Sunday, April 29, 2018

That New Book Smell... New Paper Dolls Fresh off the Press!

Remember that new book smell? That slightly dusty, slightly soapy aroma that hits your senses as you crack open a new book? As a kid I distinctly remember the arrival of the annual edition of the World Book Encyclopedia. My mom taught me to carefully open the book in several different places to gently break in the spine, and once limber we could dive in. Today we just look up stuff online, but back in the 1970s those books were my ticket to the world. My favorite volume was the Letter D because it contained a big section on dogs. I logged in countless hours looking at the little pictures of dog breeds and dreaming of having my own one day.

Now in my 50s, that new book smell is an integral part of my life and livelihood through my publishing company, Paper Studio Press. I’m lucky to have an amazing printing company here in western Maine. After each new print-run, I fill up our van with boxes of books and drive back, heady with the aroma of that new book smell.

New Paper Doll Books
New Paper Doll Books! Silent Screen Stars, Ladies of the Titanic, My Dolly and Me

Fresh off the press this month are three amazing new paper doll titles, Ladies of the Titanic by Norma Lu Meehan and Randy Bryan Bigham, Silent Screen Stars by David Wolfe, and My Dolly and Me by Eileen Rudisill Miller. I’m so proud of each book and I so enjoyed working with our talented artists and contributors. I hope you’ll add these special titles to your collection! They’re all available on and As publisher and editor, I was integrally involved in each project and I’m happy to give you some behind-the-scenes scoop on each of these special books.

Ladies of the Titanic Paper Dolls
by Norma Lu Meehan and Randy Bryan Bigham 

Ladies of the Titanic was suggested to us by Randy Bryan Bigham. An expert on early 20th century fashion, Randy offered a wealth of reference material to represent real women who traveled aboard the ill-fated ship. Based on the format of our paper doll books, we felt we could represent six ladies, four from first class and one each from second class and third class. Randy curated a collection of photographs and fashion notes for our artist, Norma Lu Meehan, who so lovingly illustrated the figures and their costumes.

I'm pleased to announce that Ladies of the Titanic Paper Dolls will be sold at the Titanic Branson Museum, the Titanic Pigeon Forge Museum and the Molly Brown House Museum in Denver, Colorado.

The doll on the cover is Dorothy Gibson, age 22, film actress and artist’s model. She and her mother, Pauline, escaped on the first lifeboat launched after the ship struck the iceberg. She went on to star in the first motion picture made after the tragedy, Saved From the Titanic, released a month after the sinking.

Ladies of the Titanic
Dorothy Gibson, featured on the cover, is wearing a pale pink chiffon and satin evening dress, trimmed with gold metallic lace, cream net lace and silk flowers.

The three dolls on the back cover represent millionairess and suffrage advocate Margaret “Unsinkable Molly” Brown, fashion writer and importer Edith Rosenbaum Russell and acclaimed fashion designer Lucy Duff Gordon (working under the name Lucile).

Ladies of the Titanic Paper Doll
Ladies of the Titanic Paper Dolls, Margaret Brown, Edith Rosenbaum, Lucy Duff Gordon

With her husband, Albert, Sylvia Caldwell, age 28, was a teacher at the Bankok Christian College for Boys in Thailand, but her ill health forced the couple to return to the United States with their young son, Alden. The Caldwells were second class passengers on the Titanic and managed to escape together in a lifeboat. Sylvia is best remembered in Titanic lore for asking a crew member on deck if the ship was really unsinkable. He replied, “God himself cannot sink this ship.”

Sylvia Caldwell, Titanic Survivor
Sylvia Caldwell, her husband and young son, all survivors of the Titanic.

Catherine (“Kit”) Buckley lost her life in the Titanic disaster, the fate of many women in steerage. At age 22, Catherine was immigrating from Ireland to join her half-sister as a servant in Massachusetts.

Catherine Buckley, Titanic
This photo of Catherine Buckley was taken shortly before sailing on the Titanic.

Silent Screen Stars Paper Dolls by David Wolfe

The lights dim, the piano plays and the film projector clicks as the first title card appears on the screen. It's the silent film era—the three-decade period at the beginning of the 20th century that gave birth to the film industry, Hollywood and movie stars. Silent Screen Stars, the 5th in "David Wolfe's History of Hollywood Fashions" series celebrates six of our earliest stars—Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish, Gloria Swanson, Clara Bow, Louise Brooks, and Greta Garbo—and costumes from their silent films.

