End of the Year Musings

Another year is coming to a close and I remember less and less of them as they fly by now. The holidays in particular always seem to be a "blink and you'll miss it" moment, but this whole year was quite a mirage with constantly changing, evolving and dissolving intentions. The one thing that is crystal clear is that I am out of time to finish any grandiose plans I made for myself lol. It makes me disappointed and frustrated but I know the 1st of the year will bring me another 365 to accomplish what did not get done.


The Perfect Doll

Christmas is the time for wishes so let's put our collective heads together and wish for the perfect doll! But who is she? Has she even been made yet? I know "perfect" means different things to different people but there are some things we can all agree on, yes? The ability to pose is important. An extensive interchangeable wardrobe is high on my list as well. What's important to you? If you've found her, please let me know.

Happy Holidays!

Some of you are traveling, some are shopping, some are still at work...however you spend your week, I hope you are happy and loved :) I don't know about you but it makes me happy to know my family of collectors will be waiting for me when all the "crazy" is done. I look forward to all the pictures of new doll items, your families and hearing your stories. 

I'll post more this week but I want to let you know January is Hair Month on the Halo Blog. I will be covering different types of hair, mohair, styling and techniques. February will be repaint month so look for some great guests, pictures and tips.


Halo Blog Exclusive: Interview with Tom Courtney

For as long as I’ve been collecting Tonner Dolls, one name kept popping up and it wasn’t “Robert Tonner”.  I remember asking someone way back when if Robert read the boards.  “I don’t think he does, but I know Tom Courtney does.”  Tom, as I learned, was the marketing and production coordinator at the Tonner Doll Company but it seemed like he was everywhere!  “Tom” is in “this city” doing “this”. “Tom” was “here” doing “that”.  Got a question?  Ask “Tom”!  Those who were lucky enough to go to conventions came back with “Tom” stories.  The rest of us knew him as the man behind the curtain; perhaps not knowing exactly what he did but feeling comfort that he was there…to help Robert, to listen to us.  We knew that we were all in safe, very personable hands.

Tom Courtney

My personal experience with Tom came much later.  To my surprise, last year he asked me for a commission of a gay idol of his, Bo Dixon.  The challenge pushed me beyond what I had accomplished before and the end result is one of my favorite dolls.  Tom was very helpful, sweet and patient during the process and I could see how invaluable a person like that would be working by your side.

OOAK Bo Dixon Doll

When I first heard that Tom was no longer working at TDC as of last month, shock came over me along with a ton of questions.  As a collector, I wondered how it was going to impact the work on the dolls, their “look” and the company’s marketing.  As a business person, I wondered if he had another doll company in his sights.  And as a human, I wondered what it was like to have a dream job for so long and then at a youthful 46 be pondering where to go next.  Luckily for us, Tom is willing to share his experience and give us a unique perspective from the inside out.

Sam: Hi Tom!  Anything you want to say before we start?:
TC: First of all…please let me establish before we get into this…that I do not speak for Tonner Doll Company, and that the opinions registered in this interview are purely my own, and independent of Tonner Doll Company. Nothing I have said herein is a reflection of Tonner’s opinions or any of its employees. 

Sam: I wouldn't expect anything different :) For those who may not be familiar with exactly what you did at the Tonner Doll Company can you please explain your job functions?:
TC: Most recently, I was the Art Director – over the course of 10 years, I have worked in advertising, sales, marketing, website and strategic planning, just about everything except product design.  As Art Director, it was my responsibility to oversee and ensure the company’s visual ‘look’ to the public based on Robert’s vision – print ads, catalogs, photography/styling, etc.

Sam: That’s a hefty workload! I believe that was for all the Tonner lines, not just Tyler, right? What did you like most about your job? Least? What was the most challenging or frustrating?:
TC: No...not just Tyler – Working for a company like Robert’s involves a wide variety of doll appreciation.  In my case, I love Tyler & similar fashion dolls, but I also love Betsy McCall and Ann Estelle. What I loved most?  Photography...I worked with the most amazing man in photography, Robert Hansen-Sturm (named is spelled correctly, but we referred to him by his trade name ‘Storm Photography’).  I posed and styled the dolls in front of his camera.  We created magic.  I also have to say that getting to do the Tyler 10th Ann. Book was a big highlight, too.  I am very proud to be a part of Tyler’s history, as well as Tonner’s 20 years. The least: Being underestimated in any situation.

