Sew Crafy

Monday, November 8, 2010


Yana Emellyanova nails the prize for the Steampunk Challenge making this win number 3 for this talented contender.  But I have to say, she also had some staunch competition.  These designers certainly stepped up their game.

She nailed military Steampunk spot on.  The jacket and pants of her uniform styled fashon were made of silk taffeta, blouse of cotton, and the corset of painted lace.  It also featured all the gadgets we normally see with this style.

I must say I could pick out Yana’s outfit as well as several others.  I’ve come to know the style of particular artists, a style that wasn’t so evident when this competition first began.

But it is in the styling that a designer makes their mark.  Don’t you think of specific things these designers have used time after time while still managing to give their designs a fresh face year after year?  You know, the likes of John Galliano, Vivienne Westwood, Betsy Johnson, Dian Von Furstenberg.  Whether you like their designs or not – you can always pick them out!!  It’s a thrill to see these new designers accomplishing their own style.

Speaking of style, it’s hard not to think of Robert Tonner – goth for dolls and real life clothing.  And this year we are delighted to not only welcome back the Tonner Doll Company as one of our sponsors, but to also have Tom Courtney, Art Director, as one of our judges! 

The Tonner Doll Company never fails to delight us.  From their online presentations of new dolls through Tonner Direct to their Tonner Doll Collectors' Conventions, there is always a way for doll collectors to experience doll beauty with them!!

I say "them" because it does truly take a village to bring to the public all the wonderment Robert Tonner can imagine for us.  Shining bright as a legend in our doll world, Robert Tonner is the ultimate face of this great dynasty, but his "village," or staff members, are some of the wonderful people from his company we have also met at conventions or online along the way.  You really didn't think Robert, as he is affectionately known by doll lovers, could do all the jobs necessary to bring his many visions to realization, now did you? 

One such member of Robert Tonner's winning team is Tom Courtney.  Tom is a fun-loving, hard-working, crew member who is also a fellow doll collector.  Like many of the designers in our Challenge, Tom not only collects, he also enjoys designing and sewing for his own dolls whenever his busy schedule allows him this pleasure.  Among his other avocations are cooking, gardening, and photography.

 Tom’s professional life began after college interning for the Department of Navy as a Contracts Specialist, culminating in a 12-year career of cost analysis, negotiation, and procurement of computer equipment, machine tools, and navigation components for the TRIDENT Missile Program. Shifting his focus to the creative, Tom joined Tonner in 2000, and while there has handled production management, marketing, advertising, visual merchandising, web development and most recently, Art Direction. 

Many people think Tom designs for Tonner, but in truth, he has never worked under the Design Team. As Art Director, Tom is responsible for the visual promotion and consistency of Tonner Doll via its printed materials, website, photography and trade shows. 

It hadn’t been very long when we had this interview that the Tonner Doll Company had moved its offices, so I wanted to know how Tom was enjoying his new digs.  I was delighted when he answered, and gave me this interesting tidbit.  “Tonner has gone through many changes during my 10 years; but the most interesting has been moving to the historic Bank of New York building in uptown Kingston this past April,” he explains. “We all love the new space…and truly believe we have a couple of ghosts we inherited via the building!”  Hum….I wonder if the Tonner crew took them along with them to Burlington, Vermont for their recent 2010 Tonner Halloween Convention themed Mysticism & Mayhem??

I also couldn’t resist asking my fellow doll aficionado about his own doll collection – what he collects, what his favorites are, and where he keeps them all.  Like most of us, he was happy to share!  Tom has collected dolls for over 25 years; gathering such notables as Barbie, Madame Alexander children, Tonner’s Betsy McCall and Mary Engelbreit, and an extensive collection of various fashion dolls.  “In the past three years, however,” Tom says, “Alice in Wonderland has been a large influence on my collection; I’ve been collecting both artist pieces and vintage souvenir dolls sold in the Disney parks.”
Tom doesn’t display them all at home, though – space there is limited and reserved for special artist pieces and his Alice figurine and teapot collection. “My office at Tonner has become my ‘serious’ display space for my favorites these days,” Tom explains. And what are those favorites, I asked? “Right now, I am loving Tonner’s Scarletts – Harry Potter, and Alice. Also, Tyler Wentworth will always be my favorite fashion doll,” Tom replied.

Having seen some of  Tom’s wonderful sewing, I asked what dolls he had designed clothing for – as a hobby, of course – to which he replied:   “I have designed clothing for Barbie; Madame Alexander’s Cissy, Cissette and Wendy; Tonner’s Betsy McCall and Mary Engelbreit child dolls; Gene, Tonner’s American Models, Kitty Collier, 16” and Fashion dolls such as Tyler and Antoinette.”
And most don’t know, at one time he even accomplished a human scale Gone With the Wind gown for a friend.   Scattered throughout this interview are pictures of dolls Tom collects, gowns he’s produced (including the GWTW life-sized), and a very good picture of our most talented and real live doll, Tom Courtney.  CDDC is indeed lucky to have him as one of our resident judges!

And how about this last challenge and its judge??  Our final guest judge is the winner of last year's CDDC, Emilia Nieminen.  Her fabulous designs and the wonderful creation of those designs brought her to the win.  So I think it’s quite appropriate she guest judge the final challenge.  This challenge is to create the piece de resistance of any runway...the bridal gown, but a very special bridal gown.  The designers are to take their gown to the cutting edge of fashion by making it extremely modern and avant garde.

She certainly knows avant garde as well as every style in the challenges that were thrown at her last year.  So that makes it even more interesting that she didn’t plan to be a designer. Her Bachelor’s degree is in business and she has a Master’s Degree in Chinese language.  And as a child she preferred the whims of a tomboy to that of a girl who plays with dolls.

Rather it was her interest in her school’s theater group that laid the foundation for her taste for historical elements and her flair for the dramatic.  She even spent a semester studying fashion drawing in Shanghai University because she loved designing wedding gowns.  She feels it’s the one day when people dare to dress up and wear something special.

Her interest in dolls was sparked by a shopping trip with her sister who introduced her to fashion dolls.  After a few shopping sprees on the internet. and a few dolls purchased, she begin to dress these diminutive divas and she was hooked.  She says developing a personality with the doll helps her decide which style will suit her best.

So there you have it, a judge who has a vast knowledge of wedding ensembles as well as avant garde.  This winning combination should lead to some interesting comments as well as some helpful guidance from this judge.

And now I feel it important to talk about a past judge. This year we lost the incredibly talented Joe Tai.  His battle with cancer ended in September.  But weren’t we fortunate to have him with us for a time – a time where he not only gave us incredible fashions, but also dolls, shoes, and jewelry?  I interviewed Joe during his judging CDDC last year, and he was extremely happy to be a part of this endeavor.  We at CDDC were extremely happy to have him. and will always think of him in the fondest way. 

 Goodbye, Joe Tai, you will be missed!

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