Hello Everyone I would like share with you the next profile in the From Childhood To Sasha series featuring the lovely Cassandra

me

 

(Above a photo of Cassandra)

 

My full name is Cassandra Tasmin Cooper, or at least it was for the first 20 years – then I became Rogers and later Keefer…..but we’ll get to that!

My Paternal grandparents met and lived in London although they arrived there from very different backgrounds. My Grandfather had moved to London from the States to finish his medical degree having started it at John’s Hopkins, quite an achievement for the youngest in a large family of immigrants. His parents had moved to New Jersey from the Ukraine and started a ship salvage business where all 5 of their sons worked when they weren’t collecting clams to sell along the Jersey Shore. I only recently discovered that he was born with the last name Levine but when he moved to England he changed it legally to Cooper.

 

In contrast my Grandmother’s family were Norfolk farmers, related to a character known as the ‘Norfolk Giant’ who was a staggering 7 feet 8 inches tall and by all accounts a very unpleasant man. Prior to meeting my Grandfather she worked for a publishing house in London where her job was to interpret the handwritten and often rather illegible manuscripts that came in and type them out. When she and my grandfather, now Dr. Cooper, married they lived in Highgate Village and had 3 children, my Father Glenn being the middle child. My Granny Clare was an amazing seamstress and could sit down with a yard or so of fabric and get up a couple of hours later with a perfectly tailored button-down shirt without ever using a pattern, she also made my Aunt many dolls clothes – a tradition that my Father continued, sending them home to his little sister from boarding school, luckily he was also captain of the boxing club so no-one dared comment!!

paternal grandparents

(Above, my father’s parents with me on Hampstead Heath)

My Mother’s family were Swiss and Ukrainian on her Father’s side – His mother Matushka was of very aristocratic descent and met his Swiss Father while she was visiting Paris with her governess to purchase her trousseau to marry a Russian Prince. She was also related to Leo Tolstoy and would spend summers with cousin Leo when she was a child. Things went south when she eloped and married Maurice, leaving her prince high and dry, she was subsequently given the family’s silver samovar as a wedding present and then promptly disowned and cut off from her inheritance.

 

My Maternal Grandmother was born and grew up in Shanghai where her father Sir Herbert Phillips was the last British Consul General. As a result many of our family heirlooms are Chinese, including some incredible ceramics gifted to my great grandfather by the last emperor of China. My Grandmother moved back to England as a young woman and met and married my Grandpa Peter Bezencenet (try saying that 3 times fast) who was a dashing squadron leader, flying spitfires and hurricanes. After the war they moved to Buckinghamshire, my Grandpa then working as an editor and director at Pinewood Studios, and raised 4 children – my mother Karen being the oldest.

maternal grandparents

(Above,  my mother’s parents on their wedding day)

By happy coincidence my parents’ families both took a holiday in Spain one summer, staying in the same guest house at the same time. The two of them met, only 16 and 18 respectively, and the rest is history – they stayed together until the end of my Mum’s life 15 years ago and my Dad has never found anyone to replace her. They were married in the Chelsea registry office and then moved into a small flat in West London after which my brother and I soon put in an appearance, Oliver in 1973 and me 15 months later in 74.

my mum and dad(Above,  my parents)

 

baby me

(Above, me as a baby)

 

Four years later my parents sank every penny they had into a Victorian house in Notting Hill, there was no roof, no electricity and a completely insane and usually drunk “sitting tenant” in the basement – he came with the house and stayed for almost a decade. It took my parents almost 15 years to finish renovating the house and there were many years of “camping” on various floors of the house while other areas were under repair, but what I remember most of those years is our house always being full of family and music. My brother and I had so much freedom – running wild in the communal garden which was basically a park completely enclosed by houses on all 4 sides. We would be gone for hours only turning up at home when hunger or exhaustion got the better of us. In those days we would walk to and from school, half an hour or more in central London at maybe 8 years old – we were deliciously autonomous from a very young age.

 

our house

(Above, my family in front of our crumbling house in 1978)

 

Although I was usually too busy playing outside and we were mostly too broke for toys I can remember having one particular kewpie doll, I don’t remember where it came from but it was always naked and I would stuff it up my jumper or pyjama top and pretend I was pregnant! I was also fascinated by her starfish hands and in the above photo you can just see me clutching the kewpie while at the same time mimicking her hands at my brother, who is quite typically ignoring me!