Sam: Working somewhere but not being in total charge can lead to some serious daydreams!  If you had had free reign, were there things about your job you would have like to have changed? Would you have pushed the envelope more or gone in a different direction?:
TC: I would like to have worked more closely with the licensors in product development. If I had free reign, I would require every person with whom I worked understand Dr. Deming’s Total Quality Theory. In addition, I would put more internal training in place like we had when I worked for the Government…always evaluating, revising and improving.  There was no envelope to be pushed. Robert was already doing that...and he was/is always open to new ideas.  There is no one in the industry like him...he is truly one-of-a-kind. My observations relate more to the management of Robert’s talent.  In a perfect world, what Robert needs is twice the staff to manage his constant flow of ideas – you’re only seeing a fraction of what he dreams up because there simply isn’t enough time and resources to do it all.

Sam: Can you finally talk about the “big head” (increasing size of Tonner heads) issue? LOL:
TC: I can say some people don’t like what they perceive to be a larger head…and some don’t mind at all.  As with any design issue, you will always have varied opinions.  People have different head sizes…plain and simple.  And we are talking about dolls here.  You would really need to ask Robert his thoughts on a doll’s proportions as he is the sculptor/maker. My personal feeling on the subject…if you don’t like it, feel free to make your observation, get over it, and don’t buy it if you don’t like it – either move on or start your own doll company. Let it go…

Sam: With such a long working history, what was one of your favorite memories from the last 10 years? What will you miss the most about working with TDC and Robert himself?:
TC: I will miss the times I was able to travel with Robert – just the two of us.  Man…we dreamed big! No one will ever be able to take that away from me. For the company as a whole – launching a new collection was always exciting – the whole company would be abuzz with retailer and collector reactions - both good and bad.

Sam: You had a lot of direct contact with the wants and needs of the fans. What did you learn from being so hands on with collectors and what do you have to say to them?
TC: One thing that was really hard to learn was that you cannot force a collector into learning something about the doll or a concept – from me, people always thought it was ‘cheerleading’ before I worked for the company…then ‘marketing’ after I started. 
TC: There are people in our community who think they know the answers to everything, but know absolutely nothing…and all those who will listen to them with believing ears. It’s the people who declare the overuse of pink in a collection to be a ‘quality standard’ when it really is a collector preference – or those that think because a doll is expensive it has to be perfect, not accepting that nothing is perfect. Many will say that the companies need to understand these things…but the fact of the matter is, they understand all too well…and are often frustrated by the excessive expectations some people have when it comes to what the collector thinks a $200 doll should be without understanding the hows or whys.
TC: I remember one incident when an online know-it-all declared a particular fabric to be cheap, when I knew for a fact it was expensive – even by apparel manufacturing standards.  Often, ‘opinion’ is taken for fact by the lurkers, and no matter what efforts a company takes to keep open lines of communication, most are inclined to accept it without verification.

Sam: How has this experience shaped you and prepared you for whatever you go on to next?:
TC: Well…it’s a trip that it’s been nearly a fifth of my life.  Looking back, I’ve had so many ‘lives’ that it’s kinda tough to sort out what will happen next.  I do know that I’ve learned that people are not always what they seem – and I’ve been guilty of that, too…so I’m certainly no innocent. I taught myself Adobe Creative Suite in order to take on graphics inhouse…and that was certainly unexpected, as it wasn’t something in which I ever thought I had any interest. I’ve grown a little older, a little wiser, and a bit larger.

Sam: With TDC behind you, what are your plans for the immediate future? I know you’re a big food fan. Is there interest in creating a cookbook? Are there personal projects you are looking forward to accomplishing before you settle in to your next job?:
TC: I do love food…and I love cooking.  I have a concept for a cookbook/blog that I’m developing more for fun than professionally.  I am a curious cook…I want to know the ‘why’, which is why Julia Child fascinates me so. Personally…there is the unpleasant subject of my doll collection – not that it is unpleasant – it’s what to do with it.  Most of my collection was housed in my office at Tonner – now with an uncertain future in terms of residence, I don’t know if I will be able to properly store or transport it.  So I fear some of it may be heading to eBay. I do want to get back into sewing in miniature…but again, much of it will be determined on whether or not I will have to move. I have been approached by some folks with project ideas, two of which are doll-related – I can’t really elaborate on them right now as I’m still getting my head wrapped around the concepts.
When's lunch??

Julia, you've never looked better!

