Because of their malleability, it is not surprising that BJDs would provide inspiration for picture books. BJDs are perfect actors for stories!
The two children’s books shown here were released this year. One is by doll artist Bo Bergemann, and the other by the artist and author Wendy Bailey who previously released the BJD book Resin Life. While both use dolls to act out their stories, the approach by each artist is quite different visually. Mary the Doll has stark and lovely photos and a strong narrative line. The reader follows the adventures of the doll as she becomes stranded on a shore and eventually makes a human friend. Bergemann’s book is colorful and dreamlike. Different dolls play the parts of the two main characters throughout the book. Both books received praise from their target audience.
Mary the Doll by Wendy Reiswig Bailey , 60 pages, softbound
From the author:
The book, Mary the Doll, started as an idea to do a photo-story about a doll who was shipwrecked on a Northern California beach, a few miles from where I live. Before I could do that story, the weather turned bad, I ran into other issues, and instead I put together my first book, Resin Life: Snapshots of Asian-Ball Jointed Dolls. The shipwreck book got put on the back burner for a few years.
Meanwhile, Resin Life garnered me quite a bit of attention, and I ended up showing my photographs, doing slide shows, and a couple of lectures on Asian Ball-Jointed Dolls at Art Centers. Most of the people I encountered through my book were not “doll people”, but were fascinated by the life-like feel of the photographs. Because they didn’t know the Asian Ball-Jointed Culture, they often had a hard time grasping the concept of why taking pictures of a doll was art (except for my artist friends; they always “got” it). Many of them assumed, wrongly, that I make the dolls, so I would always end up explaining the whole process of buying a doll, doing the face-up, installing the eyes, wig, making the clothes, and developing the doll’s personality and character.
Finally I decided that if I made my own doll, it would remove at least one set of questions. I originally intended to make an entire doll. I’m a print-maker, and except for a required semester of ceramics for my BFA, I had never done 3-D art, and had certainly never made a doll. I didn’t know that many people who make BJDs start with a blank head from Jungatoy. I started with a wad of aluminum foil stuck on a chopstick, LaDoll clay, and then proceeded from there. It was a humbling, frustrating, and often exhausting journey. Because I could only work in bits and pieces, it took me several months to finish just the head. That was when I decided to use a ready-made body, and Mary the Doll was born.
My husband was my assistant on the boat shoot. I had bought a “dingy” coffee table, took off the glass top and the stand, and there was a beautiful little boat in a perfect scale for a doll. Since the boat wasn’t intended to be used in water, I sealed it using silicon caulking. I tried it out in our hot tub first to make sure it wouldn’t sink. My husband is a diver and I snorkel, so we donned our 1/4 inch wetsuits (the water up here is COLD), took the boat to the beach, and waded out with the boat until the water was up to our armpits. We had an audience of locals who got a good laugh out of watching.
Mary is definitely a doll, but I think children will be able to relate to the issues the story presents- she is lost at the beach, and has to build a shelter, keep herself amused, and deal with loneliness. After she is found, as a doll of only 23 inches, she finds herself afraid of the bathtub drain, too small for the (human) bed, too little to climb up onto the dining room chair or reach the table- all common issues for small children. She confronts mortality when she finds vintage dolls “asleep” in a glass cabinet, and worries about her own future.
The book is definitely a children’s book (although I think any doll lover would enjoy it), and while it has it’s darker moments, everything turns out fine in the end. I loved fairy tales as a child- and some of those can be very dark and scary. I feel that most children actually enjoy stories that allow them to safely examine and consider their fears. The feedback I have gotten from children has been very positive; even very active little boys have stopped what they were doing to come and listen to Mary’s adventures.
Mary the Doll will be available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and through Independent Bookstores sometime in the next month. (When the book is available, it will be announced on BJDcollectasy.) Resin Life is still available on Amazon. It may be ordered HERE.
Sweet, Silly, Sassy, & S’Naughty Have All Come Out to Play! by Bo Bergemann, 24 pages, hardbound
From the author:
I was inspired to write this book at age 6. It only took me 40 years to get it done!
Belonging has been a HUGE issue in my life beginning in childhood and I know that somewhere at the core of each person is the desire to belong. I have enjoyed photographing my dolls in scenes with furnishings and such for a few years now and just decided to take that to the next level and use my dolls to put together collage style artwork behind the words of this simple story.
My goal was to portray the mood for the words on the page in vibrant colors that draw little ones in. I tried to tuck lots of little things for the reader and child to discuss and bond over in the artwork. My nephews who are 1, 4 & 6 love it and I’ve also enjoyed great feedback from many of my collectors. If something I do can bring a bit of light and a shared hug into anyone’s life, that makes it all worth it. I hope my book will do just that!
Sweet, Silly, Sassy, & S’Naughty Have All Come Out to Play! may be purchased on the book’s website: http://www.sweet-silly-sassy-snaughty-doll.com