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Shades of Perfection
dyer-masai-girls There’s an old, familiar saying: “A penny for your thoughts,” which implies a person is deep in meditation, conjuring up bright ideas, lost in a world of her own. Switch the spelling of “penny” to “Peni,” and you’ve got the perfect profile of Canadian artist Peni Dyer.

Born in Jamaica in 1942, the talented sculptor has a landscape filled with imaginative creations cavorting in her mind. She is always ready to explore the fantastical figures and real-life inspirations that swirl in her thoughts.

The artist describes her childhood on a sugar cane plantation as “fairly isolated.” She and her sister were often left to their own de­vices, which meant they developed an enormous capacity for pretending and playing make-believe.

“I would describe my family as quiet and joyful. My parents di­vorced when I was about 5dyer-masai-madonna years old, and my mother moved back to Kingston with my brother. So there was just my sister and I, and then my father remarried. We delighted in our stepmother! She be­lieved children should be allowed to be children as long as possible. When we came home for the holidays from boarding school, we ran wild and free on an enormous property.”

Dyer’s stepmother was a social worker who earned the Order of Jamaica for her contributions to the community. Dyer’s father was the timekeeper, or foreman/manager, of the plantation where they lived. “He had to hire just the right amount of people, supervise their labor at planting time and crop time and during the growing season. He also had to keep account of their hours of work and pay them accordingly.”

Having a stepmom who was free-spirited and indulgent, coupled with a practical, business-minded dad, helped cultivate Dyer’s personality. She is a creative soul who well understands the financial demands and restrictions of a career in art. She knows that it is a rare individual who is truly able to support herself by following an artistic goal.

As a teenager, Dyer began to realize she had ability and talent in painting and drawing, skills that came easily to her. “When my sister and I were told we were ‘too old to be playing with dolls,’ I then spent most of my free time drawing and painting. With all that practice, I would almost always win the end-of-the-year art prize for my age group.”

When it came time to choose a profession, Dyer lobbied her parents to allow her to study art. “My father would have preferred if I had pursued my early dreams of becoming a veterinarian because he was convinced that all artists ‘die poor.’ My stepmother felt I had the right to follow my dreams of becoming an artist. Little did I know back then what that would entail. I did have their full support, however, when I decided to go to Canada to study art there.”

dyer-blues-singerEmigrating from the warm, sultry island of Jamaica to the “great white north” presented an eye-opening experience for the young teen—people are es­sentially alike around the world.

“When I first came to Canada, I was 17,” Dyer recalls. “I wasn’t affected by cultural differences, for the people were very friendly. Apart from having a different accent, they weren’t all that different from people in my hometown. I did have to learn how to deal with the long, cold winters. And perhaps my biggest adjustment was learning to adapt to the bulky clothing to ward off the cold.”

While the weather may have been frigid, Dyer’s pursuit of learning and living was heating up. “I completed a three-year degree in commercial art. In my third year, I did sculpting with a live model for one semester, but I didn’t get a good grade. I had spent most of my time flirting with a young man in my class and never finished my project. I would never have be­lieved I would end up being a sculptor.”

After graduation, “no one would hire me, the ‘great artist.’ I finally found a job with an interior design firm. In addition to clerical and reception duties, I was given the opportunity to work in the design studio and make mock-ups or presentation boards.”

Dyer kept this job for nine years and then returned to Jamaica, where she worked as a personal assistant to a minister of government. She loved the job, but began to mourn the lack of artistic challenges. Eventually, she returned to Canada in 1980 and went back to the same firm she had left in 1971. “I spent the next 16 years working in that job until the company was downsized, and I was out of a job in 1996.”

It was around that time that Dyer tried her hand at dollmaking. Initially, she made a dollhouse family from a kit for a friend who had purchased an enormous doll house. “All I had to do was paint the faces and fit the limbs to the cloth bodies, but she was so impressed and delighted she asked me to make her a fairy doll.” Dyer declined, claiming she wasn’t a dollmaker. “When my friend purchased a porcelain fairy doll from the United States and told me what she had paid for it, the challenge loomed for me to try making one.”

The aspiring doll artist signed up for lessons in china painting, and, after a year of painting dolls from commercial molds, she tried sculpting her own.

“I had the unique ability to capture the likenesses of my subjects. It didn’t take long before I started getting commissions for portrait dolls of children,” she confides.

Today, the busy doll artist juggles her sculpting with her teaching of the fine points of portraiture and porcelain modeling. Her calendar is filled with requests to do commissioned work: dolls based on photographs of children and celebrities. She also finds the time, though, to pursue subjects close to her heart.

