The Deepings Dolls
a unique piece of history and artwork for your bookshelf
Each Deepings Doll is unique. Far more detailed than the historical wooden dolls that inspired them, such as the Russian Baboushka or the Gypsy peg doll, they are hand-turned figurines of Tasmanian White Sassafras. Every doll is a one-of-a-kind piece, and cannot be reproduced exactly. Variations in colour, detail, and even the turning itself render the doll an individual work of art.
The wood from which the dolls are turned is a close-grained timber of low density. It has lovely subtle grain (often left exposed by the painters), holds paint well and does not discolour with age. Atherosperma moschatum (White Sassafras) is found only in Tasmania and some small southern areas of Victoria, Australia. The small dimension and weight of both dolls and packaging make them easily transportable by post. Adult shapes average 13cm in height. Children vary from 6 - 7.5cm. The dolls are turned in one piece; they are not jointed.
Our artist, Jilli Roberts, uses long lasting acrylic paints and painters' inks, and works with brush and pen to create each Deepings Doll with care. They are varnished to seal the wood and protect the artwork. Owners and collectors of the Deepings Dolls value them highly.
The History of the Deepings Dolls
The Deepings Dolls began in 1984 as simple shapes turned from celery top pine by Adrian Hunt at his Nicholls Rivulet studio, “The Deepings,” in the Huon Valley in southern Tasmania. These turned pieces were then decorated with simple lines in sepia ink by the first Deepings artist, Friedericke Schmaltz, detailing seams, buttons, collars, locks of hair and ruffles of fabric. Friedericke developed the concept with Adrian from the early European wooden dolls with which they were both familiar. Adrian and his wife Roslyn marketed the Deepings Dolls through their studio, and introduced them to a variety of retail outlets around Australia and worldwide. Jilli Roberts was the second artist brought in to paint the dolls, and continued to do so for many decades in between full time office work, motherhood, university studies and travel. The Deepings Dolls has had many artists over the years, each bringing their own unique style and design work. They sign their name and other identifying information on the base of each doll -- so if you come across one on someone else's shelf, have a look to see who painted it!
Since those early years, there has been steady evolution of style, range of design and process – from the addition of colour detail to the mostly painted surfaces seen now. A change was made from celery top pine to white sassafras in 1988, it proving a more amenable surface to work, both for turner and Doll Artist. In 2006, Adrian and Roslyn Hunt retired from the Deepings Dolls business, passing the brand and product to Jilli and Tansy Roberts of Pendlerook Designs. We have continued in the tradition set by the Deepings Woodturner, with the same commitment to a special, quality product.
One of the first new designs that Tansy pressed Jilli to include in the Deepings Doll range was a Jane Austen, as well as a Pride and Prejudice pair: Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy. Jilli amused herself by producing two versions of Darcy: buttoned up/traditional, and "wet-shirt," in honour of a certain iconic BBC series. Meanwhile, Tansy, who has loved and re-read Austen's novels for most of her life, insisted on the extra detail that Elizabeth Bennet have mud on her hem. In honour of this new era of Pendlerook Designs, with the opening of Alice & Austen as a gift shop, Jilli is designing brand new Alice in Wonderland dolls: she previously only painted one Alice for a special order, and a Queen of Hearts because Tansy begged for it as a birthday present. (This original Queen lives on Tansy's own bookshelf, are you jealous?)