French artist Rachelle Bartel, known as “Lillycat” explores her themes in multiple media; illustrations, original comics, sculpture and painting. Many of her characters appear both in the comics she creates and as ball jointed dolls she sculpts and customizes. Until now, Lillycat has preferred to release her dolls only as unique one of a kind art pieces. For the first time, she is now offering her dolls in blank form for others to customize. The pre-order for the unfinished versions of Constantine and Eugenie is running this month. \
Q: Can you tell me a little about your art background?
A: I always wanted to do a creative job when I was young. I did an art school here in France and specialized in illustration and comics book. There was some sculpture classes, but I was not good in this practice at this period maybe because I was afraid of my teacher. Nevertheless I was always more attracted to sculpture than paint, I love the realism of classic sculpture that looks alive, especially bronze sculptures. So sculpture was always in a part of my mind waiting to come back in the first place. I worked in the past on a comics book, and I have several comics projects I would like to produce, but above all I love the idea of going from drawing to sculpting and using them both.
Q: How did you start as an illustrator?
A: After school I first started working on a children’s book. It was a very interesting job. After that I worked a little in advertising illustration, but didn’t like this sector at all, and I gave it up fast to work on a comics book with my first book Minaloween .
Q: Can you tell me a little about your comics? Have you sculpted any of your characters?
A: My first comic Minaloween was published in 2006, and unfortunately after some troubles with my past editor, we stopped the project before the end. We still want to work on it, and we will probably publish it again by ourselves in French and English on the Internet.
I have a lot of other projects waiting for free time to draw, like Sanoé or my favorite above all Lyse de Triste Lune.
I love this character (Lyse) so much that I made an SD size doll of her. I actually finished the prototype to start her molding. This project took me a long time, because of my feeling for this character, I love her a lot, and it is very difficult to let her go. The doll prototype is still in progress so she will be cast in resin probably at the beginning of 2012.It is always a very special moment to finish a sculpt. I also have Loonette my rabbit girl that comes from an old comics ( from 2001) and Eugenie (the cat) who could come from the same story too.
I would like if possible to make all my comics girls characters as dolls (I need to make a Minaloween doll too), but making prototype is a long work and I will certainly need years of work to complete all those projects.
Q:How did illustration lead to sculpting? Why dolls?
A: As said, I had some sculpting classes at school. Sculpting like drawing is a question of how you look the world around you, it is finally very close. When you sculpt it is like a drawing but on several planes at once. (it is hard to explain that in english.) So when you are used to doing this, sculpting and drawing are finally very close.
My first contact with Asian BJDs was on the Luts website, When I saw them I think immediately that I must make my character as a doll, they look so alive ! It was really a revelation, I first ordered one doll, then two then three, and this collection allowed me learning how to make a ball jointed doll. I completed my first one, Sandre, in 2005. I love the interaction possible with an articulated doll, it is even better than only creating a character on paper; with doll you can touch it. So for me drawing and sculpting really work together. I can’t choose just one.
Q: Are all of your illustrations and doll ideas something you invent, or do you draw or sculpt based on a subject (for example a fairy tale or book character?) or both?
Q: We are all influenced by things around us, there are no inventions coming from nothing. I am not used to working using a book as reference, but for sure I love alien stories, fantastic movies and video games, so this is an influence visible in my work. My characters used to look like some kind of alien creature., like my doll Constantine. She is human but not really. Her face is very special, between human and animal. I love the idea of cyborgs, Ghost in the Shell is one of my favorite movie, so this is something I influenced by in my work.
Q: Why did you decide to create cast resin BJDs? Are most of your dolls unique one of a kind sculptures?
A: I received a lot of messages last year from people who love my designs and were sad that no blank doll was available. When you buy an art-doll fully painted, you buy a part of the artist’s universe. It is like having a painting at home, you can’t really play with it like you will do with a BJD to customize.
So I start thinking about doing a special line for these people, so they can do what they want with my sculpt and do their own customizing. It is a very exiting idea, and I can’t wait to see what people will do with them! This is why I finally decided to do this. It took a long time because I can’t cast resin doll myself because of a resin allergy, so I needed to find a manufacturer I want to work with. I finally found one at the beginning of the year.
Q; How many dolls have you completed? Which have been cast in resin?
Two 100% OOAK dolls of Absinthe my tiny and Blueberry Cupcake my curvy doll.
Eugenie and Constantine who are now available in resin in the ready-to-custom line, and my work in progress prototypes: Lyse, Diabolo Grenadine, Loonette, Manon, Olympe and many other projects. Olympe and Diabolo won’t be in the ready-to-custom line. I will keep them for my art projects, so they won’t be in regular resin, but probably in biologic resin or something like that.
So I finally start making a lot of girls!
Q:What sizes are your dolls? What size do you like best to work in?
A: Most of my dolls are MSD size, I also have small SD size with Sandre and Lyse.
I think 50cm is really a good size, not too big or too small.
Q: Did you originally plan to cast your “ready to custom” dolls for this release yourself?
A: Yes at the very beginning, but due to my allergy problem with Polyurethane resin I can’t cast doll doing this anymore. I had to find someone else to work with for this part.
Q:I want to ask you what plans you have for the near future for your dolls after this pre-order. Do you have a specific project in mind?
A: Regarding Constantine and Eugenie, after this pre-order they will let their place to my next doll Loonette. I would like to work with an annual pre-order, so they will be available again next year but probably in a different resin color and with a different dreaming face or something like that. They are not limited edition, but they won’t be available every month and every time in the same form. My main problem is that I have so many design ideas and not enough time to do them all, this is why I would like to offer a lot of different dolls with different faces and not always the same mold.
Photos above: Lyse prototype detail, Constantine, Eugenie
Lillycat – Artist’s Doll website