Greta, dolls’ doctor

A lit­tle work­shop in Bar­ba­roux street in Tori­no, on the win­dow the title “Gre­ta Cana­lis Dolls’ Doc­tor”.  Just a step across the thre­shold and we find our­sel­ves into a world of enchant­ment.  Anti­que por­ce­lain dolls, ted­dy bears which had seen bet­ter times, but also the favo­ri­te pal Bar­bie of someo­ne, may­be gro­wn up, but who doesn’t want to quit the best playmate. 

At a cor­ner in a basket a boy­toy with a sheet on its side, the medi­cal record which the lit­tle owner has addres­sed to the doc­tor in order to list the his bestie’s “wounds” to be hea­led. And then we meet Gre­ta, 31 years old, who tells us how this idea was con­cei­ved: “I belong to a fami­ly of restorers. 

My father is a car­pen­ter and my sister is a resto­rer of pain­tings and fre­scoes. I atten­ded the Fine Arts Aca­de­my, that was the arti­stic flair, but I wished to do some­thing spe­cial, tru­ly pecu­liar. By chan­ce I just drop­ped by a toys work­shop, whe­re a man with a long beard, like San­ta Claus, used to repair dolls and ted­dy bears as a hob­by. That’s how I star­ted my appren­ti­ce­ship expe­rien­ce, he taught me the craft and I’ve done it for seven years”.

A year ago, I ope­ned my own work­shop.” In the Covid year? “Actual­ly – Gre­ta says – I’ve kept on wor­king from home and in ano­ther big­ger work­shop, but I’ve also beco­me acti­ve on social media, a good means in order to make myself more kno­wn. Now I recei­ve dolls to be resto­red from all over Ita­ly.”. “I’m spe­cia­li­zed in por­ce­lain dolls’ resto­ra­tion – she explains – thou­gh I now mend the Cic­cio­bel­los, hor­ses, bears, Bar­bies. When I began, I used to meet espe­cial­ly col­lec­tors and, may­be elder­ly peo­ple who had jea­lou­sly pre­ser­ved their dolls; throu­gh the years my custo­mers base has ‘reju­ve­na­ted’ and during the fir­st loc­k­do­wn, the peo­ple has had the chan­ce to redi­sco­ver hid­den objec­ts in their own homes and a youn­ger gene­ra­tion of clien­ts has star­ted coming to me. So, it hap­pens that nowa­days the­re is someo­ne who resto­res a chil­d­hood memo­ry, may­be a Barbie.”

What does it mean to be a young arti­san? “Well, hone­stly, in this world the youn­ger you are, the les­ser you are taken into account. You keep being told that you don’t have enou­gh kno­w­led­ge, exper­ti­se. Fur­ther­mo­re, at the very begin­ning I was afraid that this world wouldn’t be under­stood. Dolls might be sca­ry, as they’ve been used in so many hor­ror movies. 

The­re are not many of us in Ita­ly doing this job. The­re is the histo­ric Dolls’ Hospi­tal in Napo­li and ano­ther work­shop in Rome. I gai­ned a Cer­ti­fi­ca­te as a Dolls’ Resto­rer by an Ame­ri­can Asso­cia­tion, the ‘Doll Doctor’s Asso­cia­tion’. Abroad, in fact, this tra­di­tion is more con­so­li­da­ted, espe­cial­ly, con­cer­ning Euro­pe, in Ger­ma­ny. “Befo­re this dar­ned virus – she remem­bers – I used to go to Ger­ma­ny five times a year, becau­se the­re are tra­de fairs, festi­vals, mar­ke­ts, auc­tions. In Ger­ma­ny dolls’ doc­tors are nume­rous, the­re are fac­to­ries whe­re you can pur­cha­se your mate­rials, fur­ther­mo­re some open days are plan­ned in order to show you how to do it”.

Which one is your favo­ri­te doll? “It’s a por­ce­lain doll, dated in the ear­ly ‘900, which was assem­bled cross-eyed. I’ve found it in the old work­shop, whe­re I used to be employed, no one ever had come to retrie­ve it and, at the end – and Gre­ta smi­les – I adop­ted her”.

Via Bar­ba­roux 7
10122 Torino