This super-sized volume provides 6 paper dolls on a cardstock centerfold and 10 pages of costumes for the silent screen stars, plus authoritative commentary by David Wolfe, the popular artist and Hollywood fashion historian. This is my favorite David Wolfe paper doll to date!

Silent Screen Stars Paper Dolls
Dynamite dressed dolls from David Wolfe's Silent Screen Stars
Gloria Swanson, Mary Pickford, Lilian Gish, Louise Brooks, Greta Garbo and Clara Bow.

Silent Screen Stars
David’s cover design captures the over-dramatic acting in silent films.

Silent Screen Stars Paper Doll Costumes
For each of his paper doll books, David sketches the costumes and like a puzzle, determines how to make the clothes fit on each page.

Lilian Gish Portraits
Always on a quest to perfect a likeness, David often draws several portraits before choosing one to attach to the body. For the final Lilian Gish doll, he chose the portrait on the right.

My Dolly and Me Paper Doll Book by Eileen Rudisill Miller

With two grown-up boys of her own, Rudy never had a little girl to shop for and dress, so creating the My Dolly and Me Paper Doll Book was a dream assignment. Because we are often asked for more African-American paper dolls, Rudy put beautiful Maia on the front cover along with her little doll Harper. Maia’s best friend is cute, blonde Caya. The girls have a fun wardrobe of clothes to wear for all kinds of activities. Not only do the girls have matching outfits for their dolls, but the dolls can swap outfits, too. I hope this will inspire little girls of today to play with paper dolls. In this easy-to-cut book, the dolls are around 9 1/2 inches high and the dollies are around 4 3/4 inches high. There are 32 outfits in all!

My Dolly and Me Paper Doll Book
Rudy’s preliminary cover sketch and the final cover.

My Dolly and Me Paper Doll Sketches
More preliminary sketches for My Dolly and Me Paper Doll Book.
My Dolly and Me Paper Doll Book
Front and back covers and some of the super charming clothes pages.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Take Two MGMs and Call Me in the Morning

“Take two MGMs and call me in the morning.” That’s my preferred prescription when I’m feeling under the weather. My favorite MGM medicine is in the form of any movie starring Esther Williams, Hollywood’s swimming sensation of the 1940s and ‘50s. It’s so very soothing to watch beautiful Esther in those spectacular water ballets. This week, however, as I prepared for my first colonoscopy (yes, the prep is just as awful as everyone says), I took one MGM starring Jane Powell. Thanks to a recent Jane Powell movie marathon on TCM, I had four excellent options on my DVR: The Girl Most Likely (1958), Nancy Goes to Rio (1950), Hit the Deck (1955) and Two Weeks With Love (1950).

My choice was easy—Two Weeks With Love, my all-time favorite. 

The plot is simple and sweet. Taking place at the turn-of-the-century, 17-year-old Patti Robinson (Jane Powell) is miserable because her mother (Ann Harding) doesn’t see her as being grown up enough to wear a corset. During a two-week family vacation in the Catskills, Patti quickly becomes infatuated with a newcomer to the summer resort in the form of Ricardo Montalban as Demi Armendez, the nephew of a regular patron. But Patti’s rival, the slightly older, corset-wearing Valerie Stresemann (Phyllis Kirk) wants Demi for herself and manipulates Patti into acting silly in the hopes that Demi will see Patti as a child. But Demi is delighted by Patti and her antics. She agrees to dance with Demi, but keeps his hands far from her torso so he won’t notice the embarrassing absence of a corset.

Dashing Demi is charmed by sweet Patti, milk mustache and all.

Patti prefers dancing arm-to-arm in hopes that Demi won't notice her corsetless attire.

Things get worse for Patti when mean ol’ Valerie reveals her secret to the other young folk and they instantly taunt Patti, calling her a baby. Her subsequent fit of tears plays on her father’s (Louis Calhern) heartstrings. Accusing his wife of not doing a proper job of parenting, he takes it upon himself to buy a corset for his troubled daughter. Unfortunately, the ladies’ shop is closed so he buys a corset from the nearby drugstore, not realizing it is medical garment re-enforced with steel. But Patti is thrilled and dresses up for the evening’s festivities in her new corset and one of her mother’s dresses. Demi is the first to see the new Patti, so shapely and mature. They are whisked off to do a dance number in the fund-raising variety show. All is wonderful until the dip at the very end when her corset locks her into a backbend. Her family rushes onto the stage and she is released from the stranglehold. Finally, her mother acknowledges that it’s time to let her little girl grow up and agrees to buy her a fashionable La Belle Mode corset the very next day.