 

I didn’t see a Sasha doll until I was 8 years old and my Mum had taken me to Tridias, a local toyshop, where she would let me loose a few weeks before my birthday so she could get ideas for my present. I had worked this out but then and knew to “oooo” and “aaaah” at whichever toy I liked best, but in this case I can remember standing completely silently and just staring at the Sasha dolls until my Mum led me away by the hand and categorically told me they were too expensive! A few weeks later on my 9th birthday while we were visiting my Grandparents in Whales I was given a single gift, it was the size a shape of a Sasha box but I was so afraid that it wasn’t what I was hoping for that I sat with the unwrapped present and refused to open it. After a LOT of reassurance I finally tore off the paper and found a brunette Sasha in a blue dress with tights and ballet shoes and never looked back!

simple sasha

 

(Above,not my childhood Sasha but a perfect illustration of the sculptural beauty of our dolls and why I love them)

 

My Granny Clare taught me to sew for my doll on an old hand trundle Singer, I still have the very first dress I made for that first Sasha. My Granny was also the reason behind a rather unfortunate haircut that Sasha received on the day I got her……..not fond of little girls having hair in their faces she had been brushing my doll’s fringe back so she could see her face better, and wanting to make her happy I asked my Mum to cut her fringe, the results were far from perfect but at the time I was very pleased with it.

 

The next year a blonde schoolboy joined Sasha and then the following year baby ginger, I became more proficient at sewing and I would spend hours at the kitchen table re-cycling my Dad’s shirts into doll dresses. My Dad was in corporate finance and flamboyant shirts were not considered appropriate so most of these dresses were plain blue or white with the occasional stripe thrown in for good measure. It was around this time that I found out that the factory in Stockport had closed down, I had phoned the number on the back of the catalogue to see if I could send my girl back to have her fringe re-rooted (by this point I had realized it was much too short) and was told by a security guard who happened to hear the phone ringing that they were no longer making the dolls.

 

In a panic I phoned Tridias, only to be told that they had put all the Sasha dolls and clothes on sale and they were already sold out, I phoned Hamleys and was told the same – finally Harrods toy department confirmed they still had some stock. I begged and pleaded with my parents to be allowed to use the small amount of money my Grandpa had left me the year before to go and buy some of the remaining dolls and clothes before they were gone for good. I can so clearly remember returning home with those two magnificent Harrods handle bags, containing a redheaded girl, a baby Rosie and 3 new outfits, I also remember my Mum whisking them out of my hands and telling me I couldn’t open them until I had tidied my bedroom. Turns out that she was right and opening those new dolls in my freshly cleaned room was infinitely more pleasing than doing so in the normal chaos I created.

 

So, that was it, or so I thought! I had my family of 5 dolls – one of each hair colour and I was content to sew for them, dress them and then hide them under my bed when friends came over. I was by this time 13 and at secondary school – as with most things my parents sacrificed a lot to send my brother and I to private school where without question I received an amazing education while at the same time learning there is nothing as cruel as over-privileged teenage girls!!

my school

(Above, my school. I spent 7 years here, mostly wishing I was somewhere else but I adored my art and English teachers.)

 

Sasha dolls became my secret hobby and while my parents were tolerant of my interest they never really understood my fixation. My Mum told me stories of tying her dolls to trees and shooting at them with her bow and arrows but would sweetly try to feign interest as I talked about the minute details of eye painting, hair rooting and outfit variations. It always surprised me that considering her Swiss heritage and her art school and sculpting background that she didn’t see the appeal of the elegant simplicity of Sasha dolls. Although once in a while she’d surprise me with something perfect like a package of woven labels with ‘Sasha’ on them in my Christmas stocking, I still have some left and sew them into my dolls clothes to this day.

 

labels

(Above, the labels from my Christmas stocking when I was 14 and a Sashapotamus coat with one of them sewn in.)

