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!

Secret Santa Gift Guide Pt. 2

If you're seeking clothes and accessories that fit in your $25 Secret Santa Swap budget, look no further. I have a great array of designers ready to take your orders! Remember, no matter what you are looking for, always ask about shipping costs and times as this will factor into your gift as well.

Boxpleat Fashions
Kim Hartvigsen of Boxpleat Fashions is famous for her high quality and affordability. I've seen the frenzy first had at conventions and it's completely deserved. Classic staples never looked so good or cost so little. Not everything is listed on her site so email for availability and peeks at unseen exclusives! Boxpleat k@boxpleat.com

Alwin Roos

For something completely different, check out Alwin Roos Originals. Much like Forever 21, he makes fun, fresh trendy clothes for next to nothing! Every color you can think of, every sized doll you are shopping for, he's got you covered. Mention your order is for a Secret Santa gift and receive a discount. How great is that?? Btw, Alwin is hoping Santa brings him 16" doll shoes. Thank you, Santa, in advance. Alwin Roos Originals

If Old Navy is more along your tastes, try Kimberlee of Hazel Street Dezigns. She has well made staples for the modern crowd and her Ultimate Skinny Jeans are to die for! She has gift certificates available for the season so hit her up on Etsy. Hazel Street Dezigns

Hazel Street Dezigns for 12"
Hazel Street Dezigns

I guess it goes without saying but *cough* Empire *cough* has some pretty good stuff with free shipping of Secret Santa stuff and Doris still has some goodies in her salesroom as well. 'Nuff said.

Now for a super cool accessory, have a look at Forever Virginia's glasses. These genius items are printed on plastic that you cut out. They come in many different sizes, from 1:6 scale to an 8/9 BJD head, and at as little as $5 a sheet they won't blow your budget! Forever Virginia

Forever Virginia Sunglass set for 1:6 scale

Finally, for a little something for the stocking, try Doll Secrets, with their lingerie, stockings and tights to fit a large range of dolls. Check out this underwear and stocking set for CED that runs $15!

Doll Secrets

For props over every kind, check out seller rufis1966 on eBay. They are in Canda so you need to check shipping times and costs but they have some pretty reasonable items that are great for those who love to build dioramas. Many different eBay sellers offer a wide array of shoes too. Check out: paul_zhangby for shoes and toysity for shoes and clothes. Again, they are overseas so make sure your items will arrive in time.

If Etsy is more your speed then look under Dolls and Miniatures. Without even searching I found these great slippers for 18" dolls for $5! Imagine what you can find if you actually have a direction to go in.

Tomorrow I will have lists for actual humans in case you want to add something in there for the person behind the doll.


Secret Santa Gift Guide

It's that time of year again! A lot of boards are doing gift swaps with $25 limits and since I'm excellent at helping other people spend their money lol, I thought I'd suggest some places to shop.

The most important key to giving a gift is knowing your recipient. You don't have to know them personally but you should know what they like. Yes, you can ask the standard questions: What do you collect? Is there something you are hoping for? Etc. I suggest looking at their past posts to get a feel for their tastes. If they share pictures, what's in them? Do they like a certain designer, color, season? Maybe they enjoy dioramas and you can find something to add to it? A little checking will go a long way. As long as the gift speaks to them and will be used, $25 is more than enough.

Alternately, there is no shame in giving gift certificates. If you are at a complete loss for what to give then this could be the right choice for you. You can always give a $10 gift certificate along with a physical gift as well. I know I'd much rather get a gift certificate and pick out something I'll use than get something that was bought for the sake of buying, namely because I feel bad about wasted money on their part. When giving gift certificates I like to add candy and make it festive looking to make it a little more personal. Now onto the gifts!

