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2402 W Rd
Bennington, VT, 05201
United States

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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. 

In the Bleak Midwinter, Long Ago

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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. 

In the Bleak Midwinter, Long Ago

John Wright

In the Bleak Midwinter
By Christina Rossetti

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

In January, Christmas lights begin to dim, their dying shadows tripping a last dance on ice covered streets.  Evergreens often bow under snowy weight, and people are unrecognizable, bundled as they are under coats, scarves, hats, and gloves.  During the day, children rally and make snow angels, slide down hills on sleds, and bring snowmen to life.  At night, the stars twinkle in brilliantly frigid skies made darker somehow because it is so cold.

Dolls for this time of year also sport winter attire.  Like their cousins, the snowmen and snowwomen, dolls wear coats and mufflers, tiny hats and gloves. R. John Wright’s Winter comes complete with scarf, snowsuit, and sled, ready for all kinds of arctic adventures!  Lillian, the first R. John Wright child doll wears a woolen cap and carries a miniature of the first RJW doll made.  Her winter plaid jumper is warm and toasty, too.  Hummel Skier reminds us of winter sports, especially Winter Olympics, and Brownie Canadian is bundled up for the clearly cold Canadian winter.

Snowbabies, first made popular by Peary’s expedition to the North Pole, made their debut in the late 19th century, inspired in part by the Admiral’s daughter.  Some collectors argue that they were first released as cake toppers, but that their debut coincided with the birth of the Peary baby. Snowbabies wear white, bunting snowsuits sprinkled with tiny porcelain “snow balls.” Snowbabies have been made in Germany, Japan, and China.  Dept. 56 recreated them a few years in porcelain and lead. 

Teddy Bears wear their own fur, but unlike their real counterparts, don’t tend to hibernate, except in temperature controlled collectors’ cabinets and cases!   Other animals commemorate winter as well.  Snowball, first in the Christmas Kittens series by R. John Wright wears a darling red cloak trimmed in fur, and Holly wears a spring of the famous evergreen.  Holly is more than a Christmas decoration; it is an evergreen important to the Norse myths and other cultures.  Holly and other evergreens grace winter gardens and tables long after The Holidays are over.  Pine Tree Fairy by RJW is delicate but sturdy against winter winds.  Evergreens remind us that, if they can endure winter, so can we.

R. John Wright bears Woodruff and Willoughby, along with other RJW bears and animals, invite one to cuddle them, and perhaps hibernate a little bit, too, during the longer nights and shorter days that characterize the cold months.  Winter is a good time to collect winter-themed dolls and to make New Year’s resolutions about all the dolls in your collection.  Just remember to button up, because “baby, it’s cold outside!”

About the author: Ellen Tsagaris has collected dolls since she was three years old. She has made dolls, priced dolls, repaired, dressed, and studied dolls.  She has set up at craft shows and presented papers on dolls and their history at the Midwest Modern Language Association.  She is the author of several articles on dolls that have appeared in Doll Reader, National Doll World, Doll Designs, International Doll World, Hope and Glory, Doll News, Adventures, and The Western Doll Collector. She is the author of two books about dolls, Bibliography of Doll and Toy Sources and With Love from Tin Lizzie; A History of Metal Heads, Metal Dolls, Mechanical Dolls, and Automatons.  An active blogger, she features two blogs about dolls, Dr. E’s Doll Museum, and Doll Museum.  She lectures on dolls for various organizations and has displayed part of her collection in museums.

“Dolls are among the oldest cultural artifacts, and perhaps are the oldest toys.  My passion for dolls began when I was a toddler, and it has never stopped. Explore the wonderful world of all things ‘doll’ with me.”