UK company Heartstrung has just come out with a new doll named Bulbi. Previously the artist, Amal, released popular and very poseable 1/6 girl named Ruse.
Q: Can you tell me a little about yourself?
A: My name is Amal and I use the identity ‘HeartStrung’ as a doll-maker. I have a background in Art & Design and studied Illustration at university. I now work in a library where I continue to be inspired, as I love being surrounded by books!
Q: How did you develop an interest in dolls? When and how did you begin sculpting dolls?
A: I wasn’t overly interested in dolls as a child, although as my family would testify I always had a tendency to covet and collect miniature things. It was about eight years ago that I was Googling images for a side project when I typed in ‘ball-joint’ . Amongst the results, Google threw up an image of a doll by Marina Bychkova… From that moment, all other plans were eclipsed, and I continued clicking excitedly through to her website. Looking through Marina’s gallery, I was of course struck with the desire to own one of these beautiful dolls, but equally strong was an overwhelming need to try and make one of my own!
Discovering Marina’s work, led me to join the Enchanted Doll forum where I have formed some great friendships and was introduced to ball jointed dolls through the Flickr photos of my new friends. This is also how I learnt of Den of Angels, which still had a doll-making section within the forum at that time. I was hooked!
That is how I began my doll-making adventure – by reading through the threads on Den of Angels and being inspired by artists such as Lillycat, Nyo and Lywann (who later formed ‘Dust of Dolls’), Kaye Wiggs and many more! I started work on my first doll in 2008, named ‘Pirooz’. I made the original with Fimo clay and when she was finished, I decided to try and cast her in resin myself. It was definitely a challenge and I failed more than once, but eventually I managed to cast 5 dolls at home.
Q: How big is Pirooz?
A: Pirooz is approximately 23cm tall.
Q: Can you tell me a bit about Ruse? What were you going for when you started her?
A: Before Pirooz was even finished, I was already planning for another doll – as I could see what I wanted to improve on and develop. When I started Ruse, I was aiming to create a slender tiny with a youthful appearance and more extensive posing abilities. I particularly wanted to focus on the hip joint and also an inverted kind of lower torso joint, which I believed would give a greater range of motion.
These are some of the preliminary sketches that were drawn in 2011:
It took me more than two years to complete Ruse, and over that time she was subject to a lot of change as I took on more and more inspiration from different sources. Her face, for example, became influenced by the serene faces of the girls featuring in the work of Audrey Kawasaki – whose work I discovered around the same time.
Overall, I’m proud of how she turned out, but as a doll-maker I found the most satisfying part of doll-making is then being able to share the finished creations with others and finding out that they are well received by collectors. I love seeing how collectors transform their dolls and how they use their skills to work on a doll as a blank canvas:
Q: Does Pirooz have about the same body that you used for Ruse?
A: Initially, I thought I could build upon the body of Pirooz to develop the new doll, but as I started, I abandoned that idea and began again from scratch!
Q: Now Bulbi is a significant departure for your previous dolls (except in size). Did you originally intend to only create a body for a Blythe head?
A: No, not at all! In 2014, I decided that I wanted to learn how to use digital modelling to create a new doll. At that time, I knew that I wanted to make something ‘cute’, but a little different. One artist whose work I find particularly inspiring is Dilkabear, whose paintings strike me because of the cuteness of her characters coupled with a haunting kind of melancholy. One painting in particular resonated with the type of body that I wanted to make: http://lamonomagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/yasei.jpg
I approached Dilkabear about working in collaboration to make a doll based on her works and she kindly gave her permission and support. As time progressed however, a similar project emerged between Dilka and Nefer Kane of Circus Kane dolls, and so I decided then to change direction and instead develop another face for my doll, based on my own drawings.
It was during the early stages of development, while discussing the project with good friend and artist Monika Viktoria (who has experience of customizing Blythe) that she mentioned the possibility of making the body work with a Blythe head, as a hybrid. With her encouragement, I adapted the neck a little and now I can’t wait to get feedback from the Blythe community once they’ve had a chance to use the new body!
I’m so excited to receive all the dolls from the casting company and finally get some paint on that huge face!
Q: When will you have Bulbi resin dolls back from the casting company?
A: I’m looking forward to seeing how the doll poses. The first Bulbi dolls are due to arrive to me just before the end of the year. I am very curious to see how the prototype translates into resin.
Q: Can Bulbi stand without support?
A: Yes! The prototype was able to stand and hold different poses without any support. I hope that this stability will be retained in resin too – only time will tell!
Q: Do you prefer to work in a smaller size? Do you think you will try to make a doll bigger or smaller than your first dolls?
A: For some reason, I find larger dolls a bit intimidating! In the past I briefly owned a Minifee and also a Doll Chateau Bella and although I found both sculpts appealing, they didn’t stay with me very long! Perhaps it’s just because I find ‘tinies’ easier to handle, or maybe just because I live in a small apartment! I’m not sure that I will make anything as large as MSD size, but I guess I should ‘never say never’! I am tempted to go smaller, though… I have two ‘micro’ bjds at home – a Puzzelf by La Légende de Temps and a Vertales Tarvi – both of which I find adorable. The only downside with tiny sculpts is painting tiny faces!
Q: Do you have an idea what you might want to make next? Will you consider releasing new heads for the bodies you have created or will you start from scratch with your next project?
A: It’s really difficult to say at the moment, what might be my next project… There are a couple of personal projects that I’d like to work on – I’d like to make a diorama display for my dolls (so that they don’t have to continue living in my desk drawers!) and I also have an unfinished Blythe head to work on… Hmmm, the more I think about it, the more there is that I’d like to do! If you do want to see what happens next, feel free to follow me on Flickr, Facebook, or Instagram!
Additional photos of Ruse: