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Sonja Hartmann At Work Sculpting The New Faces For 2015

Tue 22nd September 2015

Sonja Hartmann Sculpting Kidz 'n' Cats Dolls

It’s an enormous privilege to have been given these photos to share of Sonja Hartmann at work in her studio sculpting the newest additions to the very much adored Kidz ‘n’ Cats brand of #dolls. These photos contain history in the making and I feel very honoured and grateful to Sonja for allowing me to publish them and talk about them on my blog.

If like me you’ve always wondered exactly how and where Sonja makes the dolls you (and I) own and love, now you can see. If you look closely you will see that Sonja’s studio isn’t a studio at all, but her kitchen at home!


Kidz ‘n’ Cats is a very small family owned business. The hard work to design and deliver Kidz ‘n’ Cats dolls is put in (incredibly) by a team of just three people: Sonja, her husband and daughter. Sonja is a wife, mother and a busy grandmother too, so there’s a lot to do alongside work.
Sonja designed her very first doll for her daughter Gesa, in 1981. She advanced her skills in the craft and made a career for herself initially sculpting collectible dolls, with a move for the family to the USA when her children were young to further this. It was in her Pennsylvanian workshop that she manufactured limited edition dolls in porcelain and resin building up a good reputation and strong following in the collectible doll market. When her children were teenagers the family moved back to Germany.
Kidz ‘n’ Cats were conceived after more than 25 years of experience making dolls. Sonja, who is not only creative and innovative but is also commercial, observed that there wasn’t a play doll with joints available in the ’18 inch’ play doll market. This gave her the initial inspiration for the very first Kidz ‘n’ Cats play dolls. Her desire to innovate and experiment has meant that the doll limbs have been improved a number of times, and in 2011 Sonja took the initial 9 joints to 11 joints to make the dolls even more enjoyable for children. As a result these fabulous, beautiful and expressive artist play dolls have caught the eye of discerning adults who find the price range accessible and the beauty alluring. Indeed some Kidz ‘n’ Cats dolls have increased in value on the second hand market since past collections have been retired and moulds no longer used. Sonja has focused on keeping the retail price approximately the same over the 6 year period despite rising factory prices and import costs. Seeing the popularity of mini dolls Sonja thought it would be great to add ‘Mini Dolls’ to her own Kidz ‘n’ Cats collection and they’re undoubtedly the sweetest little creations!
The little red wax head you can see in the photos above is how the The Mini Dolls started, and here they are for Kidz ‘n’ Cats, below:

How can Sonja see the lively expressions so early on??

These dolls are not the correct scale to be little sisters to the taller 48cm  Kidz ‘n’ Cats dolls, they’re more the size of the dolls they might play with. However, as durable, beautiful dolls with clothing and accessories to fit them, they stand alone as beautiful dolls in their own right. They are gaining such a lot of popularity that I can see doll dressmakers on Etsy and Ebay making and selling clothing for them, and that is in addition to the Mini clothes and shoes that are available from the brand, stocked by My Doll Best Friend.

In the artist’s photos above, the larger red wax head that we can see, is the head shared by Jennet, Julika, Robert and Marina:
I can’t imagine how much talent, imagination and dedication it must take to turn that red wax on a kitchen work top surface into these full bodied and clothed exquisite little people, in just a few short months.
Creating the Kidz ‘n’ Cats brand has been a labour of love for Sonja, that she has worked on tirelessly throughout the evenings and weekends over many years since she launched the brand in 2009.
There have been lots of trips to China to source parts, such as the dolls’ beautiful acrylic eyes and densely knotted high quality kanekalon wigs. There’s the painstaking search for fabrics, buttons and tiny trimmings for the dolls’ clothing from the fabric markets in China. Sonja and her team which consists of her husband and a Chinese factory attendant who helps with the language communication, can often spend a week’s trip just scouring the markets, leafing through swatch after swatch of fabric in the vast fabric market in Guangzhou, trying to find the perfect colour, print, texture of fabric needed to complete the doll outfits Sonja has drawn up for the following year’s collection of Kidz.
Sometimes with luck, sometimes with none. When fabric can’t be found it has to be printed. The problem is that often the scale required is so small to achieve the designs on the Kidz ‘n’ Cats clothing that it is impossible to find – with the exception perhaps of a simple stripe . If Sonja doesn’t find the kind of fabric print that she’s looking for from one of these swatches in the marketplace, then the design needs to be created by a textiles artist. This is one of the reasons the Kidz ‘n’ Cats clothing is so special. Sonja is very committed to dressing the dolls in stylish fashion comparable to the clothing a child might wear and so the laborious process of making bespoke small scale printed fabric begins.
Take a look at some of the detail in Julika‘s clothing:

Jennet‘s clothing is equally detailed and beautiful:

Finally, all the way from the artist’s kitchen in Germany to the showcase exhibition at the international Toy Fair in Nuremberg, Germany. With very many thanks to Sonja Hartmann for her generosity in sharing these private photos of her most recent doll journey, with us.
The End
What is that? Do you say you saw a third red wax head sculpt in the photos at the very top of this article?? 😉

12 responses to “Sonja Hartmann At Work Sculpting The New Faces For 2015”

  1. Thank you very much for your comment Ruth, it's so interesting to know how the Kidz 'n' Cats brand is perceived. It is true that Kidz 'n' Cats is the work of an artist and her close family and their collection each year is very personal in the extreme. So pleased that you are enjoying your dolls 🙂 Maxine

  2. Thanks for sharing this article and pictures with us. I found it very interesting, particularly as I have just bought Rosie! I had no idea of the design process, I truly thought it was done by a team of designers and computer graphics, your article has made me warm to these dolls even more. Thank you Maxine.

  3. Hi Jessica, I'm so thrilled, particularly because I do know you, and it's therefore a great compliment to learn that you enjoyed the read and furthermore found it interesting already knowing so much about Sonja and the Kidz!!! Really, I'm delighted, and would be so happy to have a link shared. Thank you! Maxine

  4. This is an amazing article, Maxine! It's interesting and well written and I love learning all about Sonja and her creations! You know me, I have to know everything I can about the Kidz and they're wonderful creator! 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing this with us! May I share a link to this article in the Fan Club?

  5. Hi Monika, thank you for your comment, and I'm very pleased you found it interesting! I know of a few new things for 2016…but I haven't heard anything new from Sonja, and of course I know I'm annoying – but I can't say what I've heard! I hope you have a lot of fun at the Doll Festival. Best wishes, Maxine

  6. Hello Maxine, an interesting blog about Sonja's work. Do you think there will be a new face in 2016? Already know more? In early November I see Sonja possibly again in Eschwege to the Doll Festival days. Maybe they told me then something more. Greetings Monika

  7. Thank you Sharon! There are just so many stages aren't there? I'd love to be a fly on the wall through the whole process. Imagine what it must feel like to see the ship carrying your precious cargo entering the European port ready to be sent to customers after months of hard work!

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