Raven, an antique doll collector, began to lose interest in “dolls by dead people”. Modern artist dolls did not really captivate her either. Then a fellow collector introduced her to ‘Dollfies’ made by Volks. “She sent me photos of her new dolls and links to the company’s site, then only available in Japanese. The dolls were compellingly strange; tall and skinny-looking and having sharp features and big eyes, very different to the young and plump, round-featured European dolls I’d always had.” Raven was instantly intrigued. “I grew up in Seattle and there were always plenty of Japanese antiques around; we had Japanese friends and ate Japanese food. I grew up watching anime on TV (Speed Racer, Star Blazers, Robotech), so when I saw a BJD, I immediately ‘got’ them.” Before she knew it, she was a member on BJD forum Den of Angels eager to see more dolls. Raven had finally found the dolls she had been seeking for so long.
Most of Raven’s original doll collection has since been replaced by BJDs. ” They’re like an articulated sculpture. What I like most about (BJDs) is that THEY are the thing. With most dolls the focus is on the clothing, the usual doll is just a cipher to some extent… just a stick figure modeling a dress. BJDs have integrity as the thing itself, and I really like that.” The BJDs she currently owns are all Volks and Dolls Town dolls. ” My small collection is made up of only Volks and Dollstown right now. Volks is the Alpha and Dollstown the Omega of my bjd universe.” This does not mean Raven doesn’t admire other company’s work. “I’m pretty capricious in my tastes overall. I may say I like Dollstown and Volks best, but I like many random sculpts from other companies, too. Narin’s Dandelion is a fave, I also adore AHDolls’ Q.Pito and Dollti’s Dong-E.” Her tastes tend toward smaller rather than larger dolls. ” I like the mini size range (40cm or so). They’re big enough to be reckoned with, but not so big I find them awkward to handle. The largest doll I have at present is Dollstown’s Elf Soph, who is on the small end of “SD” sized at 53cm. The rest are minis, and I have one YoSD. I like the tinies, too… but I consider most of them too expensive for their size, or too cloyingly cute for me.”
Raven’s first BJDs “came with beautiful paint, and I was too intimidated by their cost and my unfamiliarity with their material to do much with them. I eventually sold my first two and got others, trying to find the doll that was right for me.” Buying pre-owned dolls from others brought less-than-pristine items into her hands. “Eventually I had dirty, played with, poorly customized dolls landing on my doorstep, and tried my hand at fixing them up.” She was no stranger to damaged dolls. As an antique doll collector, Raven would regularly repair her finds. She had also learned how to paint reproduction dolls when she was 12. She eventually lost her initial reluctance to tinker when faced with needy resin dolls, and soon Raven became quite proficient at both repairing and painting face-ups. She painted her first face-ups in 2005, but it wasn’t until 2007 that she felt confident enough to offer her services for hire. “One day I was just ready to embark on a new challenge and I needed to be making more money than I was, so I decided it was just time. I created my commissions and portfolio threads at DOA immediately thereafter.” Raven has offered her service exclusively through the doll forum, though she states, “I’d love to have a web site, but so far the opportunity to learn how to make one has not come to me. It’s not something I want to pay someone else to do, I really want to do it myself. I figure when the time is right it will happen.”
Raven has mostly offered face-up services. “In the beginning I offered modification services, but in general the work is too messy for my limited workspace, so I stopped offering the service. I do ‘rescue’ mods where needed, if they’re not too messy, and I do repairs. In fact, I’ve recently discovered how to tint epoxy resin for almost invisible repairs on damaged resin! I’m going to try and ramp up the repair side of my business when I’m finished with this next lot of heads I have to paint, as I very much enjoy fixing things. When I was a youngster, I wanted to be a doctor, but a doll doctor is probably better!” She adds, “To me, the doll is interesting (or not) because of its sculpt. I paint to enhance the sculpt, not change or defy it. I like the paint light and translucent; for me it’s the supporting actor, not the star of the show. For me personally I will not own a doll I don’t like without its paint. It’s a sculpture first, and a bearer of painted artwork second.” She tends to prefer to apply her coloring in layers. “My own dolls (those I paint for myself) tend to have little in the way of detailed brushwork, and a lot of color layering to enhance the sculpt and the jointing. I want them to look like little portraits rather than stylized dolls with perfect brows, lashes and bright glossy lips.”
Raven describes herself as “not much of a “Plays Well With Others” type.” but recently she decided to ask Connie Lowe of Marbled Halls to do a collaborative doll project. Raven knew Connie from back in her antique doll-collecting days. Together they worked on a Dollstown doll that they eventually sold at auction on eBay. According to Raven “It was challenging for me, but I’d definitely do it again.” Raven also faced-up an OOAk Yakki Shinydoll for Grace of Jpop doll. “she asked me if I’d be interested in painting the Shinydoll Yakki head for her since she knew I really liked elves, so of course I was delighted to.”
Another challenge that Raven hopes to tackle in the near future is designing her own BJD. “I used to be a doll artist. I worked in porcelain and did my own sculpting, mold-making and the rest. My goal is to do a BJD and I think I’m ready. It’s a very tough, critical audience and a certain amount of engineering expertise is required on top of the already daunting task of sculpting something beautiful. Painting BJD has been really good for me as a sculptor (in theory at least) because now I know now how a brush feels against certain lines and curves, and I’ll want to make my doll a pleasure to paint as well as to move and clothe. I’m very inspired by the classical realism of Dollstown, and I’m hoping to create something similar, yet with definite differences.”
Photos Above: Dollstown Elf Soph A “Morning Glory”, 1RML R20J Modified Head on Happydoll Sr Body “Sigunn”.