In August of 1949 Martha and her husband Sam, daughters Jessie and Ruthie immigrated to America. Daughters Susie and Alice were born in America. Later in her life, Martha would begin the fascinating path she was to follow in America. Over the years she would become a sculptor for View Master and Hagen-Renaker, a ceramic company would contact her on the recommendation of a licensed Supervisor of Disney, who knew her work. She would sculpt Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge and Chip for View Master, to mention a few. She would work for the studio of Hanna Barbera with MGM Studios, working in collaborations with animators on “Tom and Jerry,” ” Littlest Angel” and “Peter Pan.” Her years with Mattel would find her sculpting on such notable dolls as: “Baby First Step,” “Pat-a-Burp.” “Kiddles,” the Sunshine Family, “Rosebud Babies,” “New Skipper,” and “Love and Touch Baby,” among many others. Her history in the doll industry is notable. Her one of a kind and limited edition porcelain dolls were quite remarkable! Her work in developing complex porcelain doll joints remains unsurpassed.
Once coined as “the most technically correct doll artist of our time” by a NIADA member, her expertise, demand for perfection, tireless effort and supreme work ethic would keep her going through hardships and good times. Her love of doing her own one-of-a-kind dolls was to come following this period. She will go down in the annals of the history of the doll as one of our most talented. She had a sense of perfect proportions, excellence in design and was a doll artist who was terribly respected by all who knew her. She helped to mold the history of the doll in our time. Her standards and dedication have helped make NIADA the organization it is today. Martha was a consistent supporter of NIADA right up until the end. In later years, Martha would lend wisdom and balance, which all organizations need.
A devoted friend and mentor, Martha Armstrong Hand was loving, supportive, inspiring and ever faithful to not only friendships, but also to the special guidance she possessed as a mentor. A consistent correspondent and friend, Martha blessed many with her friendship and guidance over the years. Her great wisdom was a guiding light. Her expertise a challenge to improve and learn to challenge yourself. Praise from Martha was like manna from heaven, her criticism, founded, constructive and informative. Personally, she was warm, tender, loving and an expressive friend, always interested in your progress and your families. She came to respect the new works in progress from fellow NIADA members and was excited about the new artistic expressions of so many. She would often talk about her excitement and fascination with them.
Her dedication to her daughters, their husbands and grandchildren were fierce, as was theirs to her, each given with consistent and loving devotion. The personal letters and Christmas letters from her were always laced with news of her family, travels and friends whom she visited. She was faithful in her commitment to those she loved, and was respected by many as a true icon of her time. Martha will be missed by so many. Though the last few years of her life were met with medical challenges, she did not allow these infirmities to stop her from her artistic efforts and support of NIADA. She worked with diligence, even through the loss of the sight in one eye which made sculpting difficult. She met this challenge with true Martha style and fortitude. She would continue to meet creative and artistic challenges and push ahead, setting a fine example for us to follow.
A consummate journal keeper, she recorded her life, the lives of family and friends. It is due to her daily record keeping that some day history will know more about her fascinating life. I was blessed to have her share her autobiography with me following her visit to my home in May of 2003. It is a treasure which reveals much about the personal life of a great artist and human being. Martha’s absence will leave a hole in the fabric of our beings, and in the community of doll artists. NIADA has lost another guiding light. She lived a long and happy life and will be abidingly missed by so many. Her spirit will remain in our hearts and lives always.
~ Jan Collins-Langford, Friend and Doll Artist