 

At 15 I met my first Sasha collector, Maddie at a doll show, she lived in Stockport – the same town as the Sasha factory and was the first adult I had ever met that still had dolls and was completely unapologetic about it to boot. This was the true beginning of collecting for me and when she introduced me to Julian a couple of months later I finally had people to share my interest with who felt the same way rather than just tolerating my obsession. We had such fun, and I still have the notebooks with all the lists of dolls we had, dolls we wanted and dolls we’d never even seen an example of. With no internet we were limited to meeting other collectors at doll shows which only happened once or twice a year and scouring magazines for information or for sale ads.

 

Then I went off to university, leaving my dolls behind and there was a bit of a break in my collecting! I was side-tracked by my degree in child psychology and even more so by Benji Rogers the long haired, goatee wearing musician that I met during my first year who I flew to meet on tour in San Francisco during my second year and eloped to Reno and married on a whim! I don’t know who was more surprised, me or my friends and family…..my parents recovered their initial shock admirably and threw us a wedding party. I was 20 years old, and in lots of ways still a little girl playing dress-up in my Grandmother’s amazing Chinese silk brocade gown brought back from her society days in Shanghai.

 

FullSizeRender

 

(Above , taken at my first wedding party, me wearing my grandmother’s dress)

 

We moved into a flat in Clapham, very close to Julian’s flat which was great and for the first time since I was 12 my Sasha dolls were proudly displayed on shelves. It was to this flat that Susanna Lewis came with Julian when she was visiting him. In those days I only had a handful of “interesting” Sasha dolls……My first NPs, Lolita my blonde girl purchased from a doll show before I even knew what an NP was, and then my 2 NP boys, a brunette first and then a redhead. These were both from Michael O’Brien who told me they would be “important” dolls to have and thankfully I listened, spending every penny I had from babysitting and saved allowance to add them to my small collection. They are still with me and have been joined by 3 more, it took me 25 years to complete the set!!

 

My NPs

(Above, my magic 6 – it was the blond boy that took me to longest to find)

 

Then my new young husband dropped the bombshell, he wanted to move to Los Angeles to pursue his music career and so the flat was packed up and rented out, the dolls went back to my parents house now in the countryside near when my Mum grew up. Without any real comprehension that I would never come back to live in England again, we set off on our adventure and for a while Sasha dolls and sewing were replaced with watching other girls scream at my husband on stage at the Viper Room, The Whiskey A Go Go and the Roxy.

 

These were quite lonely years for me, I was often by myself and we had no money – the only furniture in our apartment was an old ironing board propped on 2 boxes for a table and a mattress on the floor. Benji would sleep all day and I would buy one coffee and sit for hours in coffee shops sculpting tiny characters out of polymer clay, I would try to make 4 out of each tiny package to save money and would carry the finished ones with me in a little cloth bag. One thing I learnt fast is that people are NOT shy in LA and they would come and talk to me while I sculpted, play with the bag of little heads and I was even interviewed for a small newspaper.

littleheads

(Above, little heads, my coffee shop creations)

 

I had hoped to try and break into special effects sculpting and sent photos of some of my more fantastical pieces to the Jim Henson creature shop where I was granted an interview and put on the books as a freelance sculptor, but work wasn’t very forthcoming and I had to get resourceful to make ends meet. I made molds of my character series, cast them in resin and sold them in high end gift shops, and then when I realized that the silicon I was using to make my molds was food safe, I experimented with chocolate and even soap. These goodies were added to my offerings in local shops and caused quite a stir, I was contacted by the LA times and they ran an article on my chocolates. Life got interesting……I made chocolates for movie premiers, Whoopi Goldberg and Steven Spielberg among others and was invited on talk shows and even asked to be featured in my own episode on the food network (I declined that one, I hate being on camera!!)

 

creatures

(Above, some examples of my creatures)

 

 

chocolate stuff

 

(Above,  some examples of chocolates and soap)

 

 

Somewhere during that time Benji and I had amicably parted ways and I met John Keefer – He, as some of you know, has been a great supporter of my by then re-discovered passion for doll collecting and some of you will recall the NP wrapped in foil he gave me at a restaurant for our 10th anniversary. I also entirely have him to thank for my 2 studio doll purchases around that time, without his support and encouragement I would never have taken the plunge.

