The following article is reprinted with permission from DOLLS Magazine Nov. 2009 Issue
The Enchanting World of Hildegard Gunzel
By Sharon Verbeten
With a New Book and the First of Her 2010 Dolls, She Continues to Lend Her Inspired Passion to Dollmaking
With a pensive, all-knowing look and a flowing blond mane, the enchanting "Ger-da" is pure confection in white - a modern day Bo Peep, of sorts - adorned in a garden of delicate white flowers.
Gerda is just part of the enchanting world of artist Hildegard Gunzel - in fact, it's one of her favorite dolls - highlighting her 2009 Once Upon a Time porcelain collection. Others in the line continue the fairytale theme - including "Arlecchino," tipping her hat as an elegantly appointed harlequin; "Klara and the Nutcracker Bear" and "Antoinette," complete with shepherd's hook and sheep.
Gunzel may work on her ethereal designs from her home in Germany, but her vision resonates around the globe - bringing to life her dreams and inspirations in the form of resin and porcelain dolls.
"For me, creating a figurine is like a sculpture, only that you can move some parts of it and there are glass eyes," says Gunzel. "I want to keep closest to the human being. Every observer is able to interpret his own emotion, and that creates differences in the character of every doll. Collectors or enthusiasts can, with their own feeling and their personal way of life, hand the doll a real life with their impressions."
Miriam is Hildegard Gunzel's latest from her 2010 resin line. The bundle of joy is 22 inches long and wears a white cotton-and-lace dress with a silk yellow underskirt, and a knitted bolero jacket, baby shoes and cap. The baby has resin head and limbs, with a soft body, and lies on an embroidered ruffled pillow.
The Artist's Work
Gunzel, a former fashion designer, created her first doll in 1972, when she "tried to create a little person for my eldest son." That was all it took - soon, Gunzel got what she called the "virus" and "never gave up. This moment reflected my childhood, when I played with dolls."
When she started her dollmaking career, Gunzel considered it "fun," but she especially enjoyed the 1980s as a time when the collector market was developing. "I arranged seminars all over the world," she says.
Gunzel's true joy of dolls, though, is in the inspiration, followed by the creation. "Everything that is realized by me [inspires me]," she says. "[It could be] some scene from my youth or just images." For examples, check out Gunzel's Web site archives, which show in stunning detail her porcelain creations from 1994 to the present and her resin collection from the past few years.
Her 2008 puppenkollektion (doll collection) was themed Passion and Inspiration. It, like most of her lines, is a fine example of how no detail goes unmissed - such as a pointy gold crown atop tightly coiled curls of red or a teddy bear companion. In 2007's Romantic Highlights, white ruled the collection, with dolls wearing finery of all kinds swathed in white fashions. That was a noted change from the 2006 La Vie en Rose collection - which was a bit more playful and upbeat and noted by color, even the occasional green/yellow plaid.
Gunzel herself is very involved in the dolls' costumes. In her new book about Gunzel (see "New Book Immortalizes Gunzel" sidebar), author Karin Schrey writes, "Each of Hildegard Gunzel's collections is a composition of color, in which harmony and contrast play a charming game with each other. Her designs would do any couturier proud."
But no matter what collection or what costume one looks at, the faces are what draws one in. When asked where Gunzel brings such joy and personality to the dolls' faces, she says, "Passion and positive mental attitude for living. I have been modeling dolls for 37 years - and one part is ability, and the other part is artistic donation godsend."
Schrey adds, "As if in a delicate, dazzling cocoon, they are enclosed by their own particular aura, from within which they seem to communicate."
To create her art of designing dolls - which is about one year from initial idea to production, Gunzel says - every creative person needs a special atmosphere. "I find it in my studio at home with its gorgeous view of my romantic garden," she says. In fact, gardening is one of Gunzel's greatest joys outside dollmaking. "Gardening, sculpting and fashion are things I'm living for," she says.
Schrey actually speaks much about Gunzel's inspirational garden in her book, which includes lavish photographs of Gunzel's dolls, sculptures and busts in the striking and rather palatial surroundings. "I feel a kind of secret understanding with my garden ... [it] is my pride and joy. In a garden, I can find the secret of nature in its full beauty," Gunzel is quoted in the book. "My garden and nature then give me the necessary leisure and calmness to process all impressions in my oasis and transfer them into dolls and sculptures. Here everything gets its right and final form."
Both resin and porcelain have been successful lines for Gunzel; her first resin line debuted in 2006 and was well received.
She enjoys all mediums, but resin does have its benefits, as she mentions in the book. "Resin dolls may be touched, they are real 'touchable children' and do not mind being arranged in different poses," she says. The author adds, "Resin, the artist thinks, is made for giving her dolls a rosy, delicate complexion which looks like that of children who often get fresh air."
Gunzel will introduce additions to both the resin and the porcelain lines in 2010. The first new doll of the resin line is the 22-inch "Miriam" debuted on the cover of this issue of DOLLS. The sleeping baby with closed eyes and closed mouth features a jointed head. She is dressed in a white cotton dress trimmed with lace and an underskirt made of delicate yellow silk.
"The porcelain dolls for the new line are still in my head - not modeled or created - so be surprised," she says.
"I would like to work with my dolls as long as I am able to do it, as long as God keeps his eyes on me because it is a passion - I won't stop before I have to go," Gunzel says. "Dolls belong to nearly every culture for a long time - because to play with the doll and take care of the doll teaches children to become diligent and thoughtful adults."
For more information, visit www.HildegardGuenzel.com.
New Book Immortalizes Gunzel
The book published in Germany (written in both German and English) uses large, stunning photos and elegant prose to describe prolific doll artist Hildegard Gunzel. Passion and Inspiration: Hildegard Gunzel's World of Dolls by Karin Schrey traces the artist's work from 1998 to the present. The title was inspired by Gunzel's own words used to guide her 2008 doll line. Although Gunzel's first doll dates to 1973, another book, Enchanting Doll Journey, traces the early history and work of the artist. In her 144-page book, Schrey says, "Hildegard Gunzel's dolls are deceptive; they invite to dream and at the same time are willful. Sometimes they provoke, but it is always the mysterious innocence of the little creatures that attracts and captures the onlooker so much."
The Artist's Favorites
Doll artists generally give a stock answer when asked, "Which of your dolls is your favorite?" They often say, "That's like trying to choose a favorite child." But Hildegard Gunzel did offer a short list of some of her favorite creations:
- From her current porcelain line, both "Gerda" - "for sure Gerda!" - and "Arlecchino"
- "Miss Camille" with dogs, "Smoothy" and "Duchess of Catsfield" (1997)
- "Stephana" (1998)
- "Allegra + Pierrot" (2007)
reprinted with permission from DOLLS Magazine, November 2009 Issue
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