It is often said that “representation matters.” And if you needed any proof of this, just look to the excited smiles and tears of joy that come from children after they receive one of Amy Jandrisevits‘ handmade dolls. The former social worker is a skilled crafter who specializes in a unique kind of doll making: look-alikes for those with visible physical differences.
Jandrisevits had the idea for these types of beloved toys after noticing the general lack of diversity and range of physical expressions that were on the market. Putting into practice her personal credo, “If you see something that needs to be changed, do something,” she has spent the past four years making dolls that double as inspirational works of art.
Jandrisevits' dolls are completely customized based on the people she is creating them for. After receiving a doll request, she pays careful attention to the details that are presented in the source photographs—ethnicity, medical issues, physical characteristics—as well as any other distinctive features of her future recipients. Afterward, at her rounded wooden dining table, Jandrisevits begins the doll construction process.
It can take up to seven hours to complete one figure, and she uses that time to thoughtfully consider how she will illustrate the subject. “Every single doll tells a story and some are raw and heartbreaking and emotional,” Jandrisevits tells My Modern Met. “I am privileged to be a part of their stories and honored to get a glimpse into their world. I don't take that lightly.”
The meticulous work is seen by Jandrisevits as a direct reflection of the recipients themselves. “We need to see each child as a work of art—a masterpiece. While doll-making is an art form, the real canvas is the child him/herself. If we want to become a society that values differences and inclusivity, this is where we start. We start with something as simple as a doll—a human likeness.”
Jandrisevits has made more than 300 of the stunning heartfelt creations. Messages of equity permeate Jandrisevits' work, and she is adamant in displaying actions that reaffirm those convictions. “Typically, parents or caregivers pay for the dolls—about $100 with shipping per doll,” she explains. “When they can’t afford it, I’ll find a way to cover it myself. Whatever it costs, whatever I must do, I’m going to get a doll in the hands of these children. This isn’t just a business. It’s the right thing to do.”
Although she is a little taken aback by the sheer popularity and success of the dolls, she is not surprised by the feelings of inspiration and empowerment each work brings, “On a bigger scale it tells you how desperate we are for representation,” she shares. “I’m changing the narrative one person at a time.”