- The Washington Times - Friday, August 27, 2004

The Atrium of the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Northwest will be dolled up today for the 11th annual Doll and Teddy Bear Expo 2004, the largest event of its kind in North America

The two-day show, which attracts about 6,000 avid collectors and doll lovers alike, this year features a major exhibit of black dolls by contemporary artists from various backgrounds and cultures. The exhibit titled “Black Dolls: Proud, Bold & Beautiful,” was inspired by a new book of the same name by Nayda Rondon, editor of Dolls Magazine.

“I think people are captivated by dolls of color,” said Ms. Rondon, who sported a jeweled “I Love Dolls” pin on her lapel.

“I saw a great interest in diversity, and I think people appreciate knowing that they are out there. This is shining a spotlight on the artists and getting them the recognition they deserve,” she said.

The dolls of color on display are made of porcelain, cloth and wood. Some are interpretive; others idealized realism, Ms. Rondon said.

The public will see the artisanship of local artist Paula Whaley. Ms. Whaley’s 42-inch “Aunt Bulah” possesses an air-dried clay head; wire and cotton-batting limbs; soft metal with a cotton-batting body, all draped in dyed gauze.

“It’s all about color and texture. I think it’s boring to have one type of doll,” said Robert Tonner, 52, another of the artists featured in the show and in the book,

Mr. Tonner, a former Seventh Avenue fashion designer from New York, said he has no problem spending the money necessary to ensure his dolls are appropriately attired. He will feature Tonner Dolls Fall/Holiday Collection at the show — all Tonner dolls wear designer clothing.

“These dolls are geared more toward collectibles — I consider myself the play doll company for adults,” he said with a smile. His said his dolls cost from $40 to $300.

Mr. Tonner will feature a wide variety of 18-inch dolls in a variety of clothing — some from the 1950s and some straight off New York runways.

“The [1950] dolls are softer and rounder than the contemporary dolls. The 1950s are very popular with collectors. It was the last time women dressed up with bags, gloves and hats. I think it’s the art that attracts people,” he said.

His contemporary fashion dolls, which include the black doll, Esme, also are a hit with collectors who enjoy designing clothes as much as the maker.

“We have so many collectors that will buy the dolls and make their clothes. For them, they’re not making a living as a fashion designer, they simply enjoy the artistic aspect of the dolls,” Mr. Tonner said.

Limited-edition dolls by Pauline Middleton also will be on display at the show, which ends tomorrow. The sculptor and doll artist from Victoria, Australia, has been sculpting dolls for 19 years.

“Every doll is sculpted from a photograph. I do African-American and Australian Aboriginal — I love the skin color,” Ms. Middleton said.

For example, Nina, a porcelain doll that stands 30 inches tall and looks like a real little girl, is a limited-edition doll, one of 10, that sells for $3,400. Dressed in a pink, hand-smocked and embroidered dress, the doll took Ms. Middleton about four months to create — from conception to the final product.

“I’m really looking forward to the next few days,” Ms. Middleton said.

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