Friday, 21 August 2015

How I became a "doll maker" - Part 1

First things first: I put doll maker in "" because honestly, I don't view doll making as my profession. Most people in my private life don't know I make dolls, I don't go around and tell people. If I do tell, then it's more like "oh, I sometimes make a doll" which tends to surprise people (who does that? how? why?). I feel to understand these dolls you need to see them, touch them. To understand "doll world" you need time and experience. For an outsider it can be a weird place (my husband keeps telling me ;)).

So how did I get here? 

I could tell you a poetic story of an inner calling but people who know me would smile a huge cheeky smile at that and I would get lots of funny e-mails.

Honestly it all came from two FB acquaintances who kept liking these Bamboletta dolls. The more I saw the more intrigued I was. Back in that day I only saw Bambolettas, DFH and Tumbleberries, Pookidolls shortly after. I started to research. I like to know things - some people might call me a know it all - I call it curiosity ;)

I have always been working with my brain, priding in my good memory and good and easy grades at school, never having to work for good grades. But I felt hey, with brains and the internet I am sure I can make a doll like that. Not as cute, but I just want to see how hard it is.
So I looked for tutorials. And I found a head tutorial so I tied my first head. Just made a body from scratch, how I thought I might like it. Not like my own body (I have never been thin except in my teens, I was a very well nourished baby and toddler and my current body shows my relaxed lifestyle I guess ;)), but more like my kids' body, who are both very very slender and more delicate looking. Very first one was chubbier though, with ghost neck, completely understuffed though i felt i had stuffed and stuffed forever... 
I showed a friend (the one who kept sharing the pics of Bambolettas etc.) and she brought me a Bamboletta to show me what she meant by "stuffing more". Back then Bambolettas were the holy grail. Really all of the aboved mentioned dolls were almost impossible to get for a normal mortal person with slowish internet due to living in a little village in the countryside.
So I made the second. Who had feet, but not in a way that I could make neatly. And who had a ghost neck ;)

So more research, drawing a pattern in case my next doll was "it" and I wanted to make a second one. By that time I was already hooked of course. And I knew what I wanted. So grudgingly I asked my mum how I could possibly achieve this and that. Because she is a seamstress and taught textile works at school back in the days.
Grudgingly because I had always told myself that I will never become like my mum for some reason. I was always a stubborn child who would figure out stuff herself. I had a theory but I wanted her ideas. 
She smiled and said she never thought I'd ever follow in her footsteps. So I told her that clearly making and selling doll clothes wasn't the same as making cloth dolls! But what I had forgotten, she reminded me, was that she had started out making cloth dolls!!!! Thankfully I had forgotten because I doubt I would ever have started had I remembered. When I was a child, just before the "plastic dolls" got really big everyone had one of these cloth dolls made with a plastic mould for the face, where the fabric would be glued to and the face painted on. All stuffed with wool of course. She made and sold these dolls before people ran to the plastic dolls who openend and closed their eyes etc...

So she gave me tips and was very, very proud to be able to help and to see that all her preaching about how to sew and knit in my childhood seemed to have stuck in my brain even though I always pretended not to listen...

I always knew I would work with the Swiss Laib Yala fabric as it was close to my childhood dolls, the ones my mum had made. Though back in my beginnings I got a few messages asking me why on earth I would choose a lesser fabric with such a strong structure that took focus away from the feature when there was de Witte Engel readily available that was so much more smooth! (Glad this opinion seems to not be there anymore and most agree that both fabrics are of very good quality and it's really personal preference what you use)...

Of course I needed more dolls to figure out quality issues, etc. Looking back I guess I should have made more before buying but I guess most of us feel like that in hindsight. I sold my first few dolls (after giving the first 5 away) for almost double material cost, which back then was quite a price for a new maker!

Over time and with many influences my dolls have changed, grown, and become more me. Though I still love some of my first few dolls very dearly and still like a mum do feel they are perfect and surprisingly very much me already. I guess I was lucky there were not too many makers around then so that forced me to find my own style. Looking around I felt none of the existing were "me" enough that I would want to make them or look-a-likes. I also had no idea there were makers outside of FB!
I got to know more makers, followed some doll groups on FB and it all went from there.

To this day I feel my dolls are myself even though they have changed and I have been influenced by much and many in different ways (more details later), but I think they do have my weak chin, smallish eyes, long cheeks ;) they have my androgyn face I guess (my mum thinks with every head I make: oh, wonderful another boy ;)) and of course my stubborn self. BUT: I am not very slender, I have small feet just to name two obvious differences....

I have decided not to include pictures this time. So you can imagine more, and it takes more motivation to read, discouraging a few people as I am not sure I should share everything I did here (point one, everyone would love the maker to be gorgeous, having grown up the perfect daughter who willingly learned from their loving mum and not someone maybe average looking who was always the spoiled, stubborn brat ;))

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