Doll hospital that treats owners too

Doll hospital that treats owners too


Inside, dozens of limbless dolls and torn teddy bears lie on the shelves awaiting repair, hand-written tags hanging from their remaining limbs. But the repair shop-one of the oldest in Europe-claims that it fixes more than broken toys. Instead, it seeks to cure toy owners’ blues in a country that invented “saudade” -the barely translatable Portuguese term used to describe deep longing for something or someone that is lost.
“We work with feelings more than strictly with the objects,” said Manuela Cutileiro, who runs the hospital. “It has always been our job to, ultimately, cure the saudades.”
The hospital started back in 1830 with an old lady who used to sit outside her dry herbs store in the same place on the busy Figueira Square, making and fixing simple cloth and clay dolls for local children.

The herb shop was later transformed into a workshop as the doll-repair part grew. It now repairs toys from priceless porcelain heirloom dolls to modest teddies whose value is purely sentimental.
“That’s our main difference from such hospitals abroad, which are very specialised -- we accept everyone, common Barbies and really unique dolls, and we improvise,” Cutileiro said.

Armed with a scalpel and dressed in a white doctor’s coat, restorer Lurdes Cardoso repairs a decades-old doll, removing old cracked paint from its articulated arm.
“I love what I do,” she said. “You have to have patience and a certain sensibility, including knowing where to stop.
Adding to the hospital look, restorers use other medical instruments like surgical clamps to hold the elastic bands inside the dolls’ trunks during repairs.
“We recycle everything. People often bring us doll parts that they no longer use,” said Cutileiro.

She said prices range from $5.72 for basic repairs to modern dolls to a few hundred dollars for total overhauls of antiques, “but nothing like the thousands people pay in other places like France, the United States and Japan”.
Maria Isabel Vinhal Goncalves Alvarenga, a pensioner living in Viseu in northern Portugal, had sent her old doll to the hospital by mail after learning about it on television.

“They replaced her hair, eyes, reattached legs and arms, made a dress and shoes. It was the best gift I’ve given myself in a long time -- made me remember childhood,” she said.
The price for the overhaul was nearly 300 euros, “but it was worth it”.

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