 

 

John and I

(Above, john and I)

 

 

NP in foil

(Above, NP in foil)

 

 

 

studio girls

(Above, studio girls,  Amelie bought from a Swiss auction on the left and Molly, an early ebay purchase on the right)

 

 

We were married in England, on Valentines day with our friends and family this time, and within just over a month our first baby Jack was on the way but sadly six weeks into the pregnancy my Mum passed away and for the first time in my life I experienced true loss. Thankfully the impending arrival of our baby gave me something positive to focus on and I returned to LA to begin nesting in earnest.

FullSizeRender (1)

 

(Above, Every time I left England to go back to LA my Mum and I took photo-booth pictures at the airport, this is my favourite.)

 
IMG_1613
(Above, Jack on the left and Sam on the right – they are older now but I love this photo.)

 

After Jack was born I began making clothes for him and soon a new career path evolved and Jackapotamus, my line of organic hand printed baby clothes came into being. I very much learnt the apparel business on the fly but people seemed to like what I was doing and a few years later while 7 months pregnant with Sam I opened my store on Main St. Santa Monica. I managed to persuade my sewing contractor to make American Girl sized tee shirts for me and would print them to match the kids versions and sold matching sets. I would also throw doll parties in my store where kids could bring their dolls to dress up and have photos taken on the red carpet and visit the hair salon, even get temporary tattoos!

my store

(Above, a photo of the inside and outside of my shop)

 

dollevent
(Above,  Flyer for one of my American girl events and the doll sized red carpet!)

 

Around this time I discovered our Sasha Morgenthaler Facebook Group and shortly after, while looking at the incredible clothing being made by some of the members I had an “ah-ha!!” moment and so with the next round of American doll shirts some smaller ones were made along with some tiny onesies. After initially struggling with the printing on such tiny garments I took a photo of a few, listed some in my new Sashapotamus shop on Etsy and posted a link on the Facebook page. I had no idea if other collectors would be interested in such contemporary offerings and was pleasantly surprised when the orders started to come in. Using my experience with children’s clothing production I soon added jeans, coats, shoes and other accessories into the mix and have settled into the pleasant notion of life coming full circle.

original sashapotamus post

(Above,  sashapotamus , this was the photo that I put on the FB page that started it all.)

 

Theresa asked which doll I would add to my collection if I could choose any doll, but honestly I feel very satisfied with the dolls I have already. My collecting has slowed to perhaps one doll every 2 or 3 years and while I expect I will add a few more early English dolls before I stop I don’t imagine I will ever buy another studio doll. While I appreciate them as the works of art they truly are their weight, size and value makes them a little intimidating. I agree with Julian in that these days I take more pleasure in rescuing waifs and giving them new life and I had a lot of fun sculpting new legs to make a couple of custom black toddlers and I definitely have a lot more fun with my dolls now that they’re out from under the bed and I have other people to share them with!

customdolls

(Above,  a few of my customized dolls…..lots of unfinished projects are still waiting for my attention.)

 

 

 

custom toddlers
(Above, custom toddler, my two black ‘toddlers’ I sculpted their legs using polymer clay over wood.)

Last year with the help and support of Anne Votaw I approached the Morgenthaler Family in the hopes that they might grant me license to put Sasha back into production. I had hoped that my Swiss blood, sculpting and manufacture experience combined with a desire to honor the original intentions of Sasha Morgenthaler would make me a good candidate. Unfortunately they were initially more fixated on the fact that I had used the Sasha logo as the ‘O’ in Sashapotamus on my Etsy page. Thankfully after I removed it and explained it was done as a respectful nod to the doll’s creator rather than as any claim to the dolls on my part they seemed satisfied. However they ultimately explained that they felt Sasha was a special doll created by a special artist for a time that is now past. They will not license the dolls again. I was disappointed but I eventually plan to sculpt a doll of my own design and produce those instead, I can’t hope to make anything as timeless and enigmatic as Sasha but I look forward to having the time to see what I can come up with. For now most of my time is taken up with my amazing boys who adore each other, making Halloween costumes, school projects, kittens and work – I feel incredibly lucky that my work is doing something I love and that once in while I still have time to play with my dolls!

costumes

(Above,  I have a deal with my boys that I will make them whatever they want to be for Halloween no matter what…..)

 

kittens
(Above, the latest additions to our family…….