I'll start off with jewelry. It's little so it's easy to ship for those who don't like messing with the post office. You don't have to spend your whole $25, maybe just pick up a $15 set, but everyone likes a little holiday sparkle. Each of these places feature jewelry for all doll sizes.
Dior in Cloud 9

Karin at Cloud 9 Dolls has been my go-to gal for perfectly scaled pieces for  years. This season she's put together mystery grab bags in silver tone, gold tone or mixed options. There is is a $10 bag with $15 value or a $20 bag with $35 value. Her online store has a generous offering to look through or she has gift certificates available. Cloud 9 Dolls

MA Sienna in Shiloh Winter

Shiloh of Shiloh Winter Jewelry has a great variety of fun, themed and colorful pieces and is currently working on a holiday themed line which will be available soon. There really is something for everyone and at fantastic prices. Such talent and only 15 years old! Gift certificates are available at the bottom of the home page. Shiloh Winter Jewelry

Mirasol in Facets by Marcia

For some true holiday sparkle, look no further than Facets. Marcia has been providing quality rhinestone jewelry for years of course but her store has become one stop central with everything from shoes to wigs to BJD eyes to furniture. Facets

Finally, for some truly interesting pieces, check out de-zyns by Joy. She has a wide assortment of bead work, accessories and even adorable pets! de-zyns by Joy

de-zyns by Joy
de-zyns by Joy

What do you do if you get an artsy person? Gift certificates to Michael's or Jo-Ann's are always a good idea. You can also ask if there's a specific art store they prefer/brush they like/sealer they're out of. Dick Blick has everything under the sun. If you want something a little more original, check out Etsy's Supply category. They have all the craft gear you could possibly ask for. Pick up some charms, beads or fabric, all very reasonable. Just make sure the size is appropriate for the dolls they work with. A vintage scarf or jewelry they can take apart is great too. Oh and we're always looking for great hand lotions that moisturize without being too greasy. Can't stain that fabric! Aveda makes a good one but any of the True Blue Spa line from Bath and Body Works is perfect too.

Tomorrow I will cover clothing and props.

An Ode to Amphitrite: Part 2

I fully intend to address mohair and all that it includes in my "Hair Month", January.

When I paint I usually get the eye shape and brows sketched in and then I have a look at the hair. I do any kind of perm first because I don't want to risk ruining the face later. Also with the hair framing the face, it helps me decide feature proportions. Of course there's room to tweak it later but I like setting my parameters.  

Undine had been trolled, part amazing wig by Deb West and part extensions, and I intended to keep the look going with this nymph as well. I had used a different type of mohair last time to match the wig. It was curly and thick. The mohair I ordered this time had been straightened and was really long which worked great with this vision I had of excessive amazing nymph-y hair! I decided to change it up from the light green and use a light teal instead. The hair dyed beautifully and ended up a light blue-green with highlights of sky blue and lowlights of smokey blue and mauve. 

Undine and her gorgeous hair

I like parts in my mohair so I began to root in the part and hairline only to find the mohair actually wasn't that long! The hair was woven into each other so if you were careful you could separate it into the really long strands but it became apparent that I was going to have to anchor it all the way down so it wouldn't break apart. Crap. There went my original dream. Then I remembered this picture I had saved awhile back of Mary Kate in her dread stage and I became newly inspired. Besides, all that hair in the ocean would be a hot mess if she didn't keep it together somehow! I was on the job! I glued in the rest of the hair strands, carefully making sure they remained intact and anchored them with sterling jump rings. With the hair secure I was free to start painting. 

Amphitrite's hair inspiration

Tomorrow I'll explain the painting process. Till then! 


An Ode to Amphitrite: Part 1

I sat down to write the article and 4 hours later I find that it's pretty freaking long. I'm splitting it up into 4 parts with resculpting shown today, hair Thursday, paint Friday, and pulling it all together Saturday. 

Some dolls happen in a flash, like Tisiphone. I received the doll, inspiration hit and a few days later she was there, in the flesh so to speak. Other dolls are the opposite. You start them at one time, decide to put it down for awhile and don't get to it again for months, sometimes years. Amphitrite took the long road to get here.


