Actually I am not that interested in dolls and did not really want to visit this factory. But my friend is so crazy about dolls that we without further ado paid a visit to the small and inconspicuous city Etain. With just 3.000 inhabitants it is not really that big, but just there you can find the most former and the last French producer of handmade dolls – Petitcollin. They already got into production in 1860 and still produce traditional dolls, baby-dolls and the famous swimmer.
By the way, for the military fans under us, Etain was a base of the United States Air forces in Europe (USAE) in times of the Cold War. The airbase returned to France in 1967 and is still used by the French military. But however now it is Petitcollin-time :)
Even if I was a bit skeptical in the beginning I am really thankful that my friend drags me to Petitcollin. It was a great experience that I don’t want to miss. We learned so much about lovingly handcraft-produced dolls and the people that do there job by heart. The guided tour through the factory lasted around 1 ½ hour and initiated us in the secrets of Petitcollin. I think, just here you get the chance to track every step of the manufacturing process and see how a doll becomes “alive” =) … somehow you feel a bit like in a science fiction factory as the dolls may slightly remind of real babies.
We also visited the new museum, which was opened in September 2009 and that is pretty closed to the factory. Here we admired the big collection of dolls that provide insight into more than a century Petitcollin. The museum has a rather limited surface, but it is really interesting and rich of information. It was just a pity that the video, which was shown there, was just in French. But that’s just a small thing I criticize and on that I don’t want to concentrate too much.
The entrance fees are completely fair and you will even get the possibility to buy dolls directly in the factory or the museum. (The price is therewith a bit lower as if you would buy it in a shop. By the way, the Petit Collin boutiques can be found all over the world.)
Petitcollin in Etain is really a visit worth and I would say – a must for all doll lovers :) I do not regret one single second that I was there even if I first didn’t want to go – thanks again to my travel companion!
Ah, what comes into my mind right now… here is a link to youtube that I found while surfing through the Internet. Have a look and get a first impression of dolls produced by handcraft.
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