Friday, June 18, 2021

Dolly Peretti: Remembering Elsa's Jewelry

Photos: Tiffany & Co


When I think of fashion of the 1970's, I think of funky fashion: platform shoes, crazy color clashes based on orange and brown, elephant bells, granny dresses, boho chic and other hippie dippy trends that make me cringe. I must admit  that until the Netflix docu-drama on Halston, I had completely forgotten there was an elegant side of that decade. Along with Halston's relaxed brand of minimalist chic, came the gorgeous sculptural jewelry of his model turned collaborator, Elsa Peretti. Her  jewelry was a huge success particularly among fashionistas in New York City. 

Photo: Tiffany & Co

Born in Italy in 1940, and trained in Interior Design, Elsa Paretti’s career began working as a fashion model in Spain before moving to New York City in 1964. She rose quickly to the top of her field but by 1969, she turned her interest to jewelry design and creating pieces for a handful of her designer friends. Her first was a 2-inch bud vase made of sterling silver suspended on a leather thong necklace, inspired by something she found at a flea market. It soon became a hit and thus it wasn’t long before she was approached by Halston to do the jewelry for his catwalk collections. Vogue magazine described her work as “carved, pure—irresistibly touchable—it has been called jewelry as sculpture, sculpture as jewelry, and the most sensuous jewelry in the work. In 1971 she won the prestigious “Coty Award of Excellence” and a year later, Bloomingdales, one of New York’s iconic department stores, opened a dedicated Peretti corner. In 1974, Peretti signed a contract with Tiffany & Co to design silver jewelry, a material they had not featured in 25 years prior. Within five years, she became the firm’s leading designer whose jewelry attracted a young clientele who saw it as modern, fun and somewhat affordable. Elsa Peretti passed away last March, but her timeless creations live on and continue to be sold at Tiffany’s today. 

For the previous tutorial, if you look closely, you will notice the jewelry my divas are wearing was inspired by Ms. Peretti’s work. I had so much fun creating the cuffs, the snake head belts and the bottles, I decided I would do a separate post just on her jewelry. As you can imagine, I had too much fun and consequently, many (too many) of my girls began placing their orders for cuffs! 

You will need clay for this project. I did try both types: oven baked and the air dried epoxy clay. I had more luck with the latter because I was able to get it relatively thin yet strong. With the oven baked, I had problems with my cuff breaking. But for those of you who either don't have access to the epoxy clay or really don't care to work with it, I encourage you to experiment with the oven baked clay. Maybe you will have more success. One last thing I would like to point out before we get started... the bracelets featured in this post are only for dolls with removable hands. 

FDS dolly version of Elsa Peretti for Tiffany's
Let's start this tutorial with my favorite piece of Elsa Peretti's collection, her "bone cuff." According to "The Cut," there is a funny little story about the inspiration for this piece of jewelry. "As a child, Peretti visited the the cemetery of a 17th-century Capuchin church with her nanny, and the rooms were decorated with human bones, which she would apparently steal for herself as souvenirs. “My mother had to send me back, time and again, with a stolen bone in my little purse,” she said. “Things that are forbidden remain with you forever.”
The original cuff, designed  50 years ago was considered quite sensational for its sensual, sculptural qualities. It's a thick piece of metal sculpted in the anatomical shape of a wrist. There are three varieties: short, medium and full cuff, but the medium and full size bracelets are the most popular. Though sterling silver was THE metal of the 1970's, the cuffs were also featured in gold. 
(Please note: This bracelet only works for dolls with removable hands)
1. Start out with a small round of clay. For a 12" doll, the amount needed is shown here next to a US penny.
2. Roll it out into a length that will go around the wrist of the doll.
3. But first, cover the doll's wrist and lower arm with plastic.
4. Press the roll of clay around the wrist.
5. Using a toothpick or some other small round rod, begin to move the clay upwards and downwards to form a ridge and to draw the shape closer to the arm.
6. Use the toothpick as a rolling pin and continue to shape the mid section until smooth
7. Take a tiny bit of clay and form into a tiny ball. Add it to the cuff at where the wrist bone should be.
8. Use the toothpick to blend the edges of the ball into the rest of the cuff.
9. Continue until everything is fairly smooth.
10. Now take a blunt object and push up the bottom of the cuff.
11. Smooth out the area around the bottom ridge.
12. After the clay has hardened, use a bit of sand paper to smooth out the surface of the cuff.
13. Paint. You can use acrylic. You can use metallic nail laquer. Here I started out with paint, then added a layer of nail lacquer and while it is still tacky, I brushed in some metallic powder. Let dry. Take a soft cloth and buff. 

