The mother-daughter team of Margaret Rockwell Finch and Marta Rijn Finch created art-dolls together for nearly 20 years as elected members of NIADA—the National Institute of American Doll Artists. Each creation, a unique, one-of-a-kind figure, with no molds used in the process, was inspired by characters real or imaginary—from history, literature, or art, or from the mysterious realm lying in between: Amleth (Hamlet), Elaine of Astolat, Persephone. Their work has been displayed internationally and appears in museums and private collections.
Measuring 14-18 inches tall, their heads and limbs are sculpted by Marta of a synthetic resin-clay over a wire-armature, with a thin wire running through each finger. The wigs are fashioned of fine mohair; the eyes are antique blown glass or are painted on by hand. Marta moved to France for three years soon after the first collaboration, but continued to work, shipping the sculpted pieces back home.
Maggie, after endless hours of research in her extensive library of books on the history of fashion, designed and created the costumes using both new and vintage fabrics, and trinkets collected from myriad sources over a span of many decades. With her impeccable sense of scale and period detail, she recreated sumptuous raiment of earlier time—favoring the Middle Ages or Renaissance. In copying a painting, she often had to supply missing details, such as the lower-half of Cecilia’s gown for Leonardo da Vinci’s “Lady with an Ermine.”
John Noble, a late curator emeritus at the Museum of the City of New York, once wrote: “Maggie and Marta work together in close, serene harmony, which I believe to be unique in the doll world—perhaps in the world of all fine arts. The initial inspiration can come from either, but the input and the research are joint projects, and the doll, although physically modeled by Marta and dressed by her mother, is always a mutual creation. These two are so close, so spiritually linked, that they think and dream seamlessly, as one person.”
Both women are also poets—a long family tradition—and have recently traded in their fabric and clay to concentrate on the written word. Maggie has now been writing poetry for over 85 years—continuing even during the busy period of doll work; her poems have been published in Saturday Review, Christian Century, Christian Science Monitor, The Lyric and elsewhere, including several anthologies. She has produced three books of poetry—Davy’s Lake (1996), The Barefoot Goose (2004), and Sonnets from Seventy-Five Years (2011).
Marta returned to poetry after a long lacuna; her work has appeared in String Poet, The Lyric (winning the New England Prize in 2013), The Mountain Troubadour, and Measure (as a Nemerov Sonnet Award finalist). Marta’s formal translations of two French Renaissance poets were published in 2010 (Pernette du Guillet, Complete Poems: A Bilingual Edition) and 2014 (Jeanne Flore’s Tales and Trials of Love), both by University of Toronto’s CRRS. Marta is co-editor of The Mountain Troubadour and her own book of poems, A Solitary Piper, came out in 2011. She is currently VP of the Poetry Society of Vermont and shared with her mother the duties of president and vice-president of the Maine Poets Society for six years.