Sam: Can you see yourself with another doll company or do you want to try a whole different field? If you would like to continue in the doll world, is there a particular company you would like to be a part of and would you look to do a similar job or would you like to expand into a different area of the doll business?:
TC: Very good question, Sam…I’ve been asking myself this since I was let go.  One of the reasons I wanted to work for Robert was because I had immense passion and respect for his dolls, both child and fashion. I loved them so much that I was willing to leave one life behind in DC to move to the Hudson Valley. I worked day and night, weekends and holidays, any time needed to finish the job – all while also trying to find a place in the local gay community: an area with an unfriendly and judgmental social climate with members unwilling to welcome newcomers into it.  Where ever I go next, I will definitely make sure there is no ruling class of Nazi Gay Mafia.  I’m sure they would be thrilled to know they’ve made my 10 years in this beautiful, but loveless area completely miserable – so I am grateful that I had such a fun and wonderful job where I could find refuge.
TC: I’ve asked myself if I could pour myself into another company’s products when my level of passion is not the same.  I may be limiting myself, but I won’t work for anyone that I don’t respect. I feel that I could do anything given half the chance, really.  Anyone into mutual respect and who is putting his/her faith in me will get 800%.
TC: I’ve always thought I would be a great product developer with my keen eye for detail, especially in licensed properties.  I have this crazy-mad memory that is invaluable when looking at product translation and avoiding repetition, with a strong ability to find the cross-merchandising potential in a product line.

Sam: It makes me sad to hear about the after hours environment but I'm glad your work helped you through. As for your skills, I think we could all use one of you! You’re first on my list when cloning becomes available lol. You are quite the skilled designer in your own right. Will you keep creating your OOAKs? Would you ever be interested in making your own doll and if so, what type of doll would it be?:
TC: A dear friend asked me this very question, and although I won’t say ‘no’…it’s unlikely. Problem is…I’m not a sculptor…and I think that’s a critical skill for a dollmaker to possess. Anyone can come up with a story, draw a picture and hand it over to a sculptor – but when the concept, character and persona are a unique vision of the sculptor, what you get is a true, personal reflection of the artist. I do know how a doll is made…and the production details of getting the doll from cradle to shelf. I also have a very specific taste in what I like…and I’m not sure how others would like that – I’m a little selfish like that.  I’m also a bit thin-skinned when it comes to criticism, especially when I’ve made something for me…and not someone else.  This is why I like my OOAKs…they are only for me…so I don’t care if someone else likes it or not.  But the applause is very nice…and I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t like the little sparks of attention showing off brings, particularly amongst my family and friends.

Elizabeth and Franz-Josef
by Tom Courtney
Gorgeous daywear!

Sam: With all of your production experience and years in the trenches, you’re so knowledgeable about the landscape of dolls in general. Where do you see collecting heading next?:
TC: In my opinion, collectors across the community are bored.  There’s this group of “I only collect 16” fashion dolls” – meaning they only collect Tyler or Gene.  One might say change is not very welcomed in the doll community.  Most people want to stick with what they have, recycle, buy some new clothes or shoes…and that’s that.  If this concept were actually true, then the doll makers would be doing just fine and all your old favorites would still be made.  But it isn’t true.  Most people want the ‘newest’ thing – so much, in fact, they will go positively ape shit to get it.  Collectors are obsessive-compulsive people who are never satisfied with what they have. I know because I am one. We wait and wait, open the box, and the thrill is gone before the doll is even placed on the shelf – we are already thinking about the next doll. Some get buyer’s remorse, so then they start to find all the little flaws in an item in the hopes they can either return it to the seller, or they can sell it.
TC: Collectibles customers require that change happens faster and faster…give them what they want not only now…but yesterday! And make sure it holds its value – we might not be able to invest in collectibles anymore, but we certainly don’t want to see our hard-earned money flushed down the toilet within seconds of opening the box! The internet has driven this addiction for instantaneous gratification – time was you waited for a catalog to be mailed…you took it to your doll club, you drooled and drooled over your favorites – not anymore.  Now, a camera phone snaps a pic of a prototype at a trade show and it’s seen in seconds by thousands of people – they begin to criticize it and ponder its worth.  Retailers wait in anticipation to hear the collective yay or nay before placing their order. The manufacturer then may decide to not produce the item based on poor reaction – or to change it.  It all happens within minutes, and it still isn’t fast enough.  And the manufacturer that is capable of keeping up with it all will win – for the time being until change is once again demanded. It’s a vicious cycle.
TC: We are more than likely seeing the collectible doll fading into dormancy such as what happened before Gene re-awakened the collectors – not because it was a superior product, but because Gene was different…new. During this dormancy, artists will probably rise again…and a new generation of collectors will rediscover the old manufactured dolls when they can’t afford the artist prices. Others will desperately want to cling onto their youth and return to the toys they knew as children.  It happened in the 80s with Barbie, Effanbee and Madame Alexander…it will happen again.