The Snake Pit

Peretti's silver snake head leather belt was wildly popular in the 1970's as well. It was purely ornamental rather than functional, but what a statement it made! It consisted of a sterling stylized head sold separately from the variety of leather belts on hand. It wasn't until researching material for this post was I aware that there was an entire snake belt! It was such a lovely piece of "jewelry," it was often featured worn around the neck! But let's start of with the accessory I knew...

Snake Head Belt
1. This is essentially a belt buckle which starts out with a small round of clay. Pinch one end of it to form the head of the snake. Flatten the other end.
2. Use a pencil or a sharpened dowel to mark the dent in the head.
3. Shape the back end of the head and be sure to note the overall size. Remember to keep in mind the scale of the doll. 
4. Use the pointed tip to press in eyes on either side of the head.
5. Cut a sliver of leather for the belt. Form a loop on one end and glue down, leaving space enough to thread the other end through this loop. Glue the snake head to the top of the loop. The head should extend over the edge a tiny bit.
When everything is in place and dry, thread the opposite end of the belt through the look. It should look as though the snake is biting his own tail. You can get creative with the choice of materials. On the lower image, I started out with a bit of lizard skin which I foiled in gold to match the gold metallic head I created.

The Snake Belt/Necklace
1. This starts out exactly the same as our snake head leather belt. But instead of the leather belt, I used a length of chain. Repeat all of the steps for making the snake head as shown above. Make a small hook out of 18 gauge wire which you will press into the clay.
2. Then with the pointed edge of a toothpick, carefully press in a tiny bit of class over the embedded hook and smooth.
4. Make sure the hook is under the head. When you are finished, it should look like this.
5. Place a good wad of very strong gel glue, under the snake head and carefully lay the chain on top. Allow to dry. If you would like, you can add a "tail to the opposite end of the chain, then paint the head and the tail in metallic paint.
6. For sure, this can be worn around the waist, OR...wrapped twice around the neck. Place the hook into a link in the chain to hold in place. 
And, of course, dolly can always wear it as a belt...it's intended purpose!!!


The Belts

After the snake-head belt, there were others that gained in popularity. The "Equestrian" was a belt buckle in the shape of a stirrup. 
For this belt, I made two versions, one in craft wire (left) and another out of gold painted clay (right) Both have their advantages and disadvantage. Personally, I like the look of the bent wire, but when it is this thick, the wire is difficult to bend. Whereas with the clay, it is easy to manipulate though not always easy to get the buckle fine enough. Still, at the end of the day, I was happy with both!
1. I think this is about 14 gauge wire. You can shape it around a thick pencil, then bring the ends together. The ends are then bent downwards. As you can see, the ends are at an angle from the rounded portion.
2. With a hammer, flatten the ends (but make sure they remain at an angle).
3. Take a small strip of leather, long enough to wrap around the doll and down, halfway to her knees and cut it into on one end. You will need to cut a sliver out of the middle so there is a space in between. And then, it is up to you to decide, whether you want to glue the buckle on top of the leather strips or glue the belt ends on top of the buckle ends. Either one looks good! 
4. For this one, I've glued the buckle on top of the leather belt. 

Now let's try this using clay for the buckle.

1. Wrap a round pencil or dowel with plastic wrap. Shape of small round of clay into a skinny log and wrap it around the pencil.
2.The ends of the clay log should not meet.
3. Remove from the pencil and use a thinner dowel (or pencil) to shape the clay. The top of the loop has a slightly rounder shape than the base, like a horseshoe. Place the ends close together.
4. Put the horseshoe back on the pencil. Rest the ends on your fingertip and flattened with a toothpick. 
5. Again, position the ends close together. 
6. Paint using acrylic or nail lacquer or a combination of the two. 
(Note: I brushed on a little metallic powder while the nail lacquer was still tacky. Allow to dry then rub in well. You can also apply a clear varnish to set. I've used both the gold and the silver (Fimo) powders!). The gold works so much better than the silver.)
Glue on or under the leather belt you have prepared according to the instructions above.

