Interview with Rajendora of Sewing Box Designs, talented doll fashion artist and BJDcollectasy contributor.’
Q: How did you become a seamstress? How did that eventually lead to sewing for dolls?
A: Everyone in my family sews, so to me, it’s just another life skill I picked up as I grew up. I’ve been sewing since I was about five years old., under supervision of course. My first project was making a dress and apron for the family cat. I was seriously misled by Beatrix Potter books. Miss Kitty was NOT happy with her new clothes. My mom made a cat doll pattern and cut it out for me to sew up so I would stop crying. With that start, I eventually ended up working in theater costuming. It was a temporary job I was stuck in for years. Along the way, I also ran a side business making custom clothing for people; Renaissance Faire, Bridal, Prom, Cosplay, everything.
About 2000, some friends started getting Ball Joint Dolls. I had never cared for Barbie. All my ‘dolls’ were stuffed animal type toys; but these big resin dolls just fascinated me. I’ve always loved Bunraku puppets, and these dolls were so like the puppets in that they take over the imagination and become ‘real’. After resisting temptation for nine years while making clothing for friend’s dolls, I finally gave in! I would get a few dolls, just a few. (How delusional was that?) In the same period, I finally escaped theater sewing and started working at a local college I was attending for an education upgrade. I suddenly had time to actually enjoy sewing and creating my own projects again. When the economy tanked, while looking for an office job to go with my shiny new degree, I started my doll clothing business, Sewing Box Designs. It’s turned out to be the best decision I’ve ever made.
Q: So your theater work prepared you for working with BJDs?
A: Yes, it was pretty much just there. You can’t sew successfully without gaining some knowledge of how things are put together. In theater work, I did learn some things I hadn’t been exposed to before; like adjusting for sloped shoulders so the hero could look more ‘heroic’; the lead actress to look younger and thinner. Stage presence and how clothing the character effects that; but patterning is just basic engineering. It’s the choice of fabric, how it’s arranged, color and proportions to work psychologically on the eye, that’s the design part. Patterning is geometry and math applied to reality. The tricky part is adjusting the patterns to specific measurements, and those have to be as exacting as possible. The fact that BJDs, like humans, need room to move and pose realistically is what makes patterning for them different from a Barbie or a Teddy Bear.
Q: What were some of the strangest projects you have made? What are some of the most complicated?
A: I’m assuming you mean made for BJDs? Because If I get started on what I did in theater, it would never end! I love a good challenge. One job was sewing candy wrappers onto a skirt as ruffles for a Kyary Pamyu Pamyu outfit. The singer/designer is so creative to start with, so being asked to duplicate one of her designs was tremendous fun. The customer knew what she was doing, her heart was in this, so we worked smoothly together. I think the most complicated outfits are the ones that require tiny details that my sewing machine hates to work with me on. Sometimes I have to just give up and fake machine sewing by hand. And sometimes the supplies just don’t work out and make the simplest jobs a living hell. The Soul Eater suit was a problem when both of the best quality brand ribbons I bought for the white stripes just looked ratty and frayed no matter what. The one thing about this business is I can use my imagination and find creative solutions to problems. It’s like customers hand me a puzzle to put together, and I have a lot of fun doing that.
Q: Do you tend to create more boy or girl clothing? What are the most popular size requests?
A: I think it’s been fairly even, gender and size wise. I thought more big stuff, but then I did a count up and it’s all across the board, 70 cm, MSD, YoSD, boys and girls. I’m also getting queries for smaller grown up figure dolls, 1/6 and self printed, but we’re debating that. I gave up working with that scale ages ago, but I might consider going back to it now that I have time rather than working and school. The smaller the doll the more time the work takes to get the details ‘just so’. Also with a smaller doll, the clothing construction techniques change considerably from the larger dolls.
Q: So can you tell me some of the dolls you own and if any of them have been dressed up by you for yourself?
A: My first doll is an SD Lati Red K I got from a friend (the one who got me into this!) and then I got a Dream Realm Black Crow. Friends thought they’d be funny got me my Dragon Doll Girl XiXi (Jiji) as a Christmas present, she’s all boobs and had a bright pink wig and was everything I thought was ridiculous, but now she’s my favorite, but don’t tell the others! My first over seas order was an Angelsdoll Micheal, then I got a Dragon Doll body for my Raurencio Studio Vincent head, a Dragon Doll Zilong,an Only Doll YiFeng head I modified who shares the body with Jiji, A Doll Love Lina, my YoSD, an Only Doll RuoDie head on my MSD Dragon doll body, Kiki, and my white Freya, Jasmine. I had a floating Only Doll ZhouYue head who is going to be painted to match an SID body I was given by Fishcake. And Karin, an SID I was given for Christmas out of the blue by Fishcake, as well as a Soom old body girl who is remaining a mannequin. I’ve never bought clothing for them, only shoes. My rule is everyone gets one pair of shoes. I’ve done most of my own face ups. Jiji has her factory face up and Karin was beautifully done for a previous owner. I might change her lipstick color, but she’s perfect as is. You’ll see a lot of her in the coming year. She’s my modern girl, where Jiji is cosplay, and Anthea is my retro girl model.
Q: What is your favorite size of doll?
A: My favorite size doll to work with is the 1/3 to 72 cm range, because of the detail I can fit into items for them. The majority of my dolls are in that range, and the reason I got into BJDs was to be able to play with fashion and design. In school they have you work with a 1/3 size mannequin, so it’s a size I felt comfortable with.
Q: So is there anything you’d love to try to make if someone just asked?
A: It always depends on how interesting or complicated the outfit is, the challenge and whether the customer is willing to pay for the fabric and work. Copying a major designer is always fun, because it’s a challenge. I’m a fashionista at heart. Museum collections are like candy counters to me, I wouldn’t know where to begin. That’s why I love having people contact me and say “Can you make this” because it’s like oh finally, some else has made the choice, because I certainly can’t! However just like the industry, I’m at the command of the customer’s budget range, but more often than not I throw more into a job than any supervisor would approve of. That’s why I prefer to be my own boss and say where I draw the line for what amount. If I want to gold cord and bead a 19th Century $500 military jacket for $95, or knock off a $3000 wedding dress for $150 that’s my business, because I’m enjoying the work and the details and knowing that someone is going to love having their doll wear the outfit.
Photos in article above (from top): Girl in Blue Kimono owned by Fishcake, Boy in 18th century outfit owned by kingofchains, Fishcake’s Sorcerer in Black and Rajendora’s doll in a 1950’s style dress.
Projects on BJDcollectasy by Rajendora include:
Designing a Custom Pattern~ Part 1
Designing a Custom Pattern~ Part 2
A Quilted Tote Bag
Sofa Tutorial~ Part 1
Sofa Tutorial~ Part 2
Chemise~ Part 1
Petticoat~ Part 2
Patterning and Sewing Bloomers~
Patterning and Sewing a Corset~
Summer Wrap Dress Tutorial
A Bikini for Your BJD
Surfer Shorts Tutorial
Beach Shirt Tutorial
Basic 1/3 Dress: Part 1
Basic 1/3 Dress: Part 2
Marie Antoinette Style Pannier Tutorial
Spiral Dress Tutorial
Photos of costumes by Rajendora made for BJDcollectasy articles: