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2402 W Rd
Bennington, VT, 05201
United States

802-447-7072

A behind-the-scenes look at the R. John Wright Dolls Design Studio in Bennington, Vermont. Written by R. John Wright, hear in his own words how the creative design process unfolds and how the world-renowned RJW dolls and animal characters are readied for production. 

In the Beginning

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A behind-the-scenes look at the R. John Wright Dolls Design Studio in Bennington, Vermont. Written by R. John Wright, hear in his own words how the creative design process unfolds and how the world-renowned RJW dolls and animal characters are readied for production. 

In the Beginning

John Wright

R. John Wright blogs about the process currently happening to design the souvenir doll for the 'In the Beginning' event coming up at the RJW Convention. This ticketed dinner is the first breakout event of the convention. The delicious meal will include themed decorations, favors and door prizes.  John and Susan will reminisce on the inspirations of their earliest dolls made in their Brattleboro apartment.

 

 

We're working on the 'In the Beginning...' event doll right now. The souvenir will be based on the sketch I did of a Steiff child doll which inspired me to become a dollmaker. This Steiff doll - circa 1911 - has proven to be quite inspirational. She's an unusual large-size - 17 inches (the same size as our Steiff Kinder dolls). We took her apart (and put her back together again!) and it was very interesting to see how she was made.

The earlier mentioned sketch of the doll turned out to be a very important little sketch. It dates from around 1972-3 - a full three years before I made my first doll. I was browsing in a bookstore and spied a huge 'coffee-table' book titled 'The Doll' by Carl Fox. The book was full of wonderful photographs of antique dolls. One photo in particular caught my attention. It was of an early (circa 1911) Steiff schoolroom with a teacher and group of adorable little pupils. I was immediately taken with the dolls! I grew up with Steiff animals but did not know they had made dolls too. I loved the way they were made out of felt.

Although couldn't afford the book, I went back a few times just to look at the photo. On my last visit I took out a piece of pale green paper and drew a quick sketch of one of the Steiff children. The sketch wound up in the bottom of my desk drawer for a few years. When I was laid off from my job in 1976, I got the sketch out and began contemplating how I could make a doll.... The sketch resides in my office today - now 43 years after I drew it. It truly is the 'seed' - the genesis of all that came after.

Here I am today in my office holding a large-size original Steiff doll circa 1911.

Here I am today in my office holding a large-size original Steiff doll circa 1911.

Here are 3 pics of the doll I'm holding. This very early Steiff child doll is 17 inches tall and full of personality considering she's over 100 years old!

Inside the face was perhaps the most intriguing aspect. I don't know if I can describe it.... under the chin and between the eyes there was a small rectangular piece of felt. These were hand-stitched to the face using tiny stitches that carefully didn't go through to the front of the face. The purpose of these patches was to create tension to cause the contours of the face at those points to be more pronounced. I've never seen anything like it! It made me wonder if they used this technique on their animals too to create a more sculptural outline. In any event, it sure makes you wonder about all that goes behind making a doll - especially an artistic doll in a manufacturing environment. We're well-aware of this of course, but it's just fascinating to see it in another maker's work. Bravo Steiff!

This shows the front of the face with the felt skin peeled down. The rectangular patch (see red arrow) occurs at the bridge of the nose.

This shows the front of the face with the felt skin peeled down. The rectangular patch (see red arrow) occurs at the bridge of the nose.

Here's one more picture showing the little darlings in school circa 1911