Sam: I’ll have you know my friends and I are not at all like that description of a collectibles customer (hangs head in shame...yes, yes we are). But at least I’m in good company as you are an avid collector yourself. What are you a fan of?: 
TC: My personal collection is comprised of mostly fashion dolls...Tyler Wentworth will always be my favorite...and just about Anything Alice in Wonderland – but I have collected themes before, too...such as GWTW, ‘Gay’ dolls (like your ‘Bo’ that you created for me), and unusual items like Halloween. I also collect vintage Tonner (porcelains, mostly...and some vinyl children), Alice in Wonderland porcelain tea sets/figurines, Harry Potter Lego – and Christmas and Halloween decorations. I love cooking, photography, and Harry Potter, fashion – near manic about Potter!

That's dedication!  

Sam: Will we still see you at conventions?
TC: I think at some point, you might…especially the ones where costumes are involved.

Sam: Great! I look forward to that. Now here are some questions fans had for you: 

MJ asks: Hey Tom,How do you display your dolls/organize them in your own home?Thanks for all the work you've done and wishing you the best of luck Always!
TC: Thanks, MJ!  I displayed most of my collection in my office at Tonner; but that will now change.  The dolls I have at home are in a glass case…and some artist pieces are incorporated at various levels in my studio…so whichever way I turn, I can always see one of them. The dolls that are stored are done by lightly packing them with white tissue paper – if there are overlapping dolls, I make sure dark or brightly colored fabrics are not touching vinyl to avoid staining…I also add a few of those ‘DO NOT EAT’ desiccant packs to keep moisture down.
Steffi asks: Hi Tom, a long time ago, when the first Tyler dolls came out, you published a fan fiction in the Tonner dolls Yahoo group that I remember fondly (even though sadly it was unfinished). It showed you as a very talented writer. Now that you are leaving RTDC, do you have any plans on maybe writing a novel?
TC: The Wentworth Shadows Chronicles – LOL…misty water-colored memories.  I still have a printed copy of that!  I loved the flashback portion telling Regina’s story…that would make a great novel with the names changed. I love writing…and I’ve done several story treatments – any of them could get flushed out into a book or graphic novel…I’ve even looked into self-publishing via the web.  Stay tuned!
Steffi: And another blast from the past...Most of the convention exclusive Tyler dolls for the very first Tonner convention in Portland, were stolen.Did they ever turn up again, and was the thief found?Wishing you all the best for the future and hope you´ll be sticking around the doll scene somehow :-)
TC: Well…it wasn’t most of them…I think it was only two or three shipping cartons…app. 36 dolls or so…they were stolen from the dock as they were being unloaded – I don’t recall if this was done in China or in the US – no culprit was ever apprehended. Thanks, Steffi…we shall certainly see!
Jen asks: What is it about Alice in Wonderland that appeals to you so much?
TC: There’s a whimsy to Alice’s imagination that reminds me of myself as a child…creating other world’s in my head and living adventures in them when there was no one else to play with.  I wasn’t always a fan of Alice, though…it’s only been in the 3-4 years that I developed such a fascination with her. Thanks for asking, Jen!

Anon asks: What’s your favorite doll?
TC: My customized Midnight Garden Tyler Wentworth with original Sherry Miller face paint and Facets by Marcia jewelry.

And here are two very sweet comments:

Hi Tom, I just want to wish you the best in whatever is next for you! Thank you so much for working so hard on our favorite past time! It was much appreciated :)))) Thanks, Chrissy
TC: Hi, Chrissy…thanks!  It will take some getting used to not working for Tonner…but I’ll manage!

