|Written by Robert Haynes-Peterson|
|Sunday, 01 April 2007 00:00|
You may sometimes ask yourself ‚ÄúWhy hasn‚Äôt DOLLS written about this artist or that one?‚ÄĚ In the case of mother-daughter team Lucia and Judith Friedericy, the fact is, their dolls are so popular and sell out so quickly, it‚Äôs hard for us to catch up with them! Often by the time the paint on a Friedericy doll has dried, it‚Äôs already in a collector‚Äôs hands.
‚ÄúOrganic‚ÄĚ seems to be the best way to describe Lucia and Judith‚Äôs creative process. From the beginning, Lucia‚Äôs fairy tale, little girl and lady dolls have reflected a fluid, living design in their smooth, beatific faces, complex fabrics and original poses. The dolls are sculpted in porcelain clay (rather than shaped in molds), painted, coated in wax and finally costumed for an ethereal, playful look that successfully blends the play dolls of yesteryear with the art dolls of today.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôve worked this way since the beginning,‚ÄĚ says California-based Lucia. ‚ÄúWhen we started, in 1989 or 1990, I worked with my brother, John, who was an artist.‚ÄĚ Lucia‚Äôs son had been born prematurely, and she couldn‚Äôt return to her job as a costume designer at the University of Southern California. Looking for something to do, John suggested artist dolls and offered to sculpt the heads. At their Toy Fair debut in 1990, the Friedericys made their first sale to actress Demi Moore. Since then, Friedericy dolls have become highly collectible and attract an ardent fan base.Unfortunately, soon after their debut, John passed away due to complications from AIDS. Lucia‚Äôs mother, Judith, an art teacher (who retired earlier this year), gamely stepped up to the plate. ‚ÄúI had never worked in porcelain before, and am basically a two-dimensional artist,‚ÄĚ she explains, ‚Äúbut when John died, there was no other way of keeping the dolls going. I told Lucia, ‚ÄėLet me try.‚Äô I honestly don‚Äôt know how the transition worked; I guess from watching John all those years. And he still is watching me, too.
‚ÄĚJudith sculpts the porcelain, then hollows each doll out, the same way John did. Lucia then paints the faces, coats them with wax, and designs and creates costumes. Wire-formed muslin bodies give the dolls life and action. The results are one-of-a-kind whimsical beauties that develop and evolve throughout the creative process.
‚ÄúThe reason we did it this way was that, in the beginning, none of us knew how to make dolls,‚ÄĚ Lucia says. ‚ÄúJohn said, ‚ÄėI‚Äôll go buy some porcelain clay and sculpt it.‚Äô When he found they were too heavy, he said, ‚ÄėWell, I‚Äôll hollow them out!‚Äô‚ÄĚ
The collaboration has worked so well that the Friedericy ladies continue to stick by the formula. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs now been a very long time,‚ÄĚ Lucia says. ‚ÄúSometimes I‚Äôll suggest, ‚ÄėWhy don‚Äôt we at least do molds of the hands and feet,‚Äô and she‚Äôll refuse, saying ‚ÄėIt‚Äôs much faster the way we‚Äôre doing it.‚Äô"
Faster indeed. Lucia and Judith make about 75 dolls each year, most exhibited at industry and collectors‚Äô shows. New pieces are priced from about $1,700 to $4,000, though some ensemble character pieces may cost as much as $10,000.
‚ÄúWe began making smaller sizes about five to six years ago,‚ÄĚ Lucia says. ‚ÄúIt reflects market demands, but my mom also found she likes working in the smaller scale, with all the intricate details.‚ÄĚ
Get It Together
There are a few collaborative duos in the doll world, and each finds its own way to design. Some share a studio and brainstorm/gossip while they work. Others practice their part of the craft in separate rooms. Lucia and Judith choose to work from their own homes, about a mile apart.
‚ÄúMy mom does the dolls in batches of ten,‚ÄĚ Lucia explains. ‚ÄúShe‚Äôll call and say, ‚ÄėThere‚Äôs a kiln ready,‚Äô and my son will pick them up. I call her when they‚Äôre done.‚ÄĚ
The process may sound chaotic (‚ÄúSometimes I come up with ideas be¬≠cause I‚Äôve seen the dolls, and sometimes the dolls are created because we‚Äôve found great new fabric,‚ÄĚ Lucia notes), but for this creative pair, it works quite well.
‚ÄúWe talk all the time,‚ÄĚ Lucia says. ‚ÄúWe think of the things we feel like making or need to make. It works for us because we kind of leave each other alone. On the other hand, sometimes when you‚Äôre working on something, you kind of lose your perspective. She‚Äôll call, or I‚Äôll go over there, and we‚Äôll talk. She‚Äôs my biggest fan and I‚Äôm hers.‚ÄĚ
Judith concurs, saying the surprises the collaborative process encourages has a lot to do with what makes their dolls unique. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs part of the energy of what we‚Äôre doing. I‚Äôll give her these blank-looking heads, and I don‚Äôt get to see them again until they‚Äôre all finished. I give her the gesture, the palate with which to work, and she takes it from there. About 90 percent of the doll‚Äôs magic is what Lucia does. It‚Äôs the most remarkable surprise.‚ÄĚ
On more complex pieces, the advanced planning and verbal strategizing becomes significantly more detailed. For ‚ÄúInto the Woods,‚ÄĚ which features a variety of classic Grimms fairy-tale characters, the mother and daughter discussed the desired characters, the overall size and the setting of the piece.
