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Rotraut Schrott
Rotraut Schrott has made original dolls for nearly twelve years, and she is so much in demand that she cannot keep up with her orders. There is a waiting list for her dolls of more than a year: private collectors, museums, and art galleries all want her beautiful and unique dolls. She started making her own dolls in evening classes when her own three children no longer needed mother's apron strings.

It has been noticed in Germany, where Rotraut has her residence , that many artist dolls take on a semblance of their creators. This special artists' "look" or style can be recognized on the finished dolls. The more sensitive observer can also see something in the doll's faces that acts as a mirror of their creators. As an example, Rotraut's have a warm, sensuous set of lips and clear sparkling eyes just like her own.

Rotraut was helped early by her father, the very well-known Munich watercolor artist, Ludwig Adam. Even now in his eighties, he still advises her on anatomical accuracies. His love is portraiture, as is hers. She has always been fascinated by children's faces, their softness and roundness with a hint of future life and adventure. Her father is very careful in advising her because she gets slightly impatient with herself--she wants to be perfect.

It took courage for her to present her dolls publicly. She started shyly at private exhibitions in elegant surroundings. This is a very special German feature of our days: Housewives with initiative and time and interesting husbands in well established jobs gather at one of their home and show and sell their work. Rotraut's first successes and the consequent enthusiastic press articles both locally and in international magazines were so overwhelming that she summoned the courage to apply to Lugwid Beck's Department Store in Munich in 1981 for their annual Christmas show. Again, her success was tremendous. She participated again in 1982 and did so well that she dared to enter a European doll competition in October 1983 and promptly won their first prize in the category of non-porcelain, professional. This set off an avalanche. She accepted to Bavarian Arts and Crafts Institute, which has been in existence for more than 125 years. Her dolls are constantly exhibited there and sell as soon as they arrive. This institution recently staged an exhibition of modern artists' dolls with the theme of "Manon Lescaut," after the book by Abbe Prevost--a tender, passionate sad French love story of the 18th century. Doll artists from Europe and Israel took part, but Rotraut's Manon doll sold first.

In more recent times, Rotraut has been the recipient of countless design and art awards. She has earned many Dolly of the Year awards (DOTYs) and the coveted Dolls Magazine's "Awards of Excellence". Just last year during the 1993 International Toy Fair in New York, Rotraut and The Great American Doll Company were the proud recipients of the coveted DOTY award for the famous Rotraut Schrott Self-Portrait doll, picked first among thousands of other entries. The doll edition sold out immediately and is now very rare.

Luxurious clothes are a very special feature of her original dolls. Rotraut is constantly on the hunt for old material and accessories like feathers, needles, pins, buckles, laces, embroideries, and so on. She spares neither time nor money to produce her unique, inimitable clothing; layers and layers of underskirts and dresses and tops of aprons.

Where the edging or colors do not seem sufficient she crochets around meters of material to create a finished look. Needless to say, her attic is neatly assorted with materials and trimmings, bursting at the seams.

Her original dolls are made of a synthetic material "Cernit No. 1," to which she adds her own secret concoction. This gives them a wax and lifelike complexion. The interior of the heads consists of a polystyrene ball onto which she molds the kneaded Cernit. Her tools are modeling sticks of all sizes and sometimes she uses knitting needles for sharper contours. She pays special attention to the mouth which she regards as the most important part of facial expression. The eyes are modeled separately and set. The eyelids are especially added with slim rolls of Cernit over eyelashes from real hair. When she has finished the head to her satisfaction which is usually after occasional remodeling and slight changes in the expression, it is fired in a kiln for 25 minutes at a temperature of 100 Celsius. Then she paints only the eyes and eyebrows because the faces already have a flesh-like color. Lips and cheeks receive dashes of rouge to give them a transparent shine. A shoulder plate is modeled and fired and attached to the head to allow it to turn. Hands, lower arms, feet, and lower legs are also modeled individually with much care: tiniest folds and wrinkles are minutely scraped or incised on hands and feet.

When Rotraut Schrott exhibited her dolls at her second show, she had no ideas about the politics or power struggles within the doll industry. Like a babe in the woods, she marched into the doll storms unafraid and experienced instant success. Sometimes, she would have several interested buyers fighting over one or another particular doll. Rotraut was among the first to set off a new avalanche on the road to worldwide awareness of this second round of original German dollmakers, after the first at the beginning of the century with K the Kruse and Kaulitz.

When German publishers showed immense interest in this new trend of German artist dolls, Rotraut Schrott firmly put a wedge in the door to history by featuring her dolls in their books from cover to cover ("Die liebenswerte Welt der Puppen" - The lovable world of dolls - Flaken-Verlag 1984; "Kunstler Puppen" - Artist Dolls - Verlag Laterna Magica 1985; "Originielle Puppen selbst gemacht" - Original Homemade Dolls - BLV-Verlag 1987; "Kunstler Puppen II" - Artist Dolls II - Verlag Laterna Magica 1989; "Making Original Portrait Dolls in Cernit" - 1991); and numerous articles and front covers in British, German, Dutch, and American doll magazines and newspapers. Her fame as an artist has grown tremendously since those first showings in Becks Department Store.

The knowledgeable doll lovers who sensed a new sensational discovery and talent with a prospect of further perfection quickly bought all her dolls. How wise and right they were! Her early beauties are now collectors' items which have proven to be an exceptional investment and now change hands like the precious antique dolls, gathering value as the years roll by.

Rotraut is just as intelligent and educated as she is beautiful, and like her dolls, she displays an ever exploding charm, an aura of bubbly champagne and a gentle nature. The stability of a happy home and family allow her to indulge in her artistry. Her husband, equally accomplished in his own field, supports her ambition by cooking when necessary for them and visitors, joining her in their warm hospitality. Some are just blessed, and Rotraut offers her tribute by constantly giving her best with determination, very hard work, consistently improving the quality of her dolls. Being a very lovable person, she in turn fusses over those near her. Once she has accepted a friendship, one feels caressed with attention and sensitivity.

Rotraut says: "At the attempt to produce a little doll for a present during Christmas 1980, I realized how easy it was for me to model a face. Surprised and happy about the discovery of these hidden talents - perhaps a heritage from my father who was a successful as a professional portrait painter - I began to study sculpting and dollmaking seriously. I studied and practiced incessantly until I could make really beautiful things. Then I would fall in love with my new children because I love life and all things beautiful."

Rotraut is very modest and gives much credit to her father for his patience and determination to help her along in her training. For this, Rotraut cites Albert Schweitzer, who said: "Each of us has to remember those with deep gratitude who ignited flames within us." So it was with Rotraut, and so it was with her father, one master training another.

(Reprinted from articles by highly-acclaimed international journalist, Ursula Driskell.)

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