The doll world lost a renowned and beloved artist Oct. 14 with the death of Dianna Effner due to cancer. Born in 1945, Effner began designing and making porcelain dolls in the late 1970s, designing for a variety of manufacturers as well as producing and finishing dolls herself.
Many of her designs have been released as vinyl dolls, but she is best-known for her porcelain dolls and her work as a mentor for other artists. She and her family established Expressions in 1992 to produce doll molds for the hobby, allowing other artists to reproduce her designs in porcelain. She also founded the Doll Dreamers Guild as part of her ongoing support of aspiring artists. Her designs continue to be popular with collectors and artists today.
Doll artist Brenda Mize said, “Without a doubt, Dianna Effner has profoundly changed the world of dolls with her endearing and realistic doll creations. She was an amazing and caring individual who shared her many special techniques and secrets with doll artists all over the world.
“Dianna was my mentor and I have admired her work for many, many years. I was tremendously saddened to learn of her recent death — she unequivocally made the world a better place by sharing her dolls, her expertise and her charming personality as well. She will be sorely missed by many. My sincerest condolences go out to her family and close friends.”
Mize frequently uses molds from Effner’s collection in her dollmaking, as does artist April Norton, who said, “On Thursday, Oct. 15, we learned that Dianna Effner had passed away. I felt overwhelmed with sadness at this news. For almost 30 years, I have enjoyed making porcelain dolls that were sculpted by this gifted individual.
“Her dolls were like no others, and her company, Expressions, was aptly named because her creations had the most endearing expressions of real children. They were second to no other dollmakers, past or present, which is why her company has endured when other doll mold companies have folded as the collectible market declined.
“Her vinyl and resin hand-painted dolls, with her circle of gifted artists, kept her name and brand very current in the market. There was a time I had aspired to be one of her artists, but that was not to be. Nevertheless, I’ve been thankful to gain a vast amount of knowledge to be able to hone my own style and skills by using her work as an example.
“Thank you, Dianna, for all you have given me. You have been my mentor. Your beautiful molds for me to paint, your fabulous techniques that I attempt to emulate, will keep me challenging myself for years to come. Although we had only spoken a few times and had a few correspondences, we never met. But I, like many others, felt a strong connection to you. I will continue to create dolls from your beautiful molds and think of you sculpting every single one as I go.”
Read more about Effner’s remarkable career as a doll artist in this 2017 feature story from DOLLS magazine