Tri-State artist creates dolls to help those fighting challenges, illnesses

Tri-State artist creates dolls to help those fighting challenges, illnesses
Published: Mar. 2, 2023 at 4:29 PM EST
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - A Tri-State artist and toy maker, who got her start creating costumes for the Muppets and Sesame Street, recently started a new business venture creating dolls.

Robin Hartmann is not just creating any doll. The figurines are made to provide comfort for anyone dealing with challenges or illnesses that they are hoping to get rid of.

Hartmann launched the Voodatude Doll Collection about a year ago.

Each doll represents a negative feeling or an emotion that you want to get rid of, which Hartmann says has helped provide her family and friends some comfort this past year.

She mostly works behind the scenes, keeping her hands busy by creating Muppets and toys.

While you may not be familiar with her name, Hartmann’s work is known around the world. From creating the costumes in Shawshank Redemption to making the puppets in Fraggle Rock, Sesame Street and the Muppet show.

“I worked there for five years. I’ve made Gonzo. I made Kermit. I’ve made Fozzie Bear,” recalls Hartmann. “There’s a lot of them; sorry to pop your bubble. They get worn out. I’ve made a lot of grouches.”

Eventually, Hartmann packed her bags and left New York City for Cincinnati to work for Kenner.

“I was designing toys for Kenner, and then they got bought out by Tonka, so I got laid off, and I was filming all these movies here,” explained Hartmann.

So, she transitioned into the film industry as a costume designer and taught art at a Montessori for 27 years.

While she recently retired, Hartmann has a new business keeping her busy.

She recently launched her Voodatudes doll line, taking on the idea of a traditional voodoo doll, but instead, a word is stitched to the doll that expresses an emotion, fear, or an illness that you want to get rid of.

“I thought, everyone’s so angry and how could they do it in an outlet that’s not going to hurt anybody, so I came up with a pattern and I did a couple of dolls,” explains Hartmann. “I went out with a few girlfriends one night and they all loved them, and I’m like, ‘okay, maybe I’ll take this a little bit further.’”

That’s when the business was born.

Hartmann says the Voodatudes doll also became a great comfort for her brother as he was battling liver disease.

“When my brother was sick, he slept with his when he was in the hospital,” says Hartmann. “It said, ‘liver disease,’ because he had liver disease and he slept with it every night, and I don’t know psychologically it manifests what you want it to. Maybe it’s a good luck charm or something to make you feel better.”

From making people feel better through her dolls or putting a smile on kids’ faces with her puppets, Hartmann says she has been able to bring joy and make a career out of doing something she has loved all her life - creating art.

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