|The artistic team of sisters Martha Boers and Marianne Reitsma, is amongst the elite of original doll artists in Canada. Renown internationally for their portrayal of realistic and fantasy figures in a combination of media, they have recently ventured into even more creative avenues of expression.
Martha was born in the Netherlands, and at the age of 5 immigrated to Canada. Three years later Marianne was born. The two girls grew up in a home where every form of creativity was encouraged, and each birthday and Christmas brought exciting new art supplies. From an early age, Martha always had an overwhelming need to create. Whether it was with yarn, clay, paints, pencils, or fabrics - she was always busy making something. Her true love was costuming, and this naturally led to the creation of dolls.
After a year studying technical theatre in the hopes of one day becoming a costume designer, Martha left school, married, and became a stay at home mom, and a doll maker in her spare time. She designed a popular cloth doll which sold well for several years. However, the great demand for her dolls, combined with a poorly designed foot pedal on her sewing machine, caused a torn ligament in her heel, and she was forced to stop sewing. With a strong need to create, Martha discovered the new polymer clay, and found that it was perfect for the more advanced type of costumed figures she had always imagined, but had up to now not been able to make with only cloth.
By this time Marianne had just completed the Technical Illustration program at Sheridan College and was employed as a computer graphics artist. She was also fascinated by the possibilities of the polymer clay.
Together they experimented. As it turned out, Marianne had a great skill at sculpting, and Martha much preferred the costuming, so an award-winning doll making team was born!
Things moved quickly, word spread, and they were invited to participate in the prestigious "Santa Fe International Doll Art '96" in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Their piece "Robin Hood" which was sent to the Edith Lambert Gallery, sold before the show even opened. In the International Competition, their piece "Leonardo da Vinci" won the First Prize Trophy for "Best Original Doll, Direct Sculpting".
The following year they won First prize again, this time for "Saskia". Demand for their work grew, and they regularly sent dolls to several US Galleries. Amongst these was Dolls Etc which twice yearly held the International Doll Art Show in Chicago.
In 1999 Martha and Marianne were invited to submit one of their pieces for an exhibit at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull/Ottawa. Their prize winning figure "Leonardo da Vinci" was sent on loan to be part of "Timeless Treasures: The Story of Dolls in Canada". The doll was on exhibit for over two years.
Also in 1999, the Canadian Doll Artist Association was formed. Martha and Marianne both joined this enthusiastic group of fellow doll artists. At the first CDAA Conference in Ottawa in May 2000, all three of their competition entries won First Prize, and their "Gnome on Dragon" won "Best of Show". The judges had spent several hours sequestered away trying to decide which of the entries deserved the prestigious "Best in Show Award", not knowing that the dolls they were debating over were both made by the same artists - Martha and Marianne!
Around this time, they both began to feel the monotony of constantly creating perfect little lifelike people, with perfect scaled down costumes. It was time to move into something a bit less restrictive, with more room for creative expression. A whole new line of smaller figures - gnomes, elves ,and dragons emerged. These new smaller figures became exclusive to the Canadian market only.
As artists, Martha and Marianne continued to experiment, although they were no longer working together. At the end of 2005 it was mutually agreed to stop working together as a team. There would not be any more dolls by Martha & Marianne. Although they no longer work together, they both are experimenting with new things on their own. Marianne has gone back to being a full-time graphics artist and is still running of a popular doll club in her area. Martha has discovered natural materials like gourds and pinecones, and has combined them with her first love - cloth. She is trying to re-invent herself as a doll artist, and where it will all lead - we can only wait and see - only time will tell.