 

Footnote: I would like to say a big Thank you to Cassandra for taking part In, the From Childhood to Sasha Series. Please do not copy or download any of Cassandra’s photos without her permission first.

Cassandra has a fabulous shop on Etsy here is the link if you would like to see more of her wonderful creations. https://www.etsy.com/shop/Sashapotamus

Thanks for looking ……………..

 

 

Hi Everyone please let me introduce to you the wonder that is  Julian …..

image1

My name is Julian Stanislaw Richard Kalinowski and I have been involved with Sasha dolls since 1989, 28 years to be precise.

My parents are Polish
My father’s side of the family were shop keepers. My father had been a chauffer to a rich woman in Warsaw and during the 2nd World war my father became a soldier.

(Below a photo of Julian’s, father in his uniform)

 

image1 (1)

 

 

Julian’s , Maternal side of the family had been Farmer’s and were permitted to grow poppies by the Government for medicinal purposes, his Great Grandfather was a Baron.
During the 2nd world war at the tender age of 15 years old, Julian’s mother was put in a truck and taken away by Nazis. She was put to work in a German slave camp, where she was kept until liberation
Upon release from the camp Julian’s mother left the camp in rags, only to be picked up by a handsome soldier and given a dress to wear.
Julian’s mother would often tell him this story exclaiming that, “ it was the best dress I ever had, that dress your father gave me…. It only had one sleeve, but it was still the best dress!”

(Below is a photo of Julian’s mother not long after her release from the camp.)

image1

Another memory that Julian has of those terrible war years, was told to him by his Aunt Olga, when she had to defend her brother from a marauding German soldier.

My favourite Auntie , Ola , my fathers sister,
( who in later life had a huge peroxide blonde bee hive hairdo ) was chopping vegetables in the kitchen in Warsaw during the uprising . Her other brother, Stephan (my fathers name was Stanislaw ) , ran into the kitchen , chased by a German soldier . Ola said ‘quick , hide in the cupboard !’
So Stephan hid and the soldier ran in , gun in hand.
‘Where is he !?’ The soldier demanded .
Over there said Ola , and as he looked away she ran at him and stabbed him to death .
That night she and Stephan threw him in the river .

My family were not made of spit and tissue .

 

After the war Julian’s parent moved to England.

Julian grew up in a small country town in Hertfordshire called Baldock.
My parents were poor and we lived in a council house.
My mother worked as a cleaning lady and in a factory at night making nylons.

image2 (1) jullians parents

(Above a photo of Julian’s parents in the 60’s)

Around the little estate our house was on were idyllic fields and a great big wood called the ‘Western hills ‘. I had a bicycle and I spent every moment I wasn’t at school in the fields or climbing trees. Making camps . I knew every inch of that countryside. Your eyesight is amazing as a child. I remember I caught lizards. I would fish in the pond in an adjoining village. I had a tree house in the garden.
I admired my father’s old guns. We are now in the 1960’s and my sisters are much older than I.

 

image1 (1) julian as a child

(Above a photo of Julian as a child)

In the 1960’s I’m aware of undercurrents of change in society.
My sisters were sophisticated. They had jobs. They had been to university. They had their hair cut at Vidal Sassoon and wore clothes by Biba.
My sisters they went to see Underground films and read OZ magazine.

They noticed I was different, I’d always want to wear pearls, I was sent home from school for wearing them. My sisters would say to my mum and dad ‘he’s one of the children of the new age’. I always walked with my head held high.

My dad worked for British rail and my parents gave up on disciplining me at a very early age . I was very wilful.
The best part of my Dad working for BR was that the whole family got free train travel. I had my own train pass. So from the age of about 10 I was hopping on the train to Kings X from Baldock , alone ! Not a penny in my pocket and just, walking the streets.

Now as I’m writing this I’m aware that it sounds rather alarming. But nothing ever happened to me. I just absorbed the wonderment of the city and watched the people. The respectable ones as they hurried to and from work commuting and the outsider people , as I came to see them, the street people and the prostitutes , who always fascinated me with their unusual fashion looks and worldly ways , kind words and warm but sad eyes.
I’ve always liked warm people who have lived hard.

As a child I had my ‘boyish’ side, attending a catholic boy’s school. But I felt genderless. My convent school was beautiful, with hidden gardens, statutes of the saints and a waterfall. I was taught by nuns; some kind, some strange.

