Jan McLean Dolls - Jan McLean Biography


Jan McLean New Zealand doll artist, creator of artist dolls in porcelain and vinyl.


A native of Dunedin, New Zealand, Jan McLean is regarded as one of the most well-known and highly respected contemporary doll artists. Mrs. McLean made her international debut at the 1991 International Toy Fair in New York City, mainly with her dolls Poppy and Pansy, along with a few other early original sculpts. During that year's toy fair, she sold over $40,000 worth of samples and had over $1,000,000 in orders for her dolls. Jan had begun sculpting dolls in the mid-1980s, her most famous "early creations" being Chloe and Phoebe who came about in 1987. After her debut in 1991, Jan McLean Originals began producing high-end dolls in small editions. These "artist original" dolls sold for several thousand dollars each and were hand produced in editions ranging from 20 to 100 pieces. Throughout most of the 1990s, Jan dedicated herself to producing these artist originals in her studio in New Zealand, along with her team which consisted of a jeweler, beader, seamstress, miliner (hat-maker), cobbler (shoe-maker), as well as record-keepers, secretaries and marketers and staff to run the Jan McLean Doll Shoppe in New Zealand.

Jan McLean Doll Artist
Jan McLean Doll Artist

Jan McLean did not open up to mass production of dolls (mainly through factories in China) until the late 1990s. This transition from elite, scarce and very expensive original dolls to mass-produced factory dolls made her dolls and her name widely available to collectors of all shapes and sizes. Her first "big hits" of the mass produced dolls happened with her infamous "French Floozies," Gigi, Collette, and Camille, who came out in 1998 in editions of 7,500 pieces each. Along with the newly formed "Jan McLean Designs," which represented her factory-produced dolls, the year 1998 also saw the release of the resin dolls Rose, Sophie and Queenie (each released in editions of 100 pieces). Jan's new resin dolls sold out almost immediately as the resin material gave a translucent and ethereal essence to the dolls' complexion. Jan had experimented with glazed porcelain (otherwise known as "china") dolls a few years prior with her artist original dolls "Lily" and "Jasmine," who came out in editions of 25 pieces each. Jan then moved on to conquer the medium of vinyl, and her 2001 collection featured her first vinyl dolls "Amelia", "Rose" and "Grace." The next year saw the release of "Desiree", "Nikita", "Tiffany" and "Paige" who proved to be some of her most popular vinyl dolls.


Jan's family history speaks much to her talents with doll-making, which in itself is a multi-faceted art that includes the ability to sculpt and shape body parts, mould various facial expressions and characters, shade and paint facial features, design and sew a costume, among many other little details that go into the making of a single doll. Her grandmother was a sculptress and a doll-maker herself and her mother was a portrait artist. All of these early childhood influences and memories naturally came back to Jan, who initially studied to be a nurse and worked at a Dunedin hospital, who wanted to create a family heirloom that could be passed down to her children and through the generations. Little did Jan think that what started out as a hobby would turn out to be her defining career.

Starting with her 2003 Kiss Collection, Jan McLean launched a new line of dolls called the "Lollipop Girls." These dolls are slightly comparable to Barbie dolls, their bodies having exaggerated and well-emphasized features such as long legs, large, round eyes, funky hairstyles, and designer clothes. These dolls were available in 16" vinyl versions and 26" porcelain versions, although the porcelain versions of the dolls were limited to 5,000 pieces each. A series of "Mini Lollipops" was available for a short time, however, production ceased after difficulties with the production facility in China. A notable feature of Lollipop Girls is that each doll is representative of a different country and culture; for example, Alani from Auckland was based on McLean's own granddaughter and this doll is representative of the country of New Zealand. Other dolls include Neena from New York, Nicole from Norway and Lulu from London. Based on the Lollipop style, Jan McLean created two series of dolls called the BoHo Chic Collection. Each doll in the 2006 and 2008 series is a OOAK (one-of-a-kind) doll dressed in antique laces, has a mohair wig and is painted and signed by Jan McLean herself.

The doll market since the 1990s has changed dramatically and Jan's last collection was released in 2008. Since then, Jan's official studio as well as her doll shop in New Zealand have closed and the production of dolls has ceased. In 2014 it was unofficially announced that Jan McLean would be coming out with new dolls, except this time on a much smaller scale. It is confirmed that Jan's new dolls will be premiering at the 2015 International Doll and Teddy Show in Asheville, North Carolina. Returning to "Jan McLean Originals," Jan will be showing off her new dolls which will be available in very small editions, many of which will also be ball jointed (a typical ball-jointed doll has 11 joints, one in the neck, two shoulders, two elbows, two wrists, two hips, and two knees).


"Jan McLean's work is some of the most unique and brilliant work the industry has ever seen. The artist's effervescent personality shines through in every one of her illustrious dolls." - Doll, Britain's premier doll collector's magazines

"When Jan McLean introduced her very striking large porcelain dolls more than a decade ago, there was nothing like them in the doll world. they stirred collectors' imaginations and captured their hearts." - Contemporary Doll collector Magazine


Jan McLean Dolls - The Jan McLean Fan Site

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