Meet our Instructors

Connie Smith

Ceramic & Air-Dry Clays - Wax - Mixed Media

A third-generation artist, I’ve sculpted clay and experimented with basic hand-sewing techniques since early childhood. I studied Ceramic Arts and Printmaking at the University of Memphis, and took intermittent night courses in Animation at NYU during a decade in New York City. I have been an Artist Member of the National Institute of American Doll Artists since 1996, having taught many live workshops through NIADA’s Dollmaking School, and served on the Board since 2015. My style incorporates anthropomorphic character hybrids, and endeavors towards eco-friendly, sustainable practices with materials, which I try to encourage in my students. Welcome!

VISIT: Connie Smith Portfolio

Shelley Thornton


Shelley Thornton is a lifelong artist of varied endeavors, including illustration, graphic design, printmaking, toymaking, animation, and clothing design and construction. She earned a BFA from the University of Nebraska in LIncoln, where she still resides. In 1993, she became a doll artist and dollmaking teacher, and was elected into NIADA in 1995. Her cloth dolls feature needle-sculpted, embroidered faces, wooden ball joints and meticulously designed and crafted clothing. Her unmistakeable style is defined by her unique juxtaposition of patterns and colors and her signature stuffed cloth hair. She loves to share her techniques with other dollmakers.

VISIT: Shelley Thornton Portfolio

Marlaine Verhelst

Hand sculpted Porcelain - Air Dry Clay - Textiles

Marlaine Verhelst works and teaches in several mediums. Mostly her pieces are sculpted directly of porcelain, but also in air dry clay. Sculpting and painting are Marlaine’s favorite aspects of the process of creating a doll. Her dolls are human with a fantasy touch. “Less is more” is her maxim for the final result. Textiles are her other love. She works as a guide and teacher in a Museum of Textiles in her hometown. Marlaine is a proud NIADA artist member since 1999 and has a lot of experience in teaching, online and in person. She is looking forward to meeting you!

VISIT: Marlaine Verhelst Portfolio

Meet our Instructors

Chris Chomick Peter Meder

Automata - 3D Sculpting+Printing - Resin

“Our design process starts with an attitude. We find inspiration in strange and unusual imagery: beautiful but disturbing, intriguing yet provoking feelings of uneasiness. Unique faces, outrageous hairstyles, century-old religious icons―these are the creative seeds for our figures.” The husband and wife team of Peter Meder and Chris Chomick have worked together for over forty years. Both have a commercial background, described as a combination of artistic and technical, with focus on animation, resulting in their unique form of figurative art and automata.

VISIT: Chomick+Meder Portfolio

Ankie Daanen

Mixed Media - Paperclay - Porcelain

My name is Ankie Daanen and I make artist dolls, and have been doing this for many years. My artdolls could be called theater-like figures that stay close to the human form. Every doll is a one of a kind and a lot of attention is paid to the costume which makes the doll special. I make porcelain dolls, but at the moment I only work with the Japanese Creative Paperclay. A self-hardening clay that dries in the air, is strong and has the appearance of porcelain. Teaching has always been high on my list and I really enjoy the wonderful results achieved by my students. But above all the pleasure in creating within this special art form is paramount. I therefore hope that through my online courses I can contribute to passing on my knowledge.

VISIT: Ankie Daanen Portfolio

Kate Church

Polymer Clay - Mixed Media

The line and gesture of Kate's work draws on a continuing practice and study of the human figure. Drawing, painting, printmaking and sculpting are a major part of Kate’s work life. Her use of fabrics reflect a background in textile design, her major course of study at Rhode Island School of Design: BFA 1978
The intention of the work is to carry a sense of emotion through the posture and expression of the figure evolving in front of her. Built using a process that is movable throughout its construction, a tangible sense of emerging comes naturally to the finished sculpture. Movement is part of their design.

VISIT: Kate Church Portfolio

Meet our Instructors

Stephanie Blythe

Porcelain - Mixed Media

Stephanie holds a BFA in Fibers from the Philadelphia College of Art. She uses traditional porcelain dollmaking techniques to create dolls ranging from 1 inch to 15 inches, clothed in elegantly detailed costumes fashioned from her extensive antique textile collection. She is known for her imaginative fantasy figures and whimsical fairies that reflect a strong connection with the beauty of nature. During her 40-year career she has also owned a company selling to more than 85 galleries and craft shops, and designed dolls for the mass market. Her work can be found in museums as well as in private collections.

