Lynne and Michael Roche
When we met, Michael was restoring antiques and I was continuing to paint after having completed my degree in Fine Art at Camberwell School of Art. I was working part time at the Victoria & Albert Museum then. Shortly after that I saw a collection of antique dolls that absolutely fascinated me. I went on to deal in antique dolls in London, and a year later (1978) we moved to Bath, after getting married.
We took on a shop and began to make copies of old rare dolls often buying cracked examples of the rarer dolls in the Paris flea market, dissatisfied with the body types that were available. Michael began to carve the wooden bodies, all that time ago he used a variety of different woods, but now we only use lime-wood for light colour and lack of strong figuring. We kept our shop for 7 years until we were so busy with making the dolls we realised we wanted to concentrate on that. Soon after that we went to the New York Toy Fairs and Nürenberg Toy Fairs, many of our dolls have gone and still go to the States and we have wonderful support from Danny and Barrie Shapiro and our other loyal US retailers.
We always make all of our own dolls, I paint them and Michael carves all the bodies and makes the moulds etc. We have never done any designs for other companies, having always wanted complete control of what we produce.
Our production is relatively small, now we only make about 40 wood bodied dolls a year and maybe 20 to 50 other dolls, with soft bodies or all-bisque bodies. To us our dolls are still very much dolls that can be played with, undressed and dressed, the bodies are very important, I think my knowledge and love of antique dolls is the main influence on that aspect. Now I try to make the ultimate doll friend, - hoping people will respond to the doll in the same way that I respond to the dolls I feel really drawn to.
The clothing has always been very important, I have often gone towards the 50's look, harking back to my own childhood. I like the clothes to be very much in proportion to the dolls, and have a feeling of reality, not overpowering the doll, so I often use knitteds, wool and cotton rather than heavier fabrics. Also, much of the fabric and yarns are dyed for us. For detailing I love embroidery and appliqués and of course the knitting can also enable details in the right scale. We are very fortunate in having a small team of wonderful knitters and sewers who work at home for us
We have produced a book to celebrate our first 25 years of dollmaking 'A Celebration of Enchantment' where you can find more detail and background information on ourselves and our dolls. see 'Our Book'