R. John Wright Dolls - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

R. John Wright Dolls

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Dolls have been around for centuries. From kids toys to collectible items they are sought after by many. Gina Bullard found collectible dolls that are Made in Vermont.

With intricate details and lifelike characteristics, the creations at R. John Wright Dolls in Bennington stop you in your tracks. The most amazing part -- they're all made completely out of felt.

"We are the only manufacturer to my knowledge in the world that's making molded felt dolls," said Susan Wright, who along with her husband, John, have created dolls, bears and other animals out of felt for the past 40 years.

"There's a strong subculture that collect these kind of things," John Wright said.

The company comes up with their own creatures and dolls and creates traditional favorites. The company also makes licensed versions of classic characters like the cast of the Wizard of Oz.

This all began when John was laid off from his job at a hardware store. Always artistic, he sat down at his wife's sewing machine. Inspired by vintage dolls, he finally decided to make his own.  Wright still has that doll today. "I didn't know anything about sewing, I didn't know anything about pattern making," he said.

A week later John made this doll.

Reporter Gina Bullard: You went from that to this?

John Wright: This is the second one.

Reporter Gina Bullard: That's quite the leap.

He made several of the second version and started selling them at a craft store. And unlike the Cowardly Lion that the company is working on now, he had the courage to jump in and start a business.

The process starts with prototypes that are drawn and molded from clay. The Cowardly Lion prototype took five weeks to make. The Collectible R. John Wright Dolls are desired around the globe. The company releases around 30 different editions every year. There are between 150 and 500 pieces in each run, and they're highly sought after. "It's endlessly thrilling. I never get jaded. I always keep in mind how it was when we began," John said.

The pieces range in price from $150 for a small creature, to $3,500. One-of-a-kind dolls have sold for up to $50-thousand.

"It's challenging to mold the felt, to work out the pattern, so it's 3D. Being able to paint on felt. A lot of challenges, and that's the thing that's kept up going for 40 years. There's always new things to do with the medium," Susan said.

The jointed felt dolls move and are air-brushed and painted, bringing them to life. The creations have a warmth to them that porcelain and plastic dolls don't.  And no detail is forgotten.

John Wright: See -- his suit is made out of fabric.

Reporter Gina Bullard: Really? oh my goodness.

John Wright: And that's what the real suit is made out of.

Putting a made in Vermont spin on the classics.

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