|Raising the Bar|
|Written by Sharon Verbeten|
|Monday, 01 December 2008 00:00|
One heartfelt request. That‚Äôs all it took for Heidi Plusczok to embark on a craft that would lead her to becoming a revered and award-winning doll artist.¬† Almost 30 years ago, when her then 10-year-old daughter, Katja, asked for a porcelain doll, the die was cast, introducing Plusczok into the wonderful world of dollmaking‚ÄĒa career that has served her well.
Unable to afford such a doll at the time, Plusczok sculpted one out of Cernit. ‚ÄúI had no idea how to start a project like that, but I just took the doll I had as a child and used her as my model,‚ÄĚ says Plusczok, 62, who resides in Germany. ‚ÄúI sat her in front of me and started to sculpt. ‚Ä¶ Her name was ‚ÄėJohanna,‚Äô and I believe she turned out al right because it was a wonderful birthday present for my daughter.
‚ÄúShe was so happy and proud‚ÄĒof course, now her friend wanted a doll, too, and her friend‚Äôs friend. This is how I got my first orders and started my very first little production.‚ÄĚ
Home of Fairytales
After creating that first doll, Plusczok gained the confidence to go forward. ‚ÄúI started out sculpting dolls for friends,‚ÄĚ she says. ‚ÄúLater, I learned to work with porcelain and had my own workshops on making reproductions of antique dolls.
‚ÄúMy first porcelain dolls looked like antiques, but I then had the confidence to sculpt children‚Äôs portrait [dolls] and slowly found my own style.‚ÄĚ¬† Today, that style is reflected in her vinyl dolls, with their playful visages and happy demeanors.
The 1980s was a decade of learning, refining and teaching others to sculpt (through workshops as well as a book on sculpting technique). ‚ÄúI basically taught myself,‚ÄĚ she says.
‚ÄúFinding out how to work with porcelain ‚Ä¶ was quite difficult at that time,‚ÄĚ she says. ‚ÄúThere were no books available, and few artists who worked with porcelain. This kind of doll art was just emerging.‚ÄĚ
But rather than feeling that learning a new craft was tedious, Plusczok was energized and dedicated. ‚ÄúI had to develop my skills and learned to do without dolls as models. ‚Ä¶ Now it got really exciting,‚ÄĚ she admits. ‚ÄúThe first portrait dolls of real children were created, and after that, I had many, many orders.‚ÄĚ
Crossing the Pond
Shortly after, Plusczok met the owner of German doll company Zapf Creation; they teamed up, with Plusczok creating models for the vinyl dolls Zapf would produce. ‚ÄúAfter the first collection (1995), it got harder and harder for me to see that others designed my clothing and painted my dolls,‚ÄĚ she says. ‚ÄúI always had the urge to reconquer my dolls.‚ÄĚ
A renegotiated contract with Zapf allowed her to do just that, selling her own vinyl dolls in the United States. ‚ÄúFrom then on, the dollmaking began all over again, and I was able to finally present my own vinyl collection in 1999, having the feeling that I had my dolls back,‚ÄĚ she says. ‚ÄúIt was very important for me that I took this step.‚ÄĚ
For Plusczok, creating her vinyl dolls is a very personal experience‚ÄĒone she feels requires talent, creativity and endurance. She constantly refines her skills and her dolls. ‚ÄúWhen I finally complete a new collection, I feel very happy for a couple of days,‚ÄĚ she says. ‚ÄúThen I start to make out details that are not perfect, and I know what I have to improve the next time. I never have the feeling that everything is perfect; there is always a little doubt that encourages me to change one thing or the other for the next collection.‚ÄĚ
Refueling, Looking Forward
Also fueling her passion for her dolls is the feedback Plusczok receives from collectors and dealers. ‚Äú‚ÄėWhat am I going to do next year?‚Äô shoots through my mind‚ÄĚ she says. ‚ÄúMy challenge is to be better each year.‚ÄĚ
Joining Cultures, Breaking Borders
The theme for her 2009 dolls is Merry-Go-Round. The children‚Äôs game has been around for more than 150 years‚ÄĒall around the world. It connects past and present as well as children of all cultures. Plusczok‚Äôs 2009 line will include 22 dolls‚ÄĒincluding several more than 70 cm.
According to Plusczok, ‚ÄúThis game has united children since the 19th century, and it is still played today‚ÄĒboth on Sundays in fine clothing after church and on schoolyards all around the world.‚ÄĚ
This theme allows Plusczok to further explore her love of depicting children from all cultures. ‚ÄúMore and more it has become an urge for me to join children from different cultures, unprejudiced in play, in my lines.
‚ÄúFor years, I had ideas for new faces when I saw the children on their way to the elementary school across the road from our house,‚ÄĚ she says. ‚ÄúSince I started traveling to Indonesia, I was inspired by children of other parts of the globe.‚ÄĚ She has since sculpted, among others, dolls with Balinese, Asian, Egyptian and African faces.
And while Plusczok is dedicated to getting the dolls‚Äô looks ‚Äújust right,‚ÄĚ dealers seem thrilled with her execution. ‚ÄúJust as we were captivated by the pure souls of Heidi‚Äôs dolls‚ÄĒno one captures that expression of innocence better‚ÄĒtime and time again, customers mention the same thing. They are awed by the faces they see and are astonished by the clothing the dolls wear,‚ÄĚ says Glenn Lash, store manager at Happily Ever After in Philadelphia, Pa., which has carried Plusczok‚Äôs dolls since 2001.
‚ÄúMy favorite is ‚ÄėSakayasa,‚Äô the Balinese boy from the 2007 collection,‚ÄĚ he says. ‚ÄúWhile exotic, he is still very much the little boy I see in my nephews and, well, as I saw in myself.‚ÄĚ
Meshing Craft and Culture
Trackback(0)TrackBack URI for this entry