Open Heart
This is another classic Peretti, though most often sold as a pendant. Five years ago, we did a post "Gifts From the Heart" where we made hearts out of wire which were then made into a necklace or belt.

This time around, we took this one step further by adding  a bit of clay to the wire frame heart then shaping it into the curvier nature of the original. But note, this results in a chunkier heart, so for that reason, I chose to use this as belt buckle instead of a pendant. 


1. For this heart, I've used 18 gauge silver wire. Bend the wire inward as shown then bend again at the bottom of the heart. 
2. Bend the other end inward to meet up with the first curve and cut. Adjust so that the two ends meet. 
3. Don't worry if your heart is not perfect. We will be covering most of it with clay.
4. Add a tiny bit of clay to the wire frame. 
5. Using a toothpick, press the clay into the wire and begin to shape. Take your time, removing the excess. You want to give this a bit of shape but without too much extra bulk.
6. Take note that there is a tiny squiggle at the base of the heart and that the top part of the heart is thinner than the bottom.
7. Paint. Attach a thin leather strap. Fold one end under one side of the heart and glue in place. When dry, wrap the belt around the doll's waist and through the heart.

While researching the material for this post, I came across a necklace I had never seen before. I think this is more modern, but still decided to include it. Essentially, it is a piece of chain with a heart on one side and a pearl on the other. The pearl is threaded through the open middle of the heart.

Rounding Things Out...
These are simply pure shapes. When they are not being worn, they look like nothing. But once on...they are timeless miniature modern works of art, just like the originals.

The Bottle
This is a version of Elsa Peretti's inaugural bottle...the piece of jewelry she designed that set her whole career in motion. The first one was a silver bottle with loops on both sides attached with fine silver chain. The other one, named "the jug." was more teardrop shaped and had a neck wrapped with wire. Given the scale we are faced with, my dolly version has the rounder shape of the original bottle, but is suspended from chain, much in the way of the jug.
1.Begin with a round of clay applied directly to the tip of a toothpick. Be sure the toothpick is piercing the round all the way through but does not puncture the bottom. Shape the bottle. Flatten slightly the body of the bottle, but pinch it in to form the neck.
2. Using a toothpick to create a groove around the base of the neck. From here, you have two options. You can use a pin or needle to poke a hole on one side of the bottle so that you can attach an eye ring and later thread a length of chain through. Or, you can continue on to the next step.
3. Let the bottle harden. Then using a finer wire, wrap around the neck and form a loop on the top. As you are doing this, the wire will come away from the bottle. That's ok. When you are ready, you simply slip the wire back onto the neck.
4. Add a wad of strong, transparent glue to hold the wire in place at the back of the bottle.
1. To wear with a flower (as it was originally made to be worn), find a tiny silk flower. Here, I cut the smallest bud from a bunch of lilies of the valley along with its stem. The span of the flower was still a bit wide so I took a needle and thread and made a couple stitches to make it narrower. 
2. Simply stick the flower into the bottle. And add a fine chain or silk cord.
Here, I have made two bottles. The first has the hole incorporated with an eye ring added. The second was made without the hole but has wire wrapped around the neck. The difference between the two is minimal.

What's lovely about this piece of jewelry is that it can be worn as is, or with a flower depending on the look (modern versus romantic). 

The Teardrop
This is a small yet lovely addition to dolly's jewelry box. You can buy teardrop shaped beads. But you'd have to buy the whole lot of them. Or, you could make your own. The Peretti teardrop is slightly curvier at the tip. But making one is super easy. Again, start out with a tiny round of clay. Pinch the tip into a point. Poke a thick needle through the tip and let dry (or bake if you're using oven baked clay). 


The Donut (Bangles)

This is a super easy, simply versatile piece of jewelry. Peretti's donut was like no other bangle. It was bigger, bolder and widely copied in a plethora of materials from wood to plastic. Dolly can wear one or a whole stack!
(Please note: these bracelets only work for dolls with removable hands.)
1. This begins with a small round of clay. Shape it into a tiny log.
2. Cover the doll's arm with plastic wrap. Carefully wrap the log around the doll's wrist. Smooth the area where the two ends meet.
3. Paint. The original donut was in silver, however more recent versions are also in colors. You can also flatten the donut to make the bangles worn by Grace, the doll pictured above in the white Halston gown.

