Today, my eBay alert for Teddy Roosevelt character dolls sent me a notice of a beautifully detailed Teddy Roosevelt doll produced by R. John Wright. I had never heard of or seen one of these dolls so I was intrigued and looked up his creator on the web.
"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 Wilson, John began to contemplate the possibility of a career in dollmaking. 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 dollmaking. 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.
Working now as a creative team, the couple's doll work soon overtook their 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 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 in the early 1980's where a highly skilled work force was trained and specialized machinery developed to increase production.
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 Wright's continue to oversee all phases, always stressing the highest quality materials, craftsmanship and integrity of design which for over twenty-five years have formed the cornerstones of all R. JOHN WRIGHT collectibles. - Official R. John Wright website.