Thursday, April 1, 2010

Hooray for Tom Tierney!

I recently went to the much anticipated Paper Doll Party in Smithville hosted by the amazing and gracious Tom Tierney and his niece which I learned about upon first meeting Tom, blogged here. It did not disappoint!

Tom works in a studio that has been fashioned out of the upstairs portion of an old retail space that was built in the 1890s. The 2nd level was for fancy dresses and bridal and whatnot, and the building has an amazing central staircase so the young lady could make a grand entrance to her eagerly awaiting entourage. It has all the original hardwood floors and the staircase has never been refinished! The first floor is a cozy shop space (despite the impressive square footage behind the designated retail area) with every Tom Tierney bit of merchandise any paper doll lover could ever hope for, most of it already signed!

Tom was giving personal tours of his studio space, which was the highlight of our entire trip! First off, just being in the company of such an accomplished and storied gentlemen is a treat on it's own, but getting to see where he works and his incredible collection of antique oddities sends the experience over the edge.

He showed us an amazing music box, super old that played songs from larger than LP metal discs with holes in them that spun much like a record player, but much older technology obviously. There was a drawer underneath that held the discs.

Next to the music box was a delightful wooden mannequin; Tom told us it was from the 1700s, was built entirely of wood (no nails anywhere, just wooden pegs) and was used by artists for portraits. They would borrow clothes from their subject, pad out the mannequin and use that for reference until all that was left was the face, which was the only part the person had to sit for. How practical! I didn't know they did this, and I actually always wondered a little about it. Thanks Tom!

He had a beautiful peacock stained glass piece, which I unfortunately didn't get a picture of

:( and the whole area was set up like a parlor or sitting room. (The best one ever!) He had framed originals of his own work, along with a SIGNED poster from Erte' dedicated to Tom personally! He was able to meet the man in person in his younger days, having done a paper doll book in his style and seeking approval for publishing rights. Erte' was charmed and later sent him the poster. Gasp!

One of the things I noticed was a large embroidery/cross stitch piece mounted in a frame that sat on the floor, and was about 5 feet tall. It was a pastoral scene with dogs and flowers. I love needlework history, so I asked about it. Tom told us the object was known as a "sincere" and was in vogue when women's cosmetics were largely comprised of wax, used as a shield between the heat of a fireplace and any ladies that were in the room, so as not to melt all their hard work!

Bryan's favorite had to be a small table that looked simple enough at first, but we came to find it had quite a story to tell. Tom happily told us that he had only read about them for the longest time and was thrilled to finally own what he referred to as a "Witch's Chair". For those witches back in the day, who, obviously, could not flaunt their witchy ways, it masqueraded as a mild-mannered table during the day, but by night...flip the table top part up and a chair with an wide, arched back is revealed. (Not to mention the wee beastie complete with yellow eyes carved into the underside so that it is a little witchy surprise!) The perfect thing for all your seances and witch meetings where you really want to make an impression.

He also showed me some of the prints and originals that he's currently working on. He's sending a proposal to Ellen and Portia with their ensembles from their wedding and different awards shows. I can't imagine anyone not wanting Tom to do a paper doll version of them. His work is so true-to-life and idealized/finessed at the same time. He makes everyone look glamorous! I got to see some original oil paintings he was working on too. It's amazing being in anyone's creative work space, and getting to be in Tom's with him was an experience I will never forget.

We also received hefty gift bags and souvenirs for coming, packed aplenty with glorious paper dolls! The actual "Paper Doll Party" was a group of vendors selling PDD and PDD related items; mostly older ladies with some collectibles, some nostalgia and some original works. Bryan found me She-Ra and Katy Keene paper doll books (yee-haw!). I bought an 80's Barbie coloring book, a twin set of colonial paper dolls, two fat-quarters of adorable paper doll pattern fabric and a few other little goodies. I was also pleased to see a previous co-worker of mine vending her super cute wares!

We had a great time also at the luncheon which was made by Tom's great niece. It was held in the rec center of the town and I want everyone to notice the dummy in the corner; it's the kind that you beat up for self defense or martial arts. You've gotta love a small town. It actually kind of works for a doll theme too, so that's a bonus. :D*

Also included in the ticket price was a "train tour of Smithville", which was actually a short trolly jaunt to the two houses in town that have been settings for movie filming. (Hope Floats and Tree of Life). An utterly charming event, all told.


  1. trolley? This post was very nice- I liked that there was some stuff in it that you hadn't told me already and having a narrative along with the pictures was really nice. LOVE that part about the "sincere"- it makes me sad though, to think how many little bits of everyday life have just fallen through the cracks that we'll never know about. Thanks for sharing!

  2. yeah maybe. I like trolly though! I guess it reads as troll-y. Ha! A short troll-y jaunt!