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Doll Artists and Doll Manufacturers:  A Match Made in Collector's Heaven
Exploring the Partnership Between Doll Artists and Doll Manufacturers

Throughout much of doll history, the names of creators and sculptors of most dolls have been lost to time.  There are exceptions, of course--everyone knows that Rose O'Neill created the Kewpie doll, and that Grace Storey Putnam created the By-Lo.  But--who sculpted the Armand Marseille 390?  What about the profusion of dolls in the 1960s--who is the artist that dreamed up Liddle Kiddles?  And, don't forget some of the most treasured antique dolls* by Jumeau and Bru--sure, we know who ran the businesses that produced those dolls, but what about the artists??  

Today, the situation is quite different.  Although the creators of many low-cost play dolls are still anonymous, the creators of almost every collectible doll is known and honored--we know the artists behind collectible Barbie dolls,  we know that Reva Schick creates many dolls for Lee Middleton, and that Julie-Good Kruger creates the collectible dolls for Boyds.  This has been the situation since roughly the 1980s, when doll the interest in doll artists and their artistry became acute (don't miss "The Artful 1980s, by A. Glenn Mandeville in the August 2002 issue of Doll Reader magazine that explores this trend).

There is another level of doll artist that has recently had its dolls become available to most collectors--the one-of-a-kind and very limited edition (10 or 25 pieces) doll artist producing high-quality art dolls which often retail for several thousand dollars each.   Since the late 1990s, it has become more and more common for such one-of a kind doll artists to have their dolls produced by doll manufacturers such as Goebel ("Collection of the Masters"), Goetz and WPM.  These companies have earned the respect and trust of the one-of-a-kind doll artists and have produced high-quality larger editions of the artists' unique dolls, to the delight of collectors worldwide.

The Partnership Creates Reduced Cost

The importance of the partnership between doll artists and doll manufacturers cannot be overlooked.  Many, many collectors appreciate the beauty and artistry of artist limited edition and  one-of-a-kind artist dolls, but they cannot afford them.  For instance, a 2002 Nina (10", LE 20) by artist Hildegard Gunzel retails for well over $5,000.  However, many Hildegard Gunzel dolls manufactured by Götz Dolls in the 2002 collection can be purchased for around 1,000--such as  "Leslie"  (19", LE of 750).   Although $1,000 is still expensive, at 1/5 of the cost of an original LE Hildegard Gunzel doll,  it widens the population  of collectors who can own a Hildegard Gunzel doll many times over.  This same cost situation is repeated with the majority of other artist's dolls now being produced by major doll manufacturers.

Bringing Doll Art To A Wider Audience

Which brings us to the second notable effect of this partnership between doll artists and manufacturers--the partnership brings doll art to a much wider audience than the audience for  one-of-a-kind dolls and small limited editions.  Yes, the reduced price, as discussed above, is definitely a factor in this--both collectors AND shops can better afford to buy manufactured editions of doll artists.  But it is not the sole factor.  Another factor is, well, mathematical.  A doll in a limited edition of 20 can only be in 20 places in the entire world at any one time, in a limited number of shops, collector homes and museums.  An edition of 750 (using our example above) can, obviously, be in 750 places, as little ambassadors for the world of doll art.  Some manufactured editions of artist's work can be spread even further--for instance, the artist-created dolls produced by the Collection of the Masters from the work of one-of-a-kind doll artists are produced in the thousands--a virtual army of doll art ambassadors!  And,  although these dolls are manufactured in large quantities and cannot be done with the same individual attention to each detail as are the dolls from the artists themselves, the dolls still capture the spirit and beauty intended by the artists.  In my small doll shop, I continually enjoy the reaction of new collectors and non-collectors (hopefully, future collectors!) to the manufactured artist dolls.  For instance, take "Emma," a 2001 Collection of the Masters doll created by artist Cynthia Malbon (2001 DOTY Industry Choice Award Winner).  People marvel at this doll--her luminosity, her expression, her pose.  This doll is a true ambassador for doll art (and, for Cynthia Malbon's work).  My store, in a small rural town, could never afford (nor, have the clientele for) a one-of-a-kind doll from Ms. Malbon, but we have customers for her work through Collection of the Masters.  I DO have some one-of-a-kind dolls from Australian artist Maree Masey.  These are miniature porcelain dolls, priced at a few hundred dollars each.  Again, they stir much interest in my customers.  But, upon looking at the price tag of one of her dolls, many admirers walk away a bit dejected, and unable to afford the treasure.  That's when I whip out some of Ms. Masey's pieces for The Collection of the Masters--which generally retail for $99. Immediately, the face brightens, and often, a sale (and a new collector of Ms. Masey's work!) is made.  

Financial Rewards For The Artists 

A doll artist has only so many hours in the day, days in the week and months in the year to produce original dolls.  Often, the demand for an artist's dolls far exceeds his or her capacity to produced dolls that are one-of-a-kind or very limited.  Working for a manufacturer gives artists another way to satisfy demand--and another way to produce income from their artistry and work.  This situation helps many doll artists to be able to afford to continue devoting their full-time to doll artistry. 

Industry Energy

Finally, artist dolls produced by doll manufacturers add a certain energy to a doll manufacturer's entire line of dolls.   There is nothing like entering a booth at Toy Fair of a doll manufacturer that has stocked at least part of their booth with fabulous, high-quality manufactured artist dolls.  And, the same is true in doll shops--all the bread and butter "plain Janes" look just a bit better when surrounded with beautiful artist-created manufactured dolls.  Artist dolls produced by manufacturers can (and do!) bring the same energy and excitement to the collections of thousands of doll collectors worldwide.

*footnote:  we DO know the sculptors of some of these antique doll heads, but not all of them and the names are not that widely known.

Links and Sites To Information About Doll Artists and Related Manufacturers

Artist Dolls: Resources

Dolls From The Heart Doll Artist Gallery

Götz Dolls- What You Need To Know

History and Art- Waltershauser Dolls

The Professional Doll Makers Art Guild

Internet Doll Art Trade Show


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Denise Van Patten--your Guide to Dolls
Article, Graphics Copyright © 2001 Denise Van Patten

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