Earlier this year, vintage enthusiast and painter Suzy Kalin saw something on eBay she knew she had to have: a 1960s Wishnik toy Troll Doll house that she fondly remembered owning when she was a child. Upon receiving her nostalgic purchase, she wondered, “What sort of Troll Doll lives in this house?”
The question would ultimately lead her to rediscover the complex world of Troll Dolls—and find a new direction for her creative endeavors.
The Troll Doll Kalin ultimately settled on for her Wishnik house came in a secondhand lot, along with several others who were a little worse for wear. With missing hair, or scuffed from years of use, most of the dolls Kalin bought were likely destined for the garbage bin unless someone took action. Kalin has always had a soft spot for abandoned toys, so she decided to use her skills as an artist to help salvage them. She believes that with a little love and elbow grease, one man's trash can easily become someone else's treasure—and reduce unnecessary waste.
Some of the dolls Kalin restores simply get a new outfit or hair to bring them back to their original splendor (like the highly collectible Dam line). Others are treated to a complete makeover, with elaborate paint jobs, sculpted additions (ears, tails, horns, etc.) or custom accessories. She uses supplies such as vintage buttons, faux flowers, Icelandic sheep's hair, felt and acrylic paint to transform the lost toys into unicorns, jungle cats or pop-culture icons. Kalin enjoys how her whimsical creations make people smile and fondly remember their own childhood experiences.
The Troll Doll phenomenon dates back to 1959, when Danish woodworker Thomas Dam carved a wooden doll for his daughter's birthday, dubbing it the “Good Luck Troll.” A toy merchant saw potential of the impish character, and Dam soon found himself opening Troll Doll factories internationally. (Fun fact: the first U.S. factory was in Hialeah, Florida.) Since then, the iconic figures have woven themselves into pop culture, and occasionally even made history. The toys have also seen a revival in popularity thanks to the recent Trolls movie franchise. A second film is scheduled for release in April of next year.
Currently, Kalin is working on setting up a website for her creations, but in the meantime, you can visit them on Instagram or at this year's Atomic Holiday Bazaar, where you'll be able to purchase your very own upcycled Good Luck Troll.