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Doll Artist/Doll Designer - what's the difference?

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The National Institute of American Doll Artist, The British Doll Artists association and the Original Doll Artist Council of America have provided a Relationship Diagram as part of the Artist Doll Standard Definitions. They encourage all doll makers, retailers and collectors to use These Definitions as a guide for uniform communications in their doll producing, collecting and marketing endeavors.


My introduction into the world of porcelain doll making and my decision to become a designer was much the same as many artist/designers today. I decided to take porcelain doll making classes with the end result being a "Father Christmas". As I was cleaning the greenware (poured and produced from a modern doll mold), I held the head in my hands and thought; "I don't want to make someone else's doll, I want to do my own. I can sculpt, I can do this!"
So began my journey into the wonderful world of dolls.

  • Doll Designer?

The terms artist/sculptor/designer are interchangeable, relating to one who creates their own piece of art. A doll artist/designer takes an idea and transforms it into a three dimensional doll form by using his/her hands to sculpt or rearrange raw material.

A doll designer/sculptor works with a variety of mediums to produce a One-of-a-Kind or Limited Edition doll. The designer who works with wood, stone, metal, cloth, paper maiche and polymer clays produce a piece that is a one-of-a-kind in the strictest terms. These wonderful dolls are finitely detailed and the making of a plaster reproduction mold would be very difficult, if not literally impossible due the undercuts created by the amount of detail. The use of resin and rubber molds are generally used to reproduce finely detailed pieces. The amount of artist expression is almost limitless in these dolls as the artist does not have to be concerned about the plaster mold making process.

Other designers, such as myself, sculpt in water-based clay and create with the intent a mold will be made to produce a porcelain doll. The feel of the clay and ease in working with the medium, as well as the longevity of the porcelain, attracts me to this medium. An artist "waste mold" is made from the sculpt. The original is casted from that mold and details are refined. If desired, that casting can be further refined to produce an "Artist Work Mold", from which a One-of-a-Kind or Limited Edition is produced. The "Artist Work Mold" differs from a production mold in that it is usually more difficult to work with and not yet suitable for release. Many designers choose to sell their designs to doll manufacturers or have their own production molds made for sale to doll studios. The dolls produced from production molds generally differ from the One-of-a-Kind or Limited Edition originals in size, since making a plaster production mold requires a process called "down sizing" and produces a slightly smaller doll. Even with production molds, ***The COPYRIGHT for the original design remains with the designer.***

  • Doll Artist?

There are many wonderful doll studios today who provide the opportunity to learn to make porcelain dolls from production molds. Highly qualified teachers are available to assist anyone who wants to learn to develop their skills in making porcelain dolls. Classes and seminars provide the opportunity to become an experienced doll maker or a Doll Artisan. Extended classes and workshops provide the opportunity to obtain degrees in doll making and to become teachers and instructors. **Where would we be without them!** The skills to clean the greenware, the techniques required to china paint and the processes required to reproduce these dolls is considered more than a craft, it is considered and taught as art. Competitions at doll shows and exhibits ascertain the best of these doll artist and they establish a place for themselves within the industry. These artist dolls are often superior in quality to some of the mass-produced dolls of today in that the time spent and eagerness of the artist to produce a "blue ribbon" doll results in one of the highest standard dolls, as judged in competitions. Many artist carry that interest further and become designers or sculptors.

  • What does this mean to the collector?

The doll artist who makes reproduction dolls from molds MUST provide credit to the original artist/designer of the doll (for copyright purposes). The original designer or mold identity is usually (but not always) included (recessed into) the back of the breastplate or on the upper back of the neck in a reproduction doll mold. The artist' signature is usually found in the same area but they are not one and the same unless you are lucky enough to have a doll who is signed by the original designer.

  • Dolls produced from production molds that have been "tweaked" (minor changes to produce another mold) are pirated.
  • Doll artist today provide some very different and creative "interpretations" of the modern reproduction doll. Dolls produced from production molds and china painted differently or costumed in a unique way are sometimes sold as a One-of-A-Kind but are not the One-of-a-Kind original sculpt.
  • Limited Edition dolls made from production molds simply means the doll maker or artist chose to make X number of dolls from that mold of the same costuming/displaying/ or painting technique and is not a designer Limited Edition.

The decision to purchase a doll is based on many things. An enthusiast or a collector may purchase a doll for investment purposes or because the doll invokes an emotional response or identity.

The primary considerations in purchasing a doll for collecting purposes should be: QUAlITY (craftsmanship, durability, longevity), RARITY (number of dolls produced) and ORIGINALITY.

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