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2402 W Rd
Bennington, VT, 05201
United States

802-447-7072

A behind-the-scenes look at the R. John Wright Dolls Design Studio in Bennington, Vermont. Written by R. John Wright, hear in his own words how the creative design process unfolds and how the world-renowned RJW dolls and animal characters are readied for production. 

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News & Updates

A behind-the-scenes look at the R. John Wright Dolls Design Studio in Bennington, Vermont. Written by R. John Wright, hear in his own words how the creative design process unfolds and how the world-renowned RJW dolls and animal characters are readied for production. 

Tasha Tudor, Dolls, and Inspiration!

John Wright

Ellen Tsagaris is the resident RJW Design Journal guest blogger. She has collected dolls since she was three years old. She has made dolls, priced dolls, repaired, dressed, and studied dolls and her blogging work can be found on the doll collecting section of about.com and on her personal doll blogs, Doll Museum, and Dr. E's Doll Museum blog. Ellen is a fan and collector of R. John Wright dolls and we were fortunate to have her guest blog for us about the love of Tasha Tudor, dolls, and inspiration.

To my way of thinking, the name Tasha Tudor and the word dolls are synonymous; I can’t think of one without conjuring the other.  This is probably because my first Tudor book was “The Doll’s Christmas”, and my mother bought it from a stationery and novelty store called Carlson Brothers, that actually have over most of its second floor to dolls.   The memory of that wonderful store still haunts me; it was near Carson Pierre Scott, which hosted a small display of miniature rooms a la The Throne Rooms.  The miniature room display was the same year that Mom bought me the book.

That book and I have gone on many journeys, so many, that later, Mom bought me the paperback version to read and reread.  I made a cover for the hardback version using a cutout of Picasso’s version of La Infanta Margarita from Velasquez, “The Meninas”, [The Handmaidens].  I drew doll portraits on the inside covers.  I made paper dolls for my paper doll houses from the dust jacket!  I know, horror of horrors!  But, I still have everything I’ve just described, and somehow, being loved this way, the book means more to me.  Such is the power of great art and literature, and of great dolls.  I used “The Dolls Christmas” as inspiration.  I used to re-enact the holiday dinner and set up doll houses for big dolls using big boxes and TV trays I covered with cloths and then tied back as curtains.

My dolls were dressed in approximations of Nicey and Sethany’s clothes.  Years later, I actually found a doll like Nicey, and even one like Sethany.  I loved my handmade paper doll versions, done with Xeroxed pictures and “Crayola’d” or watercolored where needed.

One Version of Tottie, a book featuring a similar doll, a Celluloid “Apple” and the DVD. This photo, and that of The Plantagenet Family below by my husband, Dino Milani.

One Version of Tottie, a book featuring a similar doll, a Celluloid “Apple” and the DVD. This photo, and that of The Plantagenet Family below by my husband, Dino Milani.

When I was in college, Tasha Tudor answered a letter I wrote to her.  She included a sketch of Sethany and Nicey; I’ll always treasure it.  Years later, when I was writing my thesis, I wrote to Rumer Godden as part of my research.  She, too, replied.  The two were friends and collaborated on Godden’s “The Dolls’ House”, which Tudor illustrated.

Letter sent to Ellen by T. Tudor

Letter sent to Ellen by T. Tudor

Another favorite Tasha Tudor books is “A is for Annabelle”, the alphabet book based on the wardrobe of an antique French Fashion doll.  I had always read that Annabelle was a Huret, based on Tudor’s own Melissa Dove Crane.  I’ve also seen her portrayed as Jumeau fashion doll.  Whatever type of doll she is Annabelle is an inspiration.  She was my muse in assembling wardrobes for many kinds of dolls, antique French fashion [in my case, a Barrois], small antique all bisques, reproduction artist dolls, American Girl, Heidi Ott, micro mini dolls, and more. 