I always loved dolls. All toys. Robots, action men.
But my parents were very poor, those 60’s toys were expensive and there was stigma attached to boys playing with ‘feminine ‘ toys. Gender roles were rigid.
I always thought that was silly , but you’ve no autonomy as a child because you don’t earn your own money , so you’ve not got much choice really but to go along with things.

I had a lovely Barbie and some hand me down ones from the next door neighbour. I always wanted to know how they worked, so I’d pull the skin off the bend leg dolls to expose the mechanism. Or pull them apart to see how they were put together. You know good toys really are rather wasted on children!

image2 (2) julian with his barbie collection

(Above a photo of an older Julian with his Barbie collection)

 

In the late 60’s my older sister Basia took me down Carnaby St .There was a shop there, it may have been The Design Centre. Maybe it was Tridias?
(Below a photo of a shop front in the 1960’s

a0eab1c9fe49ebf6741eb90bf4d7dd66

(Below fashion from the 1960’s)

501c4ab7e1dd6d2c3a76e53209f454c3

 

I remember the big Design Centre in the Strand. That was full of Sasha dolls. Standing amongst the Eames furniture.
So I knew they were really good things.
Anyway, Basia was buying things for her first flat, she’s about 15 years older than me.
That’s where I saw the Sasha dolls. But I also seem to remember the TV show ‘Tomorrows World ‘ ( that was a famous BBC show,) on every Thursday, that informed us about all things modern and new . Anyway, I knew that these dolls were part of ‘the sexual revolution ‘, they were dolls for girls AND boys, they were doing away with all those awful limitations.
I could have a boy doll that didn’t carry a gun. Remember this is the 60’s and even children knew about Vietnam. Well, I did.
Some of the dolls were ‘unisex ‘, they could swap gender. And their clothes were unisex. This was all wonderfully liberating and modern and what I wanted to be about.
I remember going into this shop on Carnaby St and seeing those wonderful tubes, the crayon tubes. Even the packaging looked futuristic. Something from a Sci fi film. But those dolls were expensive and Basia wouldn’t buy me one. And no way was my mum going to because she struggled to feed us.

I also remember visiting a friend of my sister Ursula and she had a Sasha. I loved visiting because while they gabbled on about student rights and women’s rights and stuff I could quietly sit and hold this beautiful, heavy doll.

image1 (5)

(Above a Sasha Studio doll, Julian says, She was mainly done in pencil on translucent resin.
I bought her about 15 years ago at Christies in South Kensington.
When I saw her I couldn’t believe how lovely she was. She had one of those wigs, the colour of which is almost lavender. I got caught up in the bidding and won her.
A mate I was with told me that I turned green with nausea when I comprehended what I was going to spend after I’d paid all the auction fees . She was expensive. I’m glad I owned her, But to be honest I find the scale of the Studio dolls overwhelming and would rather have a good factory doll.)

 

Well then , when I hit early teens I was full of confusion. I read a lot. I almost lived in the library. Adult books that I didn’t understand but that I gravitated towards. Books by Jean Genet and William Burroughs . Picture books on Andy Warhol. David Bowie was very important, references too many things that were important came up in his lyrics.
I’d bought a Bowie record with my pocket money. I liked the record cover, no other real reason. It was synchronicity really.

So I’m 13 and what was I? I didn’t fit in with anything. I didn’t want to be a boy or a girl or heaven forbid, a ‘grown up ‘. That sounded like something redundant.

Luckily something called ‘PUNK ‘ happened and that was a safe umbrella. It didn’t matter what you were, male, female, in between, gay, straight, black or white.

All that mattered was that you listened to very loud , exciting music with lyrics that said something about your life , the consumer society , the politics of boredom , not ‘love ‘ or any of that rubbish and expressed yourself through dressing up (which teenagers of my generation loved , you’re inarticulate at that age , your only real way of communicating your difference is visual , and also because you could go to a jumble sale and , literally , buy a whole bag of amazing 1920’s clothes for 5p !) . Anyway, I was safe amongst the punks. I was only a little androgynous thing but they made me feel safe and accepted.

image1 (2) julian as a punk_LI

(Photos’ of Julian in his punk day)

image1 (7) julian as a punk 2

I had a best mate called Jean, mad Jean from Welwyn garden, she wore 1920’s flapper dresses and had a giant bee hive hairdo and wore two pairs of false eyelashes, and she and I had a super 8 camera. We pooled our pocket money for it.
My early teens were spent making films (many of them with our old toys and dolls as actors), going to punk gigs, and not a care in the world beyond our hair, makeup and what outfits we were going to wear.
I was expelled from school and sent to a college to do my exams. What a relief!

