|Hooray For Hildegard|
|Written by Robert Haynes-Peterson|
|Thursday, 01 January 2009 00:00|
Hildegard GĂŒnzel has done it again. Celebrating 35 years of dollmaking this year, the German artistâs creations continue to smile and jump and laugh and take us to where the livinâ is easy.
âHildegardâs workmanship is exquisite,â notes Barrie Shapiro, owner of The Toy Shoppe in Richmond, Va. âShe captures a rare emotional quality, creating truly individual dolls, handcrafted slowly, carefully and lovingly.â
Best known for her work in wax-over-porcelain, GĂŒnzel focuses so intently on the sculpting of each face, on the details of each accessory and on the finery of the apparel, you can almost feel the intensity of creation and the subsequent joy she must go through as each smiling child comes to life. That GĂŒnzel won five 2007 DOLLS Awards of Excellence nominations (for âVanilla,â âPipa,â âLotta,â âDiandraâ and âAllegra and Pierrotâ) is a testament to her continuing excellence in the field. She really is at the top of her game.
âMy team and I are honored that we received so many nominations and awards this year,â GĂŒnzel says with justifiable pride. âThe DAEs and Golden Teddies have always been very important in my career, and Iâm always thankful to the judges, readers, dealers and collectors who have been so loyal to me all these years.â
GĂŒnzelâs showcase piece this year, âAllegra and Pierrot,â is a perfect example of how her work continues to grow and shine. Limited to an edition of ten, the pair exudes charm and mystery, the innocence of youth combined with the complexity of the Commedia dâ Arte. Of course the pair features high-quality details like handmade human-hair wigs, unique glass eyes and the finest silks, but details like handmade leather shoes for Pierrot, a Columbine felt hat for Allegra and Pierrotâs precisely proportioned charming plush teddy exemplify wonderfully that GĂŒnzelâs personal demand for perfection never waivers. The depth of expression on both dollsâ faces is hard to believe, and the piece has received âwonderful comments from collectors,â according to Susan Anderson at Children of the Heart in East Lansing, Mich.
Andersonâs personal GĂŒnzel favorite this year is âDiandra.â The 30-inch wax-over-porcelain beauty emotes curiosity and wonder, her girlish muslin dress and delicate headband add to her sweetness. âFrom the time I first saw her photo, to âmeetingâ her at IDEX, I knew she was a winner,â Anderson enthuses. âShe has such a precious face, and looks as though she could come alive and start running around the room as a toddler would do. In my opinion, this is a doll you want to keep in the family, passing her on from generation to generation.â
GĂŒnzel agrees that âDiandraâ is special. âSheâs dressed so you can see her cute, molded body. Another special doll is our anniversary porcelain doll, âLydia,â named after my mother, and uniquely dressed in a light, English mint green. She has such a friendly look that people immediately fall in love with her.â GĂŒnzel is particularly proud of this anniversary collection of porcelain dolls. âFor me, this line is one of the best Iâve ever done,â she shares. âThe entire collection created strong emotions in me, and in the people who have seen them.â
While the latest porcelain creations are always reason to celebrate, her new resin collection is definitely creating buzz. This second series of resin dolls is even more detailed and precious than the debut 2006 collection. Limited to editions of 200 or less, her seven new resin beauties show the same attention to detail as her porcelain beauties.
âThe resin collection has been very well received by our customers,â says Anderson. âSeveral of the dollsââVanilla,â âRebeccaâ and âPipaââsold out very early on in the year.â
Debbie Bibb at The Doll House, in Edmond, Okla., agrees. âEveryone just loves the new resin dolls. They look so real, it seems as though they could speak to you.â
âBecause of the incredible success of my 2006 resin collection,â says GĂŒnzel, âI decided to create seven dolls at different stages of childhood. Everyone will find a special doll in this collection.â
âNellyâ and âVanillaâ are infants while âDarlingâ and âLottaâ represent toddlers. The beautiful children progress in approximate age: 4-year-old âPipa,â 5-year-old âChiyoriâ and 9-year-old âRebecca.â Their delicate expressions also progress, from innocent to playful to curious. In addition, because the line sold out so quickly, GĂŒnzel designed companion teddy bears and bunnies. Made in Germany and constructed of the best moÂhair, they sell for about $235 each.
Resin has been an exciting adventure for GĂŒnzel, who notes: âWhile porcelain dolls are best admired from a certain distance, my resin dolls like to be held. They can truly be played with!â Featuring supple arms and legs, individually molded for each limited-edition poseable doll, GĂŒnzel designs the age-appropriate clothing and insists on the same level of care and quality as with her porcelain dolls.
âItâs quite evident that Hildegard has given much thought and care to the design and creation of her resin collection,â says Shapiro. âHer expressive sculpting, delicate facial painting and attention to even the smallest detail transform each of her resin dolls into a masterpiece.â
Priced from about $720 (for the 21-inch âPipaâ) to about $1,000 (for 16-inch âVanilla,â a special anniversary edition), the dolls are definitely still collectible, but at a more approachable level than her porcelain creations. âThe resin dolls give people who admire Hildegardâs work a chance to add her beautiful dolls to their collections versus only dreaming of one day owning her fabulous wax-over-porcelain pieces,â says Anderson.
In addition to their beauty and charm, the 2007 resin dolls celebrate GĂŒnzelâs 35th anniversary in the industry. To thank collectors, she created âVanillaâ especially to mark the date. Dressed in Sunday finery, the doll is a happy 12-month-old, hugging a very special teddy. On the sole of his paw is inscribed âAnniversary Edition Hildegard Gunzel 2007.âÂ The doll wears an elegant pleated skirt and white collar, cardigan sweater and patent leather shoes. Limited to an edition of 135, she sold out quickly.
âI think the photos of Vanilla speak for themselves,â says Anderson. âShe is a precious little one. Sheâs a great choice to celebrate Hildegardâs anniversary.â
No less charming than the dolls, after all this time, is the artist herself. Smiling, positive and filled with love, GĂŒnzel resonates with the beauty and energy of a woman half her age. âI believe the artistâs personality is always reflected in their work,â Anderson continues. âHildegard is such a sweet, kind and loving individual. Sheâs very creative, with a wonderful imagination.â
GĂŒnzel herself credits those around her with her continued success. âThe energy I receive to create is given to me by my husband, Fran; my children; my mother, Lydia, and, of course, my team!â She spent this past summer preparing for her son Kaiâs wedding.
âItâs been a very exciting time for me, with lots of organizing to do. They chose a beautiful castle in the area, and thank goodness his fiancĂ©e, Susanne, fulfilled my dreams of a white wedding. She dressed like a princess!â
Despite all the wedding planning, GĂŒnzel also manages to make time for other pursuits and passions. Besides her 2008 collections of dolls, teddy bears and bunnies, GĂŒnzel, an ardent gardener, has designed a âbeautiful park around my house.â Sheâs also collaborating with the American pop artist Mel Ramos to create three-dimensional pieces. âThis is a huge honor for me,â she says.
âI never sit still,â she confides. âNext yearâs collection is already created, and is very, very exciting. Keep an eye out for âFlorian,â our first boy in resin!â
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