Elizabet by GlamourOz Dolls by Jozef Szekeres: (Left) wearing Superdoll and wig by Laurie Lenz; (Right) Gown by Tommydoll and wig by Laurie Lenz
Repaints by Yian
Rarely can you fully see an artist’s vision through simple words, but as you will see below, Yian is a prolific artist. Like other doll designers such as Mel Odom and Superdoll, she coordinates a design with a team of artisans who work in tandem to bring about dolls of extraordinary beauty. But also as doll sculptors such as Robert Tonner and Paul Pham, her touch in the process is almost as strong as sculpting herself, though she does work with a talented sculpture artist to produce the characters walking the catwalk inside her mind.
The result is The Modsdoll – resin fashion BJD dolls of such astounding grace and style, they are arguably at the top of the Goddess genre, boasting perhaps the most enigmatic and breathtakingly beautiful faces in fashion dolls today. It’s doubtful you will see The Modsdoll move into larger production numbers – they are true artist dolls, and made in such limited quantity, that owning even one is an honor (such as is with my Eileen).
Eileen by The Modsdoll – Photos by Tommydoll
So join me in a virtual Korean garden, as we sit with Yian Lee and talk about what she sees when she thinks of fashion, beauty and dolls – all while enjoying an ever-so-trendy cup of Japchae, and the aroma of a green valley laced with soft modern jazz offering a gentle tune to our virtual ears.
(This interview has been edited to read more conversationally)
Tommydoll (TD): What is your design role with The Modsdoll?
Yian (YL): I design (the) total image of doll (Yian is The Modsdoll Doll Design Lead).
TD: How long has The Modsdoll been in business?
YL: I was Ficondoll co-founder and left about 4 years ago on my own (creating Modsdoll), so I’ve worked about 9-10 years in the fashion BJD industry.TD: Where did you study art and/or design?
YL: I studied fashion design in University 20 years ago, and then worked as fashion designer for 3 years; but I was (very) interested in facial make-up design, so I learned (those skills later), and worked 10 years as a make-up artist.
TD: Where do you find your faces – your The Modsdoll personalities? Are your (doll ideas) from your mind, or inspired by living people?
YL: (They are) Inspired (by) living people. I love to (study) people’s (facial features) and found some point (where their faces) inspire my dolls.
TD: Do you have favorite faces?
YL: Dolls- Tonner Doll’s Daphne and Sydney; Superdoll’s Sybarite; Integrity’s Fashion Royalty; and Numina Sung by Paul Pham.
Humans- Actress Tilda Swinton, Audrey Hepburn, male model David Gandy.
TD: Who designs the engineering on your doll body jointing?
YL: I (am) always interested (the jointing) and (I) played (with) my dolls for more natural moving…like a human’s. (I work with) and discuss with my sculptor (to design and modify Modsdoll jointing).
TD: Do you design The Modsdoll clothes?
YL: I do (along with) my designer, Hong.
TD: Are there others on The Modsdoll Team?
YL: The Modsdoll Team are also partners; fashion designer, sculptor, factory for production of dolls, packaging, painting and clothing/accessories).
TD: Do you paint your production dolls? Or do you only paint a prototype, and have workers help you?
YL: The production dolls are painted by my painter, and me.
TD: Are you an artist or a business person – or both?
YL: Both now.
TD: What future things inspire you?
YL: I’ve always loves past things with future things. They always makes me dream.
TD: How do ideas appear in your imagination?
YL: Suddenly. when I see movies or listen to music, see pictures, or painted colors…or just face make-up colors, gorgeous shoes, watching fashion shows…(they inspire my imagination).
TD: Do you listen to music while you design?
TD: Tell me about your favorite artists.
TD: Do you follow other doll makers?
YL: Yes! (I follow) and really enjoy their dolls (Tonner, Sybarite, Fashion Royalty, Numina).
TD: Do you collect dolls? Do you collect anything?
YL: Barbies, larger size BJDs, favorite musician’s albums, all kind of Owls (dolls, cups, paintings, etc.).TD: Many great Asian ball-jointed doll makers are in South Korea, what are your thoughts on the doll art that is coming from your country?
YL: (I collect some of them) – They are very talented and great doll makers in other countries.
TD: Do your dolls have characters in your imagination?
