In 1948 in Bad Lauchstadt near Meseberg (Leipzig) Annette Himstedt was born. This is roughly 300km east of Paderborn and about 600km from Breda. She grew up, from age four onwards, in the Falkensee on the outskirts of Berlin. She had a four year older sister with whom she walked to school every day. For her, at the time, this was an adventure.
When she was eight years old her father was forced to become an accountant for a political party (SED) in east Germany (DDR). He did not want to co-operate, this resulted in the family fleeing to the west in 1956. The Berlin wall had not been built yet but security was very rigorous. Her parents were planning their escape meticulously and after a week managed to smuggle everything to the western side. The family soon followed with some others in a small van to the ‘free’ west. In the first refugee camp Annette became seriously ill with a middle ear infection. After three weeks her health improved as did her living environment. Another year later she moved again this time to Salzgitter-Lebenstedt near Hannover. Aged 11 Annette spent a lot of time drawing, a skill she got from her father, who drew a lot and later used oil paints. Sadly he died in 1958; Annette doesn’t remember him well. Her other joy in life was reading, mostly fairytales. She still cherishes the latter, and loves attending theatre performances. Annette herself never had a doll, she wasn’t really one to play with them. All she had was a bear and the fairytales that meant the world to her. The first years without her father were hard but she matured quickly and later went on to graduate from school to become an insurance agent. This wasn’t necessarily her first choice but her mother wanted her to get a job in something with a future. One year later she married and had her first child at the age of 18, his name was Dirk and just 13 months later Imke her daughter followed. Her kids were and still are her greatest pride. After her divorce it dawned on her that she did have to make a living. She wasn’t very keen to start work as an insurance agent. So at the age of 27 she became a mannequin, through the world of fashion she ended up in the doll industry. That was the start of her adventure into the world of dolls. In 1947 she made her first attempts at making dolls. After that her whole life was built around it. She wanted to achieve something through her dolls. She used varying materials; in 1979 she takes a clay model to the nearest porcelain factory. Here she met a form maker with whom she still works. Her real goal was not to make dolls but ‘’children’’. She used lots of photos as inspiration but she mostly relied on her fantasy. In the early stages of her work it was hard for her to find the companies who made the right kind of wigs, eyes etc. As she gained more experience this became easier. A glass blower delivered the right kind of eyes and through the costume department in the theatre she could get wigs made. In 1982 at a Christmas show at a warehouse in Munchen she got the opportunity to show her dolls to the public. She brought 15 dolls and there was a lot of interest but not enough for people to buy them. Luckily at the end she managed to sell a doll to a young woman. Her dolls started to appear in various magazines, she perfected her technique, made doll portraits all of this resulted in her breakthrough in 1984. Her dolls became world famous. From all over the world she got requests to make doll portraits. She again appeared in not only magazines and newspapers but also in different TV programs. Since 1983 UNICEF played a huge roll. In 1985 they asked to make 5 different child dolls from 5 different parts of the world. The dolls were auctioned off, during a big gala show in march 1986, on Dutch TV. Just a month before Annette had presented her first vinyl doll at the ‘Nurnberger Messe’ and registered her brand name. In 1986 she started on a life-sized self portrait, sitting down and with a mermaid tail, this proved to be an almost impossible task. During the baking of the material it shrinks, the total length of the original was 2 meters and the final result was 1.7 meters just as planned. But how does it keep its shape? At 1400 degrees everything shrinks (15%), bends, collapses. Try as she may it kept failing, but she started to improve her technique and after 14 months having worked on it every day, there was, Undine. The cast, when filled, weighed 700 kilo and was baked elsewhere, in a 65 meter long tunnel oven for 3 days. From doing this Annette gained a lot of experience and knowledge in the creation of casts and their materials. She knows what can and can’t be done and continuously tests the limits. For example for a leg with a shoe on it she uses a cast made up of 26 parts, and a dark porcelain doll will be put back in the oven about 50 times. Only in 1987 was there a doll magazine that wrote about her. The first couple of years she produced her vinyl dolls in Spain. The circumstances were not ideal, a garage with a basement and all the travelling certainly didn’t make it easier. This resulted in a couple of changes: in 1988 she built her own porcelain factory in Paderborn. In 1989 the first porcelain collection from the new factory were released and in 