Since 1980 doll artist Susan Krey has been beckoning collectors to join her in an imaginative journey. Skilled and insightful, the creative Krey sculpts dolls that are lovely and realistic. She has the rare ability to make art that is both lyrical and empirical: Her work celebrates beauty and poetry while simultaneously honoring the faces and traits of everyday down-to-earth people from across the globe. Her dolls are international ambassadors, glowingly and meticulously depicting citizens of the world.
The story of how and why Krey makes them is a voyage of external exploration and meaningful introspection. Her personal history, combined with a healthy appreciation for cultural legacies, is evident in the 2008 Krey Baby line.
This year’s coterie of exquisitely garbed and crafted dolls is a tribute to global sensibilities. There’s nary a blond-haired, blue-eyed farmer’s daughter among the group. Rather, the dolls have decidedly African and Asian characteristics. Taken as a whole, they are a testament to the grace and dignity that reside within all of us. Krey is honored to be the tour guide into a world that many of her collectors will never know firsthand.
“Recently, I traveled to Mexico where I went on a little art gallery tour,” Krey says. “That gave me the permission, if you will, to do what I like. Ethnic faces are fascinating and beautiful, so that’s what I do. This last vacation in Mexico helped to release my creativity a little further.”
The artist is no stranger to the challenges that face émigrés and immigrants. Born in England, she set off as a young woman to make a name for herself in Australia and then in the United States. She learned to adjust to her present landscape while never forgetting the horizons that once surrounded her. “England is my home with a rich culture that I am proud of, and it’s still very much a part of me,” Krey shares. “I went to art school in London, tromping through the galleries, where I grew as an artist. I fell in love with the Old Masters, French Impressionists and everyone else who ever put a brush to canvas. Our richest experiences are in our mind, imagination and spirit, but they are fueled by our surroundings and what we glean from them.”
Krey hails from a creative family, so she understood the temperament and sacrifices essential to follow an artistic path. “I was blessed with a mom who was an artist, and she sparked in me a love of art that was ready, willing and able. I won a Royal Society of Arts competition and used the money to go to Australia. There, I landed a job as a fabric designer—hence my love of color and fabrics. In Australia, I enjoyed my family; the light there is good, the people are lovely and my memories are warm. My perspective as I create is probably different because of my background, and hopefully my collectors see this in my work.”
The nine dolls that embody the 2008 collection are precious, indeed. Many are one-of-a-kind, and the others are limited to very small editions, usually of five pieces. They are rare and wondrous and highly sought after by Krey’s devoted following. “I am making dolls that I’m inspired to make, not necessarily to ‘sell’ them. I have the freedom to do this, and it’s very exciting for me. I think this is reflected in this year’s collection. It’s gratifying that people are responding to my artistic choices. I have a desire to express something different, in a way that is simple and tells a story of its own without using words.”
The motif of Krey’s current creations is “global warming”—not the climate variety but rather the bond that exists among all inhabitants of the planet. By examining overt differences, Krey has cleverly showcased the inherent similarities that defy geographical boundaries. Her commitment to celebrating the innocence and purity of childhood is not lost in translation.
“A portrait of a child from a far-off land can perhaps not only touch the heart but bring a feeling of that land to the observer. It can trigger the imagination and beguile you,” the artist theorizes. “This year, my theme took me where my heart was . . . to lands that I have never visited and to children I have never met.”
Though Krey had never mingled with these models personally, nor shared an intimate conversation with the child muses, she does have a real, deeply felt connection to their namesakes. “My African dolls were inspired by photos from my youngest son, Christopher, who is serving in the Peace Corps in West Africa. These are faces of cheeky boys and beautiful women whose stories will make you smile and break your heart. They are faces of those whose lives have been touched by a young man I love and miss. My doll ‘Sofara’ is where he lives, and ‘Bambra’ is the language he speaks.”
Her Asian creations are not born from such a familial tie, but they still resonate with the artist on a deeply personal and spiritual level. “The Chinese and Japanese dolls come from my love and fascination with a beautiful Asian face. Their coloring, their eyes and their faces are from another land of which I know little. Perhaps I was able to capture an expression and caught a feeling that will warm any heart. And their clothes! Who can resist a beautiful kimono, an obi tied in the traditional ‘butterfly’ way or a silk tunic in a rich color?”
As a fabric designer in her “past life,” Krey is very in touch with textures and tactile pleasures. She is smitten with the sensations that a bolt of silk or a swatch of velvet can evoke in her. “I love vintage fabrics. I do,” she says. “To find something that has ‘my name’ written all over it with the patina of age can spark my imagination. That is a good reason for creating a particular doll. The beauty of a beaded flapper dress, a romantic old wedding gown or a crisp, white cotton Victorian christening gown can be inspiring. It’s a case of ‘doll artist meets fabric designer.’”
To Krey’s way of thinking, she’s not alone with her desire to be challenged and introduced to new customs and mores. “I believe my collectors, too, want to be inspired. Their imaginations are triggered by faces and clothing from other nations. It opens the door to another world for them as it does for me. It’s a partnership that I am privileged to be a part of.”
As she approaches her 29th year in the doll industry—three decades of setting the bar higher and higher for herself—Krey shows no signs of fatigue or ennui. She is still excited to finish one collection and to begin work on the next. “I am ever grateful for the experiences that my love of art has given me throughout my life. It has been my friend for as long as I can remember. I have been able to use my hands, my brush and my imagination. It has brought me fun, joy and frustration,” Krey observes.
“My mind is ever full with something more than the mundane. It is focused on what I can create and what I can express next. It has filled my life—too much sometimes—and I am always looking forward with anticipation. I know what I have comes as a great and generous gift from God. When my collectors are able to share in this gift, all the better.”
Finished with her 2008 offerings, the artist can’t reveal what is perched on her drawing board for next year. One thing is for sure—her Krey Baby dolls will continue to evolve, and they will once more highlight her affinity and appreciation of the feminine form. Krey pleads guilty to this fem bias. “I am the mother of four boys but, alas, only one girl. Do you blame me for making more little girls? As a matter of fact, I started making dolls after I had my last baby boy. Having babies is the most creative thing one can do. I just kept on going . . . and going!” Collectors everywhere are grateful for her maternal instinct and her fantastically fertile imagination.
For more information, visit www.kreybaby.com or call (425) 483-0537.
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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