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Zwergnase: A Commitment to Quality and Originality
ZwergnaseThe conventional lends the world its existence. The unusual gives the world its value.” So reads the Oscar Wilde quote on Zwergnase’s Web site. Indeed it’s the quirky nature, combined with superb quality, of designer/owner Nicole Marschollek-Menzner’s dolls that imbues them with the magical appeal collectors seek.

Marschollek-Menzner’s unexpected combinations of material, colors and patterns delight the senses. (“Lenibertha” with her brown-and-pink flowered dress, orange-and-red striped knit stockings, green-and-white striped knit scarf and brown leather boots is an excellent example.) But it is her use of realistic expressions that absolutely characterizes her dolls, setting them apart from the doll “pack.” Whether in felt or vinyl, she captures moment after poignant moment in her idiosyncratic sweeties.

Marschollek-Menzner grew up in Thuringia, an area of central Germany long famous for toymaking. Amid cliffs and hills, spruce forest and valleys, is Schalkau, the town the artist lives in. “I was inspired by my surroundings and decided early on to become an artist. I have always been interested in creating artist expressions,” says Marscholleck-Menzer, who studied toy and mechanical design in Sonneberg, once considered the toy capital of the world.

After school, young Nicole honed her dollmaking skills at a doll company, and in 1994 she and her husband, Bernd, launched Zwergnase “to allow me to create and market my own dolls and bears,” she says. Steeped in the Thuringian culture she was raised in, Marscholleck-Menzer carries on the area’s centuries-old dollmaking tradition, yet she expands upon the definition of German dollmaking with her unique creations.

“She was just one of those who always had a wild fantasy. We laugh about it sometimes because she did such weird things,” says Sybille McQuilken, the U.S. promoter of Zwagnerse and a cousin of Bernd’s.

Although Marscholleck-Menzer’s doll costuming may be unusual and cacophonous, it strikes a surprising harmony. The inspiration for the ensembles starts with one little trigger. “When we go somewhere and she sees a fabric, she says, ‘I know what I want to do with this,’” says McQuilken.

Fabric inspires the costumes, but children bring Marscholleck-Menzer’s sculpts to life. From tremulous pouts and mischievous grins to pensive pondering, her characters exhibit the gamut of emotions found among little ones. “Children have so many different expressions, and I love to replicate certain moments of these expressions,” she explains.

And it’s that combination of spunky funky clothing and irresistible facial expressions that Zwergnase fans are taken by. “Our collectors’ response has been the same year after year regarding Nicole’s creations … fascination and awe,” says Barrie Shapiro, co-owner of The Toy Shoppe with husband Danny. “The expressions are so diverse, and the clothing designs colorful and appealing. Zwergnase dolls are personality- plus, sometimes quirky and always fun.”

Quality Is No. 1
But it’s not only Marscholleck-Menzer’s one-of-a-kind vision that distinguishes her dolls fromThe entryway to the Zwergnase showroom and office building flaunts a large photo of a surly looking sweetie, others. It’s their quality, too—it’s top-notch, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. Zwergnase owns a factory that employs 15 to 30 workers. From Marscholleck-Menzer’s initial vision, which she manifests in clay, to mold-building and the finished vinyl product retailers display on their shelves, Zwergnase dolls are produced at that factory.

“She really is at the factory every day,” McQuilken says of Marscholleck-Menzer. “She works there. She is involved in every aspect of production.” She is so involved, in fact, that she personally sets every doll’s eyes. “That is something that only Nicole does. Nobody else can touch it. So, basically she touches every doll that goes out. [The eyes] have to be set a certain way to give that certain expression she’s looking for. So, she does all that. Every doll,” McQuilken says.

Key to Zwergnase quality is the vinyl used. “The mixture of the vinyl, as well as color and consistency make a high quality vinyl,” says Marscholleck-Menzer.

Although the specifics of what makes Zwergnase vinyl grade “A” remains the “secret recipe,” McQuilken does reveal, “She makes it thicker, so it’s harder and more dense; you can’t bend it or squish it.” In fact, it’s vinyl’s unbreakable quality that led Marscholleck-Menzer to create in that medium.

Germany requires that vinyl manufacturers abide by strict standards, another reason Zwergnase dolls are top-of-the-line—vinyl must be phthalate- and lead-free, for instance. “According to the German Environmental Agency, you can only produce ‘clean’ nontoxic vinyl. Controls are tight and inspections are numerous,” Marscholleck-Menzer says.

“If you make any kind of product that could go in the hands of children, you cannot have chemical residue on the fabric or any lead whatsoever,” McQuilken says. “But that’s just in keeping with the German tradition of producing only the best. It has always been like this. Think of BMW ... . Germany has always done top-of-the-line and always wanted the best for the people,” McQuilken explains.

According to McQuilken, the Zwergnase factory is one of the only high-end vinyl manufacturers that remain in Germany. In fact, it produces vinyl for many other doll artists, such as the well-known Henry and Zofia Zawieruszynski. “Anyone who wants to have vinyl done right comes to us,” McQuilken says. “The investment [to establish a factory] is so great, you can’t do it for just one artist,” she adds.

Vinyl isn’t the only component that makes Zwergnase dolls high quality. Marscholleck-Menzer says only the finest fabrics are used, as well as real leather for shoes made at a factory in the Ore Mountains, human-hair wigs for most of the dolls and mouth-blown glass eyes. “The person who does our glass eyes also does human replacement eyes. They’re so realistic,” McQuilken says. “A special part of Thuringia—Lauscha—is the place where they make them. It’s famous for all sorts of glasswork.”

When Marscholleck-Menzer isn’t at the factory working, she’s at home working, McQuilken says. “When I go [to Germany], I stay with them, and it can drive you insane because she’s always doing something. She either does a doll or bear or knits something.” Dolls Marscholleck-Menzer creates during her “off hours,” for instance, are the felt cuties offered as part of her 2008 line—“Lenibertha,” “Linn-Gisela” and “Evaerna.” They aren’t produced at the factory, but rather, hand-created by Marscholleck-Menzer.

One thing is clear: Marscholleck-Menzer is committed. She’s committed to quality, and she’s committed to ingenuity. She’s entrenched in the Thuringian tradition of dollmaking, yet she continues to add to and reinvent the definition of German dollmaking every year; her 2008 line, which features six new sculpts, is no exception. Like Shapiro says, “Nicole’s 2008 Zwergnase dolls will definitely stimulate your doll senses!”

For more information, visit www.zwergnase.com.

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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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