“I started doing figures of the Maasai people two years ago. I feel a profound kinship with these beautiful, creative, earthy people,” Dyer explains. “Their whole way of life is being swallowed up by industrialization and that saddens me. I intend to add one or two pieces to the series every year.”

In addition to her African tributes, Dyer would like to sculpt likenesses of personal heroes, such as Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Albert Einstein, and Bob Marley, among others.

At her side as she loves, laughs and labors is her soul mate, Michael, her partner of 25 years. “I had an unsuccessful marriage for 10 years, but I now live with Michael. Between us, we have six children and 11 grandchildren. Michael is my engineer. He has the unique ability to figure out the most complicated mold, make me any base or prop, and he always loads up the van and drives us to any doll show no matter where it is.”

Dyer’s thoughts these days are happy and productive. Her peace of mind and devotion to her doll craft is golden. “Dollmaking is food for the soul to me,” she affirms. That sense of satisfaction is priceless, far beyond pennies.

Peni Dyer, 83 Morrison Crescent, Union­ville, Ontario, Canada L3R 9K7; telephone: (905) 477-4267; Web site: www.thelivingdoll.net; e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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2013 DOLLS Awards of Excellence

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.

 

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DOLLS publisher Carie Ferg wins special Colliii Award

Iola, Wis. – Jan. 9, 2013DOLLS 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.
ProSculpt 2012 winners announced

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:

 

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A Chair for Your 16-Inch Sweetheart

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.

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Rockin’ Out at Rockefeller Center: An outdoor winter event showcases model-worthy Manhattanites.

{besps}ravena{/besps}

{besps_c}0|1.jpg|Available on December 6, “Ravena, Winter Chic” is an exclusive BJD from Ruby Red Galleria and DOLLS magazine. It can only be purchased through DOLLS.|{/besps_c}
{besps_c}0|2.jpg|At a recent European fashion show, these lovely models showcased what Australian fashion designers are cooking up for winterwear. “Ravena” could have joined that lineup!|{/besps_c}
{besps_c}0|3.jpg|Lauren Graham looks stylish and seasonal in her winter attire. Just because snow might be flurrying and blowing, no reason to let a fashion sense melt away!|{/besps_c}
{besps_c}0|4.jpg|Singer/actress Brooke White was layered and lovely at the Rockefeller Christmas Tree Lighting.|{/besps_c}
{besps_c}0|5.jpg|When some of us layer, we come dangerously close to the Michelin Tire Man vibe. Sometimes too much bundling means near bursting!|{/besps_c}
{besps_c}0|6.jpg|Cee Lo Green never worries about the curse of the Michelin Tire Man. The portly singer is proud to be a big man, and rejoices with his winter-clad Muppet pals.|{/besps_c}
{besps_c}0|7.jpg|The 80th Anniversary of the Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting was a special one, after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. The 80-foot Norway spruce hailed from New Jersey! 45,000 LED lights caused it to glow so brightly!|{/besps_c}
{besps_c}0|8.jpg|Even the Christmas trees in New York are fabulously dressed from head to toe! The Swarovski star that tops the Rockefeller Center tree is brilliant.|{/besps_c}I just learned about a new BJD debuting on December 6—it's a Ruby Red Galleria exclusive for DOLLS. The creation is so spot-on in its costuming and its attitude, I swear that one of the designers must have been tailing me last month.

When my friend Cam phoned me and invited me to the annual Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting, I should have said “no.” Any sane person would have, but sanity and an evening with Cam rarely go hand-in-hand. Instead, I agreed, and we headed out to Midtown Manhattan on one of the most crowded, most frantic nights of the year.

As we attempted to approach the skating rink where the enormous evergreen will reign supreme, I looked at Cam and burst out laughing.

“Isn’t this how ‘The Day of the Locust’ ends?” I shouted to him. (That film from the 1970s is among my and Cam’s favorite flicks. It stars Karen Black and Donald Sutherland, and it concludes with a horrible, free-for-all deadly crowd stampede.)

“Don’t be such a Grinch,” he called back. “Or should I say ‘Grinchette’!”

“I’m not sure there is a female Grinch,” I replied. “I know there was a Smurfette, the only blue gal around. But a Grinchette? I have to check my Seuss.”

And so this intellectual discourse continued as we fought our way through the jangling and jostling crowd—and, yes, the mass of people were LITERALLY jangling as they jostled. A huge number of them had on Santa hats with bells affixed or had bells attached to their lapels or collars. They were rude but they were rhythmic!

