1. Gregg Ortiz: This talented young artist has captured the best of doll making with the tradition of fine antique doll creation. He applies eye lashes to his doll himself, and the costumes are often elaborate designs. Ortiz dolls are one-of-a kind creations which spare no detail and are signed by the artist. They are made in the USA, and are sculpted of resin.
2. Suzanne Gibson: She was originally a ballerina, and used her knowledge of dance and movement to create graceful dolls of porcelain, and later vinyl. Her little girl series was wistful and endearing. Little girls with long curls and ruffled bows peered at their human owners from long lashes. Legend had it she made three from the mold of porcelain, then broke it. Though she was my friend, she neither confirmed nor denied the legend. Later, she wrote a book on her own childhood centered on her Kalico Kids line of dolls. These were made in porcelain, but also vinyl during the mid-seventies. After this, Gibson joined with Reeves International to create wonderful vinyl dolls including international children, Mother Goose, Goldilocks [with Steiff], First Ladies, and baby dolls. She also worked fervently to end puppy mills and for animal rights.
3. Pat Thompson: The late Pat Thompson founded her company Vlasta dolls around 1980, after she retired herself. Vlasta was named after her mother. The 1987 DOTY award winner created fantastic, high-end artist dolls using an enviable collection of antique materials, laces, and trims that she acquired over the course of her own life. Her resin and porcelain dolls were signed, and found their way into the collection of celebrities like Aaron Spelling, Oprah Winfrey, and Demi Moore. Whimsical animal figures were another of her specialties. In 1995, her doll studio outside Chicago burned after being struck by lightning. Thompson was devastated, but she literally resurrected the studio from the ashes and was open again by December of that year. The first doll she created after the fire was called “Phoenix.”
4. Deb Ritter: Deb is the founder of Uneek Doll Designs. She makes dolls of wood, often using simple clothes pins, unpainted nutcrackers, and miniatures. She creates astonishing likenesses of authors, literary characters, current celebrities, fictional and fantasy characters, artists, philosophers, TV legends and more. Lately, she has taken to arranging her dolls in dioramas. Her Tasha Tudor doll is astounding, and her incredibly detailed Lady Jane Grey and Anne Boleyn dolls poignant. Deb has been on The Today Show with her dolls and has had articles written about them as well.
5. Lewis Sorensen: Aside from Madame Tussaud herself, no one could create wax dolls and figures like Sorensen. He also could restore antique wax dolls. Some of the smaller dolls he made were “wax over” characters, but he also made life-sized figures for Ripley’s Believe It or Not museums and others. He was also a respected N.I.A.D.A artist who often wrote about dolls and compiled a book of his clippings, photos, and letters invaluable to anyone who researches dolls.
About the Author: Ellen Tsagaris has collected dolls since she was three years old. She has made dolls, priced dolls, repaired, dressed, and studied dolls. Besides dolls, she has studied other antiques and collectibles at museums, antiques shows, auctions, and flea markets since she was in grade school. She has set up at craft shows and presented papers on dolls and their history at the Midwest Modern Language Association. She is the author of several articles on dolls that have appeared in Doll Reader, National Doll World, Doll Designs, International Doll World, Hope and Glory, Doll News, Adventures, and The Western Doll Collector. She is the author of two books about dolls, Bibliography of Doll and Toy Sources and With Love from Tin Lizzie; A History of Metal Heads, Metal Dolls, Mechanical Dolls, and Automatons. An active blogger, she features two blogs about dolls, Dr. E’s Doll Museum, and Doll Museum. She lectures on dolls for various organizations and has displayed part of her collection in museums.
“Dolls are among the oldest cultural artifacts, and perhaps are the oldest toys. My passion for dolls began
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