1990 the factory was finished and she moved from her tiny work space to her giant factory in Paderborn. Here she had the possibility to create her own primary materials and to bake them at 1400 degrees and finally release a piece of art from the factory. In 1996 the club was founded, because of this she had more connections to collectors. Despite the fact that there was enough space in the porcelain factory it wasn’t until 2000 that the vinyl production was moved from Spain to Paderborn. So now all the production was under one roof. 7 and 13 have always been special numbers to Annette. Because of that she released in her 7th club year and her 13th anniversary (2002) a special collection of 31 dolls. In this range all the child dolls are limited. As expected from Annette the limitations are in strange numbers, most of them can divided or are multiples of 7 or 13, or they are additions of 7 or 13, or there was a 7 or 13 in the number. In 2004 she started using more color in her vinyl productions and gave more color to the collection. Annette can look back at lots of special collections of which a lot won prizes on different occasions. In the meantime she has decided to slow down a bit and no longer has porcelain collections and also the amount of dolls has significantly been reduced. In 2007 the amount of shops that sold her dolls also drastically decreased. Annette approached us and after 20 years of business relations she wanted to keep this relationship. Therefore we are officially still a Annette Himstedt dealer. At the end of 2008 the factory was shut down. Read on to find out more…
Annette Himstedt Factory closed
We got a message from Annette Himstedt that production is coming to an end. The summer collection of 2008 will sadly be the last. We look back at a pleasant co-operation between Annette and her workers and ourselves. After 22 years this will come to an end. Luckily we still have various models from this year and the previous years in stock. For now we can still sell the Himstedt dolls to the fans. If you have any interest in the current or previous collections let us know as soon as possible. We would love to see you in our shop in Breda for Annette Himstedt or one of the 60 other dolls artists and factories.
Goodbye to the Annette Himstedt atelier
In 1986 I produced my first Vinyl collection, now, 23 years later I’m closing my factory. There were plenty of successful years, also some tough ones. My first and foremost goal was always “fun, and the ambition to keep improving the dolls”. Throughout the years I proposed a lot of changes- and made quite a few of them, because the doll market kept adjusting and changing, something I am not entirely innocent of. To keep getting better, keep working with higher quality, this resulted that not only the collector but also the shop keepers became more demanding. The dolls kept getting more expensive to manufacture, because of the materials and the wigs but also because you needed a lot more employees to keep up. For the past few years I have had between 50 and 80 permanent employees. Add on to this that people’s belts were tighter: economical problems in a lot of countries, rising energy prices, and current problems with investments with the bank. This meant that people couldn’t really spend money like they did before. It kept getting harder especially because of the bad exchange rate for dollars. In the five years, between 2003 and 2007 we suffered a lot of loss. We hadn’t raised the prices for the American collector but because the dollar kept getting weaker our losses to America were so severe that we couldn’t achieve the American prices anymore. We had to raise the price in America as well, so that it was closer to the European price. For the American collector this meant a lot of money. But we just couldn’t keep the prices that low anymore. We maintained an exchange rate for $1.15 for €1 in reality it was closer to $1.60.
The truth is to keep a firm like mine, good quality dolls from Germany, in good condition we would have to sell a minimum amount of dolls per year. Sadly our numbers had stagnated.
Because of this my factory will close at the end of 2008. We will keep up the production of the summer kids and the orders that come in till mid November will be filled.
I think the last collection will be as popular as the one from 1986 the dolls will definitely increase in worth.
I have spent almost a quarter century in my factory with blood, sweat and tears, and of course idealism.
I enjoyed working with my colleagues. I would like to thank them for all the hard work and all the effort put into it.
I would like to thank the collectors and the shop keepers for their loyalty to my dolls for all these past years.
In this time frame I have experienced some of the best but also some of the worst moments of my life, but the joy I could give to collectors and the worldwide lovers with my dolls was a constant motivation to keep creating.
I hope, that Himstedt collectors will treasure the dolls that were made here forever.
In one way or another I will stay in the world of dolls, not quite sure how, but what is sure is that it won’t be with a factory.
All my love,
And the best to you all
Your Annette Himstedt.
© Hesemans Breda 2008