History of R. John Wright
Naturally artistic, R. John Wright always felt his path would lead to a creative career. Born in Michigan, John attended Wayne State University in a liberal arts program with an emphasis on art and literature. Following college, John traveled to New England and settled in New Hampshire.
While browsing in a bookstore, John came across a book, The Doll, authored by Carl Fox. Intrigued with the profusion of photographs featuring antique dolls and having recently made the acquaintance of porcelain dollmaker, Gail Duggan, John began to contemplate the possibility of a career in doll making. Two years later, he met his future wife and creative partner, Susan, who was a recent graduate of the University of New Hampshire with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree. Little did she suspect that her meeting with John would redirect her talents and destiny to doll making. The couple settled in Brattleboro, Vermont in 1974.
In 1976, when he was abruptly laid off from his job as a clerk in the town hardware store, John decided to try his hand at doll making. That afternoon he began to sew a crude figure - his first doll - out of the only fabric at hand, a piece of pale yellow flannel. John had never sewn anything before, but this first effort came quickly and the process seemed to hold much potential - he could only get better! Before the first doll was completed, he was already thinking of the improvements he would make on the second one.
Within a few weeks of having been employed as a clerk in the hardware store, John made a group of six similarly constructed men dolls out of flesh-colored felt. These dolls featured rudimentary rustic-style clothing and sheep's wool hair and beards. He took these first dolls to a crafts gallery downtown where they were purchased on the spot to retail for the price of $28 each. During the next six months, John made and sold over a hundred of these primitive felt dolls to area craft stores. Susan increasingly helped John with the production and together they embarked on an intense period of research. Within six months the dolls advanced beyond the primitive stage and featured joints and more sophisticated clothing and accessories.
The doll work soon overtook the couple's small ground-floor apartment turned into a makeshift doll factory. Exhibition in juried craft shows throughout New England provided the expanding wholesale and retail orders for the dolls. They soon began hiring assistants to come to the apartment and help with the ever-increasing work load. One year after making his first doll, John sculpted the faces which would become his first molded felt dolls. Designs soon followed depicting Character Dolls with ethnically-inspired costumes and accessories.
The delightful Little Children Series premiered in 1980 around the time of the birth of the Wright's first child. The child dolls introduced a new look from R. John Wright and the demand from collectors increased. The business moved to Cambridge, New York where a highly skilled workforce was trained and specialized machinery developed to increase production.
In 1985, R. John Wright Dolls, Inc. exhibited their work at International Toy Fair in New York City. At this show, the first prototype of Christopher Robin & Winnie-the-Pooh was shown produced under license to the Walt Disney Company. Over the next decade all of the animal characters from the Hundred Acre Wood were also produced. In 2003, an exciting new Winnie-the-Pooh Collection made exclusively for Japan was launched.
The following years brought a succession of many captivating child dolls as well as licensed characters from classic Disney films: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Pinocchio.
In 1998, R. John Wright introduced Peter Rabbit, the first in an exciting series based on the characters of Beatrix Potter. Soon to follow were Jemima Puddle-duck and Benjamin Bunny and many other delightful Potter characters - each meticulously detailed and crafted out of mohair in numbered limited editions.
In 1999, the company introduced the R. John Wright Kewpie. Created by Rose O'Neill in 1909, this represented the first time that the Kewpie character was made in the medium of molded felt.
Paddington And Beyond
Continuing a tradition of dolls and animal characters based on classic children's literature, the company also produced Michael Bond's Paddington Bear, a delightful mohair rendition of Curious George and dolls based on Antoine de Saint Exupery's beloved character The Little Prince. The year 2002 marked the centennial celebration of the birth of the Teddy Bear and R. John Wright produced several special editions including an all-felt doll of Teddy Roosevelt.
Today, John and Susan Wright continue to head their enterprising and innovative company. The Wrights continue to oversee all phases of production which is still performed on-site, always stressing the highest quality in craftsmanship and integrity of design which for over twenty-five years have formed the cornerstone of all R. JOHN WRIGHT collectibles. Editions introduced in 2003 were an all-felt rendition of Lewis Carroll's immortal Alice based on the original illustrations by Sir John Tenniel, and a figure of Santa Claus based on Thomas Nast's landmark drawings.
R. John Wright dolls and animals have been honored with numerous awards, among them: the Doll of the Year (DOTY) award; the Golden Teddy award; the Dolls magazine Award of Excellence; and Der Goldene George Award. In 1994, R. John Wright was the recipient of the Jumeau Trophy - considered by many collectors and artists as one of the most prestigious symbols of recognition for acheivement in the doll field. In 2003, the first fully-authorized comprehensive book on the work of R. John Wright, R. John Wright - The Art of Toys, was published by Portfolio Press.
Back To Vermont
In 2004, R. John Wright Dolls returned to Vermont moving their innovative and enterprising company to an idylic 17-acre setting on the outskirts of historic Bennington. The Wrights continue to oversee all phases, always stressing the highest quality materials, craftsmanship and integrity of design which for three decades have formed the cornerstones of all R. JOHN WRIGHT collectibles.
There are ongoing new additions to the Alice in Wonderland Series, the Raggedy Ann Collection, and the Beatrix Potter Collection. 2006 also brought Walt Disney's Minnie Mouse and the beloved French storybook character Becassine.
Used with permission from R. John Wright [rev 2009]
The Tradition Continues Today
John and Susan continue to create and innovate with delightful felt dolls, bears, mice and many other characters. Continuing series such as the Alice in Wonderland Series and the Beatrix Potter Collection have been joined by new, exciting editions like the Palmer Cox Brownies, Goldilocks & The Three Bears, Edith The Lonely Doll and The Bears-At-Sea. John and Susan are the preeminent artists in their field and The Toy Shoppe is proud to be your premier shoppe for R. John Wright Collectibles, both past and present editions!