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In the Land of Milk & Honey

Updated: Jan 28, 2020

Through her dolls, Israeli doll artist Edna Dali presents her vision of a more perfect world.

Source: June/July 2004 • DOLL READER, Pages 52-55


This 17-inch one-of-a-kind African American doll was created out of high-fired clay. She has a black custom-made mohair wig, painted eyes, and hand-painted sculpted shoes. Her costume was made from a variety of colorful silk brocade fabrics.

Early each morning, Edna Dali arrives eager to begin working in her studio in Ra'anana, a beautiful city in the center of Israel 15 miles north of Tel Aviv. This city boasts the largest English­-speaking community in

this nation, excellent schools, cultural offerings, and lush green parks.

But despite the high quality of life, terrorism is never far from anyone's mind. "Routinely we live with terrorist acts and casualties," Edna says. "For me, the creation of m doll art is an escape into a fantasy world, far, far away from the constant threat of terror."

Edna enjoys creating dolls of different ages, sizes, styles, characters, and poses and has sculpted young girls, boys, lady dolls, character dolls, angels, ensemble pieces, and, in particular, brides. In fact, she's at work on a bride right now. "In my view, one of the most important elements in the overall happiness of a person is the ability to form strong family bonds. The bride is a central part of the desire to make a family. She expresses softness, beauty, romance, love, and joy and contributes all of the wonderful possibilities that a family can bring."

Born and educated in Israel, Edna studied social work and criminology before marrying. Then she and her growing family moved to Nottingham, England. While her husband, Avi, represented an Israeli company, she immersed herself in British culture, history, and art. She learned about the monarchy and Victorian embroidery and woodcraft. When the family moved to Boston, Edna took sculpting and doll-making courses, where she met a number of prominent doll artists. She became fascinated with the art of the doll and created her first one in 1981.

An ensemble piece, this bride with two bridesmaids and a best man are wax over porcelain one-of-a-kind figures. The bride stands 29 inches tall, and the attendants are each 12 inches. The dolls have intricate pe­riod costumes made out of antique materials, and all have custom-made mohair wigs and crystal glass eyes.

"I still have the first doll that I created out of Fimo proudly exhibited in my home," Edna says. "While I didn't give her a wig, and her hands and legs are rather rough, she has always had her own special beauty and a unique place in my heart."

After Boston, the family returned to Israel, where Edna has been creating dolls for the past 23 years. She works in a wide variety of media, including Fimo, Sculpey, porcelain, wax over porcelain, and resin. She has experimented with Washi, the traditional Japanese paper used for high-quality art pieces white clay, high-fired clay, and delicate metal net. Some of her dolls have blown glass eyes and others painted eyes. Wig vary in design and appearance; some she creates using mohair strips or by in­­­terweaving strands of mohair or human hair into a fine net cap.

She designs all the clothing, acces­sories, and even the shoes, but only after she studies history books and literature, museums and art galleries, vintage fashion magazines, and period movies. Then she combs flea markets the world over for fine vintage fabrics and lace. "All of the materials I use in my costuming must symbolize and present the style of the period I am trying to visualize," she says. Then she supervises an accomplished staff of dressmakers who do the needlework.

This one-of-a-kind bride, 25 inches, was made from wax over porcelain. She has a custom-made human-hair wig and wears an elaborate gown made from vintage material, lace, and flowers and, in her hair, an antique wax flower crown.

"Every doll has its own concept," she explains, "and the actual sculpting begins when I identify what I want to express. "Never afraid to sculpt in different media or to create using new methods, she continues to evolve her work. "Today I think that the appearance of the final creation, whether it is traditional or avant-garde, provokes an important thought process in the viewer," she says.

In many of Edna's works, you see dolls "dreamy and in love," and you feel their warmth, harmony, and serenity. Some of her most recent work, however, is intended to impart a message and "is new and daring in our traditional doll market." Creating an intriguing doll as well as a compelling piece of art is her goal.

Escape - Dressed in or­ganza embellished with beads, this 24-inch figure has crystal glass eyes, custom-made brown human-hair wig, and holds a papier-miche mask.

"Last year I made a doll called Escape, which illustrates through my eyes the difficult times that we are expe­riencing in our region," Edna says. "My doll Mask Seller is a piece that communicates the desire we often feel to change our identity." Her doll Love stands with her hands tied behind her back, expressing conflicting emotions. Whether she's creating a bride doll like the one she's at work on right now or a more avant-garde piece, Edna fuses her exceptional sculpting technique with the cerebral, the visual, and the emotional, resulting in dolls that are sought after and unique.

"Fashion, people and events of the past centuries have provided me with rich sources of inspiration," Edna says. "I dedicate my artwork to memories of fleeting decades, and I collect beautiful bits and pieces of the past with which to embellish my dolls."

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