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Dolls with holiday cheer

  • Millie Vigneault of Jaffrey describes her Byers collectible caroler dolls, currently on display at the Jaffrey Civic Center. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • Millie Vigneault’s Byers collectible caroler dolls are currently on display at the Jaffrey Civic Center. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • Millie Vigneault of Jaffrey describes her Byers collectible caroler dolls, currently on display at the Jaffrey Civic Center. (Ashley Saari / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Millie Vigneault of Jaffrey describes her Byers collectible caroler dolls, currently on display at the Jaffrey Civic Center. (Ashley Saari / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Millie Vigneault of Jaffrey describes her Byers collectible caroler dolls, currently on display at the Jaffrey Civic Center. (Ashley Saari / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Millie Vigneault of Jaffrey describes her Byers collectible caroler dolls, currently on display at the Jaffrey Civic Center. (Ashley Saari / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, November 30, 2017

They are meticulous in their detail: faces lifted, tiny mouths shaped into a tiny “o” as they sing out holiday cheer. 

“I love them. I just think they’re beautifully made – beautifully made,” said Millie Vigneault of Jaffrey, who owns more than 30 caroler figurines currently on display at the Jaffrey Civic Center. 

She’s been making a hobby of collecting the Byers Choice figures for more than a decade. Most people, she said, have some sort of holiday display they put out every year – for her, growing up, it was a cardboard village. As an adult, she had her own village for some years, but eventually wanted something more unique. That was when she stumbled across her first caroler.

In some ways, the dolls look remarkably similar. Each face is hand painted, but most carry the same expression. But it is in the details such as the delicate frames of wire glasses, accessories like a Salvation Army bell for a streetside volunteer or a chalkboard for the caroling school teacher that the dolls take on their personality – and attract collectors like Vigneault.

The figurines originated from the owner of the company, Joyce Byers, who began making the dolls in the 1970s. Now, she still designs them and each is handcrafted, with no two exactly alike, but on a much larger scale, with a team of artists making up to half a million dolls each year.

Usually, during the holidays, Vigneault’s figurines have a place of honor on a 32-foot long drop-leaf table, but this year, she has lent them to the Civic Center for their holiday display.

Vigneault has received most of her dolls as gifts over the years from her two daughters and a niece, and many of them resemble her life in some way. Before her retirement, she was a music teacher, and carolers carrying instruments, or schoolmarm carolers crop up in her collection more than once. One caroler double-duties as a knitter in a rocking chair, with a faithful cocker spaniel at her feet, emulating Vigneault, also a knitter and former spaniel owner.

Others reflect her interests: She’s a supporter of the Salvation Army, and some of her carolers do their singing next to a miniaturized collection bucket. A baker stands outside of the box he came in, shaped like a Wegmans grocery, an East-coast grocery with stores in Massachusetts, where Vigneault is a transplant from. One group sings as they play croquet. 

“Someone asked me once, ‘Croquet? In winter?’” said Vigneault. “I said, ‘Well, I go to Florida.’”

Their website can be found at buyerschoice.com. Locally, the dolls can be found at The Black Swan in Peterborough. Vigneault’s collection is on display at the Jaffrey Civic Center is free and open to the public during Civic Center hours through Saturday, Dec. 23.

 

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.