|The Girls from Dream City|
In the doll-collector community, “Gene Marshall” is synonymous with “classic.” Mel Odom launched his 15½-inch fashion doll in 1995, forever changing the face of doll collecting. Depicting an actress’ life throughout the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, the mini-icon with a big backstory took hold in doll collectors’ hearts the world over, creating an unprecedented market for fashion dolls for adults. Prior fashion dolls had largely been children’s playthings. Dozens of mimicries followed in her wake, but 13 years later, Gene continues to captivate collectors with her archetypical allure. They anticipate each new incarnation Odom and his team at Integrity Toys will dream up.
On Sept. 11-13 at the 13th annual Gene Marshall Convention in Orlando, Fla., more than 200 devoted Gene collectors will witness the talented team’s newest vision of Gene and her friends, “Ivy ‘Vee J.’ Jordan” and “Madra Lord.” Dubbed The Girls from Dream City, the convention will encompass three themes unified by cosmic characteristics.
While dreaming up the primary 2008 theme, Integrity Toys sought a solution that would meet collectors’ requests for more “out there—on-stage looks for Gene,” says Alain Tremblay, executive marketing director and event coordinator for Integrity Toys. However, Gene collectors also demand costumes stay specific to the period she “lives” in. With these criteria in mind, the three-themed concept was born. The convention presents “a visit to various sets and sound stages within Monolithic Studios, [the fictitious studio Odom invented at Gene’s inception]. You get a peek into all these different dramas, which gives us the breadth we were going for in this collection,” Tremblay says.
The Girls from Dream City Convention Collection consists of three dressed dolls, one basic doll and one stand-alone fashion. One theme inspiring the collection design is based on a ’60s TV show about otherworldly dimensions. One episode in particular influenced Odom as a child. “A lovely girl is trapped overnight in a department store and gradually discovers that she’s actually a mannequin. I think the life of Gene Marshall coming from my imagination fits perfectly somewhere in that story line!” Odom says.
Another convention theme reflected in the collection is Moon over Orlando, a tribute to the ’40s musical starring Betty Grable, Moon over Miami. “During the 1940s Twentieth Century Fox had the most extravagant color being used in Hollywood. We went to the amazing Technicolor films that Miss Grable made and chose a beautiful evening gown that captures the combination of the innocence and design bravura of the era,” Odom explains. “‘Blue Horizon’ is a gown specifically designed for dance with a sequined bodice and skirt, and a hemline covered in turquoise feathers.”
Next, Odom looked to the unearthly inspiration of the early ’50s comedy he invented for the convention, Distant Venus, to inform the collection. The movie’s premise is that aliens would learn about earth from the media transmitted through television signals. For the related fashions, “We went to the 1930s and chose really gorgeous costumes from movies that were old enough to have been shown on TV by then,” says Odom. “We tweaked them a bit and added elements we considered ‘Venusian’ in order to create an alien fashion sense based on the assumptions of combined cultures.” The designs, says Odom, “work as costumes as well as pure fashion.”
Odom feels the collection fashions are a success. “I love them!” he enthuses. “Vaughn Sawyers and I worked our heads off creating these dolls and costumes. We were trying to walk a line with both recognizable fashion elements from the decades involved and the way those decades interpreted fantasy. They’ve ended up among my favorite things we’ve done this year.”
“Oona” also adds to the convention excitement. Created as a “blank palette” for collectors to determine her character in a design challenge, the contest entrants will be auctioned off with proceeds going to the Harbor House of Central Florida, a shelter for domestic violence survivors. Integrity Toys looks forward to collectors’ creations. “The Gene collectors are incredibly talented,” says Tremblay. “Their design and sewing skills are amazing. Last year the dolls for the ‘Gray Lady’ contest went for $1,000 to $3,000.
In past years the Gene convention was run informally by collectors. Integrity Toys has owned the license for several years, and the 2008 event is its second Gene convention. Since taking over, “We’ve really formalized the convention,” says Tremblay. “Last year’s Film Noir theme felt more like what previous organizers were doing. This year, we really departed from what’s been done. I wanted something really different to make it new again to keep it exciting. Last year was so dark; this year is so bright. It’s really come full circle.
Integrity Toys, which took over production of Gene in 2006 after Ashton-Drake Galleries’ 10-year run with her, knows just how to keep collectors coming back for every new rendition of the doll. Although some things never change—like Gene’s story line and the era she is set in—Integrity Toys realizes the importance of keeping her fresh. “We look at every doll as new,” Tremblay says. “If you compare what we did in 2006 to today, you can definitely see a progression. Every new release brings something new and different from the previous release. I think that’s why people like our product.”
Attendees at the 13th Annual Gene Marshall Convention won’t be disappointed at the latest “something new” from Integrity Toys. Odom and his team have created an out-of-this-world collection sure to keep collectors asking for more of Gene and friends.
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