When I first started hearing scuttlebutt about the Maplelea doll company, the one doll I always heard mentioned was Saila. Pronounced SIGH-la, she was developed with cooperation of people from Nunavut, the province where the new character would be from. Her journal, which every Maplelea character has, is trilingual (English, French, and Inuktitut). For someone who loves “the little details” that goes into a character, I can say that Maplelea really knocked it out of the park with Saila. Besides Kaya from American Girl, I have never seen another dedicated North American Aboriginal character–and Saila is the only distinctly modern girl, exploring what life is like as a young girl in Nunavut today.
One area that I really have to give a standing ovation to Maplelea for was how they chose to produce some of the items in Saila’s collection. Her Pang hat is made by Uqqurmiut Centre for Arts and Crafts in Pangnirtung, and her Amauti is made by Kiluk Ltd. in Arviat. I really, REALLY love that they reached out and contracted with companies in Saila’s province to provide the “heritage” items for her collection, and that sales of those items goes back to support that community.
Amazon will have Saila and her items in stock, but they always sell out fast.
I was thrilled when I opened the box and saw that Saila lives up to the hype. Her wig is the most amazing wig I have ever seen on a vinyl doll. Period. I have never seen an American Girl doll with hair as luxuriously soft as Saila’s.
I couldn’t help it. I had to take another picture to showcase those glossy locks.
Saila came to me with a smudge mark on her nose, which was easily touched up with some superfine sandpaper squares for model aeroplanes. The only negative thing I can think of to say about the two Maplelea dolls I own is that both of them arrived with shine marks on their faces. They were both tied down pretty snugly in their box, so I have no idea how this could have happened.
I love her journal. I’m fascinated by language/linguistics, so it was really fascinating to me to see Saila’s journal written in Inuktitut, the first time I have ever seen or really been exposed to this language. It’s details like this that make the diversity in my collection really come alive–it’s so important. Make sure you click the mosaic so that you can see larger individual images.
The flowered stitching that you see (and that I love) are actually the tops of her socks, which feel like a nice thick cream colored fleece. I have no trouble getting her kamiik (Inuit seal skin boots) on and off. You can see more information, and IRL examples of kamiik here. I’ve been lusting after a pair of Manitobah Mukluks for a long time (particularly a pair of Storyboots) and I think I’ll have to add kamiik to my list of “dream shoes”. They are freaking GORGEOUS.
The only quibble I have about Saila’s kamiik is that the gathered gray plastic(?) like material that are the soles of the boot is a very curved piece–almost like the curve on a rocking chair–and this makes it almost impossible for Saila to stand up on her own. I did have to prop her up, but I’m thinking about maybe trying to heat the soles of the shoes slightly and bend them the other way to try and flatten them out a little bit.
Her purple fleece vest is removable, and I could see no flaws on her pink tshirt or on her jeans. The stitching was even, and there was no pills or pulls on the fabric.
Her Pang hat is handmade by Inuit artisans, and it was perfectly sized for Saila’s head.
This is part of those “little details” I was talking about earlier. I am totally okay with paying $24 CAD for a doll’s hat when it has this provenance.
I was also blown away by her Amazing Amauti, which also comes handmade by Inuit artisans:
The amauti is well constructed, with no skipped stitches or snags. The inside is lined with fleece, and the journal pages that come with it show you how to tuck Saila’s pup into the space at the back that is traditionally used for infants. (If you put the pup in the hood of the amauti, you’re doing it wrong.)
You can either wear the Pang hat or have the hood of the amauti up, but not both at the same time. The fur trim is faux, and good quality–I tugged on the piles and they stayed firm and didn’t shed in my fingers.
Rear view, amauti. When I went to a showing of The Embargo Project at my local independent cinema, one of the short films was Aviliaq: Entwined. A love story between two Inuit women set in the 1950s/60s, it was easily my most favorite short films in the Project. Beautifully shot on location in Nunavut, the cinematography was breathtaking and the performances by the cast struck me to the core. Here’s a screenshot:
It was neat to see an outfit that I was already familiar with through Saila’s character being worn by characters in that same culture on the movie screen.
So if you’ve been on the fence about Saila, I highly recommend you check her out. Next up: reviews of the Nunavut Now and Tunic Time outfits–modern outfits that I wish came in my size; I’d wear them. Also: her dogs Nukilik and Nanuq, and her traditional Qamutiik (which is on order from Amazon). I had to bring Tunic Time back with me from my visit to Newmarket, Ontario–but the other items (except Nukilik and Nanuq, but I know I’ve seen them there before and may just be sold out) are all available on Amazon. I’ve noticed that they restock some items usually around the first of the month, so if you miss something hang tight and keep checking.
Also, I remember seeing an email from Maplelea saying that they are working on making more of their products available via Amazon for US fans. I sure wish that American Girl could come up with something similar and help out our Canadian friends!! As it is, I am totally open to a Maplelea/AG Exchange if we can figure out a fair and relatively painless way to do it. If you have ideas, drop me a line.