Small Papier Mache and her Wardrobe. Courtesy, Theriault’s

Small Papier Mache and her Wardrobe. Courtesy, Theriault’s

I made my own version of Annabelle after reading the book about 100 times, she was authentic down to the pink gingham dress.  Today, there are places to help you recreate your own Annabelle, including Dollspart, but I was on my own. Tudor’s wonderful dolls found their way into reference books by Eleanor St. George, Life Magazine articles, biographies and monographs on Tudor, postcards by Nell Dorr, even other Tudor books.  Take Joy featured all sorts of events for the antique dolls, as did Rosemary, That’s for Remembrance.

French Fashion Doll with Extensive Wardrobe And Accessories.  Courtesy, Theriault’s.

French Fashion Doll with Extensive Wardrobe And Accessories.  Courtesy, Theriault’s.

In light of all the squabbles involving Tudor’s will, I often wonder where these dolls are now.  We studied the will in the class I teach on wills, trusts, and estates.  Yet, Tudor’s work and life legacy have been subjects in my other classes on art & humanities, literature, and even composition.  I use videos and taped conversations with Tudor herself; everyone is fascinated with her 1830s lifestyle and quick wit.  Tudor was a complicated person, intelligent, fearless, opinionated, and imaginative.  I appreciated the fact that she was widely read, yet also avante garde in many things.  She was a great illustrator and business woman, but she was also a fine artist in the tradition of her mother, Rosamund Tudor.  Like many of us who are married but who are professional women, she kept her name when she married, even if others raised their eyebrows.

Throughout my life, I tried to be a little “Tasha” just as others try to be “Martha” to show their admiration for Martha Stewart.   I named my first antique German doll “Melinda.”  I made advent calendars using watercolors after I read Take Joy. I always had a dolls’ Christmas, and followed recipes in Tudor books including The New England Buttry Shelf Cookbook. I learned more about watercolors from studying her illustrations than I did in art class.  I think if there is a muse to my own madness of doll collecting and the art, research, crafting, and study that go with it, that muse would have to be Tasha Tudor.

Can we ever be inspired enough by art and literature?  My mantra is, “No, No, No!!” For this reason, I can’t wait to see the RJW interpretation of Tudor’s work which will be debuted at UFDC this month.

My own Plantagenet family, inspired by The Dolls’ House; L to R, Top:  Birdie, here as a vintage composition doll from Mexico, dressed By my Grandmother.  I did the pinafore.  To her right, Mr. P, a vintage Effanbee Baby doll I dressed in a red flannel suit.  Bottom:  L, Marchpane, an all bisque Jumeau replica; I dressed her and did her wig of mohair. Darner, a jointed wood dog here sitting on a vintage velvet chair from Boston, vintage brass coffee pot from India, vintage 1/144 scale doll house; it opens and is furnished.  Far right, a celluloid antique doll, similar to the original Birdie. My doll house, built by my Dad, is called Plantagenet House.  

My own Plantagenet family, inspired by The Dolls’ House; L to R, Top:  Birdie, here as a vintage composition doll from Mexico, dressed By my Grandmother.  I did the pinafore.  To her right, Mr. P, a vintage Effanbee Baby doll I dressed in a red flannel suit.  Bottom:  L, Marchpane, an all bisque Jumeau replica; I dressed her and did her wig of mohair. Darner, a jointed wood dog here sitting on a vintage velvet chair from Boston, vintage brass coffee pot from India, vintage 1/144 scale doll house; it opens and is furnished.  Far right, a celluloid antique doll, similar to the original Birdie. My doll house, built by my Dad, is called Plantagenet House.

 

Greenhouse for my Doll House; Terrarium in foreground is real and tiny. I did many of the accessories and plants and assembled the greenhouse. Photo by Dino Milani.

Greenhouse for my Doll House; Terrarium in foreground is real and tiny. I did many of the accessories and plants and assembled the greenhouse. Photo by Dino Milani.

Collector Spotlight with Teresa Campanaro

John Wright

Our friend Teresa Campanaro has a collection that dreams are made of and she is our collector spotlight for July. Thank you Teresa for allowing us to explore your whimsical collection. Let's get started!

When did you start collecting R. John Wright?

