|Brand New World|
Hildegard Günzel began to make an undeniable name for herself in the United States, back in the 1980s, her Germanic-sounding name, with its many syllables and alphabet soup appearance, was a tongue-twisting nightmare. Many folks wondered whether Günzel would anglicize her moniker, reduce its difficulty, and make it easier on the Yankee palate. True to herself and to her origins, Hildegard Günzel maintained that her public would come to embrace her lyrical works and her wordy first and last names. She was right. Today, her name rolls off the tongue; it has become synonymous with excellence, beauty and regality. When collectors talk about dolls that are ethereal and realistic, lovely and refined, they more often than not allude to Günzel.
“She is the Rolls Royce of doll artists,” Arlene Litzenberg, of Arlene’s Dolls & Collectibles, in Butler, Pa., observes. “People who purchase her dolls are discerning and have a love of quality. They are truly the cream of the crop. They are expensive, that’s true,” Litzenberg affirms, “but they are designed for the quality buyer, not the quantity buyer.”
The notion of Günzel’s originals being a rarity, an expensive bird of paradise for the lucky few, is quite accurate. Her wax-over-porcelain young ladies are museum quality, and their limited status and price tag make them a Holy Grail for many collectors. Imagine, then, the excitement that charged through the collectibles world when the artist announced she would be creating a resin line for 2006. “I think the price of these dolls will make a difference,” Günzel states, “and I think the collectors who will be drawn to the resin ones are more interested in ‘playing’ or handling the dolls. I think more movable dolls—my resin ones will have heads that move— are attractive to these types of collectors, and I also believe some children will be treated to these dolls. They will be more ‘hand-able,’ and they will bring in a new generation of collectors.”
When DOLLS magazine broke this announcement to a host of shop owners across the country, the proprietors were thrilled by the new foray into resin. Charlene Werderman, of Charlene’s Dolls & Collectibles in Rancho Cordova, Calif., is delighted with this news.
“There is a timeless beauty to her sculptures,” Werderman elaborates. “She has a signature style, just like a painter or an illustrator. When you see her dolls’ faces and their eyes, you know it is a Günzel. If she says she is in charge of the resin and assuring the quality of this medium, you know these are going to be state-of-the-art. This will be such a welcome piece of news for collectors who have always wanted to buy, but couldn’t afford or commit to such a purchase.”
Günzel seconds Werderman’s observation; she promises to be extremely hands-on in the selection and quality control of the resin breakthrough. “If I could not be absolutely happy with the end results, I would not begin this project,” Günzel asserts. “The color I chose for the dolls is very, very life-like, and the resin really does have a close look to the wax-over-porcelains. I admit I fell in love when I first saw it.”
“Hildegard always uses top-of-the- line products,” relates Susan Anderson, of Children of the Heart. The East Lansing, Mich., dealer has been an admirer and retailer of Günzel’s creations for many years. “Her wax-over-porcelain work is heirloom quality. The resin ones will be a departure, I am sure, but will still be recognized as coming from her. You can tell an artist’s work, and even if these new dolls are more contemporarily dressed, there will be the certain something that makes it a Hildegard original.”
Having trained as a fashion and jewelry designer at the German School for Fashion Design, in Munich, Günzel found her calling as a doll artist who specialized in an old-fashioned otherworldliness. Even if her dolls were not labeled as “bygone” or “nostalgic,” there was always something long ago and faraway about their fashion sense and exquisite demeanor. They truly embodied the notion of “past perfect.” The resin dolls are a welcome departure. They will be hallmarked by their up-to-date costumes and attitude. “There is going to be a much more modern, daily fashion design,” Günzel shares. “These dolls are going to be very contemporary. Take the doll ‘Doreen,’ for example. She is going to be fresh and modern. She will be the pert little girl who lives next door. It is a real change from what people might expect from me.”
Günzel acknowledges that many collectors hold her past accomplishments as legacies, masterpieces of a sort that are to be respected and revered, not touched and held. “Many people see the wax-over-porcelain as exquisite and almost like antique dolls. They are expected to be very elegant and romantic. They are supposed to be timelessly old-fashioned.”
“I always use pictures of children I know for my facial designs. This makes them unique and different, and more exciting for the collector. I don’t want to make variations of the same basic face. With the resin dolls, I know they will find wonderful doll mothers. These more modern dolls will give me a chance to play with different styles. I now will have the best of both worlds—timeless romanticism and new, modern, fun looks.” Does Günzel envision herself moving into designing togs for real toddlers and elementary-school students? “The fashion business requires a lot of power,” she states. “I think at the moment I want to give all of my power to the doll business. But never say no, because you never know. Do you?”