YL: (The characters are in the colors) Example: She is purple and green (color) – (this) means she is a ‘mysterious’ woman – because she changes her image and loves nature.
TD: What is your favorite food?
YL: All kind of noodles and seafood.
TD: Have you traveled outside South Korea? Where? Do you have places you want to visit?
YL: Asia countries (Japan, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Philippines), France, England and USA. I have plan to visit Spain this winter; but my top of the Wish List is Cuba.
TD: I can’t wait to see how Cuba inspires you. What is your favorite color?
YL: Absolutely Green.
TD: Your design appears to have both Eastern and Western influences. Do you follow fashion? Who are your favorite fashion designers?
YL: I love all kind of fashion and (I’m) very interested mixing western and eastern (influences); favorite designers are Alexander McQueen, Jean Paul Gaultier, Carolina Herrera, Zuhair Murad, (there are others, too).
TD: Have you designed dolls in other sizes?
YL: I have 14″ fashion BJD and she is in process. I hope that I can show her in a year.
TD: Describe what a normal day is for you.
YL: Sunny day with clean fresh air – Korea has fine particles problem (allergies and/or pollution), so we couldn’t open the window or going outside when it comes heavily. (Always with) smiles with my family and fast Internet (speed)…LOL
TD: Tell me about your family.
YL: I am married with my beloved husband of 19 years, and have two sons (14 and 17).
TD: How many doll editions has The Modsdoll sold?
YL: 24 Modsdoll models – 10~30 of each in (strictly) limited size.
TD: How many 16-inch face sculpts are there?
YL: 6 face sculpt.
TD: What are your plans for the future?
YL: New face sculpt 16″ doll will be released this summer and 2-3 dolls will be shown this year. Also, a man doll 17″ and 14″ fashion BJD is in process but not sure about (those releases yet).TD: How do you view The Modsdoll Collector?
YL: Whenever I want to buy fashion BJD, I deeply consider my taste and doll play style. If the dolls are just my type, I order it again and again. But if it’s not my style or taste, I pass and wait for new dolls. I think The Modsdoll Collectors are (like this, too) – similar with me. The Modsdoll style is easy and familiar, so The Modsdoll Collectors feel more comfortable, and they get vicarious satisfaction.
TD: Do you plan to expand production so more people can buy your dolls?
YL: No, I will always keep the limited size because of quality.
TD: What is your personal message to new customers?
YL: Thank you for joining The Modsdoll world – you’ll get real pleasure of doll playing. Have fun!
If you enjoyed this interview…stay tuned a little later today for a sneak peek at my current Photo Shoot with one of the FIRST production Elizabet Dolls from Jozef Szekeres’ upcoming GLAMOUROZ DOLLS!
Puddings, if you’re not following The Modsdoll by Yian Lee, you are missing out on arguably the best fashion doll artists out there today. Yes, I just said that. Today, Yian posted teasers to her personal Facebook Page Fans her latest doll, Lara. Tommydoll received more images of The Modsdoll’s Lara, and (wait for it)…THE TOMMYDOLL EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH YIAN LEE – READ THE INTERVIEW HERE! Baby…it’s fire. You know the drill…watch for it like you would a new Saturday morning cartoon…
You heard me…
Many fashion doll collectors tend to stick to offerings directly from the manufacturer – some even venture into artist dolls. However, most fashion doll collectors experience original work through customization, as in re-painted faces or re-styling of the hair. A very precious few are bold enough to venture into complete doll makeovers, which can involve re-sculpting – a harrowing feat with mixed results in the wrong hands, glorious when rendered by a master (two of my favorites here and here). I’ve always felt that one should dabble a bit in acquiring, commissioning, and attempting makeover work, as it betters one’s understanding of the finishing touches that go into doll making – but most of all, because it results in something that is completely one-of-a-kind – something that no one else owns. That’s a bit of a hand-job to the ego, and it’s a worthy feeling when it comes to the passion and emotional connection we fashion doll collectors place on our beauties.
But one-of-a-kind work can be elusive. Some artists have a devoted fan base of collectors, and when OOAK work is revealed, it sells out as fast as some limited edition releases that seems to always go to the same recipients. The same people, again and again, are the only ones who are able to acquire them – and not all of us can pay a Kingdom’s ransom for that rectal exam.