TC: It all started in 2006 when I was searching Google for Alice in Wonderland.  I had a small collection, but was looking for quality pieces & something different.  The next thing I knew, several pages later, up popped Nursery Alice by R. John Wright.  I have never looked back!  I love Nursery Rhymes & childhood toys, so naturally the Three Bears had to join the collection. 

What are your favorite R. John Wright pieces and what would be your dream piece that RJW hasn't made yet?

TC: I love John's bears so I have had fun finding some of the earlier pieces as well as any animal he has done.  My dream piece would be for John to create the Cheshire cat!  I'm sure he could create many different representations as Cheshire is so awesome!  However, I would also like to add that Puss in Boots ranks first on most days as well!
TC: My Alice in Wonderland collection is very dear to me & what lead me to the Wonderful world of R John Wright.  I often wonder if he ever thought in his wildest hopes and dreams that he would be so incredibly important to collectors and how high he has raised the threshold for other artists.  I can not imagination any part of my collection without the amazing John Wright pieces.  That is what was most certainly over the rainbow for me!

If you could ask R. John Wright a question, what would it be?

TC: Is there anything you had hoped to achieve through your lifetime of creating that has not yet come to fruition?  If you could do it all again with the knowledge you have acquired over the years, what, if anything, would you change?

Answer R. John Wright:
I would have liked to interpret more classic Disney characters. We produced some of them during the 13 years we were under license with Disney (Snow White, Pinocchio, etc.). But a lot of time was spent on the Winnie-the-Pooh characters as drawn by E.H. Shepard, not classic Disney. We had the chance to do more Disney characters in conjunction with the Doll & Teddy conventions held at Disney World. But there are several characters that we still want to do: Goofy, Donald Duck, Sleeping Beauty, Bambi, Dumbo, Tinker Bell, Jiminy Cricket and others. I still hold out hope that someday we will be able to add some of these to our body of work.
If I had to do it over again I would have hired a business manager early-on to take care of that end of things. Susan and I have managed to keep control of our business and I'm very proud of our accomplishments in that regard. But it has been a struggle balancing the business aspects along with the creative work—which is what we really love to do.
It is always a delight to see our dolls and animals in peoples' collections. Your collection is beautifully arranged, and I can certainly feel the affection you have for each of the pieces. Arranging, re-arranging, finding the perfect complimentary accessory, etc. - It's all a form of play, isn't it?! Thanks for sharing. Don't forget to leave a little room for the Cheshire Cat who WILL be coming!
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Thank you again Teresa - that was a real TREAT and we are so proud of you. Your enthusiasm for our work is contagious. We hope to see you soon!

R. John Wright Collector Spotlight with Dave Benn

John Wright

Do you remember your first R. John Wright piece?

The first RJW pieces I had were the Mad Hatter and the March Hare.

What is your favorite thing about collecting?

The thing I guess I like most about collecting is that I get to appreciate them every day and every time I bought a piece it felt like an achievement.

We love that you are drawn to animals. What is it about Peter Rabbit that you love most?

I suppose being English and living in England my affinity with Beatrix Potter is close to the heart matter after visiting the Lake District and her house and the history of Beatrix Potter my love for RJW's Beatrix Potter collection is why I hold them most dear. I love all the animals in the collection.  

Is there something that R. John Wright hasn’t created that would be a dream creation for you?

I would love RJW to produce a Jeremy Fisher but then again I wouldn't as my finances wouldn't permit it lol. 

Snapshots from the amazing RJW collection of Dave Benn.

Snapshots from the amazing RJW collection of Dave Benn.

If ou could ask R. John Wright a question, what would it be?

If ever I met R John Wright I would like to know where his creativeness stemmed from and where he gets his eye for detail from.

FROM R. John Wright: Hi David, thanks for your interest and I loved seeing your RJW collection! The way you have them displayed shows how much you tune into them.
To answer your first question: I think my creativity is a combination of 'nature & nurture.' Even from a very early age I was creative and artistically-inclined. So I think I was gifted in that regard. But the environment I grew up in encouraged that creativity and I think that may actually have been more important than simply having talent. I attended 12 years of Catholic schooling and each school day began with Mass. The church itself was more like a cathedral. It was filled with original art and sculpture I can't help but feel that it had a big impact on me. As a boy I was what they calla 'noticer' — very inquisitive and observant of everything! 

