|Charmed, I'm Sure|
|Written by Bethany Raborn|
|Thursday, 01 February 2007 00:00|
The term charisma implies a certain magnetic charm or appeal, which is exactly how many doll enthusiasts regard Charisma Brands. Beginning with the merger of L.L. Knickerbocker and Marian, Charisma made a historic move in 1991 by apÂproaching Marie Osmond to endorse a line of dolls for QVC. Osmond responded by actually designing the line instead, and in 1998, she and her husband and a group of investors bought the company, taking it to a new level. Since then the company has gone through mergers and transitions, but the core remains true to its initial ideals.
âWhile the name has changed, many of the people have remained the same,â notes Peggy Vicioso, vice president, marketing and product development. âMany of our dedicated employees have been with the companies through all of the transitions.â
The result of such dedication can be seen in the broad line of dolls Charisma has produced and created throughout the years. The company continues to build the Marie Osmond Dolls. In 2003, it gained the licensing of the well-known Kewpie, created in 1909 by Rose OâNeill, the first to introduce porcelain bisque dolls and figurines in 1913. Throughout the years Charisma also produced collectible doll lines for Bob Mackie, Richard Simmons, Universal Studios, Edith Head, Walt Disney, Warner Bros., Candy Spelling, Willow and Daisy, Magic Attic Club and more.
Charismaâs repertoire expanded again in 2006 when the company introduced three new collectionsâCandy Fashion, Lulla-My-Baby and Artista. Candy Fashion, a classic fashion doll originally produced in 1962, was âthe dream of every girl.â During the 1960s, she was readily availableâ complete with four ensembles and matching acÂcessoriesâin supermarkets across the country. Thanks to Charisma, Candyâas charming as everâis once again on shelves.
Rather than a nod to nostalgia, Lulla-My-Babyâan affordable, interactive play doll for the next generation of collectorsâis a look ahead. The dolls, made with baby-soft vinyl, can be rocked to sleep in their own cradle-shaped box to the sound of the five classic lullaby tunes featured on an accompanying CD. âThis doll incorporates both the early learning importance of music in a childâs development along with the innate nurturing aspect of life,â Vicioso explains.
Both of these collections were created to push the envelope and âhookâ younger collectors with a doll that was as artistically beautiful a piece as it was durable and high on âplayability.â
Sisterhood of Artists Charisma took the concept of an artistically designed play doll (or a playable art doll) to the next level with the Artista line, which was introduced at IDEX in January 2006. The idea behind it was to bring together gifted artists, designers and sculptors to collaborate on a line of dolls that could be incorporated into any home setting and used for âplay and display.â
The first collection featured eight dolls produced as a joint project beÂtween artists Donna RuBert and Jane Pinkstaff. The line proved successful enough to warrant the addition of two baby dolls, this time designed by Rachel Scott, to the line in spring 2006. Kymberli Durden included two more dollsâpreemie babiesâlast June. The small edition sizes of the dolls (each less than 500) ensured their appeal to collectors. Both âWinter Wonderlandâ and âTimeless Treasureâ sold out quickly.
âI think using several artists within one collection is the epitome of what Artista was meant to beâa collection of some of the industryâs most talented artists showcasing their work in trusted, fine-quality reproductions,â Vicioso says.
Charisma actively works to find talent by visiting regional art, toy and doll shows, scouring the Internet and attending large industry shows. Thereâs even an open invitation on its websiteâcharisma brands.comâfor new talent.
The updated collection for January 2007 features seven new dolls and highlights the talents of Pinkstaff, Durden, RuBert, Scott and Sandra Bilotto, all of whom bring a lifetime love of dolls and art to the table.Â âThis line is a perfect prototype of artists who share a common goal and can come together in unity to present a new doll line,â says Durden, who created âPuppy Tails,â âPretty Kittyâ and âRose Petal.â âAs a part of the doll industry, we have to unify ourselves and be willing to give to one another. There are no disadvantages; we are all on the same team.â
âThe benefit is the obvious diversity of styles that emerge,â concurs PinkÂstaff, who joined Charismaâs Artista team in 2004. âEach artistâs own interpretation of the defining characteristics offers collectors a broader selection to choose from. Yet collectors know all the pieces are based on the same quality, workmanship and overall desirability thatâs consistently achieved with the Artista line.âÂ Bringing Baby Home Though Charisma markets its dolls in specialty doll and gift stores, the company remains dedicated to selling through QVC and other electronic retailers in an effort to âtruly bring the dolls into the homes of collectors.â
The âplay and displayâ aspect of the Artista line is something all the contributing artists take seriously. Each doll has aspects collectors seek, yet it is also constructed to fit into a dĂ©cor, made to be played with and designed to encourage young collectors. âWhen I sculpt dolls, I always envision how the doll may be played with, and try to sculpt it in that fashion,â Durden says. âPlus I have three girls who help out with testing the play durability aspect.â
Charisma rises to the âdurability challengeâ by using its proprietary Caressalyn vinyl, which has a hard, petal-smooth finish that emulates fine bisque porÂcelain while allowing them to stand up to vigorous play. Durdenâs dolls are made with human hair and a life-touch vinyl, adÂding to their lifelike quality.Â Other dolls in the line are made with high-quality wigs or rooted hair fibers deÂsigned to stand up to repeated combing and styling. Clothes are designed in better fabrics that can be taken on and off over and over again without becoming worn. âThere is nothing to worry about when it comes to ruining our dolls,â Vicioso assures.
âYou donât have to be a doll collector to appreciate the warmth of an ArtÂista doll,â Vicioso adds. âEach doll is truly a work of art and can be displayed right alongside other types of âtraditionalâ home dĂ©cor and artwork.â
Just ask the artists, who are only too happy to offer suggestions on how to make their creations feel welcome in your home. Pinkstaff, for instance, recommends displaying them within easy reach, for frequent cuddling, of course. And instead of lining them like lifeless knick-knacks, make them come to âlifeâ by creatively posing them in dynamic vignettes of babies grouped in realistic settings. Use accessories like baby buggies, strollers, bouncy seats and toys to inject a personal touch of joy and fun to your display.
Helping to add to their special quality, the dolls, which range in price from $49.95 to $149.95, are kept in low editions of 250 to 500 pieces. While the limited edition is sure to appeal to avid collectors, the line also seeks to attract individuals Vicioso calls âcasual collectors and non-collectors.â
âAfter selling dolls for 15 years, we have gotten to know our customers very well,â Vicioso explains. âWe wanted to reach those who have walls of dolls, those with dolls in every room of their homes and those who buy a doll because it evokes a memory, looks fabulous in a themed room or coordinates as an art piece in their dĂ©cor. I see more and more young girls and mothers seeking out just the right magical doll that touches the heart. We believe Artista Dolls have that magic to touch the young collectorâs heart. Creating memories for them helps ensure they become doll collectors.â
It is this sensitivity to the emotions and charm the dolls possess that gives this large company such a strong footÂhold in the industry. The company stands behind its artists, knowing it is the artÂist who brings the doll to life. Perhaps Durden says it best: âAs long as there are companies like Charisma that care about collectors, there will be a doll industry strong and more united than ever before in history. How exciting it is to be a part of this new revolution of doll collecting.â
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