A mystery? Maybe – but it’s not too difficult to speculate how this occurs – we just go with it, and move on to another collecting opportunity while some companies continue to slowly die, constantly selling to the same people who will eventually bore. Moreover, they cannot find new life inside their burned-out base because of lack of innovation or expansion. As a result, the rest of the doll community has moved on to other makers. At least the OOAK work has a better explanation for selling out fast – there is only one available.
But collectors will always have true innovators in the midst that are striving toward bringing new and exciting options to the marketplace. Joshua David McKenney continues to offer his smaller scale Pidgin in customized versions that are all unique to the customer. Superdoll continues to work with vinyl and emerging new resin sculpts, bringing more and more manufactured innovation to its expanding audience. And as I discussed with my readers about Jozef Szekeres’ Glamour Oz Dolls, not all have given up entirely on plastic.
Despite the fact that plastics and polymers take much longer, and exponentially more upfront cash to bring about – they are not dead materials for doll-making quite yet. Methinks emerging advancements in personal 3-D printing will see even more doll-making options to artist AND collectors!
So when I learned that Joey Versaw was blending manufacturing and one-of-a-kind artistry into an exciting new project – naturally, I was hungry for more info.
Well…not quite like that…however – I’ve always loved Joey’s work since first seeing his creations – and still believe his Mary Magpie is one of the most original and innovative concepts in fashion doll history. That’s a bold claim, but when you examine the inspiration and execution of Versaw’s Mary Magpie doll – one can’t help but to feel transported beyond the rabbit hole, and into a realm of acid-induced colors, dynamic expressions, and a touch of nostalgia all-in-one.
Joey Versaw has explored the realm of 3-D print art dolls, and dabbled in many variations of his female characters; but it was his creation of an all-male, gay-themed ensemble cast that brought cohesion to his First Love Collection.
Versaw drew upon personal experience to develop the character stories in First Love, each resulting in a bold and unique artist doll for collectors seeking something outside the norm. It’s collectors like these that drive artists like Versaw and others to break the mold, and usher in the ‘new’. And as we see with the most edgy of fashion designers, these doll artists are creating what most collectors will see in the future as ‘mainstream’.
Gene Marshall comes to mind here – Mel Odom’s unique doll vision was so innovative at the time – but today, she seems like a normal part of our doll compendium. Anime styles in Asian BJDs are no different – and yet now – that look of huge eyes and exaggerated features seems everywhere.
Joey Versaw was born in 1978 (the year of the horse), and he is easily characterized for his love of dolls. The three-dimensional collaboration of sculpture and painting was art personified in Versaw; a ‘Mona Lisa’ that could be re-dressed and posed. Despite a disapproving parent restricting access to dolls as toys for a young boy, Joey creatively found a solution by creating his own paperdolls. Weekend visits with his grandmother offered a magical escape. She taught Versaw to sew – and together, they crafted Barbie clothes together.
But all-too-soon, it was time to return to the ‘normal’ world of He-Man and G.I.Joe (though it was easy to see how these also affected the emerging creativity within this artist). At 16, Versaw rebelled, taking to his path as a dollmaker, never looking back (except for inspiration).
Residing in a small Oregon town, he uses dolls to explore design, both in character sculpture, and in fashion realization, he brings all of the elements together into explosively fun and visually stimulating dolls of cutting-edge and retro stylings.
Tommydoll talked with Versaw about his journey in doll making, and as it has led to his new venture, ‘A little head’ – a marriage of rooted vinyl heads and pre-existing commercially made doll bodies.
Q: Let’s start with the obvious – ‘A little head’ – LOL…how does the sexual innuendo speak to your brand – is it the sense of naughty humor…or is there more?
A: How did I know that question was going to be asked? Haha! I am a fan of tongue and cheek, what can I say? Simply put, I felt it was not only literal being a little head, but also it is the head that makes the doll in my opinion. I felt it was simple enough that it would be memorable and even get some giggles out of it. I definitely had worries that it might offend; but hey, I make gay dolls! The audience who would be offended is the same audience who wouldn’t buy my gay dolls so there you go.
Q: How do you feel that some people would consider ‘gay’ offensive – as a gay man and an artist – when most of us considered being gay just another type of normal?