Also, what inspires him and makes him as happy as his pieces make me feel.

From R. John Wright: As you'd expect I find inspiration in a lot of things. I've always loved antique dolls and toys and I am endlessly fascinated with them. Are you familiar with fellow Britain Arthur Rackham? I am fortunate to have a small collection of his marvelous watercolor illustrations and of course, they bring happiness each time I pass by them. It's wonderful to hear that our work brings that kind of joy to others. And when Christmas rolls around we imagine secret gifts of our dolls and animals under many Christmas trees just waiting to be opened!

Also, what are among his favourite pieces that he has produced so far. 

From R. John Wright: The Beatrix Potter pieces are definitely among our favorites of the animal characters we have produced. By the way, we also had the good fortune to visit the Lake District and Beatrix Potter's Hilltop farmhouse. I'm happy to tell you that we will be making more Beatrix Potter characters later this year and among them will be 'Jeremy Fisher.'
Of the dolls which we have made, one of my favorites is the Geppetto and Pinoccho editions made under license with Disney. The more recent Wizard of Oz characters also are favorites with both myself and Susan.
Thanks for sharing your collection with us.
With warm regards,
R. John Wright

Top 5 Favorite RJW Convention Dolls

John Wright

With the 2016 RJW 'A Time to Remember' Convention fast approaching, it got John and Susan Wright thinking about their favorite Convention dolls - so they made a top 5 list! They wanted to mention that "we (and we alone!) have seen this year's convention souvenirs and can confirm that they would shake up our Top 5 List dramatically!"

1. Rebecca - We had long wanted to base a doll on Kate Greenaway's iconic imagery so we were very happy with our very first convention souvenir, Rebecca. From her fancy straw bonnet down to her pretty coral leather slippers the Pièce de résistance was her custom-printed silk shawl with the 'RJW' initials incorporated into the design.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Peep & Posey - These are the only chicks we've made but we had the most fun making the large molded eggs to hold them. We've always loved candy containers and we were happy with how these turned out. A memory to savor is 'Easter Bunny' (Rodney Waller) making a special appearance at this delightful breakfast event! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Mary Frances - This darling cabinet-size doll was the event souvenir for the 'Victorian Yuletide' dinner event at our 3rd convention. Everything about the design of this doll fell perfectly in place. We especially loved her bonnet with silk rouching, her fur-trimmed coat and muff, and her dainty leather boots. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Gondolier - This charming mouse was made for the Canals of Venice luncheon in 2012. He was wildly popular with the ladies due to his irresistible handlebar moustache! His straw boater, striped boatneck shirt, and wood oar made him more than seaworthy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Spring - The main convention souvenir was met with a rousing ovation at the final banquet at 2013's RJW Convention. People really responded to this diminutive Miss loaded with charm. Her tiny felt Easter bunny was the perfect final touch to her retro ensemble. Her companions: Summer, Fall, and Winter were all made in the same cabinet size and evoked the 4 Seasons beautifully.

We hope you enjoyed hearing from John and Susan Wright their top 5 RJW Convention Dolls. We have a special Pinterest board for all of the convention dolls that you can follow by clicking here.

It is not too late to register for the upcoming 2016 'A Time to Remember' convention. Come join us as we celebrate four fabulous decades of R. John Wright creations! This exciting event will take place from June 23-25, 2016 at the DESMOND HOTEL AND CONFERENCE CENTER in Albany, New York. Click here or the photo below for the online registration. You may also submit your registration via phone at: 1-802-447-7072.

Grin and “Bear” it! In Praise of Toy Bears and Related Critters

John Wright

Ellen Tsagaris is the resident RJW Design Journal guest blogger. She has collected dolls since she was three years old. She has made dolls, priced dolls, repaired, dressed, and studied dolls and her blogging work can be found on the doll collecting section of about.com and on her personal doll blogs, Doll Museum, and Dr. E's Doll Museum blog. Ellen is a fan and collector of R. John Wright dolls and we were fortunate to have her guest blog for us about the love of bears.

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