Most doll designers tend to depict babies, children or beautiful young women and men, so it’s refreshing to find a company who happily concentrate on the more mature age group. These ‘past-their-sell-by-date individuals have been depicted in a stunning range of sculptures by Scott and Jill Harris of Hobo Designs, who design and make ‘Art-dolls. The unique crowd created by Hobo’.
Originally Scott and Gill made soft clown dolls which they sold from a stall at Covent Garden Market, forming Hobo Designs in 1994. Using a mixed medium technique, they progressed to more substantial figures including large, white-faced ceramic-faced clowns wearing beautifully designed outfits. These clowns have proved enormously popular; and include suitcase-carrying Rowley in his pin-striped suit, Buttons & Bows wearing a button-decorated coat, and Pedro with his little dog on a lead.
The ‘Cocktail Bar Collection’ features a range of rather wrinkly individuals determined to enjoy life, amongst them several 18 inch high women who, according to Scott, are ‘tarty, classy ladies’, plus their accompanying men-folk. The majority of the dolls have been modelled clutching glasses of their favourite tipple, and often a bottle as well. Men hold cigars while women puff nonchalantly on a cigarette in a holder. Others play cards, knit or gossip.
These men and women may be mature, but they are certainly anything but past it. The ‘mixed medium’ – a combination of resin, fabric, ceramic, wood, glass – ensures that the dolls and accessories look so real, you could almost believe they were based upon someone you know. Hobo Design figures really need to be seen in ‘the flesh’ to appreciate all the attention to detail, but they are stunning. Each doll is a hand-crafted limited edition, and bears a metal seal of authenticity.
Suzanne, for instance, reclines on the chaise longue, obviously enjoying the good life, casually holding a glass of champagne and an elegant cigarette holder. She wears a pink satin fur-trimmed housecoat over a black outfit which reveals her stockings, suspenders and curvy legs. Then there is Channelle, in her low-necked red dress and black fishnet stockings. Perched on a stool, she holds a bottle of gin and looks very glam with her white fur wrap slung around her shoulders – as does the sophisticated fur-swathed Roxy who is applying her scarlet lipstick. Roxy sports a fetching feather headdress and holds her open compact so that she can see into the mirror. The medal-wearing Dickie, obviously an ex-military man, relaxes in his armchair with a drink, and his friend Roger holds a bottle of port as he chomps on his cigar.
Red, a musician, relives his days of past glory as he strums his guitar, proclaiming his ex-pop star status by his eccentric choice of clothing. Nowadays, no doubt the pursu it by adoring fans and more-than-affectionate groupies are distant memories, but with a spare guitar at his side and a harmonica at his feet, Red is in his own happy world; probably literally as he is smoking a rather questionable ciggie.
Proving popular, too, are the Cats From Hobo House. These cats use the same modelling techniques, but they are cats with a difference, cats as you have never seen before. Imagine if a cat, after using up its nine lives, was given a tenth life to use exactly as it pleased; it would probably take to dressing in luxurious clothes, spend most of its time reclining, relaxing or preening, and would enjoy being waited on by a mouse or two. Well, that’s what Scott and Gill think, anyway. The cats, approximately 16 inches high, include Fifi the Sex Kitten, applying her scarlet lipstick as she sits cross-legged on her stool, and Prudence the Thespian in her long black gown and sophisticated turban.
Then there is Fluff, who admires herself in her hand mirror as she adjusts her hat, and the more homely Kitty – Nitty Kitty – who is knitting a sock. Kitty wears a cream silk petticoat beneath a blue dress, and a lacy shawl around her shoulders. She has a large black hat trimmed with a spotted bow. There are male cats too, of course, such as Major the Fat City Cat, an all-important business-cat wearing his smart check suit and bowler hat, and Dylan the Busker, a bohemian kind of cat playing his guitar.
Around nine years ago, Hobo produced a range of large mixed medium bears which they called ‘Teds’. There were fifteen of them in the collection, averaging 24inches in height, though four of them were a little shorter at 18 inches. They were arrayed in clothes such as nightwear, chef’s outfit, angling get up, ballet tutu, smart suit, granny-type dress and even a safety-pin-fastened coat, which was worn by a bear who had fallen on hard times. Sadly, these bears have long since been retired, though Scott hopes that one day they will ‘come out of hibernation’.
Recently, the collectables company Xystos produced a selection of smaller-sized figurines to complement the Hobo range. These Xystos versions include the bears, as well as clowns and cats, and closely resemble the larger originals. Although much of the clothing is moulded on, they feature fabric trims, or maybe wire spectacles or fur stoles. They retail at around £28, and stand between 6-8 inches high, depending on character and pose.
Of course, it is still possible to buy full-sized Hobo figures, including clowns, cocktail ladies and cats, and Scott and Gill are always willing to listen to ideas for a one-off piece. They have made many specials to order, and number several celebrities amongst their fans. As Hobo pieces are quite large they make a dramatic statement; they are perfect talking-points, never failing to attract attention. Why not welcome one of these unusual, highly-detailed pieces into your home