Wooden Dolls

By Aleishall Girard Maxon

The making of dolls is a deeply ingrained human practice that is virtually ubiquitous throughout recorded history. Wooden dolls have been discovered in the tombs of Ancient Egyptians dating back to as early as 2030 BC. Across continents and cultures, dolls have been found to play a part in our lives; from religious ceremonies or education to magic, ritual, play, protection and of course decoration.

In fact, the starting point for our grandfather’s collection – that would later become the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe – was a wooden Pinocchio gifted to him as a child in Italy. The collection at the MOIFA includes thousands of dolls from over 100 countries and as you walk through the exhibition it becomes obvious that our grandfather attached enormous significance to these objects, which are universal yet completely unique at the same time.
You can therefore imagine that it was no real surprise when we opened a box in the archive of the Vitra Design Museum some 15 years ago and discovered Girard’s own set of wooden dolls. Though we had never seen them as children in our grandparents’ home they were immediately familiar. It was through our father that we had learned how our grandfather created this family of wooden figures after purchasing a new band saw. Exploring this new tool with his customary fervour, he executed curves and angles that were reminiscent of the Kachinas of the Southwest, Kokeshis from Japan, toys from his childhood and even robots. Once painted and adorned, however, these dolls took on a quintessentially Girard flavour and have become the de facto mascot for Vitra and perhaps even the renaissance of the entire mid-century modern period.
It is not difficult to understand why these objects have become so beloved. The desire to recognise our human experience in the world around us is eternal. This quirky, colourful family spans the range of human emotions and is a reminder that we are part of a collective, something larger than ourselves.
Given the unique and impactful presence these objects bring to an environment, it is our great pleasure to introduce two members of the Wooden Doll Family in a new larger size. We hope they bring even more whimsical joy and colour to interiors around the globe.

Publication date: 3.11.2022
Images: © Girard Studio, LLC; Vitra;

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