I loved the freedom. Then I did ‘Art History ‘ as a degree. But I dropped out because I’d found out that there was a wonderful night club scene happening in London. I was at university in Leicester by this point. I weighed things up; and I thought ‘I can return to education at any time, but I’m only young once and I’m going to damn well enjoy my youth ‘. So I moved to London and went out every night for years. I supported myself with market research jobs. I also became a fashion designer after taking a pattern cutting course at the London College of fashion. I took my stuff in a bag to a shop on Sth Moulton Street off New Bond St. I had all the arrogance of youth and this shop called Bazaar took the stuff and for a while that’s what I was; ‘ a fashion designer ‘.
Then a stylist for fashion mags. I supplemented my income by selling second hand clothes on Camden market

 

image2 (3) julian modeeling ahis jacket for face mag

 

(Above Julian modelling his own jacket for ‘The Face ‘ magazine , 1985

 

 

image1 (3) styling work for id mag 1989

 

(Above art work Julian produced for a magazine in 1989)

 

Below a brunette red dress and a brunette Gregor similar to the first one Julian owned)

debd598672b74d44ed8e44ecd1e47540

s-l200

 

 

 

While I was snaffling about in charity shops and jumble sales I started finding 60’s Barbie’s and was amazed at the quality of their clothes. I started collecting them.
By the late 80’s Christies auction house started selling ‘lots’ of 60’s Barbie’s. The stuff became valuable and I started dealing in it. I had a stall at Alfie’s antique market off the Edgware rd. then. I’d bought two Sasha dolls.
A brunette girl in a red dress and a brunette boy. They didn’t have the ‘oomph’ appeal that I’d remembered them having as a kid. I couldn’t date them. I was ignorant then. It was about 1989. So I was at one of these Christies auctions…
I Remember, I was quite young. Most of the characters then at these auctions were old fuddy duddies . If you saw a young face, well you gravitated towards them.
I saw a pleasant young girl and I introduced myself. She was interested in the Barbie’s too. Her name was Maddy .

 

 

(Below a photo of Julian’s friend Maddy)

image3 maddy griffin

So we were having a good old chat and I asked her what she was into (doll wise). Sasha, she said. She said she was from the north, that the town where the Sasha factory was, was near where she’d grown up and she’d had these dolls all her life. I invited her over to mine for a dolly evening. She was a student then, Art History, I think. Anyway, she came over a while later with about three dolls. She identified my dolls as mid 70’s. We ate pizza, drank Diet Coke. Listened to old punk music, had a laugh. Those dolls she bought. One was a late 60’s one, one a 70’s one. Neither of those was very interesting (to me) .And the ones I’d bought (they were about £50 each I remember, Angel market is where I bought themfrom) those were really boring . She said ‘oh you’ll only get about £70 each for those you know, mid 70’s, nothing special. ‘But look at this doll I got for £50 ‘ she said. Now this doll.. it had some cut hair , was generally a bit filthy , but it was just …gorgeous . But Maddy and I didn’t get it yet.
We became good friends. She was just down the rd in Tooting I think. I was in Clapham. Whenever she visited she bought this doll .Eventually we noticed things, the thick hair, the centre part . The upper lip like a tortoise (as we saw it). The hand painted eyes with no pixilation from printing like the other dolls. These thick, arched eyebrows that were really weird and reminded me of the eyebrows on the first, hand painted Barbie’s. Quite an ‘adult face ‘ really. And very impressionistic, in painting style, graphic, sophisticated.

