"When I look at the assortment of dolls that are labeled "Waldorf" on various websites these days I am always amazed. It looks like people are more and more getting away from the original idea of Waldorf. What is that idea?
The two main thoughts behind waldorf style toys, I would say, are: Simplicity and Nature.
I have been making dolls in the Waldorf tradition for over 10 years now. It is an old tradition of making cloth dolls developed in Germany, where Waldorf Schools were started in 1919. According to the Waldorf philosophy, dolls should be made from what nature has given us: natural fibers such as sheep's wool, yarn, and cotton.
The dolls have a unique inner head construction which gives form but not detail to the face. The dolls have very simple features, sometimes no features at all. Strict followers of the Waldorf education principles believe that giving too much detail in a toy stifles a child's imagination. When a doll's face is left blank the owner has to fill in the doll's expression. The child fills in whether the doll is happy or sad. If there was a permanent smile painted on the dolls face, it would be hard for the child to imagine a sad doll.
When I encountered my first Waldorf doll I was instantly in love with it. How was it possible that a doll this simple was so beautiful? How could it be that something so basic held such great attraction to a child and the child in me?
It was a doll made by a mom for her own child. The doll had a simple line for a mouth and two dots for eyes. Her clothes were equally simple. She had a plain dress withouth any thrills. It was simple to put on and take off for the child.The doll was warm, soft, and huggable.
I instantly knew that this was the kind of toy I wanted to give to my own children. I made my first doll and gave it to my daughter on her first birthday 12 years ago.
When I look around at the wide array of dolls sold as "Waldorf style" these days, it makes me kind of cringe. Often I see dolls that are not made of natural fibers at all. Some people stuff their dolls with fiberfill or use synthetics like soft minky fabric for the baby dolls bodies. I see noses big and small, sculpted faces with chins, and protruding lips. I see eyebrowes, dimples, freckles, belly buttons, fingers, toes, and rainbow colored sparkly hair.
I am not saying that these types of cloth dolls who have lots of details are not beautiful in their own right. Many of them I find quite amazing. I find myself in awe about how realistic and lifelike some of them look. I would call them art dolls rather than waldorf style.
Does the simpler kind of doll without a nose or ears somehow strike people as crippled or incomplete? Does my little business have to give in to fads in order to survive? In a market that is totally oversaturated I find myself compromising because I have learned that dolls with a nose sell about 10 times faster while the traditional baby will linger on the virtual storeshelf forever.
Hmmm. What was the original idea? Are you able to fill in the blank and make your imagination soar? If your answer is yes, you may prefer my kind of doll.
My ultimate goal is to promote the love for the more traditional type of doll. It's a constant struggle between the need to insure the survival of my business versus preserving the original idea of Waldorf - and wanting to stay true to my German roots. I want each doll to be sweet and simple like that first doll I created for my own child.
So I'll keep creating what is in my mind the "essence of doll".
If you would like to learn more about the Waldorf movement, please read here: