Doll Restoration

Gary Sowatzka has one of the best Doll Hospitals in the United States, and is always there to help his patients. He has the artistic talent and the knowledge to repair and restore those beautiful family heirlooms that have seen better days. As a master doll doctor for the last 20 years, Gary has repaired dolls, which by many, would have been thrown out.

If you think your composition doll is beyond saving, admit your doll to the Doll Hospital, and let Gary look at it, you may be surprised at what the end result would be. The doll will be able to be shared and loved once again. Not only does Gary restore the doll, but also Sowatzka's Doll Hospital offer wigs, eyes and clothing that can replace lost or damaged originals. The wigs come in mohair, human hair or synthetic fibers, depending on the original wig. Eyes are available in glass, glass paperweight, and plastic. Each outfit is made in the style of the original clothing, with the utmost attention to detail. Many times, the original outfit can be duplicated exactly.

Contact Gary Sowatzka at the Doll Hospital for a free estimate on the cost of the repair, and restoration of your favorite doll. No repair is too big or small. Gary can also let you know the value of your doll before and after repair. He takes before and after pictures to document the repair. On some dolls the improvement is so dramatic that customers don't believe it is their doll - pictures help convince them. The pictures also allow him to reproduce the original artwork as accurately as possible.

Gary's work is in high demand, so don't delay. Contact Gary for a free estimate on your repair. To see some of our many restorations see our testimonials page. If you are shipping a doll to Sowatzka's Dolls, please take a moment to look over our Shipping Tips


Description of Restoration Work

Schoenhut - Facial restoration, and light art work touch up

Light touch up is an acceptable repair, and doesn't adversely affect the dolls value. Especially when the damage takes away from the beauty of the doll. This aspect on restoration is noted in most value books on Schoenhut dolls. This is also a decision that has to made by the owner of the doll.

Celluloid Restoration

This type of restoration is very seldom attempted as most people feel it is not possible to be done, but as you can see this family heirloom has been restored to it's original beauty. This is pain staking work as it has to done in many stages, but once the celluloid is together again, (one piece) the celluloid is actually very strong. This type of restoration can be costly, but in most cases when the doll can not be replaced it is a necessity to the owner to have this option.

Our Client's Reaction:
Wonderful news!! I received the doll and she looks great. It was quite wonderful to receive her. Thank you for all your hard work and expert efforts. I'm IMPRESSED!! You worked miracles. Thanks again, Shauna

Hard Plastic Buddy Lee Restoration

Buddy Lee was in need of hand cleaning, art touch up, and the finished sealing process. The clothing was also cleaned, mended and a few missing items replaced. These items were the hat, scarf and rope. Once completed he was truly a proud Buddy Lee.

Hard Plastics Doll from the 50's

These dolls are very important to the original little girls that Lovingly played with them. It is nice to have the opportunity to have them restored and attired in their original or reproduction clothing. These dolls play an important role in the history of dolls from that time period.

Shirley Temple Restoration

This doll was in need of eye repair, wig, and composition restoration. The eye mechanism was taken out, and just the eye caps replaced. The wig was chemically cleaned, and styled. The dolls was taken apart, and all the damage time had taken on Shirley composition was repaired as new. Then the art work was touched up as needed, and then the sealing process was done to ensure the same finish as Shirley originally had. We also had our seamstress make a beautiful reproduction dress for this wonderful Shirley. The dress was produced from an original picture using the same type fabrics that were used on the original dress. She is really a prize for any Shirley collector.

Eye, wig, and reproduction clothing

This is a good example of how the average doll collector receives a doll. They will find a beautiful antique doll that does not look as beautiful as it should, but with proper restoration she can be as beautiful as the day she was created. As you can see the eye mechanism has lost its original look, and is loose in the head. We removed the mohair wig, removed the eye system. Then we separated the head form the composition body and chemically cleaned the head, removing old dirt, and wax, but not harming the original art work. We repaired the missing porcelain teeth by making duplicate porcelain teeth to match, and re inserted them. Then we took the original eye system, and reconditioned it. We then did the waxing of the eye mechanism and re set the eye bar so the eye bar would open and close as it originally did. What a wonderful difference. At this point we only had to chemically clean the original mohair wig , and re style. Our seamstress took over at this point with suggestion from the owner on likes and dislikes using original period clothing designs. She now looked, I'm sure, very much as she would have originally looked the day a little child fell in love with her for the first time.

Sleep & Flirt Eye Mechanism Restoration

This Eye Mechanism repair is rather intimidating, once you look inside the head you ask yourself. How does this all work in unison? The eyes sleep as most antique eye mechanisms worked, but if the doll is moved ever so slightly the eyes move left and right bringing a smile to the person holding the doll. This must have been ever so intriguing to the small child holding the doll, and I'm sure brought a smile to their faces. In order to repair these eye mechanisms in most cases as in this one they had to be taken out of the head, and re conditioned. The upper eye covering needed new flesh color, and had to be reset and adjusted to work as it originally did. This procedure can be quite taxing as it may have to be repeated many times before they will work as originally intended. In some cases new parts have to be made to replace worn or lost parts. I repaired many eye sets before attempting this type of repair but feel very comfortable and again blessed that I have the patience to do this type of restoration. We also chemically cleaned the mohair wig, and restyled it. We never use water on a mohair wigs as it will make the wig and cap disintegrate before your eye's. The wig really made the doll once the restoration to the wig was completed.

Dione Type, late 1930's

This beloved little doll was obviously played to death by the little Mother that owned her. Of course time had its hand in the deterioration of her original beauty also. Most people would discard a doll in this condition but the original owner would want to save her to give her to another little Mother to love. This composition restoration process is done in a series of steps. The first being grinding and filling major damaged areas. Then it is a matter of repeating this process until all flaws are gone. At this point a 3 step sealing process is done and then the art work is completed using the original picture in conjunction with pictures of the original art work through informational sources. The final sealing process gives the doll the original type seal, (look) that the original doll would have had. Now she is ready to be loved and cherished once more.

Ma Ma Type doll, Late 1930's

This is a wonderful example of a composition doll that would have been cherished by the child that owned her.. They were wonderful play toys and I'm sure accompanied the the little girl through out her day. The restoration process is simple in that all the flaws have to be eliminated and get the condition of the composition back to its original flawless condition. Once this is accomplished the sealing process and art work would be done and then the doll would have to be attired in clothing similar to what she would have worn. This doll also needed dental work, her two front teeth. Now she is ready to accompany another little girl through out her day.

Other Restoration Results

Gary's Larger Projects

Prange Collection

Gary restores Hoggle