Manufacturing Processes

Factory scene - Painting dolls' faces

Probably the most daunting aspect of the business, once the dolls became increasingly famous, and demand grew, was the skills and organisation needed to control the manufacturing processes.   At first Peggy and her Aunty Kitty, who was a beautiful needlewoman, produced the prototypes and satisfied orders from her home in Shrubbery Avenue.   Then, with the increasing demand, support was gained from friends and business people.   For some time, Peggy rented a disused water tower from the local council, and this became her first dedicated production facility.   Later on, Peggy was able to buy the tower, and converted it into her family home – the well known “Tower House”, home of the earliest “Tower Walk” dolls.

Peggy decided to turn the business into a limited company, Peggy Nisbet Limited.   The business moved into a factory in Whitecross Road where forty staff were then employed,  plus more than one hundred outworkers.   Everything was now done in the factory, and although Peggy oversaw the production, she still managed to find time to research and produce the prototypes.   All the while, Peggy was ably assisted in every matter concerning the running of the business by a team of dedicated people, including her daughter, Alison, along with Mabel Perry, Malcolm Bowman, and Sylvia Bird, who were to form a strong and dedicated team of many years standing.

Directly the doll bodies were received they had their faces painted.   They were then assembled ready for production runs, normally in units of twelve dolls, which were placed in a small tote bin, together with all the materials and accessories required for the dressing of the doll.   With up to one hundred models in production at any one time - each having to be dressed differently - the diversity of fabrics that had to be sourced, held in stock, selected, and cut into lengths to dress each batch of twelve dolls was mind boggling!

The tote bins, each with the twelve dolls and materials, were then taken to one of the several outworkers for them to clothe the dolls; there was a set weekly routine for this.    The work would be delivered on a certain day, then a week later the finished work would be collected, the outworker paid and a further week's work delivered.   The outworkers, all skilled needlewomen, all lived within a twenty‑five mile radius of Weston‑super‑Mare, and there was a constant delivering and collecting service operated by van.

The dressed dolls, once back at the factory would have to be wigged.   The wigs were glued and tied round the head with string, whilst the glue set ‑ seeing rows of these dolls, seemingly blindfolded, was quite a sight.   The dolls then had their "blindfolds" removed, were finished, inspected and finally boxed, ready for dispatch.   During the 1960s and 1970s over 1,500 dolls were being dispatched every week.

All these processes were running on a large scale, and were very complex.   They required a high degree of experience, organisation and co‑ordination for their successful operation.

News

31st October 2015

 
New updates added - We have added a new page on the Isle of Wight dolls, which were produced for the Liliput doll Museum, on the Isle of Wight.   These dolls have mystified us for some time, but an opportunity to do some research through the archives, an email from Graham Munday, (owner of the Lilliput Doll Museum), and an email chat with author and Shallowpool Dolls expert sue Brewer, have allowed a partial reconstruction of their fascinating story.   There are still some gaps in our knowledge, so if you can fill in any of the missing details for us, please do get in touch!
 
 

19th September 2015

 
New updates added - Our thanks to correspondent David H, who has sent us two interesting pictures - The first is of a very rare Nisbet First Doll.   This is the doll that started Peggy Nisbet's dollmaking career, and you can read all about her on this page : dolls/special-collectors-sets-limited-and-signature-editions/SCE-P1953 Replica Edition of the First Nisbet Doll.  David's picture of his original first Nisbet is shown below the article on the replica doll, and below that, is shown a unique 18" porcelain doll that also shows the Queen in Coronation robes, and was used in displays and exhibitions.   This doll is also shown in the book, "The Peggy Nisbet Story".  Other updates added today are the BOAC and BEA dolls, Madam Tussaud Dolls, Wax Dolls, and a Porcelain statuette issued as a tribute to Peter Bull, which is shown under Dolls/Porcelain Dolls/Irish Dresden - Tribute to the Late Peter Bull
 
 

12th September 2015

 
New updates added - Apologies to all our visitors for the long delay in adding some updates and new information - we hope that the items listed below will be of interest!   Many kind thanks to numerous correspondents, for their kind offers of pictues and other information, to fill in the gaps in various galleries :  To Barbara T, for her stunning pictures of H/214 - Queen Elizabeth I, wearing a rubber crown.   Pictures appear in Historical Gallery 1, and in "Know your Nisbets/Headgear/Crowns".   Frank T sent two excellent pictures of Vera Evelyn Samuel, and you can see the pictures and read all about her here - "Porcelain Dolls/Doulton Nisbet".   Penny D has sent in some pictures of her magnificent early P/618 - Robbie Burns - See him in Portrait Dolls Gallery 1.   We have used another of Keith P's pictures in a new gallery just added - "Know your Nisbet/Body shape and pose".   Finally, we have added a new page on Walt Disney dolls, which may come as something of a surprise to many collectors, as the dolls are not typically Nisbet in appearance!
 
 

 

3rd January 2015

 

Exciting New updates added for 2015 - Correspondent Michael A contacted us last year to ask about his mother's "Beatles" Nisbet dolls - Collectors of long standing may have heard of this almost legendary set of dolls - Thanks to Michael, you can now learn all about them here : /dolls/the-dolls-that-never-were/the-beatles/   

A recent contact from author Ian Price, who writes for the "Fashion Dolls Quarterly" magazine, (www.fdqmedia.com), enquired about Nisbet's Christmas themed dolls - We were delighted to assist his researches in compiling this article on Peggy Nisbet's "Legends of Christmas" dolls.   Ian has very kindly allowed us to make a copy of this article available for download - Please go to the Downloads/Miscellaneous/ page, and click on the link to "Styling Santa", by Ian Price, to see the article.

 

 

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