Hard to believe you're really leaving. I'm so sorry I missed seeing Julia Childs at convention, but I hope you will leave that album up on facebook for everybody to see. It showed the grand scale and scope of your insanity.And I still want to buy that Esme (or was is Jac? No, Esme) wearing the black variation of "Florentine"---she stopped me dead in my tracks, and shut me UP, for a second at least. (You, of all people, know how rare THAT is.) You are so talented, dear Tom---I hope you're going to go into dolly Haute Couture. love and a good-bye hug, Maggie
TC: Thanks, Maggie…sorry, but that Esme stays with me! LOL!
Marianne says: I first "met" Tom online in '99 when the what was to become the Tyler Yahoo Group first formed around early March. At that time, he procured software for the U.S. Navy. In his posts to the group, he came up with elaborate stories for Tyler and her friends and family to pass the time as we all impatiently waited for the first Tyler's release which wasn't until Dec. Tom was probably the premier Tyler fan and Tonner cheerleader. When he started working for TDC in 2000, all of us in the group felt like it was a dream job for him and very happy for him. So, when you posted that he has left TDC, I was very surprised which leads to my questions:
Marianne: Does he mind telling us why he left TDC?
TC: Thanks, Marianne…I remember those days fondly on Yahoo…we had great fun! I was laid off from Tonner…it was a bit of a surprise, but I certainly understand the decision.
Marianne: Does he feel the company has gone in a direction he doesn't wish to follow
TC: No…I was always willing to follow Robert’s creative direction…I was a great worker-bee!!!
Marianne: Does he feel that licensed products are the best (or only?) way for a doll company to stay afloat in the current economic environment?
TC: My opinion is that any business that wishes to grow needs to look into expanding their market through diversification; however, expansion has its own financial limitations and risks, and it needs to be carefully considered by any firm…Tonner is no exception.
Marianne: What are his future plans? Will he continue working in the doll industry
TC: Ideas right now are only abstract…I don’t know about the doll industry…will probably need more time to truly think this part out…but thanks for asking! I think this might be a good time to make a graceful departure and head toward a new horizon.  It’s time to let someone else have a chance to play…

Sam: Thank you, Tom, for giving us your time. You are a wealth of information and I would love to call upon you from time to time to get your thoughts on this crazy hobby of ours!

TC: You are most welcome, Sam…thank you for asking…and remember, always glow brightly!

I have to admit, I was worried for him. After all the economy isn’t the best and doll manufacturing is quite a specific niche. What if he couldn’t find a comparable job? What if the doll world lost one its top people (said a la Bridget Jones)? Then I started reading up on his background for this interview and realized Tom’s problem isn’t that he can’t do anything else, it’s that he can do whatever he wants and narrowing down the choice is going to be tough! With solid backgrounds in retail, business and contract law for the Navy, computers, photography and sewing, I have no doubt this cat is landing firmly on his feet. Selfishly I’d like him to stay in the doll field but I know he’s going to make some company out there very happy. Best of luck!


Trend Feature: New Year's Eve Party Wear

New Year's Eve! You're in the home stretch and the end is near! I know you've got one final great party in you. Tomorrow you can veg in sweats on the couch recovering and groaning about misbehavior but tonight is all about fun. Unlike previous party attire you are no longer beholden to dress codes or color schemes and actually, the glitzier the better. 

Start the new year with a bang in a glitter crusted sheath. The muted color keeps it from being too gaudy. Leave the sparkle to the dress and opt for a simple gold multi-chain necklace and filigree earrings for decoration. A strapped clutch means you'll never be searching for your gloss or have cash go missing. Pull hair back in a clean up-do to balance the dress but leave some sexy tendrils. Smokey eyes and nude lips finish the look.
Kiera in Empire

Tonight is the perfect night to go all out! Top a vintage brocade dress with a recycled or faux fur chubbie. Add pearls, open toe pumps and simple black clutch to round out the look. A classic side swept bun makes it possible to amp up the glamour on your face. Pull out the black liquid liner, a shimmery highlight on the brow bone, lots of mascara and your favorite red lipstick.

La Brava in Empire

If you're partying in the warmer climates, take advantage of it. A gold flecked hot peach dress against tan skin is gorgeous. Remember, the lower the cut in the front, the lower the hemline! Add solid gold jewelry, loose waves and a sexy nude pout. 

Felicia in Empire

If you're mixing business with pleasure, keep the drinks to a minimum and the "pretty" maxed out in a strapless bubble dress. Here I have lopped off the bottom half of Idyllic's gown (gasp!) to reveal the young sweet dress within. The white tulle roses can look heavy so keep the accessories small and clean. A simple black belt gives shape to the waist. Rhinestone earrings give a little sparkle without competing with the dress. Try gold heels and a simple black clutch to finish if off. The half up-do keeps the hair fresh while the lip color brings attention back to your face.  

Tonner Glamorous Red in Tonner dress

There you have it! I hope I was able to help you navigate the party waters this season. Remember to have fun with your clothes and that you only get a certain amount of times to dress up so go for it! 


Tip #9

I was going to add this to the Tip Page but I think it's too important to miss. 

