The artist Nanylin of Magic Mirror Studio has been crafting dolls inspired by the fairies of Irish mythology. She is preparing to release her latest creation, Maeve, the Leannan Sidhe, for pre-order this month.
Q: Can you tell me a little about yourself?
A: My name is Marta Prieto Mora, even if most people in the BJD area know me as Nanyalin; I’m originally from Spain, but I’ve lived for a long time in Ireland. I’ve been a ball joint doll customizer for more than 9 years already.
Q: When did you start making BJDs?
A: Is a bit imprecise to say a date; I’ve been interested in doll customization since I was a child, and I entered the BJD world as a customizer too. While I was waiting for my first doll, I sculpted my first (and really, not that pretty) head, and I’ve been involved in sanding, altering and modifications since the day when my first doll entered my home and changed my life forever.
My first serious attempt to sculpt and cast professionally happened in 2011, with my first doll. A 56cm boy, ”Faun”. I sculpted the faceplate over the base of a former 5starDoll. I liked the result a lot, so I contacted the original makers proposing them the possibility of casting the doll for me, using their already retired boy body for a very limited run of 10 dolls. And so we did.
After that, I dropped the project for a while because I moved to Germany to work in my ”daytime job” (I’ve been working in video games for years). Finally, during the early spring of 2013, I was made redundant by my company, and I found myself with a lot of time and some money; so I decided to give my project a serious try. I sculpted my first full doll, my fairy Saoirse. And since then, I haven’t stopped!
Q: So why did you decide that sculpting dolls would be the best direction to go at that time?
A: As I mentioned, the idea of becoming a full time BJD maker was in my mind for quite a while. Finally, the project was clearer in my mind, and I had the inspiration and the momentum to become a self-employed artist. I really wanted to give shape to all those ideas in my head, and after 9 years working in customizations and improvements, I felt prepared to launch myself seriously not only as a customizer, but as a maker. Even if most of my professional career has been related to computer games, I originally studied Fine Arts at University, and I was an illustrator and drawing teacher for a while. The artistic bug never really died within me, and I realized that BJD’s were a discipline where I could really use all the things I’ve learned through the years: Design, drawing, sculpture, painting, photography, community management… all the pieces seemed to fit together!
Q: You seem to have a fascination with Irish fairy stories. Is this something you have been studying for a while?
A: Yes. Since I was a child, the folklore and mythology of Ireland and Europe has been utterly fascinating and inspirational for me. It even drove me to live and work in Ireland for years, and while there, I joined many cultural and spiritual groups focused in the ancient traditions, folklore and druidism. My dolls reflect my interests and beliefs, not only my aesthetic sense, so they are directly taken out of Irish and European folklore and tales, and I do my best to create them with a contemporary edge, gentle sensuality and a sense of humor. Or at least, I try my best!
Q: Can you tell me more about the Fairies of Glendalough?
A: Glendalough itself is a really beautiful location in county Wicklow, south of Dublin city. The name means ”the lake at the valley” in Gaelic Irish, and in spring is a place that looks immediately taken straight out of a fairytale. I started sculpting Saoirse after one stroll through Glendalough, and I spent a lot of time looking for fairies amidst the verdant trees and myriad of flowers there (grin). I came home full of inspiration, and I decided to embody my idea of the fairies I imagined while there.
So Saoirse was born. In that time, I was through a quite troubled personal situation. Sculpting was therapeutic for me. I remember working day and night, with the idea of what I wanted very clear in my mind. I remember working day and night, because I really wanted to attend that year’s Ldoll Convention in France, and I was very short on time. Thanks to the help of my friends, I managed to finish my two little girls in time for their debut in France. And I chose my first doll’s name very carefully, it had to be something significant for me. So I named her Saoirse (said ”Sorsha”). In Gaelic Irish, it means ”Freedom”.
Q: Tell me about your new doll Maeve? When will she be released?
A: Maeve is a 50cm tall doll. She is more a very tall slim mini rather than a small SD, because of her slender features and her lithe frame. She can actually wear some clothes from the standard Slim Minis, except for the legs, which are considerably longer. She also has wider hips to balance the length of the legs.
After I crafted Saoirse and Siobhan, though I was pleased with the result, especially given the time I had to do them, I felt I wanted to go one step further. I had learned a lot about joints and articulation while working with my good friend Twigling in some common projects, and I decided that I was ready to try something better and more daring; A doll that could pose gracefully and easily, with pretty round joints that would have a natural look, without angles or annoying locks; a doll that could be a pleasure to handle and touch, with great rhythm and slender proportions. I spent some time deciding about a size and shapes, and I finally started working on her from scratch, totally by hand, turning a lump of clay into what I envisioned.
