The National Institute of American Doll Artists
A worldwide organization of doll artists, supportive patrons, and friends
whose purpose is to promote the art of the original handmade doll.
Our blog is related to dollmaking, with visits to NIADA artists’ studios to see their latest projects, reports on art doll shows and exhibitions, sharing tips and techniques, and pictures of things that inspire creative ideas.
“Collections of mass-produced dolls, originally made for children to play with, are everywhere. Far rarer and generally unknown to the public are the original dolls handmade by artists with the same creative approach which is used in painting and sculpture. Their dolls, many of which express American culture, are not intended for play.”
~ Helen Bullard, 1983
The National Institute of American Doll Artists was officially founded in May 1963, at the Watts Barr Resort near Ozone, Tennessee by Helen Bullard, who gathered with her co-founders, Gertrude Florian, Magge Head and Fawn Zeller. These artists, working primarily in isolation had come to know each other through the annual conventions of the United Federation of Doll Clubs (UFDC), a national doll collectors organization, which they had been attending since the early 1950s.
These four artists officially organized themselves into the National Institute of American Doll Artists, inviting Dewees Cochran, Dorothy Heizer, Ellery Thorpe, Martha Thompson, Halle Blakeley, Lewis Sorensen and Muriel Bruyere to join them as charter members. The group’s aim was to work together toward a common goal: the recognition of original handmade dolls as fine art. The first NIADA exhibit was held on August 13, 1963, at the Los Angeles UFDC Convention. The work of the eleven charter members, plus that of newly elected member Tamara Steinheil, was displayed.
Today one finds NIADA dolls well represented in the print media, on the Internet, value guides and in exhibitions and shows worldwide. NIADA flourishes as an international organization representing artists from France, England, Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Denmark, Russia, Japan, Australia and Canada. Annual Conventions have been held separately and immediately before or after UFDC Conventions. The NIADA Annual Conferences always an exciting event sharing knowledge of the art of the doll through master classes, presenting programs, visiting artists critiques, the NIADA Artists Gallery, and the Annual Show and Sale and much more.
NIADA is thrilled to see the work of artists who have exceptional merit. The Standards Committee is available to all aspiring artists who meet the established criteria (See Becoming A Member on the NIADA website). The committee evaluates the basic elements of form, movement and anatomy, the construction of the figure, handling of the media, the technique and craftsmanship of the finish and finally sees if the artist has conveyed a message through this art form. Every applicant should have something new and vital to contribute.
The only way to really experience the vibrant exciting world of the art of the doll is to attend a NIADA Conference. Conferences are an annual event welcoming members, friends and visiting artists.
Helen Bullard’s remarkable vision, NIADA, has evolved into a vibrant International organization. Helen Bullard died in 1996. Her legacy moves forward.