VISIT: Stephanie Blythe Portfolio

Susan Fosnot

Painted Cloth Dolls

Susan Fosnot’s all cloth dolls are sewn and stuffed as any cloth doll. Then they are painted using traditional portrait techniques to create the illusion of facial features and hair. She has been making these dolls for over 25 years, and has taught numerous doll making workshops. The workshops covered a variety of approaches to painting doll faces, including oil paint and acrylics. “I find teaching so rewarding. Painting a face is an act of creation like no other, and I love introducing people to that thrill. I love mentoring fledgling doll makers; helping them discover their own abilities.” Susan has been a NIADA artist since 2013. She lives in a small town in Northern Illinois, with her husband and two cats.

VISIT: Susan Fosnot Portfolio

Jo-Ellen Trilling

Fabric - Mixed Media

Jo-Ellen Trilling created her own toys. Playing as a child, she sewed cloth scraps together, using bits of wire, glue, and paint to make an idea come alive. Her doll making technique is essentially the same.  “A finished figure can be built in a series of illustrated steps,“ she says. Jo-Ellen has taught techniques in doll clubs across North America and Australia. Images of her figures have been published as illustrations and as editorial artwork in books and magazines. Jo-Ellen's artwork is in the permanent collections of museums around the world.

VISIT: Jo-Ellen Trilling Portfolio

Meet our Instructors

Akira Blount

LEGACY: Cloth Dolls

Akira Blount (1945-2013) received a Bachelors degree in Art Education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She started making dolls from cotton stockings in 1970, and they quickly evolved into a steady source of income. Over the next nine years, her mastery of needle sculpting evolved into a style well recognized as her own. Since 1986 she has been published in magazines as diverse as American Craft Magazine, Smithsonian Magazine, Fiber Arts Design Book III, Contemporary Doll and Art Doll Quarterly. Books include: Craft in America: Celebrating the Creative Work of the Hand by Phyllis George; The White House Collection of American Crafts by Michael Monroe; Anatomy of a Doll by Susanna Oroyan and 500 Handmade Dolls by Lark Press which she curated and penned the introduction.
She has taught at doll clubs and craft schools around the country. Her dolls are in permanent collections around the world including MUSEE des ARTS DECORATIF, Paris, France; CLINTON LIBRARY, Little Rock, AR; ROSALIE WHYEL MUSEUM, Bellevue, WA; MUSEUM OF ARTS AND SCIENCES, Macon, GA; SEKIGUCHI DOLL GARDEN, Izu, Shizuoka Japan; TENNESSEE STATE MUSEUM, Nashville, TN; MINT MUSEUM OF FINE ART, Charlotte, NC; SANTA BARBARA MUSEUM OF ART, Santa Barbara, CA; THE WHITE HOUSE COLLECTION OF AMERICAN CRAFT, a collection of over 70 pieces of contemporary crafts of which Akira is the only doll artist. Akira has also received recognition of more than 20 awards at juried shows over the years. Akira became a NIADA artist member in 1988 and served as President from 1997-2001.

VISIT: Akira Blount Portfolio

Bob McKinley

LEGACY: Polymer Clay - Paper Clay

Robert Keene McKinley (D-1995) was elected to NIADA in 1985. In the late 1970s, a children’s clothing designer, who had been making and performing puppets after work, decided he wanted to give up the footlights and stage fright and just make figures for the fun of it. Bob’s dolls range from the realistic, poignant NY street people that were his favorite subjects to whimsical elves, flashy ladies in elaborate costumes, and characters from the theater he so adored. Although he worked in a wide range of sizes and styles, every one of his dolls is perfectly proportioned, impeccably crafted, and filled with strong emotional content. His dolls may make you laugh, or they may make you cry, but it is impossible to look at one without feeling something.
Bob became internationally renowned for his dolls and teaching. He nurtured, and encouraged countless new talents. Much of the reason doll artists are such a sharing group of people is because of Bob’s example.

VISIT: Robert McKinley Portfolio