Even as a child I was always searching for on outlet to express my artistic abilities, and much of my childhood I spend seated beside my mother’s sewing machine waiting for leftover scraps of fabric. My mother made children clothes, and I copied her on the floor creating ballroom dresses for my Barbie-dolls.
My dream was to follow a professional artistic career as a ballet-dancer, opera singer or designer. But when the time came to choose a profession, my parents did not share in the opinion of going to an art-school, as at that time they thought, it did not guarantee a living.
Instead I went to an educational academy and became a teacher.
After 5 years of teaching again, I started searching for an avenue in which to direct my creative energy, and my love for music made me to go to the conservatory to study music. And I became a music teacher.
About this time I visited an exhibition of dollmakers and it was overwelming! I went back three times. And it was at that point that I was sure: my mission was to become a dollmaker, and so I did!. That was about 20 years ago.
I started taking a few classes from well known dollmakers, but soon I began to teach myself. I did not want to copy dolls from others. I wanted to have my own style. In every new collection of my dolls I try to grow. About five years ago, after 15 years of sculpting dolls from stone clay, I started to work with porcelain.
I love the charm of the smooth skin, you get from porcelain and, of course, the longer life cycle of the doll. After a while you develop your own techniques and processes. After finishing the basic model I create the molds, and after the doll comes out the mold, I sculpt the doll again. This process means that every doll I create has something unique. My great love for fabric, laces and trims and all my inspiration, imagination and fantasy, which is always available, goes into costuming the doll.
I am passionate about dollmaking and I am happy to see that dollmaking turns more and more into a form of art. Although good craftmanship is always the basis of a good doll, it has also to do with the expression of the doll, the recognition of emotions, and the high quality of materials used.
It is the total impression of the doll that counts, not only the sculpture. The internal connection of the doll with the human spirit is important, to recognize that you feel some of the things that you see in the dolls. A good doll stays in the memory.
Together with my colleque Marlaine Verhelst we teach two or three times a year a International Masterclass. This Masterclass goes by the name: The “Dutch Touch” and is designed to teach international students some of the creative and unconventional techniques that Dutch dollmakers are reknowned for. The classes are teached in- and outside the Netherlands. For next year Las Vegas and Rey Brook ,NY are on the list.
Once a year I teach a very special dollmaking holiday class in our house in Spain. It is situated near the sea, in a wonderful area. There I teach dollmaking during the beautiful season periods, as spring- and the early summertime. The students learn how to make dolls, in combination with the good things Spain has to offer.
For now. I consider myself as a very lucky dollmaker. My dolls are now seen all over the world and I have to thank my audience for sharing their emotions with me, because it is they who inspire me every time, to try to make the perfect doll “that stays in the memory”.
Ankie Daanen, NIADA Artist