I knew early this year that I wanted to try another nymph. Undine has always been one of my most popular dolls so I figured I'd make her a sister. For the first time on a WW sculpt, I started by taking the Dremel to her nose. I'd obviously worked with this sculpt before but I really wanted a different look. Wicked Witch has the most beautiful bone structure and I think Tonner Co. could have themselves a brand new bestseller if they took the mold and resculpted the nose. I like that it's distinctive which is why I wouldn't change WW herself, but making her a younger sister who repaired a "deviated septum" would be awesome. I mean, she's already green, throw the girl a bone! 


Although I've done a lot of resculpting, most has been on Matt's jawline which has a wide working surface and is usually also covered with some sort of scruff. Noses are tricky though. First you have to make sure you have the nose straight. Check that mirror to make sure you're not veering off to the side. You have to control how much comes off and make sure it's in proportion to the other features. Finally the hardest part, getting in the crevices and smoothing out with sandpaper/emery board/acetone to make it look like the rest of the face. I got done Dremeling, realized how much work I had left to do on the nose alone, put her back in the box and carried on with my life. 

The end of September rolled around and I made a list of the dolls I wanted to create for the Month of Magic. Undine's sister came to mind again so I pulled out a greenie. By this time I had forgotten about the half resculpted nose, pulled out the box at random, opened it and gave an, "Oooohhh", half "Oh, right! Great" and half "Oh. Sh$%.". But in embracing my new appreciation for synchronicity, I went with it. While working on smoothing out and blending in the nose I would work on other dolls. I had to or I would have gotten impatient and made a mess of things. The nose itself took about a week but it had to be right or there was no point to finishing the doll in my mind. 

With the nose done I set about working on the hair, which you will read about tomorrow morning. Til tomorrow! 


Designer Spotlight: Doris Mixon

Doris Mixon is an old dame of the fashion doll world. Doris' company, Fashion Boulevard, made it a point to make affordable interesting clothes and dolls for everyone. Unique to Doris is that she was almost more interested in giving independent designers a step up than fully developing her own lines, which is unheard of. She is also a spitfire and refreshingly candid, so hold on for her take on the glamours of owning your own doll business! 

In the interest of disclosure, I have known Doris for too many years to print. I found her through one of Jim Farone's books, noticed she lived close, had a meeting and the rest is history. I've worked with her on two conventions, a few dolls and she of course produced my Empire line for years. I originally wanted to add this interview to the Halloween line up as she is the Grandmother of Goth but her perspective on the industry goes so much further as a woman and manufacturer that I had to feature her alone. 

*Note: If you haven't noticed already, I don't edit my subject's interviews. Other than spell check, I like to hear the designer/artist in their own voice. It is not up to me to censor what they say or make them sound good/bad/ugly. Besides, they're so much more interesting being themselves than some PR job IMHO and I'm grateful they feel they can be open here.  

Sam: How did you get interested in fashion dolls and customizing in particular?: 

DM: I always loved fashion. From the time I was young I would design for paper dolls. I would hold them up to the window and trace around the paper dolls and then I would add my designs to them. I also used scarves to design for my first Barbie Doll. When I got older I would sew for my daughters and really wanted to just go crazy designing but I had a family and I had to wait. Finally when my youngest was in elementary school we went to a doll show and I saw all these amazing Barbie designs and OOAKs. I knew there and then what I wanted to do. So I bought a bunch of material and made patterns from designs I saw in magazines. My first designs were disastrous and I gave them away. Then I got a bit better and signed up to do a doll show in Ontario, California that Bob Mackie was going to be attending. At the show he actually came up to me and told me how nice he thought my designs were. I made a complete fool of myself over him. He has always been one of my favorite designers.  

Original Christina Doll
Original Felice Doll

So after that everything just took off and I went to as many shows as I could and then when Gene came out I really went nuts. Finally a doll that was a big enough size for me to actually be able to design for. I entered my designs at the first Hollywood Gene convention and won almost every category that I entered. Soon after that I found a factory in China and started mass producing my designs. We did fairly well, but I really was getting tired of designing for someone else's doll and wanted my own doll and that is when I started looking for sculptors to design my doll. I found several and after quite a few false starts we chose a person we thought could do a good job on our first Christina doll. The doll was very cartoony, mostly the fault of the factory, but we came out with her anyway because of all the money we had spent on her. Then we tried again after getting ugly reviews of her. The next ones were still not what we wanted, again the factory did not do her justice. Then we tried a third time with our Felice and Christina dolls in resin for the body and vinyl for the heads. Still they weren't what I wanted. I finally got what I wanted this year for our Christina and Felice. They are all in resin and the bodies are fantastic. It only took us 11 years LOL.