The Bean
The bean is exactly what the word implies. Peretti was inspired by the....lima bean. For my dolly's clutch bag, it was simple.... I took a lima bean and painted it with silver nail lacquer. Voila! But for the bean pendant, you will need a tiny dot of clay, a bit of silver wire and a small length of silver chain.
1. Begin with a tiny round of clay. Shape into an oval
2. Cut a small length of wire and poke it through the center of the clay. Using round nose pliers, bend each end into a loop.
3. Flatten the oval then make a dent in the center.
4. When you are finished, the bean should look like this. Paint.
5. Measure the length of chain needed and cut in half. Attach each half to the loops on the side of the bean. Attach the closures to the other ends of the chain.

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Thursday, June 3, 2021

Simple and Chic: A Salute to Halston


"Good fashion must last for years," said the late, great Halston in an interview for the Boston Globe. Fifty years ago, one of the top figures in the world of high fashion was a tall handsome American known by his middle name.... HALSTON. Once dubbed "the premier fashion designer in America" by Newsweek, Roy Halston Frowick's simple yet dramatic style became synonymous with the 1970's luxury and the glamourous era of New York City's infamous club, Studio 54. It wasn't simply a question of sleek and chic clothing, Halston also became the celebrity designer thanks to his glamorous lifestyle and pop culture connections including the likes of  Andy Warhol, Bianca Jagger, Elizabeth Taylor, Liza Minelli and his entourage of supermodels who accompanied him everywhere. 

As we emerge from a pandemic where everything fashion has either come to a screeching halt, or has fallen down a pit of chaotic concepts, the simplicity of Halston's  high fashion seems befitting right now.  "I got rid of all the junk, all those extra details that don't work," he told Vogue magazine after a decade of mini-skirts and mod,  psychedelic patterns and clashes of neon color. Halston's clothes served as a cleansing of the palette. They were sexy and streamlined, allowing for the natural flow of the fabric to create its own shape.The "patterns" for his iconic gowns were not drafted on paper. Instead they were draped directly onto the body and adjusted until the look was pitch perfect. When finally translated into paper patterns they often resembled abstract art.

For this project, I first chose the looks I felt were indicative to that period and of course, those looks that worked in 1/6 for the doll. This required a LOT of thought, a LOT of experimentation and time. In the spirit of Halston, I faced challenges. There were limitations in terms what even the best, lightest weight of fabrics could and could not do over the tiny frame of the doll. I wanted to keep seams to a minimum, avoid darts and even cut out closures whenever possible. What I ultimately learned was that fabric is everything. The master only worked with luxury fabrics: silk jersey, silk charmeuse, and sometimes cashmere. Many of his dresses were also cut on the bias, resulting in a look that literally melted over the body. Simplicity is hard to do in a way that looks good. My recommendation to you is to use really nice fabric! 

The Toga



It was as if Halston was inspired by ancient Greece when he launched his famous "toga," an asymmetrical column dress with drapery flowing down from one shoulder. There are many variations of this dress. So that you do not have to think about placement of a closure, I suggest using a 2-way stretch jersey. That way, the dress can slip on and off the doll without need for hooks, snaps or zippers.

In creating these togas, it is most helpful to have some sort of foundation or under dress. This allows you to drape the actual toga over it and tack in place the folds.

This starts with a simple, jersey one shouldered dress cut from a thin rayon jersey. If you haven't already visited our post on the dartless sloper, consult the video tutorial on developing the jersey sloper HERE and for the asymmetrical adaptation, look HERE. The toga is cut from the same fabric, double the length of the doll with a ribbon tied tight at midpoint and looped into a sweet bow. After you place the bow on the shoulder, the fabric is partially draped over the bust and top of the back of the under dress and a few of the folds are tacked in place with a few stitches. Because this is stretch rayon jersey, the whole thing slips on and off without removing the toga.







Keeping with the spirit of Halton's philosophy which favored the practicality of working with separates, I began the cream white toga with a jersey one-shouldered top and matching tube skirt. 