This tip isn't exclusive to painters. It goes for rerooters, jewelers, photographers and seamstresses too. There are a few dangers inherent to our professions that can shorten the life of your career, namely back problems and joint issues like carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis and tendonitis. Remember to take the time to give yourself a good stretch every other hour or so. If you can pick up a yoga or pilates class or even do it at home, even better. Strong core=strong back=longer career=less stress. You may not think you have the time or money to invest in yourself but think of how much money you will lose if you can't do your job anymore. 


Exclusive: The Tom Courtney Interview You Won't Want to Miss

Monday I'll be talking to Tom Courtney about his recent departure from the Tonner Doll Co., what his passions are and where he may be going next. Tom is also graciously accepting select questions from YOU so be sure to write them in the comments section of this post (question deadline is tomorrow night) and tune in next week to see what he has to say. 


Trend Feature: Dressy Holiday Party Wear

So your next holiday party invite says: Dressy. I'm here to help. 

If you're a little younger and have great legs, show them off! To keep it theme appropriate, try a traditional fabric like velvet. The burgandy color is sophisticated but the length, puff sleeves and trim keep it from aging you. Pair with swingy earrings and fun gold shoes. Long wavy hair also keeps the look young as does the light make-up palette.
Antoinette by Yu

If you want a little more splash try a brighter red. This Red Silk Thread dress is all you'll need to get attention while staying polished. You'd think bright red and metallics would be too much but the aged tone of the silver keeps it from going over the top. Keep jewelry to a minimum and shoes classic. In this case balance out the dress with sparkly earrings and red lips or the dress will be wearing you. Secret: this dress doesn't actually have pockets but that's the great thing about having extra fabric in a skirt! 
Tonner Glamorous Red

For a little more adult look try midnight blue. The subtle shimmer and pattern paired with the clean silhouette is universally flattering. Accent with sparkling jewelry although unlike the picture here, choose either the necklace or bracelets, don't do both. A soft up-do and smokey eye/nude lip duo is always appropriate.

Felicia by Halo
Dress by Empire
Bracelets by Facets

Finally I have the Tonner Glamorous Red dress. It is just this side of too much, being red and satin and ruffly! Tone it down with a black car coat and skinny black belt. Normally I wouldn't be so matchy matchy but I adore these shoes by Integrity too much not to use them. If this look is a little much for you, try buttoning the coat and using it as a dress. The texture keeps it from being matronly and the shoes add festivity. Jigamaree's Dae Jang Geum in Deva Doll wig.

With all this color, keep
eyes smokey or clean and
lips nude.
The clean black dress
allows you to introduce
a brighter lip color

Next Monday I will cover New Year's Parties!


Trend Feature: Cocktail Party Wear

For cocktail hour I like to keep it basic yet interesting. There are lots of other parties where you can play with color so tonight I'm doing black and white.

With dresses, I prefer a streamlined silhouette. If the dress is patterned then keep accessories clean and to a minimum. Strapless is always nice if you have good shoulders but remember to balance it out with a "lady" length hem. This Empire brocade dress is paired with a simple belt and heels. I chose the neutral make-up palette because of the busy dress but you can always punch it up with a MAC Russian Red lipstick instead. Don't apply from the tube though, use a brush and swipe on sheer layers until you get the color you're looking for. Keep hair back but soft.

Antoinette by Yu

If you choose to rock the little black dress, try using metallics as the compliment instead of introducing another color. I love this one by Integrity! It shows off the legs while keeping the top sexy but appropriate. It has design details to make it interesting but is basic enough that it can be dressed up with many different items. Here I've kept it clean, sexy and a little sporty with classic hoop earrings, a silver and leather belt, strappy silver shoes and a sparkly bag by Joe Tai. Flirty pink lips are the perfect compliment to a modern bob.

Dae Jang Geum by Jigamaree
Wig by Chewin

Sometimes it's nice to be comfortable in pants but don't take that to mean casual! A little lace goes a long way but can be tricky, so pair items like lace bustiers with a black tailored trouser. Keep the jewelry to a minimum again to avoid making the lace look cheap. Add a great pair of closed toe black heels but leave hair down. Smokey eyes and nude lips keep it classy.

Felicia by Halo
Clothing by Empire

For a more glam look, go white! A pantsuit in white can be stunning but instead of going with the usual plain white trousers try a beaded wide leg pant. Because the pants are beaded you'll want to balance it with a more casual top. Here I paired these amazing Red Silk Thread pants with a white jersey v-neck bodysuit and kept the jewelry clean and classic with a single oversized strand of pearls. To avoid being washed out, do a pretty eye make-up and splash color on the lips and blush. A half up-do is soft, pretty and flattering come picture time.