The mother of two sons, Günzel has been toasted for more than two decades as the premier purveyor of feminine finery and little-girl loveliness. The division between her private life and her professional forté amuses her. “I truly do love boys. After all, I have two boys at home. But when it comes to dolls, boys are not best sellers. No, I am joking,” she insists. “I think I might try to create some boy dolls in the future. Of course, I will!”
The notion of a dapper Dan or a funky Fred decked out in Günzel’s first-rate costuming is a great bit of gossip to feast upon. “That would be an idea worth experimenting with,” remarks Debbie Bibb, manager of The Doll House in Edmond, Okla. “I can see them already: detailed, proportioned, nicely turned out. It would be a treat and a bold move for her. Seymour Mann has always done well with their boy dolls. I think a Günzel version of a little boy would be exciting and it would show off her incredible talent.”
Until a “Günzel guy” comes knocking on our doors, we collectors will just have to content ourselves with her initial five resin dolls debuting in 2006. Three—“Fine,” “Henrike” and “Spätzchen”—will be launched worldwide and two—“Doreen” and “Mariella”—will be U.S. exclusives.
“I have had a long-lasting friendship with America. I am so honored that my work continues to be respected and collected there. When I learned that I had won three DOLLS Awards of Excellence at the 2005 Expo, I was so pleased. I am happy that Seymour Mann and Paradise Galleries also won with my designs, and that the collectors and people love my work and took the time to vote for me. My own company won one of the three awards as well. It is an honor.”
Günzel was unable to attend the ceremony because her elderly mother was quite ill and hospitalized. As she visited with her 98-year-old mom, she brought along a copy of one of her doll books, a compendium of her career from its earliest days to today. As they flipped through the pages, Günzel’s mother was delighted to see a photo of herself posed with her daughter’s first-ever doll. “We were astonished by how different my work was when I first began, as a hobbyist really, back in the 1970s. The gift to be creative cannot go away. You cannot retire from it. It will hopefully stay with me forever. Every year, I feel responsible to make my dolls better and better, so collectors will always be happy. When they see my newest line, the resin debut, I hope they will be happy, again and again.”
The winners of the 2013 Industry’s Choice DOLLS Awards of Excellence (DAEs) were announced April 12 at the Debut of Dolls Banquet held at IDEX in Orlando, Fla. Each entry in this year’s competition was evaluated by our panel of judges: Doll industry consultant Pat Burns, doll writer and historian Penny Herbst, Simon Farnworth of DollObservers.com, author and DOLLS contributor Stephanie Finnegan,
DOLLS editor-at-large Jill Jackson, and Modern Doll President Patsy Moyer. This year’s Industry’s Choice winners go on to become the nominees for the Public’s Choice awards voted on by DOLLS readers. Look for photos of all the nominees, ballot, and online voting instructions in the July 2013 issue of DOLLS.
Iola, Wis. – Jan. 9, 2013 – DOLLS magazine publisher and former editor Carie Ferg received a special VIP Award for Outstanding Achievement in the 2012 Colliii Awards. The Colliii Awards are the largest online dollmaking competition in the world.
“We wanted to present the 2012 VIP Award to Carie Ferg as a recognition of the dynamism and innovation she has brought to the doll industry over the past few years,” said Colliii Awards Director James Carlsson. “The VIP Award is presented every year to a person or organisation that has made a significant contribution to the doll world. It was Colliii.com’s pleasure to present this to Carie as a token of appreciation for her hard work.”
Past VIP Award winners include DOLLS’ Editor-at-Large Jill Jackson for her work with "Doll Reader," the Biemann family from Schildkröt dolls in Germany, and such atists as Stephanie Sullivan.Registration for the 2013 Colliii Awards will begin in July. For more information about the competition, go to www.colliii.com/en.
The winners of the 2012 ProSculpt Annual Sculpting Contest have been chosen by collectors and artists from around the world. Winners this year are from England, Italy, Japan, South America, and the United States. Photos of all the winners can be viewed at the Johnston Original Art Dolls website. The winners are:
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Haute Doll introduces its new exclusive by Horsman Ltd., the modern-style “Heart Chair” perfect for 16-inch fashion dolls. The design was inspired by Verner Panton’s 1959 full-scale contemporary chair design.
The fourth Pullip and Dal Doll Lovers Event (PUDDLE) drew 60 doll lovers from 10 different states and Canada to the Elk Grove Village Holiday Inn in June. This year’s theme, cranes, was inspired by the sandhill cranes at the group's charity organization, the Willowbrook Wildlife Center. Six custom dolls and other items donated by sponsors like The Sleeping Elf and Denise's Dolls were raffled off at the event, raising $500 for the center.