A: We as a LGBT community have for sure taken huge leaps in becoming accepted in mainstream society. Growing up as an OUT teen in the 90’s I experienced a much different world than the teens of today experience and I am so proud and happy to have been a part of that fight to bring equality as far as it has come. Unfortunately there is still a backlash out there of people who do not support our community and those people are in every community including the doll world. So when I say there are people out there that are offended that I make gay dolls, I mean exactly that. So when the name ‘A little head’ was conceived I knew there may be some controversy but after much discussion with my colleagues we came to the conclusion that I am an adult artist who makes gay dolls so the audience who would be offended are not my audience in the first place.
Q: How does this translate into your wanting to tell ‘First Love’s’ stories?
A: ‘A little head’ will basically be singling out all of my characters from each line and focusing on each of the characters solo, exploring who they are as an individual. Each character introduced has a bio. So this vinyl run will take each character out of their respective line and story, and focus on just them. Eventually I will be doing “First Love” as a vinyl line but at the moment exploring who all my characters are singled out.
Q: How many of your classic characters will get vinyl treatment?
A: Really, it depends on the response I receive from the first release; however, I already have three more Sculpts in production as we speak. I would eventually like to have all my Sculpts done and even some new introductions!
Q: Take us through your process to give us ‘A little head’ from sculpt to vinyl pleasures, frustrations, and challenges…
A: Just as much as there are magical and incredible experiences within creating, there are also some frustrating and daunting road blocks. When I first started, 3-D printing was still in its infancy and many of the issues I originally had in the beginning are not as prominent today. The fun part is in the initial creating. I have always loved creating new characters (‘beings’, if you will). That is why I am still hand painting my dolls even though the Sculpts are factory-produced. It gives me so much joy to watch them come to life, each one, different; and to know I am the one creating them. That gives me more pleasure than I can express. And I love having tight control over my art as I have high expectations. I used to sculpt by hand in wax, and then have the wax form scanned – but these days I work a lot more with sketches and concepts, and have them sculpted in 3D.
Sculpting in 3D can be a very frustrating experience as what you see on the screen is not exactly what you will get in print. You have to learn to have an eye to know what you are doing while sculpting on a flat screen. For instance, the actual product will be thinner and a bit longer than what your eye sees on the screen. These are all learning curves, and take time and experience to perfect. After you are happy with a print result – it’s time to seek out a factory to produce them. There are many out there, but they also can be very difficult to find without help from somebody in-the-know within the industry. After finding the right factory willing to move forward with your project, you are so close to having your dream complete, you can smell it. However, this process can be very long and discouraging. There will be mistakes and production curves you did not even know existed so always make sure to be prepared to spend more than your original quote (‘cause believe me, you will).
After I approve the master mold and the final sample, we are in production! This process can vary in time but in most cases it takes about three months after your final review to have your product produced. The day finally comes and the heads are delivered! It’s exciting, but also stressful – hoping what you will find in the box is exactly like the samples you approved. In some cases it can vary, unfortunately. I quality-checked each and every one for perfection! Then comes hair styling and hand-painting. I originally planned on just selling the heads by themselves; thus the name “A little head“. However, after working with them through several incarnations, I realized since they were hand-painted it would be much easier to include a body for a full package. That being said, why not dress them, too? I decided it was the best and most complete vision of each doll. After years of hard work, it is the best feeling one can have to finally have a vision realized. I have wanted my own rooted doll since as long as I can remember.
Q: What is the price range and planned production numbers – of course, understanding the fact that each will be unique just by virtue of your hand-painting, alone.
A: I decided against offering customization or commissions for these very special offerings. They are way too limited at only 20 pieces each when broken up into the five hair colors that will be available. They will be numbered with a signed certificate and released in timed waves; starting with only 20 for this first release. They will be released as my full vision, and as a full dressed doll – each unique in character and fashion. Pricing begins at $125 and may increase depending on outfit complexity – however, it’s not expected any of the first releases will exceed $175.
Q: That’s wise…and gives you more control as an artist – do you feel that commissions can sometimes, although well-intended, lead away from your vision?
A: Definitely. I love doing special dolls for people and realizing their vision for them, but it certainly can take me away from my own vision. With this particular project being so limited, I wanted to solely focus on just that.
Q: Do you still have plans to pursue resin and/or vinyl/hard plastic? Or is 3-D printing serving your needs as a medium?