Tonner Glamorous Red 

Come back Monday for how to deal with dressier holiday parties.


A Good Man is Hard to Find

Last week I decided it was time to paint a man doll and thought it would be a good idea to search for new inspiration. So there I sat, pouring over photo after photo of hot guy. I know, I suffer for my art. It's all for you though. 

Out of the rubble came Kevin, my first non-themed male doll in a year. He was named such because he reminded me in some shots of a young Kevin Sorbo lol. The overwhelming response was to be expected, after all he's the perfect holiday boyfriend: quiet, attentive (when posed to be), looks good in pictures, doesn't take up much room, makes no mess and doesn't criticize you for the second piece of cheesecake. It got me thinking though, why don't I paint more men?

Growing up I always had 50 Barbies to one Malibu Ken. Ken lost his head one weekend on vacation and being industrious, I replaced it with a balled up piece of masking tape and was more than satisfied. Derek from Barbie and the Rockers was added much later and again, I was set. It really was all about the girls with their big hair and extensive wardrobe. So is my reluctance to paint men an extension of my childhood?

There was discussion on the doll boards a week or so ago about collecting men dolls and why it's not as popular as collecting female dolls. Some made the point that there aren't enough clothes to make it interesting. Some said they didn't like the athletic bodies and some just didn't collect men.

I want to propose another theory though. I think we're pickier about our men then we are the girls. Girls just have to have nice hair, a good sculpt, decent make up and we're happy. Speaking for myself though, a factory man doll needs to be exceedingly good looking and just that...a "man". So many male dolls, whether it's BJDs, Ken or Tonner dolls, skew younger. Sean is too young for me as was disappointingly, Simon. I had such high hopes for an equally bitchy brother to Sydney but again, just a boy. Sorry, but the new Andy Mills like he should be in school with the Harry Potter kids. Matt's okay but needs a jaw and nose slim down while Jeremy Voss has too slim a face. The best male sculpt in years, Hal Jordan, unfortunately has either been used only on the athletic body or as the ultra themed and super pale Cutting Your Losses. The other superhero dolls just look angry. I'd have both Mal and Captain Harkness but I'm not a huge fan of the athletic body unless there is a reason for its use. The Pirates men weren't bad but the sculpted facial hair was a little limiting. Russell hasn't reached his full potential yet but that's nothing that a flocked head or dreads wouldn't fix. Fashion BJDs are usually young looking, too pale and skinny and wouldn't be able to hold their own with my great girl dolls. See? Picky!! Sigh. It seems finding the perfect male doll is as hard as finding their human counterparts.

Which leads me back to my question of why I don't paint more. I think sometimes I take the lack of enthusiasm for male dolls as a lack of interest. After the release of Kevin this week I learned how mistaken that thinking is though and this coming year will do my best to be your girls' personal matchmaker.

Tomorrow, holiday cocktail party dresses!


Trend Feature: Office Party Wear

The holiday parties are just about to begin, if they haven't already. Instead of just doing a Trend graphic I will be doing articles each Monday on what to wear for various functions. This week's theme is the Office Party!

For a daytime party held in the office, you want to keep it work appropriate while punching up your day to day look. I like prints for this because they give a little zing without being too distracting. Remember, the louder the print, the fewer the accessories and vice versa.

White after Labor Day is perfectly fine.
Add a long black sweater coat for warmth.
Streamlined accessories keep
the focus on your dress

For a more casual work environment
add a structured jacket to this jersey dress.
To add spice to a quiet print add
some splashy jewelry.

For a nighttime work event, remember to keep it classy. You still have to work with these people in the morning. Shimmery fabrics are great as long as they are kept simple. When all else fails a modern three piece suit is always acceptable.

If you're going to do "green" try an
evergreen or sage. 
If you're going to show leg,
keep the top simple and covered.

A long necklace and fun
shoes keep you from looking
like part of the wait staff.

All clothes past Empire pieces and models.


An Ode to Amphitrite: Part 4

Questioning myself and unsure of what to do next, I picked greenie up Monday morning, had a good look at her and realized my problem was not the color or the shape of anything. It was starting a doll with one intention, changing intention midstream and not committing to either. Much like some pencil drawings look better before they are colored, sometimes a thing needs to be a thing for what it is. I intended for this nymph to be an art doll and she needed to be an art doll with everything that entailed. 