 

Maddy introduced me to a girl called Cassandra Cooper. Cassie lived in Notting Hill and she and I hit it off straight off , despite her being 15 with hair down to her bum and being everyone’s idea of a ‘good girl ‘ and me , at that point , looking like Kurt Cobain in need of a bath . Cassie had quite a lot of dolls but not one like Maddys special one. She said she’d seen one at Kensington doll show though and she wished she’d bought it. We thought maybe the smooth upper lip was play wear. Finally it dawned on us that it was a different mould. By that time we were aware of an American Sasha collector newsletter. I wrote to the lady who published it. I wrote my observations. We were looking for ‘spider numbers ‘ on heads and things like that at that point. Very intrigued we were.

 

(Below a photo of Julian’s friend Cassandra)

image4 maddy griffith 2

I don’t know if the information that Maddy, Cassie and I proffered had any credence? Maybe they already knew all about the NP’s? It’s a long time ago and who gives a monkeys uncle? One of us had found out about the Graphis mag feature by then and that really did it for me; these are proper, serious design, I realised. So, me Maddy and Cassie, we had our little ‘Sasha coven’. This is about 92 or something. The three witches obsessing over these dolls that we knew nothing much about. One night Maddy came round and said she’d visited a lady that had a Sasha that had markings on its head and back and crudely painted eyelashes and that it was called a Gotz . Cassie and I sat in wonderment. It was like we’d discovered that you could make a fire by rubbing two sticks together.

There was a newspaper then, ‘Collectors United ‘ and I think it was through that I saw an ad from a Swiss lady called Mrs Cuc.
I sent her £850 and bought what turned out to be a No nose blonde boy. Bloody hell, it was an ugly thing, but I couldn’t believe I owned it. Lot of money too!

(Below a no nose similar to the Julian brought)

4879708732_e09c17d20f_z

 

Below a photo of Julian and Michael O’Brien)

image1 (6) julian and michael O'brein

One day a funny little chap rolled up wearing thick national health glasses held together with a sticking plaster. He had a Bristol accent. I had a Sasha knocking about on my stall. ‘My mum collects those ‘ he said poking at it. We chatted a bit, he was nice. He liked punk rock, interesting clothes and Roxy Music.
His name was Michael O Brien. A little while later I and Cassie Cooper were doing a stall at Kensington doll show .Maybe it was 1992/3. Michael rolled in with a baby pram. It was his daughter in it. ‘I’m looking for Sasha dolls for me mum ‘ he said .Cassie gave me a sideways look and whispered ‘rubbish, he’s buying them for himself ‘.Anyway, me and Michael got matey and he was very ‘train spotter’ , which I liked.
He was half Swiss so he knew about the Gotz dolls.

All this time we are all hunting for NPs. Found one at Notting Hill market for £50.Another at Ardingly antique market for about the same. A lady I became very good friends with gave me my first one in 1991. Jackie Plumb. She’s passed away now. At shows they were about £300 but they were usually in the boot of some dealer’s car and they started making ‘bidding wars ‘ between us. Suddenly interest became very intense and the scene became competitive. That wasn’t a very nice period really.

A lady called Susanna visited from NY. She was doing ‘very serious research.’
It all started being about elastic; two black lines in the ‘S ‘ and a purple in the ‘Z’, or something.  Susanna Lewis was an interesting and intelligent lady. I have fond memories of her. Many afternoons with her in my London flat and me visiting her in New York at her amazing Brownstone house ( she and her husband had amazing taste )
Susanna was absolutely key in what happened later. The pioneer in real research.
I drifted out of it then. I still love Sasha dolls but now I like buying cheap waifs and repainting them.
In my 40’s I became involved in doll manufacturing myself. So I suppose dolls were always my vocation and remain so. .But with me it’s the people, the camaraderie, the social aspect .
I’ve owned ‘high end ‘ ‘important ‘ studio dolls, had lots of rare Gotz , rare NPs.
But now a waif for £100 that I can repaint and spend a pleasant evening making a dress for.
That’s much nicer.

image1 (4) julians sasha beginnings 1

(Above and below, Julian with the beginning of his Sasha collection)

 

image2 (4) julians sasha beginingins 2

 

 

(Below a photo of a wonderful Japanese cloth bodied studio doll once owned by Julian) studio doll once owned by Julian.)

image2

I would like to say a big thank you to Julian for taking part in this series. once again I would ask that you do not copy or download any of these photos without Julian’s permission.

 

Thanks for Looking……..