“I’m a doll!” exclaimed Nicole Blonsky, the 18-year-old ingénue who tears it up as Tracy Turnblad in the film. Upon seeing her likeness for the first time, Blonsky was more than thrilled. “It’s adorable!” she told USA Today. “The first thing I’m noticing are the chubby hands and short fingers. That may sound weird, but I have very small hands, and those are my hands!”
John Travolta, who plays Tracy’s mother, Edna Turnblad, in the musical comedy, had quite a bit to say about his tiny alter ego, according to an interview with AccessHollywood.com: “In the movie, I had a smaller waist, and my butt was bigger.” Apparently, this isn’t a bad thing; the actor told USA Today he thought the Edna doll’s outfit was “perfect.” Or, as we like to call it, bouffant-tastic…The actors’ thumbs-up came as no surprise to the dolls’ creator, artist/puppeteer/Renaissance woman Kamela Portuges. “I usually hear that everyone is really happy with their dolls,” the artist notes. “It’s fun to have a mini me!”Portuges’ long list of celebrity doll portraiture includes Rita Hayworth, Pamela Anderson, Venus and Serena Williams, Britney Spears, Kate Winslet and the Spice Girls. You may have also seen her work in the film Being John Malkovich, for which she sculpted marionettes of Malkovich, John Cusack, Cameron Diaz and Catherine Keener. Are you thinking about now that it probably takes a lot of work to depict faces that are so famous? You’d be correct.
“I start by creating a photo file of the celebrity,” Portuges says. But not just any photos, mind you. “The same person will look amazingly different in a retouched photo, so I like to see natural pictures of people, pictures that aren’t retouched.” And if this entails hopping on a plane in search of unaltered archival material, as was the case when she was sculpting Hayworth and needed access to fan club archives in Minneapolis, Portuges is game in the name of art. Research materials may also include magazines, DVDs and information gleaned from the Internet.
The photos are scaled to the size of the doll’s head—about two inches high— before Portuges cleans off her desk, gathers her tools and begins sculpting, using her own special formula of wax. “Each doll usually takes a couple of weeks for the initial sculpt,” the artist explains. Upon approval from the toy company, the piece goes back to Portuges and her company, Images in Motion, for mold making and casting. “The castings are then sent off to the doll face painter and the wig makers,” Portuges explains. “The celebrity usually sees the finished sample, painted and coiffed. Of course, if they want any changes, it’s back to resculpt. The whole process can take a month or more.
”Or less, as in the case of the Spice Girls figures she sculpted for Galoob Toys.
“Sometimes you don’t have the luxury of time,” Portuges says. “The Spice Girls were hot, and they needed a very quick turnaround. I remember sculpting around the clock, all of the Spice Girls in a week. It was when Princess Diana died, and I remember sadly sculpting as I watched the funeral.” Other sculpts of note include T-Boz Watkins, Left Eye Lopes and Chili Thomas, the members of the ’90s hip-hop/pop girl group TLC. “All the three faces were so intriguing,” Portuges recalls. “They turned out so well that I was looking forward to seeing them on the shelves, but the band broke up and they never made it through production.”
These days, Portuges has more than enough work to keep her in creative bliss. “A typical day for me is about ten to 12 hours, unless we’re busy, then it’s more.” And her workday—which starts out with a latte at her favorite coffee shop—is always varied. A month before our interview, the artist had created animations for Mattel, sculpted lamps for Pottery Barn, prepared notes for a sculpting workshop she’s teaching at a national puppet festival and sculpted changes on the Hairspray dolls.
When we spoke with the sculptor, the dolls from the musical motion picture were about a month away from hitting store shelves. “They were so refreshing to sculpt,” she says. And judging from the word on the street (OK, actually from comments on the official blog on www.hairspraymovie.com), the dolls should be delighting fans everywhere about now. Wrote one fan after getting a sneak preview of the dolls, “I want all of them, especially Tracy! They’re very realistic-looking and I can’t wait until they come out. It’s Christmas in July!”
For more on the Hairspray dolls, visit www.playalongtoys.com/hairspray; for more on Kamela Portuges and her celebrity dolls, visit www.imagesmedia.com/sculpture.
The Jones Publishing Lifetime Achievement Award is bestowed upon one recipient per year. This award was created in 2002 in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the introduction of the teddy bear, with the first recipient being Steiff, a German-based plush toy company known for its high quality and prices.
The Lifetime Achievement recipient must be or have been involved in some aspect of the doll and/or teddy bear field for a minimum of 25 years. The recipient may be an individual, partnership, corporation, company, author, artist, marketer, historian or any other industry professional. Lifetime Achievement Award nominations may be made by previous recipients or members of the LAA committee.
To qualify as a nominee, entrants must meet the following criteria:
The Lifetime Achievement Award has been presented to the following individuals and companies since its inception:
2003 Hildegard Gunzel
2004 Alexander Doll Company
2005 R. John Wright
2006 Wendy Lawton
2007 Virginia Turner
2008 Toy Shoppe
2009 no award presented
2010 Helen Kish
2011 no award presented
2012 Maggie Iacono
2013 Heidi Plusczok
2014 Jack Johnston
August 8, 2014 - Blackall Associates Inc. is proud to announce the winner of its Summer Heat Photo Contest. The contest drew entries from around the world. Masterpiece Doll collectors sent in a special photo showing how their Masterpiece Dolls were enjoying the summer heat.
You haven’t seen a toy show until you’ve seen this one. Six buildings! Over six hundred exhibitors! Exclusively toys and dolls and children’s playthings on display everywhere! This is the show everyone always says they intend to visit, and now is the time to do just that. Collectors say the Chicago Toy Show really is the largest in the entire world. They are correct. Collectors say they find toys at this show that are never seen anywhere else. Correct again.
19 April 2014 – 5 October 2014
A special exhibition will take place at the Toy Worlds Museum Basle to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Japanese-Swiss diplomacy and friendship.