Suddenly my block was gone! I fleshed out her eyes and they came alive. I found the balance I was looking for with her make up. The lip shape never really was in question. WW has slim lips and I wanted to maintain that look so I worked with the bottom lip instead of giving her trout pout. The Mona Lisa smile was staying. And you know what? So was the sunkissed look! And the freckles! She turned from a simple nymph to "Tell Tale Heart", a nymph in love with a human and it was literally written all over her face. I loved it! Now it was back to the hair!

I pulled out all of the sea related trinkets I could find and them some and set about attaching them throughout her hair. I included pieces of a bracelet I purchased in Hawaii on my senior trip, pink and coral colored shells from necklaces, rhinestones, quartz and pearls...anything I thought a sea maiden would find and attach through the years under water. 

Finally at almost 12am the same day I was thinking of shelving her, here she was: The doll she was supposed to be. But her voyage wasn't quite over. The next day I dressed her in a simple but flattering gown and took her photos. I didn't notice before but she has this gaze that at once looks into you and far away like she can see for miles. Her face was that of a woman, not a girl with a crush. Together with the length of her hair, this was a creature who had been around for a long time and knows the world. She almost looks like she should be surrounded by little sea children. She's confident, secure, protective, strangely yet naturally beautiful with a kind heart and a sharp wit. It was at that moment I knew she was Amphitrite, Goddess of the Sea. I will do an actual "Tell Tale Heart" one day and she will be sweet and in love but I know I made the right decision. 


An Ode to Amphitrite: Part 3

Now that I had some semblance of hair to work from, I started to paint. WW is commonly painted in brighter, dramatic colors, partially to work against the black hair and nose and partially for appeal. Unless you collect Wicked Witch specifically, there are only a few reasons someone will add a green doll into their collection. If you collect for fashion it might never happen. But if the doll has a theme or is tied to Halloween through her colors then she's more likely to be bought. 

An earlier Wicked Witch

However, I like to think of green skin as a state of being rather than an incidental. If she has green skin does that mean she has green blood or is it the same as having brown or dark skin for us? What color would she blush? What color hair would grow out of green skin? What color eyes would a green person have? What would her natural lip color be? What would she color them with? What would a green race do to make themselves attractive? I didn't have the hair or nose to contend with so I already had more freedom with her color palette. I got the basic shape of the eyes done, the brows in and the lip shape in and I suddenly got scared. 

It's that line in Tropic Thunder, you know the one: "You never go full retard". I had it stuck in my head and it would not go away. As an artist there is a fine line between art and commercialism. Some people collect for art, some for the "pretty". Not everyone is going to like the same things and that's to be expected. But it doesn't matter how well the paint job is done, if the concept is too "out there" you are cutting your market down to a select group and the chances that you will recoup the time you put into your art, no matter how cool, are unlikely. 

I like to push the envelope but I also know when to pull back. I equate it to showing cleavage or lots of leg or heavy eye or lip make up, but rarely both at the same time. There often needs to be a balance. For example: My teen suggested I should paint veins on Tisiphone and have them come out around her eyes. I said, "That would be cool but you never go full retard". He asked what I meant and I explained I already had a doll with black eyes and horns, veins might be a bit much lol. He said, "Got it." 

Tisiphone, an Unusual Beauty

Now here's the exception: As an artist I believe if you're gonna do it, go for it! Don't attach expectations of acceptance or money and your doll is probably going to be amazing, whether it sells or not. I love these kinds of dolls because you are creating an "art" doll for yourself, to your own specifications so there's no glass ceiling on your creativity. These are the dolls I find myself saying, "This is either going to be really good or really bad!" Surprisingly or not, 10 out of 10 times they are the most popular, well received dolls I've done. Eris, the Dark Fayries, the Pre-Raph and Natural series', all "my" dolls.  

Pre-Raph Nymph

So here's this doll: she's green, smiling, has blue-ish dreadlocks and I want her to have natural sunkissed make up. Talk about handicapping! Suddenly I'm questioning my judgement. I'm thinking she needs "more" if I actually want this doll to sell! So I intensified up the eye makeup. I took her into Photoshop played with the lip shape and color to see if I could "jazz" her up. The next day I would change my mind and take everything back down because it looked out of place. I would tweak and tweak without really getting anywhere. After a week I had a full repaint. She was well executed and pretty but had no life. I woke up early Monday morning wondering if I just needed to put her away again, work on another doll and come back to her with refreshed eyes. 

Would this nymph return to the closet, never to see the light of day again? Read the final installment tomorrow!