American face-up and doll fashion artist Jay Searle creates beautiful face-ups using a variety of hand-applied materials.
Q: Can you tell me about yourself and your interest in BJDs? How did you begin doing your own face-ups
A: Growing up I was very lucky to always have been exposed to art, ballet and classical music. I think those things have influenced my painting style. To this day I prefer classical music in the background when I work on my art. I can’t actually remember life before dolls. I’ve loved dolls all my life – they spark my imagination. From childhood I’ve loved to draw and paint. I mostly enjoyed drawing pictures of the human form especially when clothed in elaborate costumes. I would spend hours making my own paper dolls and outfits for them.
I was first exposed to BJDs in 2003. At that time there wasn’t the vast array of sculpts and styles that exists today. My first BJD was a Volks Four Sisters SD10 Kira. It was love at first sight! However, her orange eyebrows and eyeliner, the bubble gum pink lips, and lack of blushing wasn’t my favorite by any means. I had previously done a few repaints on Genes and Tylers. So the idea of altering Kira’s face paint wasn’t too alien of a concept to me. But I was a bit daunted by her high price tag and changing a doll so costly. But since I’ve never been a “never remove from box” kind of doll lover, I decided to make some changes and customize Kira more to my liking. That was the beginning!
At first I simply added some color to her existing face paint. But at some point I realized the original paint would all have to go. I must admit to being a bit nervous the first time I completely wiped off an original face-up. But that fear was soon eliminated as I was able to bring my girl to life more to my liking. After that I never left an existing face-up untouched. Now I never order a doll with an existing face-up. It’s nice to have that option to order with or without a face-up.
I would post pictures of my dolls and people asked me who had done the face-up. One thing lead to another and I started doing face-ups for others. I have to admit my early face-ups were nowhere near at the level they are today. Just like in ballet—practice, practice, practice improved my skills. I’m completely self-taught. I would study pictures of dolls and face-ups I liked and always strive to improve on my own work.
I like to use a variety of mediums when I do a faceup including acrylic paints, colored pencils, human powders and eye-shadows, and really anything else I can find to get the look I want. A very good friend of mine who has been doing gorgeous art on dolls for decades once told me, “It’s not the materials you use, it’s the results.” Those words always stuck with me. For some reason I felt I had to use airbrush. But I really don’t like working with loud equipment. I find it difficult to work in that manner – the noise and fussing with parts depletes my creativity. So I found other ways to get the effects I want without using an airbrush. My advice to anyone wanting to do face-ups is just use what you’re comfortable with and experiment.
Q: How many face-ups are you likely to do each month?
A: When I had a full time job (in addition to my art) I only did a maximum of six a month. I do more now but don’t like to load up on too many at a time as I have other interests in my life that take time. Each face-up takes a couple of hours to do not including drying time and I don’t like to rush anything.
Q: Were there any other inspirations for your face-ups? Your work looks as if you studied paintings.
A: We always had art books around the house growing up and I’ve always loved to collect art books. I also took some art history classes in college. I especially love the Pre-Raphaelite movement, Art Nouveau, and Impressionism. I’m sure my love of those periods has influenced my art.
Q: Do you have a size you prefer to work in? Do you face-up dolls of all sizes?
A: I work on many size heads but really don’t like to do anything smaller than a head that takes a size 5/6 wig. I’ve done smaller, but don’t feel I do my best work at a smaller size, so don’t offer that to clients. I’ve done sizes as large as Dollmore Lusion.
Q: Do you have any favorite sculpts that you have especially enjoyed working on?
A: I really enjoy working on sculpts that have a lot of detail and depth in the sculpting. That encompasses quite a variety of makers. It all just depends on the individual sculpt. So there’s not one particular company that I prefer.
Q: What BJDs have you collected?
A: I love so many! Just so many great sculpts out there now. In my collection it would be impossible to choose a favorite. But those that I have multiple sculpts from one company include Soom, Dollstown, Volks, Dream of Doll, OR-Doll (they only make heads), Luts, Fairyland, Dollshe, Elfdoll, Supia and Iplehouse. I was also fortunate to get a Tessa (by Pink Grapefruit). Mine didn’t come as a full set, so I was able to customize her though getting a full set would have been great.
Photos above: Lishe & Rinon
or through her website: Jay’s Petite Salon
Jay may also be contacted through her email address HERE