New Resin Felice
New Resin Christina

Sam: What was the landscape of fashion dolls when you started your company and how were you looking to add to it?: 

DM: Well, there was a lot of high fashion designs from one company and vintage fashion from another. I started out doing the vintage and high fashion, but there was way to much in those markets. So I decided to go with my love: goth with some punk and fetish thrown in. It was all tongue in cheek and I got some snide remarks over some of my designs, but I let it go in one ear and out the other. Most of the collectors loved our designs and bought them up like crazy.  

Punked Out

Sam: Your style has definitely changed from the vintage wear on Gene to the goth styles you're known for now. Describe the evolution and what inspired you to get into fetish wear: 

Darvon and Demerol

DM: I tried to do some really nice vintage designs for the Gene dolls. Things that I remember seeing in the movies when I was a kid. I did very well with my designs and had a long waiting list of people wanting my OOAK dressed dolls. It wasn't until I came out with our Felice doll that I wanted to get a little more edgy. I've always liked the edgy look and I was the only one doing it at the time. Now it's all over the place. I used PVC, leather, whips, handcuffs and anything else that I thought went with my designs. We even did sexy costumes and people grabbed them up like crazy. So I must have been doing something right.


Sam: What has been your most popular outfit over the years? Your favorite?:   

DM: The most popular was our Teacher's Pet outfit. It came with a short pleated skirt with suspenders, a white blouse, thigh high lace nylons, red platform shoes and a lollipop. People are still looking for that one. I even sold my sample outfit of it. I wish I hadn't though. My favorite design to date would have to be the My Fair Lady Ascot gown. I love that movie and that outfit has always been one of my favorites. Our company made it but of course I ended up selling my sample outfit again because I had a customer that missed out and really really wanted it LOL. 

Teacher's Pet

Sam: What has been the most satisfying aspect of being a manufacturer?:  

DM: Running my own company and calling the shots. I worked for Paradise Galleries for a short time and also did some teddy bear designs for Knickerbocker. I was told what to make and had to have patterns and samples done at a specific time. It was when my husband and I made the decision to open our own factory in China that everything took off for me creativity wise. I just had to send the factory pictures of what I wanted and instructions and the material and they did the rest. It was so amazing to send pictures and in a few short weeks have the samples in my hands and they were usually right on target. It spoiled me big time. I didn't sew for a few years after that. It was great owning the factory at first and being the boss, but then things started going bad after I found out my manager was not doing his job or paying the bills. I finally decided it was time to close down. I was deflated but determined not to let it get to me. I took almost a year off to get my thoughts together and decide if it was time to get out of the business all together, but I love fashion and dolls and said NO!! I'm going to continue what I love.

Sam: What's it like being one of the only female fashion doll manufacturers in a field dominated by men, ironically?:  

DM: I love what I do and I know what I like in fashion. I try and design what collectors would like to see themselves in if they had the body and age to wear my designs. Since fashion doll collecting is a fantasy. People usually project themselves onto the dolls and dress the dolls how they would like to dress. A lot of times I don't think that most men designers see that. They want to tell the populace what they should wear instead of letting them make up their own minds. One gentleman that recently got into the doll market takes designs right off the runways and then calls them his own. He didn't know anything about the doll making market just a few short years ago, but he is all over the place now and posting his stylized photoshoped photographs to every board that will have him. He feels that he is on top of the doll collecting heap, but that is a small heap and you can tumble off quite quickly if you're not careful. I myself keep a small but loyal list of customers that wait for me to come out with new designs and then race to buy. I sold out of my last collection, which were primarily OOAKs. I'm slowly getting back into sewing again and really am starting to find it exciting.  


