The Fat Stockyards in Fort Worth, Texas, was the home of an amazing flea market. The dealers were an eccentric—and sometimes crusty—group that I looked forward to seeing almost every Saturday morning, when I made the hour drive from Dallas to Fort Worth throughout most of the 1980s. I have found so many astonishing treats at the market, but right at the top of the list is Paper Doll Box No. 2 (small size). This tiny treasure measures about two inches by three inches and looks rather inconspicuous in its pencil-marked, tattered white box. The dealer who had sold me the box had no information on the artist or where it had come from—and looking at the sixty-four diminutive figures only invites more questions. Drawn on brittle construction paper, the figures are very fragile. The clothing details tell me they might be from the late 1940s or early 1950s. The drawings are well proportioned, and each is executed with real skill. Most of the figures are fit and youthful with a small handful of heavyset figures; anyone of color is wearing overalls with festive patches, and there is only one older figure, with a long, scraggly beard (that looks a little too much like me). The “dolls” were all drawn freehand, and close examination reveals a myriad of hopeful expressions and breezy postures, along with a very chic and clean approach to fashion. I love their outfits and humble colors. I can’t tell if they were drawn by a boy or a girl as there are almost an identical number of male and female figures. I continue to visit Paper Doll Box No. 2 (small size); each time I am dazzled, confused, and thrilled that they are in my house.
Todd Oldham is a designer and founder of Todd Oldham Studio, a multifaceted, New York City–based design studio working in film and photography, furniture, interiors, fashion, books, and graphic design.
Hands: Tony Longoria