Pidgin Doll is a one-man operation. Fashion illustrator Joshua McKenney’s Pidgin is a 3D blank slate for his creative endeavors. Although she has gone through numerous versions, Pidgin has always remained herself, a character that is also a muse to numerous other artists and fans worldwide.
(Note: After a review of photos of Pidgin’s new 1/4 body and other information, we have decided that Pidgin doll is definitely allowed on BJDcollectasy. See comment section below.)
Q: Was Pidgin created to be a pose-able fashion model for your illustration art or was she made as a 3D version fashion illustration?
A: Pidgin was created purely out of a strong artistic desire to create my own doll. Certainly my work in fashion illustration influenced her aesthetic but since I draw mostly from my imagination. Making something 3D, like a doll, felt like the next logical step. I have a photography background as well so creating a miniature model to take pictures of was also a strong drive.
Q: Did you have an interest in dolls before you decided to make Pidgin?
A: I have always been interested in puppets, mannequins, and dolls. I dabbled with sculpture and puppet-making as a teen and started a few collaborative doll projects before I focused on creating my own doll with a definable aesthetic. I grew up in a conservative home though, so I wasn’t allowed to play with dolls or other kinds of “feminine” toys as a child. I also hadn’t really collected dolls as an adult so I knew very little about the doll collecting world before I started making my own. Now that I’ve been in the game for a few years, I’m starting to feel like I know what I’m doing.
Q: Pidgin has developed a strong Instagram presence. Tell me about how you decided to make an account for your doll and a bit about your experience.
A: I originally decided to make a separate instagram account for Pidgin because she was becoming a big part of my life, and I didn’t want to bombard my friends with all my doll pictures. That’s changed now that Pidgin is the primary focus of my work. I use my personal account to share the doll-making processes and photos from my normal life, and I use the @PIDGINDOLL account as a place to show finished work and to share the culture that has grown up around the Pidgin aesthetic.
It’s been interesting to visually separate myself from the work and present Pidgin on her own. A lot of her Instagram followers don’t know that it’s all coming from just one guy in Brooklyn. I think that’s one of the reasons she has developed such a strong fan-base of other creatives that use her as a muse: people are more willing to interpret art when the source has been abstracted. The social media experience has enabled me to see Pidgin through other peoples else’s eyes and it’s been so valuable in developing her and also one of the most satisfying things to happen to me as an artist.
Q: I watched the video produced about you and your doll and her fans. How did the making of this mini documentary come about?
A: The video was created by my best friend (Kate Emerson) and her husband (Derek Amengual). Originally they just wanted to make a little short film about the steps involved when making a doll. They didn’t know much about Pidgin’s social media following because they aren’t “doll people” and we just didn’t talk about that side of my life very much. The film eventually shifted gears the longer they filmed and started learning that there were people all over the world dressing up as Pidgin and drawing pictures of her. The project become less about me and more about how creative content is shared and experienced on social media. I’m so proud it, and they did an amazing job capturing a very special moment in my career.
Q: Do you cast all of your own dolls? How did you learn the process?
A: I used to, and I do know how to cast resin, but I work with a casting studio that makes my blanks now. The casting process was a good thing for me to learn, but ultimately it involves too many dangerous chemicals for me to be doing it every day in my small studio.
I learned the process by researching online and watching a lot of youtube tutorials on resin, silicone rubber, and pressure chambers.
Q: Do you make all of the fashions for your dolls?
A: I design and advise on almost all of the sewn fashions Pidgin wears, but I work with professional pattern makers and tailors to create the actual garments. Pidgin is “slim mini” 1:4 scale doll so it’s pretty easy to find clothes for her online though, I’m always shopping for her on etsy.
I have developed some 3D-printed “sculpted” clothing and accessories for Pidgin to wear that I do create and produce myself.
Q: I just completed an article about this year’s MDCC. I understand that you are creating a seminar for the event and presenting your fairy-tale themed doll. Can you tell me a little about what you have planned?
A: Yes, I’m going to be giving a photo presentation about my experience as an artist and doll-maker over the past five years. We will also be screening the Pidgin film with it’s two filmmakers who will also be there taking questions. We are all very excited!
Hans Christian Anderson has always been my favorite fairy tale author, so I knew I wanted to interpret one of his stories right away. I love fairy tales to be dark and haunting, and The Red Shoes is one that has always resonated with me deeply. To me, her ever-dancing red shoes symbolize obsession with ones craft and how, if left undisciplined, it can take over your life and your relationships. I also have always just loved flashy shoes, particularly red ones, so this story and aesthetic felt like a good fit for me.
Q: I saw that you also have a smaller version of Pidgin. Is she still sold?
A: Yes, I currently sell two versions of Pidgin. The new 1:4 scale and a 1:6 scale Fashion BJD version of Pidgin. I might be putting the smaller dolls on hold for a little while to focus on the new doll, but not right away. I’m coming out with a small collection of 1:6 scale “sea nymph” inspired dolls in “ocean mist” light blue resin at the end of May 2017
Q: Pidgin has actually gone through several versions. How many generations are there? Are any of the previous generations still sold?
A: 1st Generation : porcelain and fabric (30″ or boudoir doll size)
2nd Generation : resin and fabric (1:3 scale)
3rd Generation : hand sculpted resin BJD. (1:3 scale)
4th Generation : digitally sculpted resin BJD (1:6 scale) *still sold
5th Generation : digitally sculpted resin BJD (1:4 scale) *still sold
Q: Will you make any other doll head sculpts?
A: Yes, I have another doll sculpt I’m working on that is a “friend” to Pidgin, but she’s still in early production.
Q: Is there anything else I didn’t ask about that you wish to add?
A: Actually Yes!
In addition to the MDCC, I’ll be participating in Doll North in Toronto – May 27-28, Dolly Day in Barcelona – June 3, and The International Fashion Doll Convention – July 6-7
I’m doing a line of Pidgin Doll-themed enamel pins that I’ll be bringing to conventions, but they will also be available online sometime in May.
I’m developing a line of 1:3 scale Pidgin art-busts for face-up and make-up artists who like to customize doll faces as art (I will also be customizing them as stand alone art pieces). They are for people who like Pidgin (or just like to paint dolls) and want to display something at home or in the office but can’t commit to the entire BJD. I don’t have the availability date yet on them, but I’m hoping to have them by mid-summer 2017.
1/4 scale Pidgin:
1/6 scale Pidgin:
1/3 scale Pidgin