The weekend started Friday night with dinner at Mitsuwa Japanese Mall in Arlington Heights, followed by a tea party at the hotel. PUDDLE officially kicked off at 9 a.m. Saturday, starting with an organized buy-sell-trade opportunity, and dozens of fans milled around trading and buying doll wigs, eye chips, bodies, clothing, and more.
Every attendee received a door prize, thanks to generous donations from many sponsors. Distribution of the door prizes was followed by a secret gift swap and lunch break. Afterwards, an informal Q&A-format customizing workshop answered questions for many fans new to the hobby, followed by a display of fully customized and modified dolls entered in the customization contest. Winners of an online photo/art contest which was held and judged before the event were announced along with the customization contest winners. The photo and art entries can be seen at www.puddlestyle.com/photoart.html.
Many fans continued the fun over dinner in the hotel restaurant and in the hotel lobby until the wee hours. Krista Farmer, who traveled from Toronto for the event, said “It was a crazy cool day.” Although the event officially ended Saturday night, 11 fans stayed for a behind-the-scenes tour of the Willowbrook Wildlife Center Sunday. — Jane EasterlyFor information on PUDDLE 2012, visit www.puddlestyle.com.read more
Attendees at the third annual R. John Wright Convention enjoyed the festivities of several major holidays coupled with outstanding dolls, all rolled into four fun-filled days! R. John and Susan Wright chose “Celebrations!” as the theme for their 2011 event held at the historic Desmond Hotel in Albany, N.Y., which was co-chaired by Loretta Nardone and Lillian Wright.
The convention opened with St. Patrick’s Day reception Wednesday evening, where everyone laid claim to being a wee bit Irish while enjoying a scrumptious dessert buffet. The sales room opened immediately after this kick-off event, with conventioneers hoping the “luck of the Irish” would help them find that perfect doll or dolls.
Thursday began early with the Easter Morning Breakfast; those attending this ticketed event didn’t have to search for large, beautifully decorated baskets serving as table centerpieces. They were filled with molded felt eggs in pastel colors. At the end of the breakfast, the eggs were distributed and the happy new owners opened them to find “Peep,” a 3-inch yellow mohair chick as their event souvenir. His companion, “Posey,” was available for sale. After breakfast the special and competitive exhibits opened, along with the helper room. This year’s special exhibit, arranged by John and Susan Wright’s daughter Emily, was titled “Happy Holidays” and showcased R. John Wright dolls and animal characters and the traditional holidays that inspired them.
That afternoon, attendees boarded buses for the short trip to Bennington, Vt., for a tour of the R. John Wright facility along with other local activities. The Wrights explained the development of their creations from concept through completion before everyone had the opportunity to visit with their employees as they made various doll parts and accessories and shopped in the R. John Wright store. The day culminated with a Fourth of July BBQ followed by fireworks at dusk.
Workshops by dollmaker Gail Wilson and a program by Alan Pate, a leading American expert on Japanese dolls, were offered on Friday, along with several roundtable discussions on various topics. Attendees dressed up for the frightfully fabulous costume parade leading into the Halloween Masquerade luncheon, with prizes awarded in five categories. After lunch, the newest piece from R. John Wright’s Wizard of Oz collection, “Wicked Witch of the West,” made her debut in front of an enthusiastic audience.
The ticketed Victorian Yuletide Dinner featured traditional table decorations and an enchanting program, “A Victorian Christmas,” presented by Nardone. The event souvenir was the 10-inch “Mary Frances,” the latest addition to the Victorian Children Collection. Available for purchase was her 7-inch little sister, “Baby Grace.”
Saturday morning’s activities included another program by Pate and a workshop conducted by Emily Wright. That afternoon, a Valentine’s Day High Tea charmed conventioneers with fine teas and delicacies. The newest addition to the Flower Fairies series, “Rose Fairy,” was available for purchase. The evening’s closing event was a New Year’s Eve Gala Celebration. This elegant banquet featured another entertaining program produced and presented by Nardone. When the souvenir dolls were distributed, delighted attendees found the adorable 12½-inch “Celebration Scootles” would be going home with them. As an added bonus, her delightful twin brother was available for purchase.As the convention ended, attendees were already making plans for next year’s “Around the World” event, which will be held at the same location June 20-23, 2012 and will celebrate the magic of children around the globe. There will also be an added treat as the first bear event held at an R. John Wright convention will be incorporated into the excursion to the Wrights’ facility in Vermont. For more information, visit www.rjohnwright.com or call (802) 447-7072. — Pat Burnsread more