Doll artist Kiki-Chan is a talented face-up artist who has also expanded into doll-making. Her dolls are designed primarily through a 3-D modelling system. BJDcollectasy currently has a white resin version of Allison. A short write-up and photos of the doll have been added to the bottom of this article.
Q: How did you become interested in BJDs?
A: In a weird way, I originally was and wasn’t interested in BJDs. About ten years back, I stumbled across some photos of Volks dolls and thought they were truly unique and almost eerily human. At the time, I figured that when I would be able to visit Japan, that I’d get one then, and probably spend about $1,000 on a lovely long haired and sweet faced doll.
Q: When did you start collecting them?
A: I started ‘collecting’ them in 2007. Of course, the market in 2007 was radically different from when I’d first encountered BJDs in a few scant photos years prior. It was different enough that at the time I didn’t realize I was even looking at the same sort of doll. After seriously researching dolls for a few months, I’d come to the conclusion that I wanted a 3-part Obitsu. From the photos it looked to be exactly what I wanted, a glorified artist manikin that could hold any pose I’d put it into.
Q: What do you like about them?
A: The first two dolls that I got (in rapid succession) were 3-part 60cm obitsus, with Gretel heads. It’s with those two that I quickly found out that I prefer owning male dolls, and that I absolutely adore the insane amount of customizing one can do to their doll. My first doll, Omi, has been customized within a millimeter of his little vinyl existence. Omi had been with me less than a month when, after reading a tutorial on how to shorten him, I took a hack-saw to his legs and removed roughly 5cm from them.
Something that I think is really awesome about BJDs, is that no two are ever exactly alike. This, again, falls back into the customizable aspect of the hobby. A person can own multiples of the same sculpt and still be able to make it look completely different. I’ve seen some owner photos of the currently released Allison, and even though I tried to give them all the same face-up styles (humans and elves get their own variations), they are all very much their own unmistakable little selves.
Q: When did you start doing your own face-ups and when did you open your face-up business?
A: I started face-ups back in 2007, when I got Omi. To say I was bad is kind of an understatement. In the beginning that poor doll was subjected to about the worst of my artistic tendencies. Part of me is surprised that I didn’t seriously mess his head up because of my lack of experience and knowledge. I had a basic understanding of what needed to be done, but, yeah… It wasn’t until Elizabeth (Zirconmermaid) let me into her MSC stash that I was able to show a marked improvement. Don’t ask what was used on my first two dolls. ^.~
It wasn’t until about 2008 that I started taking face-up commissions. Before then, all the face-ups I did were for friends.
Q: When did you start working on your first doll? Can you tell me a bit about your doll-making experiences?
A: Technically speaking, my first doll was started in the summer of 2008. It was the usual paper clay & foam construction. Unfortunately I’m partially dyslexic, it’s not bad enough that it’ll cause an issue with my face-ups… what it does is seriously interfere with my sculpting. It throws off my proportions like mad. So, all of my initial paper-clay sculpts are what I consider ‘fundamentally flawed’, and there were about three frustrating and spectacularly failed hand-sculpted attempts before the doll that would become Allison was started. The last hand-sculpted doll, which was the most complete, is still sitting in my studio. I just can’t bring myself to throw that one out just yet.
At MCAD (Minneapolis College of Art and Design, the art college that I graduated from) a friend of mine, Jamie, was majoring in animation and he showed me one of the 3D models he was working on. It was like a light went off in my head when I saw the model being moved around on the computer, just like a doll. I’ve always been a little bit of a techie geek, knew about 3D printing and figured that this would be the best way to overcome my limitations. Almost like kismet.
Jamie then dragged me off to talk with the 3D professor at MCAD, Dave Novak, and ask if I can take the character modeling class. Granted, I had absolutely no business even thinking about taking that class. This was a higher level class, for animation majors, and the SECOND class in a sequence. I was a comic arts major, with less than half of the pre-required courses to take 3D Character Modeling, and my experience with 3D modeling was pretty much nil. I took one of my BJDs with me, and told Novak of my intentions to model out a doll from scratch and print it. Novak thought my intentions were really cool, and was intrigued himself by the 3D printing aspect of it.