1. My dress begins with a top and skirt. I will build the toga onto the top. Use the the jersey sloper to create both the top and the skirt.
2. Cut a rectangle from your fabric approximately 11" long by 12" wide (28x30cm). Round off the corners as shown.
3-4. Tie the left hand corner into a knot.
5. Keeping the knot on the right hand shoulder, wrap the rest of the fabric across the bust, under the arm and around the back of the body, placing the opposite corner just under the knot. Pin and then tack in place with a few stitches.
6. Arrange the folds so they fall gracefully from the knot and tack in place.
7. Do the same thing for the the back. 


Because everything has been made using 2-way stretch jersey, you can slip this dress on and off the doll without the need for closures. The skirt also slips off easily. From front to back, this is the look you are going for. Question: can you use a woven fabric instead of a stretch fabric? Yes, but you will need to plan for a closure to ensure the doll can get in and out of the dress. Also, be careful with the weight of the fabric. You want a "draped" look, but not a look that is "puffy." This dress is not lined so you can turn down the edges and stitch or (fabric) glue in place. Or, use a very sharp pair of scissors and leave the edges as is. Jersey will not fray.

The Sarong

There are also a few different variations of Halston's sarong. This one, I think is the prettiest. It is a simple tube with a cross sash incorporated at the top. The model slips into it and wraps the sash around the bust. Does it have a tendency to slip off the bust? Yes...just like the human scale version which also did not have structure or underwires (LOL). For Nadja's dress, I used a white satin devore fabric (woven not stretch). I did not put so much fullness in the front because, once again, I wanted to create a garment without a closure, but allowed the figure to slip in and out. I draped this pattern. Arriving at my goal was a real trial and error experience. So feel free to trace and tweak to fit your doll. 

The dress is essentially a tube with the front and back in one piece. As you can see, the body of the dress is a rectangle where the top is wider than the hem. For my FR doll, this tube is 6" (155cm) at the top, sloping down to 5" (128mm) at the bottom. For this doll, the length is 10 3/4" (27cm). Create a facing by cutting a strip of fabric that is the same width of the top of the dress by 1-1/4" in length. 
1. Because I am working with a woven (non-stretch) fabric and I want the dress to slide on and off the doll without a closure, I decided to cut the pattern on the bias. That means, you will place the pattern and its facing at a 45 degree angle to the straight of the grain as shown.
2. Right side to right side, attach and sew the facing along with the top of the dress.
3. Press. Be careful because the edges of a bias cut dress easily stretches. Press downwards with the iron as opposed to scrubbing from right to left.
4. Cut 2 more strips of fabric (always on the bias). Each strip should measure 1-1/4" (32mm) by 11" (320mm). Turn down the edges and sew (or fabric glue) in place. Then make a running stitch and gather one edge.

5. Pin in place, right side to right side on the dress' edge just under the facing. 
6. Stitch in place
7. It looks like this in the front.
8. Repeat on the other side. 
9. Turn down the seam allowance on the side of the facing and press. 
10. Fold the facing over the side sashes, then pin and stitch in place.
11. The top should look like this. Finish the dress by folding the dress over so that the wrong side is up and stitch down the center back, leaving a 1/2" (2cm) space near the top.
Again, this is another simple idea easily adaptable for my 16" Tonner girls.

There is another, even more simple way to create a sarong. I featured this in jersey in our little black dress post. You can do it in woven fabric as well.

This is a simple rectangle of striped satin with a snap sewn on both top points. 

The rectangle wraps around the back of the doll and from each arm pit, wraps around the back of her neck and snaps in place. 


The Kimono

Halston was known for his loungewear worn as eveningwear. This consisted of kimonos and caftans. For this project, I chose the kimono. I've posted a tutorial on the kimono before. This time around, I tweaked the pattern a bit (deepening the sleeves, for example), and cutting it out of silk charmeuse, a very luxurious satin fabric.

The original pattern is really in two parts. The top is gathered as is the bottom which is then joined at the waist. This controls the folds. But for the doll, a gathered waistline is too bulking to achieve such a slinky garment. So, I used the basic kimono pattern which I then belted and adjusted the folds. The secret to this garment is the fabric...silk falls better over the body than polyester.

It's a Wrap
Many of the garments for which Halston was best known included those with elements that wrapped around the body. There are different variations of this theme, but most iconic is this dress which is super easy to recreate. 