‚ÄúLucia also likes action pieces; dolls that look like they‚Äôre flying,‚ÄĚ Judith explains. ‚ÄúIf she‚Äôs working on something like that, I‚Äôll try and make a face that reflects the action, so the design of the sculpts is not just accidental.‚ÄĚ
At the time of the interview, Lucia was busy working on a piece inspired by Van Gogh‚Äôs luminous painting ‚ÄúStarry Night.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúWith something like that,‚ÄĚ she says, ‚ÄúI‚Äôll decide I want, say, a fairy doll surrounded by swirling stars. So I‚Äôll tell my mother what I‚Äôm going for, and I‚Äôll wait and see what shows up at my doorstep.‚ÄĚ
In general, Lucia notes the whole process is ‚Äúvery laid back. A lot of times I won‚Äôt know what I‚Äôm going to do with the dolls until I see the person they‚Äôve become.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúWorking as a duo is incredible,‚ÄĚ Judith adds. ‚ÄúVery few mothers get the chance to watch their children create or do what they do at their jobs. It‚Äôs been an enormous joy for me to work with Lucia.‚ÄĚ
Into the Future
Despite finding a creative formula that works, Lucia and Judith are anything but stagnant. ‚ÄúOur dolls do change‚ÄĒthat‚Äôs one of the reasons we‚Äôve stayed in the business for as long as we have,‚ÄĚ Lucia emphasizes. ‚ÄúYou have to make each doll like it‚Äôs your first and best one.
‚ÄúA lot of our ideas grow organically from what we‚Äôre doing at the moment,‚ÄĚ she continues. The duo‚Äôs smaller scene pieces, for example, grew out of market demands and a brief collaboration with Richard Simmons to create resin versions of Friedericy dolls. ‚ÄúIt was also a time when I started creating accessory pieces, such as bodices and crowns, and learning I could shape them in paper clay,‚ÄĚ Lucia explains. ‚ÄúWhile doing this, I found I could make the dolls do really interesting things like standing free form, or making fairies ‚Äėfly.‚Äô It allows us to get a lot more sculptural.‚ÄĚ
Lucia and Judith also recently worked for the first time with another doll duo, Tom Francirek and Andre Oliveira, during the Magnum Opus doll show last February in Manhattan. The meeting of minds produced an elaborate Snow White and the Seven Dwarves piece for the show. ‚ÄúWe did that one really fast; it was fun,‚ÄĚ Lucia recalls. ‚ÄúI was really nervous! But the way we collaborated with Tom and Andre was great be¬≠cause it‚Äôs the way we work‚ÄĒwe picked a story and we each did our part.‚ÄĚ
Francirek and Oliveira also found the debut effort positive. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôd admired their work for many years. It was such a pleasure to finally meet Lucia and become friends with her. She‚Äôs truly one of the sweetest, kindest peo¬≠ple we‚Äôve had the pleasure of meeting.
‚ÄúThe collaboration with Lucia and Judith was a wonderful experience. It seemed difficult at first‚ÄĒthey‚Äôre in California, and we‚Äôre in Canada. It took many e-mails and telephone conversations. Photos were sent back and forth as we excitedly shared our progress with each other. Ultimately we were so happy with the result. We look forward to working on other pieces with them in the future.‚ÄĚ
In the meantime, Lucia continues to ready herself for upcoming shows, including IDEX 2007, the Doll and Teddy Bear Expo, the Watchanoff Gallery show in Moscow, Russia, and The Dollery‚Äôs annual In-Store Show in Whitman, Mass. She‚Äôs also exploring watercolor backgrounds on the doll scenes, and she and Judith have been crafting a series of works inspired by famous painters, where Judith also provides the background paintings based on famous works. Most recently the duo completed a piece inspired by the iconic painting ‚ÄúSunday on La Grande‚ÄĚ by Georges Seurat. Next up may be Renoir.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm always full of ideas,‚ÄĚ Lucia confides. ‚ÄúI wish there were two of me.‚ÄĚ Future plans may include expanding a series of ‚ÄúBookend‚ÄĚ dolls and encouraging interior designers to incorporate her more sculptural pieces. But who knows? The process continues to grow, evolve, mutate and take on a life of its own, and that‚Äôs exactly the way Lucia and Judith like it.
‚ÄúI try not to plan ahead too much,‚ÄĚ Lucia insists. ‚ÄúYou have an idea of what the characters will look like, but you adjust as you see what you‚Äôre working with. I think this will keep our work fresh for many years to come.‚ÄĚ
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