It is indeed a happy ending as we see Patti and Demi walk off into the sunset, with plans to court (with Father’s permission of course) when they return to the city. Now that you’ve got the main storyline, I must share some other endearing parts of this movie.

No. 1. Debbie Reynolds as Jane’s kid sister Melba 

Debbie is DARLING in this role! She sings, she dances, she charms, she wisecracks, and she has a big crush on Billy Finley (Carlton Carpenter), however, he has a crush on Patti. Melba and Billy have several fun song-and-dance numbers together, and if you don’t take the time to watch the entire movie, search on Youtube for “Abba Dabba Honeymoon” and “Row Row Row.” These numbers were such a hit that MGM sent the Debbie and Carlton on a cross-country tour to perform songs and promote the movie.

Debbie Reynolds is DELIGHTFUL in Two Weeks With Love!

A fun song-and-dance number with Debbie Reynolds and Carlton Carpenter

No. 2. Patti’s dream sequences

One evening the guests pair up for boat rides (and of course they are all singing “By the Light of the Silvery Moon”). Valerie has her hooks into Demi, leaving Patti in a canoe by herself where she fantasizes that Demi is with her. She becomes so dramatic with her imagined scene that she falls overboard, only to be rescued by Demi. Bummer for Valerie. The second fantasy sequence puts Patti in the corset of her dreams—a frothy pink confection—and she parades herself, singing and dancing, in front of all the hotel guests. 

No. 3. Busby Berkeley

The song-and-dance routines are extra cheeky and charming thanks to the brilliance of the famed choreographer.

No. 4. Super dorky scenes 

Like the accidental fireworks display emanating from under the bed of Patti’s brothers, or Patti enlisting her siblings to bury her in the sand so Demi can’t see her in her unflattering bathing costume.

No. 5. Everything Jane Powell

I love every single nuance of her performance—her furtive glances with those bright blue eyes, her awkward attempts at being sophisticated, her dramatic outbursts, and her song-and-dance numbers. Mary Poppins may be practically perfect, but I think Jane Powell is absolutely perfect. 

Happiness is spending an afternoon with sunny Jane Powell

And guess what? I met Jane Powell in real life! In 2008, Jane was the special guest of our National Paper Doll Convention in Piscataway, NJ. She and her husband Dickie Moore were lovely and of course I took the opportunity to ask if we could publish a paper doll book of Jane. She said yes! Popular paper doll artist Marilyn Henry created a gorgeous book filled with Jane’s movie costumes. A few years later we got in touch with Debbie Reynolds, and David Wolfe illustrated a wonderful book of Debbie and her movie clothes.

So next time you’re under the weather, I recommend you take two MGMs and in the morning call your best friend and talk about classic movies… and maybe even paper dolls! 

This Jane Powell Paper Doll Book is a treasure! Illustrated by Marilyn Henry, there are 2 Jane dolls and over 40 fashions from more than a dozen films of the 1940s and 50s.

Marilyn Henry's Jane Powell dressed in the corset of her dreams. 

David Wolfe included Jane's frothy corset in his delightful Hollywood Gets Undressed Paper Doll Book.

Darling Debbie Reynolds is the subject of this charming 2011 paper doll book

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

You Can't Take Yellow for Granted – Documentary and Paper Dolls Inspired by Nature

Leaning Into the Wind Documentary

I was not blown away by Leaning Into the Wind, the 2018 documentary about nature artist Andy Goldsworthy. In 2002, however, I was spellbound by his first documentary Rivers and Tides, bearing witness to poetic art forms created in nature with nature—a bright red poppy petal covered rock nestled among a pile of boulders, a spiral made of broken ice, or a collection of red berries nestled inside geometric shapes of leaves floating down a river. But this new documentary did not give me the same harmonious feeling. His art creations were more strange and I found the score to be eerie and unsettling.

Nature Art by Andy Goldworthy

I didn’t dislike the documentary. It was truly fascinating to see the world through the eyes of an innovative artist. Goldworthy explains, “There are two different ways of looking at the world— you can walk on the path or you can walk through the hedge.” And indeed several times during the film we witnessed Goldsworthy painstakingly navigate through a bramble of hedges next to a sidewalk or alongside a country road. He is also fond of lying on the ground when it starts to rain, staying long enough to create a dry shape of his existence, visible for a matter of seconds until the rain blots it away. Much of what Goldsworthy does is ephemeral, taking hours or days to carefully create an artistic expression only to be washed away, blown away or melted. Color in nature is often temporary, especially yellow. Fall leaves can so quickly change from a yellow green to the perfect vivid yellow and then one cold night can turn them black. “You can never take yellow for granted,” he says.

