For many years now, Judi Paul has been known as the very talented artist behind Luxembears. Many of her plush creations have a fairy-tale or whimsical look to them. Her bunnies might be princesses; her bears might be magical snow queens. Even her menagerie of animals that are re-creations of lifelike wildlife always have a distinctive look of beauty and cuteness, loveliness and sweetness. Paul’s offerings are always pretty, vulnerable, and appealing. So, how marvelous it is that she is now bringing this same optimism and versatility to the world of troll dolls. In a collectible field where “sort of ugly” or “a little bit odd” is all the rage, Paul is giving troll dolls a cute conversion. “I’m not exactly sure what to call this kind of original art,” she shared with me. “Troll Transformations? Trollovers? Troll Makeovers? I’m still figuring it out!”
It all began when Paul stumbled upon a box in her basement that was bursting with cast-away troll dolls. Initially, she carried the carton upstairs and put her forgotten friends up on display. Looking at them on her sofa and upon her shelves, she got a sudden urge to do some cyber exploring: “I happened across several troll doll pages on Facebook for fans, collectors, and buying/selling. With my renewed interest in these charming little creatures, I became hooked. I started buying them again, and then I decided to use them as a new canvas.”
Since that decision, Paul has been on a troll-roll. She has been obsessed with giving her troll dolls total makeovers, converting them into mermaids, unicorns, dragons, Yetis, and all kinds of forest wildlife. The conversion is a serious undertaking, and when she changes a troll into something new, it involves removing the troll’s clothing, getting rid of its existing hair and eyes. Then she begins the prepping and the painting. “No matter what makeover, I always keep the troll look and I replace the hair to traditional-troll Icelandic sheep-wool hair. On most, I hand-paint glass eyes with details, and I recently created follow-me eyes, an illusion of the pupils looking at you no matter what angle you hold the troll,” she explained.
While working on perfecting this new diversion, Paul began to research the origin of the world-famous troll sensation. She was enchanted to discover the history of Thomas Dam, who is credited as the father of the “Good Luck” troll doll bonanza. “When Thomas Dam looked at his troll dolls, he thought they were so ugly that they made him laugh. There is folklore that while laughing, no harm can come to you. Because of this, Dam decided that his trolls were ‘Good Luck Trolls.’”
The Danish artist had been a fisherman, bricklayer, and a baker before he carved his first troll sculpture, made in his own image. Creating trolls to be sold at fairs, Dam eventually could not keep up with the demand. As a result, Dam and his family had to finance and build a factory. The 1960s saw an explosion of these goofy and gangly characters, and the demand intensified. Dam and his employees had to invent a new kind of plastic that could be utilized while making the troll’s body on a machine. This innovation was guaranteed to last longer than natural rubber. Beyond the molding of its body, the rest of the Dam trolls anatomy was mainly handmade.
“Dam trolls are the original ones. His are the most sought after and desired by collectors,” Paul pointed out to me. “Dam trolls are the cream of the crop. They have more character and are made of higher-quality materials. There are a lot of troll collectors in the world, and in the fall of 2009, American collectors began a Dam troll convention.” Paul has made fast friends with these like-minded enthusiasts, and admits that she is having “a blast” meeting some “wonderful new friends through trolls.” According to Judi Paul, “Troll collectors are just charming. They are playful, fun, and young at heart. Avid troll fans are referred to as ‘trollies’!”
Commemorating her immersion into this brand-new, fantastical world, Paul decided to create a tribute to the man who set the whole phenomenon into motion. She airbrushed and hand-painted a portrait of Thomas Dam on the front of a 12-inch Dam troll doll. “The Thomas Dam portrait troll is actually on its way to Denmark to be displayed in an upcoming troll museum, I am so very honored!” Paul shared.
At present, her business website is being revised and renamed. When it is operational, it will be called LuxembearsStudios.com. Recently, she created a new artist page called “Troll Arts by J Luxembears,” but she plans on having a section for troll art when her new website is up and running.
“I have ideas flooding into my head, and I can’t work fast enough! Besides the transformations, I want to do mohair soft-sculpted troll dolls, crocheted and knitted troll dolls, sculpted jewelry, airbrushed wearable art, illustrations and paintings. There is just so much to do!” she recounted. “Also, I plan on sculpting my own troll doll design to cast a mold so I can make multiple silicone troll dolls.” Judi Paul’s future will certainly be filled with good luck, giggles, and a growing love for these offbeat, oddball characters.
Read more about Judi Paul’s creations on our sister website, Teddy Bear & Friends