I've made it in two parts, although you could make in a single piece. For this dress you need to cut three strips of 2-way stretch fabric. The waistband measures 1-1/2" (4cm) long by 3-3/4" (9.5cm) wide. Cut one. You need to cut two strips for the straps which measure 10-3/4" (273mm) long by 1-1/2" (4cm) wide. 
1. For the waistband, fold the pattern in half, horizontally. Stitch on both sides and turn right side out.
2. Mark the front center point with a pin.
3. Using a running stitch, gather one side of each of the straps.
4. Attach each strap to either side of the waistband along a single edge.
5. Turn down the edges of both sides of the waistband, catching the straps and hand stitch together.
6. Sew on a closure (hook & eye or snap) to the ends of the waistband.
7. The straps go up and over each shoulder and crisscross in the back.
8. Wrap them around the front, again in the back, then tie them in the front.

9. Before you put the top on the doll, be sure to start by dressing her in a circle skirt. Wrap the top over the waistband of the skirt.

Here's the end result front to back. If you make this in two pieces, the top can also be worn with full palazzo pants!


\I did not have enough jersey to make this dress, so I used instead, a micro-pleated sheer chiffon. I was a bit conservative in the amount of fullness I built into the front of the dress because I wanted to avoid bulk. I also wanted a dress that could be slipped on and off without a closure. This dress has fullness in the front and hugs the back of the body, My graph paper is 1/4".  
The proportions look a bit strange from front to back but this is due to the fact there is much more fullness in the front. You will also need  1/8" ribbon that is 24" (60cm) long.
1. Trace the pattern directly onto the fabric. This will help in cutting out each piece. 
2. Wrong side up, layer the front on top of the back being careful to line it up at the curve of the waist, since the back slopes down from the sides of the front. Sew the side seams and press. 
3. Turn down the top edges of the dress. 
4. Turn the edges once again and pin and press. This will be the casing.
5. Before you stitch this down, find the center point of the ribbon and lay it in under the top fold. Pin.
6. Stitch down the casing, being careful to avoid the ribbon trapped underneath. 

7. Bring the straps over the shoulders and crisscross the back.
8. Bring the straps back to the front and crisscross.
9. Wrap around the front once again and tie in the back.

Here is my dress front to back for Barbie. Fit for a goddess.
Same dress, but this time cut from satin for my Tonner doll (1/4 scale).


The Catsuit
This is essentially, what is called a "unitard" (bodysuit and tights in one piece), borrowed by Halston and renamed a "catsuit." This very comfortable garment was quite popular at this time, largely because it could be dressed up or down and took the wearer from daywear directly into the clubs at night. Here is Tatjana wearing her catsuit only accessorized with jewelry inspired by Tiffany's designer Elsa Peretti and a pair of silver heels.

And here is Noor, completely in daywear. She wears her catsuit under a leather jacket, a swashbuckling wrap and a pair of boots.

To create the bodysuit, I started out with the pattern I developed for the jumpsuit. I cut up an old Tshirt which I pinned to the body, Then stretched out the excess fabric and traced around the body. Don't forget to turn the doll over and pin the fabric to the contours of the doll's back so that the end garment will hug her hips.
Make the adjustments so that the front to the back will line up when you put the pattern together. Where there is a difference, compromise....raise your point on one side, lower it on the other. When you place the pattern pieces together, they should line up at the shoulders, the sides and the inseam.




The Ultrasuede Connection

We cannot talk about Halston without mentioning a fabric innovation he was associated with and that is ultrasuede, a non-woven material with the feel of suede that was machine washable. Though he did not create the material himself, he used it in much of his daywear. Silhouettes were, in general kept simple...Shirtwaist dresses, jackets and skirts. 

As you can see, I spent a lot of time preparing this post right down to the jewelry. Elsa Peretti, he late model turned jewelry designer for Tiffany's, was one of Halston's best known collaborators. Known for her very sensual, sculptural designs, she created cuff bracelets that resembled liquid metal pouring over the wrist bones of the wearer, lima bean pendants, earrings and clutch bags, snake head belts and pendants shaped in the form of tiny vases that could actually hold a small cut flower. If you look at my images close up, you will notice a number of my dolls are wearing tiny accessories inspired by Peretti's work. Next up, I'll do a short post showing you how I made these. Stay tuned! 



All photos and text property of Fashion Doll Stylist. Please do not reproduce without prior permission and always credit us when you do. Thank you.



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