Dianna Effner

Dianna Effner grew up in Park Forest, Illinois, with an architect father and a homemaker mother, who liked sewing and arts and crafts. When she was small her father drew flash cards to introduce her to reading. One card was especially fascinating. It had “DOLL” on one side and a drawing of a rag doll on the other. These images gave her an early interest in art and a sense of the possibilities. Expected to attend college, Dianna confirmed with her fifth-grade teacher that it was possible to study art in college, and thereupon decided to pursue a career in art. She earned a BFA from Bradley University in 1967. 

Dianna became one of the most well-known, beloved doll artists through her own doll art, as well as the successful company she created for teaching and the marketing of molds she designed to help others learn the craft she loved. She was elected into NIADA in 1990.

In a teaching video made quite a few years ago for aspiring dollmakers, she invites us watch her sculpting techniques. She says, “Imitation is a natural way to learn. Watching someone work is an excellent way to learn to do something.” Generously offering us insight into her methods and skills, she tells her students, “I hope your life is enriched by the opportunity to model a child. Mine certainly has been. I’m so very grateful for having been given a chance to learn, to work, to serve, and to teach through sculpting and dollmaking.”

She will be missed by all of her admirers and the NIADA family:

”Dianna Effner was a real Class Act... She was kind, caring, talented and sweet beyond words. A true Gentle Soul...whose quiet nature and voice was secretly hiding a funny wicked sense of humor. She was one of the very first to Welcome us to NIADA in the summer of 1991...Her Talent left me speechless and her caring nature made us feel part of a true family. Dianna will always be in our hearts and in our minds ..we feel truly blessed to have crossed paths with this Lovely Lady..."

—Jodi and Richard Creager

The sweet humanity that Dianna’s dolls were able to express was a real inspiration to me, and a comfort and joy to the many people she connected with through her work.

—Shelley Thornton

Dianna’s adorable Dolls will remain in the houses and hearts of many many people all over the world. She was a great artist and a hard working woman. I very much admired her works of Art.

—Sylvia Natterer

Dianna's generosity and kindness will be long remembered. She was a talented artist and gentle spirit which showed in her many creations. The art world has lost a treasure but Dianna's contributions to the doll world will forever bring joy to all.

—Chris Chomick and Peter Meder

I am so sad to hear of this. I met Dianna at the first NIADA show I attended in San Francisco. She and I both brought dolls to the critique and we were both alone at the show and nervous about facing the formidable critique panel that included Martha Armstrong Hand. We hid in the corners with our knees knocking together. Even then her doll sculpting was exquisite and it just got better over the years. When I would see her in the future NIADA shows we would laugh about how nervous we had been and how very gracious and kind the critique panel had been to us. I will miss seeing what new magic she would be sculpting.

—Sal Herrick