A: I still very much have plans for resin in the future, and definitely more vinyl. The 3D has helped me stand on my own two feet and launched me into doll history as the first 3D printed fashion doll artist which I will be eternally grateful for. And for that reason I will always offer Mary in 3D but most likely move on to other materials for new projects.
Q: ‘First Love’ is such a unique concept as is ‘Mary Magpie’ – where do you find the inspirations for these and other characters? How do you expect they will evolve?
A: Actually Mary and the First Love boys have been around with me since high school, and we won’t discuss how long that has been (cough, cough). They were a natural for me since I had already spent years developing their personas through napkin sketches and even paper dolls – ha ha! They naturally grew from so many things in my life from art, movies, experiences, and even my own family and friends. I know these characters – they were all very real people in my life. Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, I was inspired very much by psychedelic and neon colors; but my heart was that of a hopeless romantic pouring myself into period books and movies which created an interesting and unique view of how I saw the world. As with most things in my world, my characters will evolve organically much as they were conceived (with just a touch of acid).
A: Actually yes, there already has been a comic project in the works for ‘First Love’. The first two issues are past storyboard phase, and are being fleshed out as we speak.
Q: You have a sense of style that speaks to retro themes, riotous colors, and exaggerated shapes – yet you are able to make them work in a concept that is so uniquely you. What are your thoughts in how you address product development?
A: First and foremost, I make what speaks to me. I have learned through the years that my biggest successes reside in fully recognizing my vision without listening to the outside twitter of how I should work or present myself. If anything I want my work to be honest and completely from me. Often, I sketch out my ideas and inspirations, then flesh them out from there.
It is definitely a love. When something comes to me and wants to be heard it will haunt me until I do something with it. A lot of times I will have reoccurring dreams about projects. I suffer from sleep paralysis so visions come naturally to me…LOL. Most all of my Sculpts already had a developed personality before they were completely realized.
Q: Other than ‘A little head’…what else are you working on now? Any surprises we’ll see in the coming year?
A: Yes I do have surprises up my sleeve including a fabulous joint venture in the works with my close friend Eric Tucker – a new, up-and-coming face in the doll world with talent beyond belief. Our venture is still in the very early stages but keep a close eye out on my Facebook/Twitter feed for more information on this new and exciting project! For this year, I am completely focused on ‘A little head’, and will soon be unveiling some new Mary Magpie incarnations for 2017 (which at this very moment the talented Ernesto Padró-Campos is photographing!).
A: I do have plans for travel in 2018. I look forward to attending many doll events, and I am so excited to meet so many doll friends in person!
Words I live by: “In the end, it is not the years in your life. It’s the life in your years.”
Abraham Lincoln ~
DOWNLOAD FIRST LOVE PAPERDOLLS – CLICK IMAGE BELOW (LARGE FILE – BE PATIENT)
DOWNLOAD FIRST LOVE PAPERDOLL OUTFITS – CLICK IMAGE BELOW (LARGE FILE – BE MORE PATIENT)
MORE IMAGES FROM ‘a little head‘…
Who isn’t always looking for something new…right? I’ve got some news for the 1:6 scale collector that may tickle your fancy…and no, it’s not American Gods Devour Barbie (if only…)
Even while on vacation, a story be brewing…hang tight, and you’ll learn it here, Puddings…it just might light your head on fire…
However new concepts tickle your fancy…this is one artist who likes to generate fun for his audience…stay tuned…
NOTE: THIS POST HAS BEEN UPDATED 2/16/2017…SCROLL TO END FOR UPDATE…
Let’s get one thing clear (I was going to say ‘straight’…oh, the irony): Homosexual, Transgender and Transvestite are not the same thing. One, two or all can be present in the same person, but in and of themselves, they are generally exclusive in terms of definition. You’d be surprised how many people out there don’t know this. I personally hate labels, because I am a human being, a man, and a doll collector. By calling me a ‘gay’ man you’ve only added an adjective to describe the type of sexual preference I enjoy in my own privacy and behind closed doors. One is not ‘homosexual’ or ‘heterosexual’ – it merely defines your sexual preference. Are we all on the same page? Good…let’s move on…
NOTE: In case you found this article by googling anything other than ‘tommydoll’ – it is written by an adult for an adult audience – so don’t you dare chastise me for it being visible to your kid who has probably already found your porn stash along with your old bong.