Throughout the film I wondered what it would be like to spend an entire day outside creating art with nature. Could I have that kind of patience? I thought about people who do gardening or landscaping and the gratification they must feel working with elements of the earth. I thought about our own innovative paper doll artist, Kwei-lin Lum, who infuses her background in biodiversity with her paper doll art as evidenced in this example from her self-published Wonder Garden Paper Doll Set.

Wonder Garden Paper Doll by Kwei-lin Lum
Pages from “Wonder Garden Paper Doll Set” by Kwei-lin Lum, 2013
Kwei-lin is truly one of the most interesting people in my life and I’m grateful to have her as a friend and as an artist for my publishing company. I’m wild about her MOD POP Paper Dolls, a Paper Studio Press title published in 2012. She’s also done some terrific books for Dover Publishing including Day of the Dead, Chinatown, Voodoo, Speakeasy and Twisted Fairy Tales.

Her paper doll art is both whimsical and intelligent, each page a cacophony of color, design and pattern. Kwei-lin is not afraid to use strange shapes and whacky patterns for her paper dolls, costumes, scenes and props, and it’s easy to get lost in the details on each intriguing page. Kwei-lin Lum’s paper doll books are available on and And I encourage you to visit her website, for her wild and wonderful self-published paper doll sets.

MOD POP Paper Dolls
MOD POP Paper Dolls by Kwei-lin Lum, Paper Studio Press, 2012

Innovative paper dolls by Kwei-lin Lum
Intriguing subjects and innovative designs in Kwei-lin Lum’s paper doll books for Dover Publications

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Paper Dolls and Pop Culture

April 8, 2015. That was my last entry. Three years ago. Until today my blog was called Jenny's Paper Doll News (boring, right?). Who takes time to read blogs anymore? We’re all in insta-mode with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. One minute here, a few seconds there. Look, like and move on.

So why should I bother with a blog? Well, as a paper doll publisher, I'm representing an extremely unique slice of the world. What was once a primary pastime—a popular purchase at the Five and Dime, a regular feature in women’s and children’s magazines and the Sunday newspaper, a product sold in the millions every year—has virtually vanished. But I’m doing my best to revive and ignite the love of paper dolls through my mail order business,, my paper doll publishing company, and two magazines—Paperdoll Review, about older, collectible paper dolls and Paper Doll Studio, showcasing paper dolls created by artists of today.

Pop Culture Paper DollsWhy fire up my blog after a three year absence? Because I’m super excited about the new chapter in my paper doll life…

Pop Culture Paper Dolls.

Inspired by my love of All Things Pop Culture, I’m launching a new line of paper doll books which will cover all aspects of pop culture—from yesterday and today—including movies, TV, books, music, hobbies, fashion, celebrities, notable figures and other trendy topics. To add to the fun, we’ll include extras like a pop culture quiz, fab facts or a must-list.

Our fantastic artists are excited about the new direction and several projects are already in the works. David Wolfe shares the love of his favorite holiday in “Merry Movie Christmas,” Cory Jensen spotlights some of his favorite ladies in “Broadway Sensations,” Gregg Nystrom celebrates flame-haired beauties in “Retro Redheads,” Bruce Patrick Jones represents characters and costumes in “Jane Austen on Screen” and Brenda Sneathen Mattox is going sci-fi with “Retro Space Girls.” A huge thank-you to David Wolfe for designing our super fab logo, which will appear on the back cover of each book in the Pop Culture Paper Doll collection.

Merry Movie Christmas
David Wolfe's "Merry Movie Christmas" coming Fall 2018

Other titles we’re considering are:

Sweethearts of Song
Dynamite Divas
Award Winners
Legendary Leading Ladies
European Glamour Girls
Retro Runway
Hollywood Designers
Blonde Bombshells
Black Super Models
African-American Actresses
Retro TV
British TV
Eighties Icons
The Royal Watch
20th Century Styles
The London Look
Retro Bride
Dancing With Paper Dolls
Happy Campers
Kitchen Kitsch

Let me know if you have suggestions to add to the list. Several titles will come out in 2018 and we’ll keep ‘em coming! We’ll continue to produce paper dolls outside this line including “Ladies of the Titanic” by Norma Lu Meehan and Randy Bryan Bigham, “My Dolly and Me” by Eileen Rudisill Miller and “COUTURE: The Other Sixties” by Jim Howard. We can’t do this without you, the collectors, so I encourage you to visit and shop for paper dolls on

Stay tuned for previews, reviews and musings about paper dolls and pop culture!