Since our trekking was so slow, and the other gawkers had gotten their much earlier to stake out their spots, Cam and I didn’t so much watch the tree lighting as watch the other folks’ reactions to all of the events.

A shrill shriek would emerge from the people way ahead of us.

“What is it?” I’d ask.

“Il Vole,” Cam would reply, referencing the teenage opera singers.

A cheer would erupt.

“Who is that?” I questioned.

“Chris Mann, from ‘The Voice.’” Another opera singer, who is marketed as a heartthrob.

Then just a smattering of applause.

“Mayor Bloomberg,” we both declared.

Since we were merely hearing the audio playback of the concert, we gazed at all the young men and women surrounding us.

“I think there is more wool here on Sixth Avenue than in all the sheep farms in Scotland,” Cam proclaimed.

Looking around, I had to agree.

Guys and girls were all decked out in the “official” apparel of the season: woolen flap hats, jauntily tied scarves, and boots. Girls had on legwarmers—“Hello, Flashdancers”—and fingerless gloves. (“What’s the point of that?” Cam groused. “Are we supposed to WANT our fingernails to turn blue?”) We had our very own Joan & Melissa Rivers Red Carpet fashion critique.

There’s a certain hip look that New Yorkers achieve—even when they are multilayering, they still come across as thin, chic, and hip. When I add scarves and sweaters and hats to my wardrobe, I look bundled up and ready to explode: envision the Michelin Tire Man, but not as perky.

When these twenty-somethings put on the extra bits of fabric, they look like they are taking a break en masse from shooting the Abercrombie & Fitch catalog. It really is quite amazing.

“I wish we could bottle their youth,” Cam lamented, looking at all the rosy-cheeked kids, teens, and college students who were scrambling about.

“Yep,” I agreed, “but can you imagine how much it would cost? And just how big would that bottle have to be! Better just to dream about it.”

And, wouldn’t you know it, just in time for Christmas . . . a doll that perfectly embodies that free-spirited New York City style has loped onto the scene.

The ball-jointed doll, which is a collaboration between DOLLS magazine and Ruby Red Galleria, is fittingly named “Ravena, Winter Chic.” Limited to 100 pieces, she’ll sell for 149.95. And, like all the other fashionable femmes who congregate in Manhattan, she weighs only 2 pounds, 6.9 ounces! The “Ravena” doll is bundled up and beautiful. Quite a feat, indeed!

Like her advertising copy says: A New York City native, the harsh NYC winters don’t stop “Ravena, Winter Chic,” a DOLLS dressed doll exclusive by Ruby Red Galleria, from exploring the city she loves. From uptown boutiques and coffee shops to downtown restaurants and theater, “Ravena, Winter Chic” bundles into her purple tights and faux-fur boots, corduroy short pants, pansy T-shirt, black motorcycle-style jacket and cozy knit hat to hit the streets in style. Even when the elements are unforgiving, “Ravena” survives and thrives in the city that never sleeps! The fully dressed 12-inch ball-jointed vinyl doll features removable wig and eyes, plus underwear and a sweet “love” tank top.

Ruby Red Galleria always has a way with its wardrobe, and “Ravena, Winter Chic” is no exception. I am sure Cam will be ordering one online. He’s probably circled December 6 on his calendar. After all, if he was willing to chew “instant youth” vitamins or spray on “adolescent forever” cologne, can you imagine how happy he’ll be to have a chic New Yorker to call his own?

“Exercising and eating well . . . who could be bothered,” Cam knowingly observes. “I’d rather play my way to younger days.”

And, yes, it can’t be denied. Cam has the healthiest inner-child in town!

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Pullip and Dal Doll Lovers Event
Fans of Pullip and Dal pose with their dolls at PUDDLE 2011. Photo by Mike Hurlock

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.

5_costume_contest_newEvery 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 Easterly

For information on PUDDLE 2012, visit www.puddlestyle.com.
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R. John Wright Convention

Attendees at the third annual R. John Wright Convention enjoyed the festivities of several major holidays coupled with outstanding dolls,R. John Wright introduces the “Wicked Witch of the West,” the newest piece in the Wizard of Oz series, at the Halloween Masquerade Luncheon. 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.

“Rose Fairy,” a new addition to the Flower Fairy series, was available for purchase at the Valentine’s Day High Tea.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 byElaine Romberg won the Best of Show ribbon in the Competitive Exhibit for her exceptional Lenci Leprechaun Gnome type character doll. 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 Burns
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