‘Transgender’ defines a human being (see – there’s that real defining term, ‘human’) who was born as one gender (or both genders – though I don’t want to complicate this – let’s just keep it simple for this essay, please), but with the genetic disposition/identification towards another gender. There’s been plenty written on this…so feel free to follow the provided links to understand the subtleties and ambiguities of sexual assignment. Still with me? Good…
Transvestites enjoy wear the clothing of the opposite sex. This human being may not be homosexual and/or transgender – they just like wearing the clothing. Again, plenty of info out there on this subject, too…
With all the various labels we have in the LGBTQ community, we are strongly subdivided and begging for unity – this certainly doesn’t help the stupid people who think bathroom usage is going to play a direct role in child abuse – unfortunately, there will always be such horrific exceptions – but it does NOT define the norm, as hysterics (largely in the South and MidWest United States) would have you believe.
So what does it all have to do with dolls? Well…there’s this:
In a world where almost all toy dolls designed for children are genderless (that is lacking in specific genitalia which tends to play a role in gender assignment), why would we need a doll manufacturer to tell us that a doll is ‘transgender’? Quoting from Jazz Jennings, herself: “…the doll is considered to be the first “transgender” doll because it’s based on an individual who is trans. Of course it is still just a regular girl doll because that’s exactly what I am: a regular girl…”
Why does this empower parents to place the doll in their transgendered child’s hands and say, “here honey…this doll is transgendered – just like you!” Have you fucking lost your minds? What happens when little Ginny brings home her friend’s doll and says, “wait a minute, Mom…my doll is just like Veronica’s – and besides – this isn’t American Girl like I asked for.” Hope you hopeful parents who need that permission to call a genderless toy ‘transgender’ have a well-planned out speech and loads of cash set aside for some serious therapy just in case.
Don’t get me wrong…I get it…I do understand. But this is so blatantly a publicity-seeking stunt to promote a doll that is not likely to sell well (would it have killed the sculptor to include a smile of which Jazz is so frequently sporting?), a book written by Jazz that will probably sell well, and a partner TLC Series that puts Jazz Jennings out there even more to promote a very worthy message to children who can learn from her experience.
It’s not the first time such a stunt has happened…and it won’t be the last. But one thing I tend to draw the line on: blatant use of publicity stunts thinly veiled as ‘sending an important message’, whether it be the Lammily doll that just rode on the heels of Barbie anyway (we don’t really hear much from ol’ Lamm these days, now do we?) – when the real intent is only to make a buck. Mattel kinda flushed Lammily pretty nicely with its multiple versions of different body types, but in the end people typically don’t want reality in their play – they want fantasy – an ideal – one that is as individual to each human being as a fingerprint. Granted, we were taught to know these norms – they didn’t come to us genetically; and a little re-teaching isn’t a bad thing – but really, I like my imagination just fine, and I certainly don’t need anyone fucking with it.
I like how this article regarding the Jazz Jennings doll inserted this little gem (not included in the Tonner press release): “The Jazz Jennings doll comes 40 years after the release of the “Gay Bob” doll, widely thought to be the first doll based on a gay character.” What in Gay Hell does the Gay Bob doll (sold as a novelty to adults) have to do with a trans toy doll for children? CBS isn’t the only outlet that picked-up on this…which makes me wonder where it originated…and more importantly: Why?
ABC, FOX and DailyMail all ran this, too…amongst many others. Does anyone remember Mattel’s Earring Magic Ken (OK, he wasn’t officially ‘gay’)? By the way, Press – if you want brilliantly conceived and executed dolls that vividly build on a group of young gay characters – try Joey Versaw’s First Love Dolls – now those are wonderfully realized with storylines, characters, colors and positive messages – a bit on the pricey side for kids, but God speed if he ever moves them into the plastic world.
Sex and dolls don’t mix…so it should come as little surprise how I feel about the Jazz Jennings doll. ‘Transgender’ doesn’t specifically include ‘sex’ – it’s a gender thing. Tonner isn’t doing anything new trying to grab bigtime ToyFair attention being a very small company trying to compete with the big companies. ToyFair is a very expensive show to attend, even for large businesses. It’s not really the type of show that Tonner hopes to generate sales – it’s more of a publicity-seeking venue, building name brand recognition. It connects them to other companies that may have licensing opportunities, manufacturing abilities, or partnering possibilities. It’s pretty certain Jazz Jennings will get them that attention – but the big question will be what will they do with it? My guess is probably launching Phyn and Arrow, and fading into the collectible doll graveyard for good. I do hope I am wrong, though – Robert Tonner stands as one of the most prolific and imaginative doll makers ever, and it’s sad to see all of that go away.
