filling like nylon, foam and polyester fibre was emerging.
If I recall correctly, the foam pieces came in drab colours of yellow, green and blue which looked like what I could see in Golliwog. I think the stuff is banned now for health and safety reasons.
The filling was heavy and quite hard (compared to things like polyfill we use now) and Golliwog is hard. The filling could create lumps and bumps especially in hand knitted toys like Golliwog, even protruding through. Yes, you can see a piece of foam coming through on his right arm.
This foam filling would usually deteriorate over time and after a few washes. You can see the yellowy foam bits through Golliwog’s face, legs and hands where the layer of knitted fabric is stretched and tightest and not covered by other fabric. Little bits of the now dry and brittle stuffing, or crumbs, is coming through the knitted body dropping off of him.
Hand embroidered facial features.
Moth hole or pulled stitch in his right pants leg.
I realise there is disagreement as to whether the Golliwog is a harmless doll or a symbol of a racist past.
The website, online shop All Things Golliwog, stated that the Golliwog is simply a toy. “The much maligned golliwog was never meant to be a symbol of political incorrectness or racism. It has been a much loved children’s toy for over a century,” it said.
I share my doll as a piece of cultural history. I share it as a handmade doll, carefully knitted, stuffed and sewn by somebody. I share it as a child’s huggable toy, a child who had no idea that having and cherishing a black doll might be construed as offensive or racist by some.
A cursory internet search shows that Golliwogs are widely available today including stores specialising in the dolls. And Kate Finn dolls (Australia) makes and sells Golliwog dolls as heirloom products:
Our History of the Golliwog: In the late 1980s Kate Finn created her first golliwog doll designs. Over the years, countless exciting designs have been released to eager golly collectors and as play dolls for children. With children in mind Kate Finn’s cheerful golliwog dolls are soft and cuddly. They wear outfits of bright vibrant colours and patterns with amazing attention to detail. The boys sport natty jackets, bow ties or dungarees. The girls wear detailed dresses with petticoats and pantaloons to match and sometimes a pinafore is added. Their friendly faces are hand stitched, so no two are exactly the same. For a more detailed history of the origins of the Golliwog click on the following link – History of The Golliwog