Heather Maciak

In the summer of 1985, I found a small doll in an antique store.
There was something familiar about her~ she was a doll from my childhood.
I decided to search for my other childhood dolls, and I was soon buying doll magazines.
It wasn’t long before I noticed that there were artists out there,
making beautiful original dolls.  
I had a perfectly good career creating clay critters,
but I realized as I gazed at the pictures that I was ready for a new challenge.  
I had clay and a kiln, & I was an accomplished seamstress~
how hard could it be to make a doll?  
Harder than you might think, is the answer!  

It didn't take me long to launch my new career.  
I set up my table with clay and my sculpting tools, pictures of my children
and an article by the famous Lewis Goldstein~
a step-by-step guide to sculpting a child’s head.  
It was an all-encompassing challenge,
& became a passion unlike any I'd ever experienced before.    

Fortunately, beginning sculptors don’t have the perspective
to recognize the calibre of their first attempts, or they might never create another thing.  
I was so proud of my first creation that I took photographs
& sent them off to Mr. Goldstein,
thinking that he would want to know of the genius that he had inspired.  
I never heard back from him,
but I did meet him a number of years later at a NIADA Conference,
when I'd already been accepted as a member, and yes, I did tell him that story!  

Luckily for posterity, I soon realized
that poor little head should never become a doll.  
My second effort was considerably better, & I decided that I was ready for the next step.  
I sculpted arms and legs, sewed up a cloth body, turned her into a doll,
& entered her in a local doll competition,
where she won first prize in the original doll category.  
It didn’t matter that there were only two dolls entered,
or that the other doll looked a little like Mr. Potato head.  I was hooked!
I worked steadily for the next three years, honing my skills
as a sculptor, mold maker, greenware cleaner, painter and costumer,
& creating a succession of dolls, each better than the last.  

One day, a friend told me about NIADA.  
I couldn’t think of anything more inspiring than being surrounded by other doll artists,
so I booked a flight and a hotel room, and registered not just for the conference
but also for the dreaded visiting artists’ critique.  
In preparation for launching myself into the next phase of my career,
I created two new dolls, one which was a self-portrait.  

I’d like to be able to say, “…and the rest is history”, but of course it’s never like that.  
NIADA was a huge eye-opener, and the dolls I saw
were nothing like those in the pages of Doll Reader magazine~ they were true art dolls.  
Luckily for me, the NIADA artists were welcoming,
and I had the other visiting artists to commiserate with over the daunting task
that lay ahead of us, if we were ever to achieve this pinnacle of success.  

I attended NIADA conferences for the next four years,
and finally, I decided that I was ready to apply for membership.  
"Nope!  Not so fast!" they told me!  
(Actually, what they said was, “You don’t have an identity of design~
go home and make many more dolls.” )
Of course I was crushed, but they were right;
I worked harder than I had ever worked before,
which, it turns out, is the secret to achieving an identity of design.  
I applied again, & this time, my work was accepted~
I became a NIADA artist member in 1997.  

In 2000, I was approached at the conference
by Chuck Harley, a representative for Richard Simmons' Collection of the Masters.
He was attracted to my small (7") children, and asked a career-changing question~  
Would I be interested in designing similar dolls for his company?
I tried to remain calm as I told him, "Yes! Yes, I would!"
Thus were born Emily Ann and Rebecca Jane,
followed by several other little dolls
that would become known to collectors as the cousins.  
It was a great beginning.  

Seven years after my first foray into the commercial doll world,I made another leap,
this time as the designer and producer of my own small line of dolls.  
My goal was to create fine dolls that were more affordable than my originals,
and Lexie and Jenny~ two little five-year-old friends, were the happy result.  
I collaborated with Rosemarie Ionker of Boneka,
both in finding and working with Leannie, my wonderful doll company in China,
and in creating the costuming for the dolls.  
I’m pleased to say that although I didn’t figure out how to make money in my new venture,
the dolls have become great favourites with collectors~ they even have their own Yahoo group!   

In the past few years, I’ve taken a bit of a break from this timeline.  
In 2009, we moved to Vancouver Island & bought a beautiful piece of property
with a wreck of a house on it .  
All of the work that it’s taken to turn our surroundings
into a piece of paradise is almost behind us,
and I’m finally back to sculpting those little faces.   
Thanks so much for your interest, and for reading all the way to the bottom of the page.
Stay tuned!
About the artist...