It has taken me almost one year to see her finally rendered as I imagined, and the process of casting her has been long and painful. But finally she is completed, and I am extremely satisfied with the result. I’ve had very good feedback from the owners of my first prototypes, and I think she was a considerable improvement from my first girl.
Her name is also taken from Irish mythology; it’s the name of the Ulster Queen, and she is Maeve, the Leannan Sidhe. A Leannan Sidhe is a creature from folklore, a stunningly beautiful fairy maiden that would fall in love and seduce a mortal artist. The artist will fall under a mighty creative spell, and his art would be prolific while his muse is near. But the romances between mortals and fairies are doomed to be tragic and short. And the stories usually end with the artist consumed by his artistic creativity and the troubles of a tragic and passionate romance. I decided that name for my doll after two weeks working an average of 15 hours per day. I noticed I was losing weight and could not think on anything else… it was a burning passion, and I noticed that she had cast her Leannan spell on me!
There are already some lucky owners of Maeves, since I’ve been taking some full-sets, uniques and special color prototypes to doll fairs this year (Dolliverse in the Netherlands, Dolls & Party in Barcelona) and I will take some more to the
Dollism Plus in Buffalo, to Ldoll in Lyon, France, and to the Dolls rendez-Vous in Paris. The first official pre-order in standard colors will happen in the beginning of November. I also have an auction currently ongoing on Ebay for my ”Opus Magnum”; a collaboration between Magic Mirror, Bunny Heart and Misty Valley, ”Maeve the Foamborn”. She’s a one-off doll cast in Quartz Skin color (whitest white), with a stunning customization by my two talented friends. A percentage of the auction’s final price will be donated to the project The Ocean Cleanup, of which I am a firm supporter.
Q: You were recently a special guest at Dolliverse. How was your experience there?
A: It was wonderful! They contacted me to be the Honored Guest, and I was not expecting it! Preparing for the fair was really stressful, since the dolls I wanted to take to the fair arrived barely 4 days before the day of departure, and I was also attending Dolls & Party Barcelona, which was scheduled the week following Dolliverse. I had a really short time to prepare for both fairs, and I still don’t know how I did it! My great fortune was to count on the help of my great friends; the amazing seamstress Pandora from Bunny Heart, Lyris the wig-maker from Misty Valley and Alen Ross, a wonderful doll tailor from northern Spain. Thanks to their help and support, I managed to finish the works in time and have a great success at Dolliverse. I knew that I was barely known in the northern European market, so I thought that it could be a wonderful opportunity to meet new friends, spend some time in Amsterdam and meet the owners of the wonderful shop Think Pink!. And so it was!!
For those of you not in Europe, you will also have the opportunity to meet me and my dolls at this year’s Dollism Plus in Buffalo; I will take several One-Offs, including some Maeves too. Do not miss it!
Q: Why is your company called Magic Mirror?
A: My full name is Marta Prieto Mora (in Spain, we have one name and two surnames, one from the father and another from the mother). I usually sign as “Marta Mora”, and my two initial letters, MM, were my pseudo and my logotype. When I started crafting dolls, I decided to keep that feature, since I absolutely love the harmony and symmetry of the two M letters mirrored (Yes, I’m weird, I know!). I also love the classic literature idea of mirrors as passages to another dimension, and the mystery of the reflected image, the nightmare of the mirror that does not reflect what is in front of it, and the tales of mirrors as instruments of power. So I thought “Magic Mirror” had all the resonances and implications that I liked to identify with… and it had two M’s! Combo!
Q: Can you tell me what plans you have for the future regarding new dolls, new sizes?
A: I think I can spoil a little! I am currently working on several projects. The first is my new Fairy of Glendalough, Sinéad, that will be out really soon. I’m also working in Roisin, a tiny and chubby fairy patron of the bumblebees. She will be around 20cm tall, very round and cute, and I’m working in her pose-ability. And I am also working on a surprise girl… I do not want to reveal much, but I can say she looks very different to the rest of my dolls, is in a different style and I am loving her.
Among my projects for next year, I am also trying to design some cool armored outfits for my dolls, and I am also investigating new materials, such as ceramic clays and fired porcelain. It’s going to be a very exciting year! Keep in touch for all the updates and news.
Photos above from top: Fauns by Nanyalin and 5 Star Doll, Saoirse in white & in tan resin, Maeve, Maeve “Foamborn”, Prototype head for Sinéad.
Gallery album on BJDcollectasy of Magic Mirror studio may be found HERE
Magic Mirror Studio– current website and blog