One of the highlights of my summer was getting to show visiting friends my hometown, favorite locations, and fun, surprising spots. Among the places we visited was the Princeton Museum of Art, an absolute treasure tucked away on the famous university’s campus. Open to the public, requesting a voluntary, small entrance fee, it is a lovely way to pass a few hours or even a day. The Princeton collection is large, beautiful, diverse! Interestingly, many of Anna Maryina’s porcelain dolls evoke that same opulence and bygone glamour. Many of her miniature creations — under 6 inches tall — evoke an aura of a passionate past, a time where sophistication and style were honored and held in high esteem. Looking at Maryina’s handiwork is akin to strolling through a museum of fine arts. It is, indeed, that marvelous.
Recently, I had the chance to chat about Anna Maryina about her stunning dolls. The interview will be in an upcoming issue of DOLLS magazine, but, luckily for me and you, here are some additional photos and thoughts from the talented creator. Maryina has been well known in the doll world for more than 15 years. For a while, she created under the name Anna Hardman, so you might recall some of her gorgeous heroines as part of the Hardman oeuvre. Despite the name change, her dolls have not changed their allure or their intricacy. Anna Maryina dolls are miniature, but they speak volumes about costume dramas and beautiful portraits.
Maryina admits that she is influenced by oil paintings and the myriad lovely women who sat for their portraits, all those many decades ago. These stunning women allowed their outer trappings and inner souls to be captured and preserved on canvas. She is an admirer of John William Waterhouse and has kept the dolls that she has made as a tribute to his career. (Waterhouse was a British painter who created during the Romantic/Pre-Raphaelite Period. He died a century ago, in 1917 at the age of 68.)
Asked to describe an Anna Maryina doll, the artist is serious and considers her words carefully. “I love the sensual women from the paintings of John William Waterhouse. I would like to make even more three-dimensional figures of his work,” she told me. “Inspiration for my work honestly comes from many different sources. Sometimes it will just be an idea, like a flapper doll posing with a martini glass. Books, movies, paintings, and other art forms inspire me as well. My doll Katherine was influenced by the book “Katherine” by Anya Seton.” Seton was a prolific author, who was feted for her historical fiction. Smart and eloquent, Seton, who passed away in 1990, would correct her critics. She’d wisely explain that they “aren’t historical fiction, they’re biographical novels!”
That sumptuous blending of realism and romanticism is evident in Anna Maryina’s dolls. They could easily be the poster girls for an epic, sweeping romantic drama. Think the mega blockbuster book and cable series “Outlander” or the TV saga and soon-to-be a motion picture “Downton Abbey.” The same way that the sets, décor, costumes, and makeup immediately transport viewers to that long-ago epoch and foreign land, an Anna Maryina doll also punches a ticket for imaginative travel and a mental vacation. Maryina’s dolls invite us to wander far away from the familiar and the ordinary.
“When I sculpt, my dolls often reflect my own feelings,” she shared with me. “I would describe my doll women as nostalgic, sensual, and wistful. My dolls are not the same. They come from different times and have different significance. I guess it depends upon my mood and what I am creating. Over the years, I have made scary ghost dolls, innocent bride dolls, sweet little babies, and adventurous Steampunkers.”
Among Maryina’s canon of works are also depictions of fairy-tale heroines, cinematic leading ladies, and sci-fi royalty. Her work is certainly eclectic: “I made a doll based on Julia Roberts in ‘Mirror, Mirror,’ Anne Hathaway in ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ the Khaleesi (played by Emilia Clarke) from ‘Game of Thrones,’ and Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman) from ‘Star Wars.’ These are all strong, powerful, and remarkable women.”
It is that female allure that attracts Anna Maryina. She is drawn to creating feminine characters that are both covertly and overtly feminist. Even though they might be swaddled in gowns and jewels, dressed in feathers and beads, they are all bright, intelligent, and charismatic. “Doll making is my hobby and passion now. Sculpting and painting are the aspects I enjoy the most. I can sculpt for many hours straight. I like creating unattainable women, who depict love, romance, fantasy, a bit of sadness and sensuality. Showing feeling in a woman-doll is the most challenging task,” she stated.
Anna Maryina dolls are all of that and more. They are a chance to look at the bigger picture of women and their expectations scaled down to dollhouse size. They translate feminine ideals and feminine archetypes into collectible, hand-size treasures. They are a marvel and always a revelation, indeed.