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~Just Shining~

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Australian doll costumer Meredith Theodore was considered too disruptive and unladylike to take Home – Ec classes. “I recall the teacher saying I would be too disruptive and ‘of course you would not be able to do it anyway!’ as I was supposedly ‘useless’ at anything ‘ladylike and genteel’.” As a result, she learned basic sewing techniques from a friend of her mother’s. After she grew up and had her first child, Meredith spotted some beautiful bisque dolls in a gallery and greatly wanted to learn to make dolls like them. She eventually found a teacher named Athalie Taylor who was also an excellent seamstress. From Athalie, Meredith learned many age-old hand sewing techniques.  This lead her to start a business creating handmade christening gowns and also costumes for antique dolls in museums and private collections. “A lot of research and time searching out appropriate old fabrics and laces ensued. The commissions all required historical authenticity – from the types of fabrics, the styles, and even down to the correct hand stitch was required. I drafted all my own patterns, but sometimes there was an old costume that had deteriorated beyond repair that needed copying.” After her teacher retired, Meredith started her own doll studio where she made first bisque, then wax dolls, and also costumes. “I worked full-time as a doll-maker for about 10 years, with about 50 students and more restoration and sewing commissions for antique doll collections than I could really manage.” Then changes in her home life forced Meredith to change her career direction.  “A few months after the birth of my second son, my husband was made redundant. So it was a case of who got a ‘real’ job first; unfortunately it was me.  Doll-making took a back seat, and I really only had limited time of a week end to pursue my passion.”

f262In 2000, Meredith packed up her studio and moved for her job. “My 2 sons and I relocated from one end of Australia to the far north in a very remote location so I could commence work for a large mining and refinery company as a Metallurgical/Chemical engineer. I undertook the mammoth task of relocating my entire doll studio as I still wasn’t ready to just give it up entirely. So by day I worked in the “boy” world and I secretly did the girly doll stuff in any spare moments I had.” Meredith checked out dolls online in her free time. Then she discovered BJDs. “Somewhere along the line, possibly January 2003, I came across BJD’s – I think it was a Yahoo auction – and boy was I hooked.” Meredith decided she had to have one. “It was the first doll I had ever purchased in my whole life – and it was VERY expensive.  It was a total addiction, and before long I had ordered a second doll (don’t think my first one had even arrived!) – I trolled Yahoo Japan and spent many hours engrossed in Japanese and Korean artist’s websites.  I joined Den of Angels and any other BJD groups I could find.  I no longer have any other type of doll – its just BJDs here. I gave away all my porcelain and wax dolls I had made and kept over the years.”

Naturally, BJDs led to a new sewing obsession. “I soon started sewing for BJD’s and listing on eBay, as I find the pricing of the outfits the hardest thing to do, so I figured the buyer would set the price on eBay – not me – so it was all out of my hands and I didn’t have to worry about that side of things.”  In February 2005, Meredith left the mining industry and began to work full time as a BJD costumer.  “…I made what I wanted and just listed on eBay, and if someone liked it enough to buy – that was great. I tended to produce quite a bit – as I started my dolly day at around 6.30am every day and didn’t pack up until at least 6pm and then often working into the night after the even meal – 7 days a week. I was still obsessed.” In October 2006, Meredith returned to mining work on a job that was supposed to last only three months. “The 3 months was extended, and every time I thought we had an end date – it changed.”  The days were long and she worked 28 days in a row at a time. “I was the only female out in the field (a few were in the office and warehouse) – but due to the exceptionally attractive salary – I found it impossible to toss the job in – even though it was dragging out and controlled my entire life – but I KNEW there had to be an end date. Needless to say I didn’t have any time whatsoever for dolls. The three months turned into 3 years. In the middle of 2009 construction was finally complete, and with joy I accepted my redundancy letter and retired once again to play dollies.”

On returning, Meridith discovered “The BJD world had  grown and changed. Many more companies to choose from, so many choices and so many more followers. There were even BJD owners in Australia!”  Meredith once again began to create outfits but not at the frenzied level of her previous business. She now has a website called Just Shining where she sells her work. “I … just tend to list any outfits either in my own web store or on Zone of Zen forum. eBay just became too much of a pain; the fees, the rules, and the impersonal side of it. So the exposure of course isn’t as great as eBay – but it’s definitely more personal selling from my own web site. I must add, I have been so blessed over the years with wonderful customers, all of them have been an absolute pleasure to deal with…I have customers and chat friends from all over the world, from all different walks of life. Its just awesome that something as simple as a mutual interest in a style of doll can do that.”

Over the years Meredith’s BJDcollection grew quite large. “I am not too sure how many dolls I have at the minute, I am too afraid to do a count, and I rarely have them all out at the same time to make a count easy.”  Meredith estimates that her collection could be “well over 100 complete dolls ranging from the little Custom House Bisou up to a Volks SD17 boy.” She has tended to collect more boys than girls. Choosing a favorite doll in such a collection is difficult. “My favourite usually seems to be the one I have out sewing for at any given time.  But I have 3 Volks Cecils – so maybe he is the real favourite. The Dollstown girls have so much character, but for the girls – I would have to say that I could not part with my Custom House St Mina. But recently I went through all my dolls and with difficulty decided to sell a few off – so now I am at the stage I cannot part with those I have left.”

Just Shining recently started carrying some patterns for doll clothing that can be purchased and downloaded as pdf files. “I want to focus more on patterns in the immediate future, and after I get a reasonable collection ready for the bigger girls, I will start on patterns for the mature MSD sizes. I probably won’t go any smaller than a Petite Ai or Volks YoSD, even though I do own smaller dolls. I also plan to add some patterns for the boys. I had hoped to have many more pattern available by now, but I have been busy with some private commissions and life somehow just gets in the way of big ideas and plans.” Much of her work is inspired by the books she has assembled. “I have a wonderful book collection that I have acquired over the last 30 years. I find them invaluable. It might just be a little detail that catches my eye that I wish to re-create – I don’t usually copy an entire outfit or style. Also the internet is a wonderful source, and it can sometimes be the most obscure link that you find inspiration in. Fashion magazines, even clothing shops – inspiration comes from everywhere.” She adds, “I don’t try or claim to be historically accurate with the costumes – I believe BJD’s are made now, so they can have an eclectic mix…nothing wrong in my eyes to having a detail inspired by something from say 1850 and teaming it with something that is contemporary, as long as it is complimentary I don’t see a problem. There are probably people out there that cringe at the idea – but to me, BJD’s are personal and can be whatever the owner wants them to be.”

Meredith’s time will once again be limited by a new job. “As I will be going back to work full time on the 17 May – my plans have changed a little bit. No longer will sewing for BJDs be my sole income – so I have decided that I can afford  to indulge myself a little bit. So I am going to concentrate on a couple of specific outfit collections which will be inspired by some stunning artwork I have recently found.  The main one I have in mind will be a mammoth task so won’t be ready any time soon… It will probably be the biggest sewing challenge for BJD’s I have ever attempted but I am very much looking forward to it.”


Just Shining Website

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