Sasha dolls were created and named after Sasha Morgenthaler. Born in 1893 in Switzerland, she was an independent and strong minded woman, putting all her energy and passion into her beliefs and life goals. Humanitarian, midwife, traveller, mother of three, protégé of the painter Paul Klee, spouse of the artist Ernest Morgenthaler and artist herself, she is most famous for her dollmaking.
Having studied at the Art Academy of Geneva and introduced to the ‘Der Blaue Reiter’ art movement, she initially worked as a painter and sculptor before becoming a midwife. During the Second World War, she founded the Women’s Aid Auxiliary Troops and helped with the transport of refugee children.
If she began making toys and animals in the Twenties for her sons and daughter - as she did not like those available in stores -, it is in the forties only, that she decided to make dolls her favorite medium of expression.
Having traveled all around the globe which allowed her to meet families of different cultures and races, she wished to create human-like dolls with living expressions that would appeal to all children and awaken their true feelings. She was against the “over-smiling” doll. She therefore played on the asymmetry of proportions to give her dolls realistic faces. With the help of a young sculptor and moulder, she gave them solid bodies and proper limbs. These dolls, called “studio dolls”, were made from 1942 until her death in 1975. Entirely handmade and therefore very expensive, they could only be bought by the well-off and were mostly unique pieces upon commission.
Wishing to broaden the access to her dolls and dreaming of becoming accessible to all families, the artist then sought out a factory to have dolls produced in series. It was a real challenge but after numerous trials, the Sasha doll was born and first became available in October 1965 in all the Migros stores of Switzerland. It was produced under a licensing contract by two firms :
*Puupenfabrik Hans Gotz in Germany from 1965 to 1970 then interrupted to be produced again from 1995 to 2001
*Frido Limited (later Trendon) in England from 1966 to 1986. The thriving British doll industry unfortunately came to a halt with the harsh competition of Asian toys companies producing at a much cheaper price.
The German Gotz dolls have a concentric circle on their backs saying Sasha Serie. This makes them easily recognisable whereas as the English dolls have no distinctive mold marks. During her lifetime, Sasha Morgenthaler liked to go to the factory as often as she could to give her opinion and practical advice such as how to paint the eyes.
Sasha dolls were made of hard vinyl. Their socket heads could turn and their hands had joined fingers but had a separate thumb.
They had proper rooted hair which can be brushed. They were made in all colors : blond, black, brown. Likewise, several flesh tones were created to represent children from all over the world.
Their eyes were hand painted but most of the later ones have printed eyes, some with hand finishing details. Height varies from 15.5 inches to 17 inches. This is partly due to moulds being casted over and over again leading to slight misshapings. Their feet were flat giving them perfect balance. Some could even stand on their heads.
Dolls were strung together with an elastic cord and had a Sasha logo printed medallion attached to their right wrist with a string.
The Sasha dolls came as girls, boys and then even babies and then even sought-after toddlers.
They had different styles and subtle variations to give each one a unique feel. Indeed the initial aim of the artist was to offer a universal image of childhood. She wished to reflect youth of all cultures and races!
Outfits were usually sold separately along with other accessories to create full looks. Patterns were also created to allow doll collectors to create their own clothes.
Today Gotz Sasha dolls are more easily found in Europe than in America whereas vintage English Sasha tend to be more common in the US. No longer produced, the Sasha dolls are highly sought after by collectors. The Studio dolls, most of which were hand painted by Sasha herself, are of course the most expensive. Their prices can go up to 10k. The most difficult ones to find are the early Gotz ones produced between 1960 and 1969 along with the early Trendon ones made between 1967 and 1969. They are all one of a kind.
The mass produced Trendon dolls shipped to American toy stores between 1969 and 1972 tend to still be in great shape, their prices vary between $500-1500. The dolls dating from the most profilic period of the Trendon factory, meaning 1972 to 1986 are for many "played with" dolls. In want of sprucing up, many were repainted.
To this day, several seamstresses continue to create Sasha dolls garments ranging from casual daywear to elaborate almost couture outfits.
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