Joan Ashard takes you back to the days of your childhood with her passion for beautiful dolls, old and new, fairies, witches, trolls, swagmen and clown dolls … over 13,000 of them!
Joan also offers somewhere quiet and tranquil on the outskirts of town to catch up with friends over a homemade lunch or cake with delightful morning and afternoon teas
This is the Little Darlings Doll Museum & Coffee Shop.
“The inspiration behind opening my museum to the public was because I wanted to do something special in the memory of my beloved mother, who passed away at the early age of 39 years in 1960. She was a great lover of dolls, and we used to spend hours dressing, knitting and crocheting outfits for them.
Growing up in a family of all boys (5), except for a baby sister, my mother and I were very close, planning our days with the dollies. I got my baby sister (my real living doll) when I was 13. After my mother passed away, I was putting my dolls away when my baby brother came in to me, where I was crying and cuddling my ‘babies’ and said, “Don’t cry, Joan. When I grow up I’m going to be a builder and will build you a big dolls’ house.” He was only 5 years old.
In 2002 he was grown up and a builder, and he did build me that huge doll house that he promised. Thus, the Dolls Museum and Coffee Shop came to be.
Over time my love for dolls has grown – so does the collection. It’s not only the ‘look’ of dolls that I love, but the history behind them. I love researching dolls … who made them, when and where they were made, as well as what materials they are made from. I also study the fashions in which they were dressed and what the material was like.
I think the German dolls were the most collectable, as some of these dolls date back to the late 1800s and they are so very well made. They and the French dolls were the most popular before, during and after the World Wars.
I believe dolls capture the imagination of everyone, from the young to the old. I often hear squeals of delight when some of the elderly ladies find their ‘doll’ they had as a child. Probably the most popular with the young children are the baby dolls and the TV dolls (Teletubbies, Dora the Explorer, Flintstones etc.) along with Barbie, Action Man and all the fairies and beautiful teddy bears. The older people prefer the old dolls, as they have much more character than the modern ones. Many men visit my museum, and some are very captivated by my collection.
Most people who visit my museum are intrigued and gob smacked at how huge it is and the variety on display. They ask lots of questions, which I love, and then that leads into a discussion about dolls in general, or a particular doll.
My museum would cheer up the saddest of people, and sometimes people come to simply ‘lose themselves’ in my dolls. Some even leave much happier than when they arrived.
I personally do not think that the art of doll collecting and making dolls will ever become extinct, as it seems to be growing more and more as time passes.
Here at the museum I repair and dress dolls and teddies, and when the owner picks them up, the look on their face says it all. I also try and give people some information abut their beloved doll or teddy so they can read about them. I encourage people to write a little history of their own (like when they received the dolls and who gave it to them) to put with the dolls so it can be followed around.
At ‘Little Darlings’ we have a coffee shop which seats up to 40 people, with morning and afternoon teas and light lunches, the majority of which I cook myself.
I have been an avid fan of Elvis Presley since my early teens, so it only seemed appropriate that he should be in my coffee shop. He is surrounded by loads of memorabilia, and it is a HUGE hit with all the Elvis fans out there! He also doesn’t mind earning a little money here and there by allowing people to have their photo taken with him for a gold coin donation, where all funds go directly to the Westpac Helicopter Service.
My fairy garden is a huge hit for the young and old alike, as it is very relaxing to just sit and quietly have a cup of tea or a light lunch, or just to sit and appreciate your surroundings. The children take great delight in running and playing with the fairies and the birds.
‘Little darlings’ isn’t just a museum and coffee shop. I also sell some of my beloved dolls, teddies and crafts in one room of the museum, which proves very popular with locals and tourists alike.
If I had to sum up ‘Little Darlings’ in one sentence, I would say …
“Take a stroll down memory lane for an awesome journey of long ago and today.”
Visit the museum at:
Corner Failford Rd & The Lakes Way, Failford NSW 2428 – Phone: 02 6554 3131 (Near Forster – Tuncurry).