Sam: What was it like working with independent artists to try and help them start their own production line?:

Well....I started Fashion Boulevard as a way of taking charge of my own line and giving the novice designers a chance to produce their line without having to invest in a huge minimum order. I had a very small minimum order so that the novices could get their feet wet to producing their own line. With some designers it went very well, but with others it was a disaster. I worked with Doug James who is a professional and understands what working with a factory is all about. I love and respect Doug and still work with him to this day. You and Cindy of Red Silk Thread were really wonderful to work with also. You are both so talented and enthusiastic. I know you were both crushed when I had to close my factory. 

The rest of the novices I worked with had no idea what working with a manufacturer was all about. They treated me like a wholesaler or like one person did, an employee. I told the people that wanted to work with my company what to expect up front but they just blew it off and when reality set in I was the bad guy. I had some stores that would place orders and want me to do special lines for them, knowing full well what the minimum was and said no problem. So I would buy all the material and trims needed to produce their lines and also pay to have it shipped to my factory, only to have them cut the orders in half and then one just put me off several times until I had had enough. I also tried to have a doll produced for one shop only to be threatened with a law suit every two weeks because it was taking too long. From start to finish on a doll it's usually about a year and a half to two years, but this person just couldn't wait. I learned in the end that he was working with another company and he planned on dropping me as soon as he received the doll anyway. 

Another artist that we were supposed to produce for started to believe that I was going to steal their designs and creations. I was helping this person and giving them ideas and listening to what they wanted to do. In the end I was called a thief and liar by people I thought were my friends. If I had to do it all over again. I would NOT ever work with novices again. They have no idea what goes into producing a line or the problems that can arise from working with the orient. They just want to have their own dolls and designs produced so that they can be envied by the collecting masses. I would only work with people that understood the mechanisms of working with a production schedule and with a factory half a world away. I still work with a resin factory in China, but it's easier now, because I only have one client and he is a dream. No more threats or harassments. The bottom line is do what you want and love to do and listen to your heart not the rantings of others.

Sam: What are you working on now?:  

DM: I'm working on our Felice and Christina dolls again. We got some interest from people wanting to know if we were ever going to do them again and I said why not. So I put them together again and we did very well.  We will be coming out with our Darvon and Demerol too. They are very edgy dolls and I have been getting a lot of e-mails asking if we're going to do them again. A lot of people jumped on the fashion doll band wagon, but had no idea what to expect. I think they thought it was instant fortunes being made by all of us.  But that was so far from the truth. You have to truly love what you're doing to make it in this hobby. When I started Fashion Boulevard it was to give the collectors something different. I wanted to give them more for there money than they were getting. 

Sam: Where would you like to see fashion dolls go in the future?: 

DM: I think I would like to see them more realistic. I know that sounds really strange, but a doll that has realistic skin texture and maybe even a robotic body would be so cool. I know it would be spooky to have your doll talking to you and walking around demanding more fashions LOL but wouldn't it be amazing!!!

Thank you, Doris, for taking the time to share your work and insight with us. 

No matter what you think of Doris personally or her dolls or her style, you have to give this lady props.  To me she is quite the study of the American dream: a woman "of a certain age", doing what she loves, picking herself up and dusting herself off time and time again. And isn't that the simple definition of success? Get up more times than you get knocked down? 


I Win

I'll share tomorrow but she came to her senses. I always win mwahahaha. 

Beating a Dead Horse

So I've been working on this one doll on and off for the last few weeks. I have changed her make up palette a few times, gone more dramatic, less dramatic (all this after days and days of resculpting and hair work) and I still don't know who she is. I don't know that I've ever been so far into a doll and still been so undecided. Usually at this point I have a clear understanding of where she's going and who she wants to be and I'm lost.

I've shut off the computer, put on happy music, photographed her, looked through pictures and still nothing. Logic says I need to put her down and work on another doll but my ego is getting the best of me. I am bound and determined to make this happen. Maybe I need new trinkets? A quick run to the local bead shop might be in order to spark something. Either way I'll let you know who wins.