Halloween Designer Spotlight: Dalila Dolls

This week's designer spotlight is on the uber talented Dalila! I have been a fan of Dalila's for many years now, so much so that her name is the first that comes to mind when considering a character with any kind of specialty costume. Her work with leather is legendary; her shoes coveted; and her repaints of men, women and vampires drooled over. She also had the courage to specialize and thrive in not one but two niche roles in this already small world of doll customizing: leather work and male dolls. I had to ask this multi-hyphenate about her passions. 

S: How did you discover fashion dolls? 
D: My interest in fashion dolls started with my husband's aunt who had a small collection. When we would go to visit I started to look through her Haute Doll magazines and the dolls and fashions really grabbed my attention. I started to play with ideas and dabbled in it as more of a hobby, which quickly became more of a small business, thanks to my husband's needling me and now we run it together, even though he is a master procrastinator :) ( been waiting quite a while for my website to update).  

S: Do you have a background in art or was this a new venture for you?
D: I have always been artistic. My father was a very good artist and my mother would take me to different arts and crafts classes. In my childhood, I took painting and sculpting classes and learned how to make things out of some unusual items such as bark, straw and moss to name just a few. Also I took some sewing classes where I learned to build patterns and other basics. All of this, plus other things I had learned, play a part in what I try to do with each creation I make. When I did my first complete repaint and outfit (Arwen) I learned a great deal of what to do and what not to do for my next project. I found that I truly love doing this kind of artistic work and find that it is fun.   

S: How did you decide on your specialty?
D: Making something OOAK gives me a special feeling of accomplishment when I hear back from those that now have it and love it. This feeling drove me to start creating leather work. I have found a true niche in what I do since not many do it.  As you can see most of my leather work is armor, more fantasy or medieval styles, which both come to me naturally since I like reading about both. had taken some woodburning courses as a child and used those techniques before I taught myself how to tool the leather, which I now use in all my armor.

S: How long does the leather work take you?
D: The leather work is very time consuming because I want perfection and as much detail as I can get into it. Some leather work does not take much time, like a bustier which may take a couple of days, while others can take weeks to do depending if I need to make forms or special patterns. 

S: What do you find most fulfilling about your work?
D: What I find most fullfilling about what I do with a creation is, as long as I know that I put everything into it, I am happy with it. Sometimes after a completion I feel so drained from all the work and want nothing more than to sit and read. Which normally gets me thinking of the next one.

S: Finally, the question of the month: What inspires you most about Halloween?
D: This time of year I love making my vampires for halloween. As a fantasy creature, the raw beauty of a vampire is something I try to bring out in each one; not to make them scary, but to make them eternal.

Thank you so much, Dalila, for sharing your work with us! 

Now some words about Dalila's work from Sam, the collector. Dalila's shoes are incredible! Her choice of leather is important here as the weight needs to be to scale for the dolls. Her original base molds were designed to get the perfect killer heel and her brilliant addition of the pin in the heel takes away your worries of breakage. A minor investment for such high quality.

Although I had the opportunity to view Dalila's work up close when she collaborated with me on Xena and Gabrielle, I haven't had the chance to own my own leather armor pieces. Most are snatched up immediately with good reason: they are mini pieces of art! The work and skill that go into just a bustier is amazing, not to mention what a whole suit entails. The attention to detail, beautiful colors and textures and intricate patterns make you want to just sit there and stare. It's that gorgeous.

Sometimes specialty pieces like Dalila's armor are viewed as just that: armor and nothing more. I wanted to show the versatility and fashionable side of her work. For this shoot I borrowed some pieces from my bestie, Jan, who is lucky enough to own some Dalila work. Thank you, Hunny :)

By adding a "plain" black bustier to Tonner's Death by Fashion, the doll's figure is immediately enhanced and defined and the overall look is a little more edgy. Next, a more elaborate bustier is used with Fayrie Wear for an edgy, more warrior feel. Finally, I added a simple matching tulle skirt to the warrior armor dress shown and came up with a sweet almost cosplay look. If only I had a great staff and headpiece to match!

Antoinette by Yu
Halo Cristina

Dae Jang Geum by Jigamaree

If you have pieces by Dalila, I encourage you to play with them. They're more versatile than you might think. If you don't have any, I encourage you to get some as I'll be doing the same.

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