From April 25 to 27, the hotel bustled with the activity brought in by the Kish & Co. Collectors Conference & Convention. The hotel’s Victorian extravagance set the stage for an extended weekend of fine company, food, entertainment, learning opportunities and, of course, dolls. The event, dubbed Twice is Nice, kicked off Friday with store specials and collector interviews, which ran throughout the weekend. There were also workshops on BJD maintenance, artistic footwear, decorating with dolls, sculpting with Helen Kish, glamour photography and the special guest—acclaimed fashion illustrator Jim Howard. The convention picked up full swing at the opening dinner where enthusiastic attendees dressed as their favorite Kish dolls to participate in the theme.
Kish & Co. treated guests to brand-new “Florian”—an irresistible resin fairy. Feasters chose among three decadent dishes—tricolor cheese tortellini, grilled prime top sirloin or parmesan-crusted sole. At dinner’s close, Kish dolls and their human counterparts took the stage—the audiences’ clapping buoyed favorites to winning success. After dinner, tenacious convention-goers stayed up late, enjoying Kish & Co. and Maggie Made Dolls movies.
Fueled by the seafood-themed breakfast buffet Saturday morning, collectors learned lessons at workshops about replacing mohair wigs on their Kish dolls, patternmaking for 14-inch dolls, attiring “Bitty Bethany” in “Bleuette” clothing and making a doll dress from a vintage hankie. In the afternoon, the workshops were repeated with the exception of the wigging class. A class on creating a room for “Riley” throughout the year was offered instead.
The Saturday luncheon highlighted guest artist Maggie Iacono of Maggie Made Dolls. After attendees took in a light meal, Maggie’s husband, Tony Iacono, presented a slide show on her art. “When you look at our pieces, you see Maggie’s art and my mechanics,” he said. Prompted by a picture of him sitting with his wife and three daughters, Tony noted, “I am the happiest man in the world because I am surrounded by beauty.” Sentiment was chased by a hilarious “Dateline” spoof film in which the Iacono family investigated Dolly Boredom Syndrome (DBS)—the hazards of leaving dolls in boxes unentertained.
If collectors don’t entertain their dolls, dolls will entertain themselves while their owners are out! The luncheon wrapped up with each collector unveiling the exquisite Helen Kish/Maggie Iacono collaboration—“Twice is Nice Brynne,” a Kish “Bitty Brynne” sculpt in a Maggie Made yellow dress with a burst of violet flowers at the waist. During Saturday tea, Helen Kish answered questions submitted earlier. Tim Purk, assistant visual manager at Toys “R” Us in New York City, hosted the interview, eliciting candid insights from Kish.
On creating fresh designs, Kish said, “Every year I wonder how I’m ever going to do it again. Then I stop thinking about it and I do.” One collector asked whether fine art is part of her future plans. Kish responded: “I was heading toward fine art, casting in bronze, and then Riley came along and tossed everything in the air. I haven’t been doing many one-of-a-kinds since then.” She would like to work with porcelain in the future, though, she said. It is her hope that her art “brings happiness to some people. What else can you ask for?
”After a cocktail hour Saturday night, a string quartet of local high school and college students set the mood for the banquet. Tables featured fresh flower centerpieces, incorporating brand-new releases “Poppy” and “Nell.” Kish & Co. Water Babies placed at every setting cleverly foreshadowed the “infomercial” film shown after convention-goers dined on grilled vegetable strudel, filet mignon or Atlantic salmon. Attendees laughed, some nearly to tears, upon discovering the countless practical uses for Water Babies—shoulder pads, skeet shooting, earmuffs and decorating, to name a few.
The evening wrapped up with a humorous skit, “Inside the Artist’s Studio.” Tony Iacono posed as a skeptical interviewer of fashion illustrator Jim Howard. Resident artists, Helen Kish and Maggie Iacono, felt slighted and created a ruckus in the audience with snide comments aimed at Howard. To avert chaos, Iacono acquiesced to the ladies’ shenanigans, inviting them onstage to be interviewed along with Howard. Convention-goers delighted upon opening brand-new red-haired “Piper” from the Chrysalis line, making a nice evening doubly so. After breakfast Sunday, collectors toured the Kish & Co. studio. Located on the corner of 33rd Avenue and Quivas Street, the former grocery store is airy with high ceilings, hardwood floors and natural light. Floor-to-ceiling hardwood and glass cabinets filled with Kish creations grace the front room. An array of original art—sculpture, paintings, drawings, photos—by Kish & Co. staff and family was scattered about the space for the tour, showing attendees the creative minds that drive the dolls they love. The large back room of the studio serves as the creative epicenter of the business.
Helen Kish and most of the staff work in the area which seems to explode with light and color. Kish doll vignettes line shelves and ignite the imagination. Many attendees found inspiration at the Kish & Co. studio. Collector Yvonne Norman of Des Moines, Iowa, said, “We were thinking about going home, but I’m so glad I came. It’s so amazing.” And that seemed to be a common sentiment among collectors about the convention as a whole. Like attendee June Giorvas said, “The last one was good. This is better. I’ve been to several other conventions. This is the best. It’s so family-like and friendly.”
In a phrase, twice definitely was nice.