By Jennifer Kohn Murtha
It’s all Yahoo’s fault, really. If not for their wonderful groups, which bring doll people from all over the world together, I might not have seen my first Dollmore Lusion Dahlia, and then I’d have more room in my house…because I have ended up with six of the little darlings, who occupy an antique split willow rocker, a red satin wing chair and my old cottage style dresser, all under the benevolent gaze of my dear good-natured husband.
My friend Margherita, a member of my Yahoo group for BJDs, bought her first Lusion, the gorgeous Thistle Dahlia and shared her with all of us. Nice, thought I, but who would want that big thing? (This from a lover of big, big dolls!) She’s just huge and ungainly-she’s too large-period, plus she’s super-expensive, said I to myself. I was brought up to be polite, so ooh’ed and ahh’ed insincerely over the new doll, whose dress, at least, was indeed beautiful. Shows what a lie, even by omission, will do, for months later, I was on Den of Angel’s Marketplace…
…and saw Seraphina, aka the limited Lusion Dreaming Dollist Dahlia for sale…and tumbled headlong into love. After some negotiations, Seraphina came home. Weighing a hefty ten pounds of almost solid resin, she was a handful, but I got her out of her box and hugged and hugged and hugged. I will swear to this day that Seraphina hugged me back!
So, what is a Lusion Dahlia, those of you not familiar with these most unusual of Dollmore’s dolls might ask? Dollmore is a fine Korean company with many sizes and types of BJDs available for collectors to choose from, including dolls from eight inches tall through YoSD size to a super model size, much bigger than SD. In 2009, the company went out on a limb, took a huge gamble, made a doll who weighs 17 pounds boxed-and won a Royal Flush, for collectors embraced one of the largest and heaviest BJDs known with passionate zeal. Dahlia was a smash hit!
In order of production, unlimited edition Golden Dahlia, called just Dahlia when released, was Dollmore’s first doll in this series. The sculpture didn’t change, but the face-ups, wigs, eyes and clothes did, as did their skin tones, which range from a creamy normal to a blue-white. Black Dahlia, Dreaming Dahlia, Ice Dahlia and Snow Dahlia followed and, along with Golden, are all still available from the company. Both Ice and Snow have white resin, but in the oddest phenomenon, Snow’s resin has a soft golden glow, while Ice’s looks cool and blue, like real ice. Their respective face-ups compliment their unique skin tones.
Next was limited Thistle Dahlia, offered only in normal skin, perhaps the most beautiful of all, but then came some more beauties, including limited Nostalgic, Dollist, Dollist Dreaming, Dahlia of Green Gables, Murmuring and the final limited edition, First Travel. All are sold out, except for First Travel, who at this time is still available. (All Dollmore dolls come wigged with eyes and clothes on limited and unlimited dolls. Dollmore knowing that to a beginning collector, a naked bald BJD with no eyes is a scary proposition and doesn’t promote sales.)
Dahlia herself, whether limited or un, is 80 cm tall, made of the finest silky resin, weighing a whopping ten pounds. She has a lovely wistful expression, with large eyes, lush upper lashes and painted lower ones, a dainty nose and a pouty mouth, although her expressions can change with a tilt of the head or a shift in pose, so that sometimes Dahlia looks rather more serious or contemplative than sulky.
Where did Dollmore get their idea for this very unusual doll? Lusion Dahlias were inspired by the great Japanese artist’s dolls of the eighties and nineties, some of whom were huge and had the most beautifully detailed bodies and elegant faces, like those made by the great artist Koitsukihime. Lusions possess meticulously sculpted hands and feet and beautiful rounded limbs, but have a strangely small waist and no hips at all. So, although they might appear a bit odd when sans culottes, so to speak (I love their bodies!) like current fashion models, the girls look good in almost anything, old or new. And are they ever Fashionistas! Dollmore, angels that they are, realized this, so have made lots and lots of clothing for the dolls, but there are also many seamstresses who also can help the girls to stay au courant and Dahlias just adore antique doll clothing too.
People are fascinated by the Lusions who are amongst the largest in the BJD world. My second Dahlia was Nostalgic, another limited girl and she was the hit of the wonderful BJD picnic in Monroeville PA. Everyone had to hold her and had to photograph her, because Nostalgic, Matilda, is a beautiful doll, with very dramatic face-up and equally dramatic black clothes. She was followed by the gorgeously painted dead- white Ice, Isabella, and her sister, Snow, Antonella and their cousins Norma (Murmuring) and Adrianna (First Travel)…but their last sister isn’t quite here yet, as she’s still in transit.
A word about their face-ups: some people like to buy a blank Dahlia and have them redone by different artists. I haven’t done that for the simple reason that Dollmore’s face-ups on these dolls are just gorgeous. The painting is crisp and beautiful, with assured brushstrokes so tiny that I had to use a magnifier to appreciate them completely. Their lips and cheeks are softly blushed in various colors, including lavender-blue for Ice, whose purple and blue face-up tinted with rose is a masterpiece by itself. The dolls look like their photographic counterparts on Dollmore’s website, not always the case with traditional artist’s doll’s samples. Would I buy another one and have her worked on by another artist? Maybe, but for now, I truly love what Dollmore’s artists have done and plan to stick with their work. (I cannot tell another lie…my Yahoo group has a bet that I am going to end up with thirteen of these dolls, so as Dollmore hasn’t quite made that many different Dahlias I just might have to buy blanks and commission artists to work on them. Oh, the possibilities!)
While we are being truthful, it must also be said that these dolls, while amazing, gorgeous, wonderfully sculpted and a pleasure to look at though they are, these dolls are not, repeat not, the best posers. Gravity is our friend, but it’s also our enemy. As we age, everything goes south, and so too do Lusion limbs. Glue sueding and wiring do help, but in the main, it’s a good idea to appreciate your Lusion for who she is, rather than complain about what she can’t do. Their range of motion is limited and they are weighty, which makes them hard to play with, but when left to their own devices, they can do very well.
Did Dollmore rest on their laurels after the creation of Lusion Dahlia? Well, following two years of serious teasers, as in “In fall of this year, etc…” until we devotees were about to lose our minds, the company put out the second in their Lusion series, the totally different and very beautiful Daish. More cheerful in mien than Dahlia, Daish has a lusciously full mouth, big gray eyes and an altogether dissimilar look. (I sense that you are anxious to know, Dear Reader, if I want her. In a word, or two, you bet! ) One thing is certain though, with the release of this doll, Dollmore has cemented its position as the makers of the finest large BJDs in the world.
Of course, they do have to keep releasing new dolls in this grand size, or larger, so there is serious talk of making a 120 cm doll, Dahlia’s older sister…out of the scope of this article, perhaps, but another dream doll for those of us who love big dolls and Dollmore dolls in particular!
Photos above: The author’s first Dahlia, detail of dahlia’s hands.