January 2010, the model that would become Allison was started in a class that I should never have been in, and I probably worked about four times as hard as my classmates did for the same results. In May I was able to finally print out the first incarnation of my boy and tentatively called that one ‘Frankie’ short for Frankenstein. While that first print was pretty awesome, it was nowhere close to being a viable doll. That one did some really funny things, like whipping it’s torso around freely, and refusing to stand. Regardless, it was still really cute and a great moral booster. I kept working on Allison’s files till he was getting close to what I wanted, but the jointing kept eluding me on a virtual level. Unfortunately I just didn’t have the skill-level at the time to get them to work correctly.
The master doll for the version of Allison that is being sold through Junkyspot now is a combination of digital print and hand-sculpting. All of his jointing was done by hand. Ah! I went through about three different versions of his knees. Every time I thought he was ready and finished, something weird would happen, like, not being able to stand, or the face would fall off. You have no idea how annoying it is to have to chase a doll face skittering across the floor.
Q: Do you cast your own dolls? If so, how did you learn to do so?
A: Only the first batch of NS dolls at Junkyspot was cast by me. The WS and Tan dolls were made by a casting company, primarily to preserve my sanity and open up my time to design the next set of dolls. Though, I did do all the default face-ups for this first batch.
All in all, there’s about 10 NS dolls and 1 WS doll out there that were cast in my personal studio.
Gerald Dagel (the man who sculpted and casts the Zirconmermaid Kitty ears which are sold through Junkyspot) taught me how to make silicon molds, and safely cast resin. He’s a real sweetheart, and an AWESOME teacher! When I was moving back to Puerto Rico from Minnesota, I spent over a month with Gerald and his wife Elizabeth (Zirconmermaid). That was when he taught me about casting and prepping a piece to be molded. Personally, I think Gerald should be teaching classes in silicon mold making and resin casting. I’m pretty stubborn, and he was able to get ME to cast with little incident. ^.~
As it stands, for future dolls, I will be making a set of molds off my 3D prints, and cast up a set of dolls. One is to be sent off to the casting company for reproduction, and one is for me to keep on hand because I’m a little impatient and don’t want to wait for the copy to show up.
Q: What is your inspiration for Allison?
A: The inspiration for Allison came from almost having pushed Omi too far. You can only glue an obitsu back together after modifications so many times before it becomes a little redundant. Okay, that’s kind of a joke. I wanted to make a cute *SMALL* 1:3 scale boy that could keep up with the crazy notion I have for what a BJD’s posability should be, and I wanted it to be affordable. In other words, I wanted a doll that could do back-bends, and still be a stable little rock. I think I got it, and if I haven’t, Allison’s pretty gosh darn close. After all, I know of at least one Allison owner that hung her boy off the chandelier! Please, I do not encourage reckless behavior, try to be safe with all doll posing.
His name is from a roommate of mine. I’d always been amused that she had the boy’s spelling of the name, and told her that I was going to use it for my first doll. Until then, he had no name.
Q: Are you planning on making additional face-plates?
A: I’m not planning on continuing with the face-plates for the time being. It’ll take a little more modeling practice before I can effectively come up with a secure way of consistently creating new face-plates. Given the chance, I would have more than happily switched Allison from a face-plate system back to a normal head & head-back construction. By the time he was close to completion, and I had face-plates bouncing across my tiled floor, I was locked into pushing forward or delaying his release.
One thing I should point out. It’s not two face-plates that exist, but three. There is a face-plate dubbed ‘original allison’ which is where both the human and elf version were created from. So far only two Original Allisons have been released, one in WS which was sent to Emory, and one in NS that was used for a charity event. I don’t plan on the Original Allison joining the regular line-up. At some point, I really should cast one of the original Allisons for myself. Eeks!
Q: What other dolls will you be releasing in the future?
A: Ack! How does A LOT sound? As of this moment, there are five new bodies being worked on in tandem, and twelve heads. It sounds like a lot more than it really is. There’s a 56cm girl, 45cm boy, 45cm girl, 42cm boy, and 42cm girl. Each body will have it’s own designated head-sculpt, which will have both human and elf versions. Plus, a new 57cm boy head-sculpt. The 45cm and 42cm bodies are derived from each other, and most parts on them are cross-compatible. That’s one part of the 1:4s that I adore!
Photos above from top: Allison with face-up by Kiki Chan posing next to prototype “Frankie”, 3D imaging of various doll bodies, 3D imaging of Aaron as human and elf, “Alice” prototype in-progress.
Sweet Doll Allison is currently available at the Junkyspot.