By Rachel Hoffman
“Rooted in the tradition of early toymakers such as Steiff, Lenci, and Kathe Kruse, R. John Wright Dolls’ playful and exquisitely crafted figures are recognized throughout the world for their unprecedented level of workmanship and technical sophistication”. – Krystyna Poray Goddu
Ruby Lane had the opportunity to sit down with artist R. John Wright of RJW Dolls to get the inside scoop on the production of his latest addition to the Wizard of Oz Series, The Tin Man.
RL: The Tin Man captivated our audience from the moment we introduced him to our social media extensions. Everyone loved him. He is a different look for you, RJW, but also something we don’t think the world has ever seen. He is so lifelike, it is fascinating. What was it like creating him?
RJW: We were apprehensive about starting work on the Tin Man because we knew his costume would be very challenging. During our research, we discovered that the studio had made a full suit out of tin but it proved to be too heavy and noisy. Costume designer par excellence, Adrian, opted to make the entire costume out of buckram instead! This was a real eye-opener for us because we were very familiar working with buckram. As many collectors know, buckram fabric provides the foundation for all our molded felt faces. It was then that the project began to fall into place.
The Tin Man
RL: While not quite a doll and not an action figure that is designed for rough and tough “masculine situations – the Tin Man is both a doll and an action figure that would appeal to the male collectors who collect action figures. Dare we say he is a Premium Art Toy?
RJW: For me the coolest part about the Tin Man is that he is a complete doll wearing a costume. This is the first time we’ve seen this character created in this way. There are felt hands under those gloves and inside his shoes he has toes on his feet. His felt face, sculpted in a likeness of Jack Haley, is ‘made up’ with silver paint and applied rivets. In this way, he is just like the actor getting ready for a performance. His ball & socket joints add another dimension of realism.
RL: What is the greatest challenge in bringing the Tin Man to life?
RJW: Sculpting the face was a challenge because we didn’t want him to be too fixed in his expression. We wanted to capture his strength and also his yearning that made the character so appealing. But the costume itself was our greatest challenge simply because we had never designed anything like it before.
RL: What do you want the world to know about the Tin Man?
RJW: We’d like to emphasize that in spite of all the makeup, our Tin Man is indeed a felt doll with a molded felt face! This is another example of why we love the felt medium. You can do virtually anything with it! Another thing we’d like people to know is that the ‘tin’ suit is made exactly like the original out of heavy starched fabric.
Limited Edition Toto
RL: What is next on the horizon that we can look forward to from the R. John Wright Studio?
RJW: Right this minute we are finalizing details on the newest “Hummel” doll, the ‘Celestial Musician.’ Once that is completed, we will dive into the development of the Cowardly Lion. We are really looking forward to that as it will complete the set of the ‘Big Four’ from the Wizard of Oz. We know it will be fun to photograph the characters together at last.
The Wicked Witch of the West
The Cowardly Lion
Visit the R. John Wright Website for more information about RJW and a further peek into their production.
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