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The Person behind the Collection: Maya Sunario

Born and raised in Indonesia, Maya Sunario’s love for dolls first began when she was given her first fashion doll, Sindy, a British fashion doll created by Pedigree Dolls & Toys in 1963. She then discovered Barbie dolls, made by its rival, Mattel Inc. In the 1970s, playing with these dolls felt like a privilege as the import charges to Indonesia made western dolls rare and very expensive. Maya moved to Ireland when she was sixteen. In subsequent years, she started a family and had a baby girl, Kira Sunario Lynch.

On a family trip to New Zealand at the turn of the millennium when Kira was just a toddler, Maya bought three Limited and Collectors Edition Barbie dolls from the airport Duty Free. Informed by her love for Barbie since childhood, Maya’s purchase included a Limited Edition 1997 Artist Series Water Lily Barbie Doll inspired by Claude Monet and a 1998 Artist Series Sunflower Barbie Doll inspired by Vincent Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. These dolls formed Maya’s initial collection of high end costume dolls.

Travelling home with a two-year-old that had eyes only for the Teletubbies, Maya returned to Ireland in 2000. She began to buy Barbie fashion doll collectibles from U.S sellers on eBay to add to her collection. During searches on eBay and connecting with other doll collectors, new fashion dolls were discovered and added to her collection. Maya also travelled to Doll Shows held in London and Paris where she saw and bought Sydney, Matt and Tyler dolls from the Tyler Wentworth collection by New York based artist Robert Tonner and Alexandra Fairchild Ford, Paris and Mei Li 16″ Fashion dolls from Madame Alexander, an American collectible doll company founded one hundred years ago by Beatrice Alexander.

Some of Maya’s most prized dolls are those transformed by doll artists. One distinctive doll is a commissioned custom-dressed Barbie doll whose hair has been re-styled and face hand-painted to resemble a miniature version of American pop singer, Britney Spears. Because these types of doll are unique one-of-a-kind creations, they are typically worth considerably more money than standard versions such as Barbie ‘Pink Label’ collections. Maya likens doll collecting to collecting fine art paintings. As buyers and enthusiasts know, collecting is a fickle industry. Comparable to a painting, a deluxe costume doll can sell for a fluctuated or decreased price, dependent on ever-changing popularity and taste.

For Maya, her dolls are worth much more to her than their monetary value. Maya celebrates her collection as distinctive works of artistry and design, where detail is key. As a single parent, Maya recognizes her collection as awe-inspiring models of women’s beauty and accomplishment and creativity. With the dolls, mother and daughter spent cherished family and play time together as they bonded. Through the years, Maya collected over 100 dolls together with additional clothing, shoes and accessories. Some of Maya’s dolls have been removed from their original packaging and displayed around the family home. Others have been gifted by Maya to children of family friends. Some have been stored never removed from the box to hold their value.

Subsequent to an inspirational trip to the Toy Museum in Prague, Maya decided she wanted a larger public to appreciate and share in her collection. Maya donated fifty of her Limited and Special Edition high-end costume dolls to the Museum of Childhood Ireland Project. To date, these dolls have been exhibited by the Museum of Childhood in various locations around Ireland, enjoyed by both children and adults alike. A selection from the collection donated by Maya forms part of the Museum of Childhood Ireland’s display at The People’s Museum of Limerick

Thank you to team member Aisling, for putting this piece together.

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