UPDATE: Well, it would turn out Tonner’s big publicity stunt just got erased by American Girl/Mattel with this. Sorry, Robert…gender just ain’t doing you any favors. But it’s OK…Logan won’t have any genitalia either...
“Cynicism is an unpleasant way of telling the truth.” –Lady Ev, Emerald City
At this risk of looking like a sore loser, and/or an ingrate…I sincerely hope this is received with both good humor – and constructive criticism – if not – to hell with it…here goes…
The 2017 Doll Observers Fashion Doll Awards (DOFDAs) nominations recently were released and voting has begun. Skipping 2016, the last awards were held in 2015 – and as many of my readers will recall, tommydoll was amongst the nominees. I didn’t win – and that’s just fine, I suppose. It was indeed an honor to be included with the other nominees – yes, even “Collecting Fashion Dolls by Terri Gold”, the winner of 2015 DOFDAs, a blog of which I still read to balance my news. Why? Well, it’s because the bloggers represented in the 2015 awards were all consistent. That is an important element of a successful blog – consistency. These authors have been writing their blogs for many years, making it – by default – well-known throughout the online community. In the realm of the DOFDAs, it would seem the blogs are popular – it does not mean, however…that the blogs (including mine) are good.
You see, it was possible for a single person to vote multiple times, through different IP addresses, or even the same email/computer given the lapse of a holding period before the site would re-cycle and allow you to vote again – I voted dozens and dozens of times through my iPhone, personal computer, and my mother’s computer – often with no waiting period at all. Doll Observers tells me that new software used this year shouldn’t allow this to happen based on a user’s IP address; it should be noted there’s nothing they can do about voter fraud using multiple devices, which is fair – it’s not like presidential election voter fraud, now is it?
Many internet-driven social media polls and contests operate like this because they are looking to drive traffic to their website. Unfortunately, the flaw to this end is that people only re-visit the voting page, and not the rest of the website…rendering it online fluff, and not really relevant to the significance of the nominees in each respective category. I don’t think this is what Doll Observers is trying to do – instead, they are legitimately trying to bring notice and honor to those in the industry contributing to community and the love of our favorite fashion dolls. Maybe I’m the one taking this too seriously…hmmm…indeed.
Not unlike Jones Publishing’s Diamond Awards – these doll awards are fairly meaningless because there are no criteria of which the voters know or understand in the merits of each nominee, and why they are being nominated in the first place. In fact, to be nominated for a Diamond Award, you apply online, you pay a fee (yes, that’s right) and submit your own photography once payment is confirmed – presto! You’re nominated. The fee pays for the print space, you know (not unlike buying an ad, instead of the benevolence of a publication honoring its industry on its own dime)…
For the DOFDAs, it’s not readily known how nominees are selected, other than they were selected by the Doll Observers’ Community. It’s a potentially flawed process, because there are such inconsistencies in each category that the voter can’t possibly understand why certain decisions were made, or what the evaluation criteria are. As one who professionally evaluates proposals, I know that a successful competition must inform the competitors/evaluators what the selection criteria are, and then outline how each element will be evaluated. Based on that information, those who vote in the final selection process are informed, and are therefore able to make the best decision based on a level playing field of information and importance to each element. Yeah, okay…so maybe that’s a bit involved for a doll contest, but it would help if Doll Observers included a narrative for each entry as to why it is relevant to the category of which it has been nominated, and objective points describing the nominee’s salient characteristics that are notable for that category.
This is not intended to be a criticism of Doll Observers (and if my nomination doesn’t remain after this is posted, then I’ll know what they thought of it)…and yes, I guess I could go and create my own doll popularity contest to drive traffic to my site (though I am perfectly content with the traffic I receive now, thank you very much).
But being a nominee in this year’s contest has placed me in an awkward position, because I adore and regularly read all the other blog nominees – largely in part due to their devotion and relevance to our community. It doesn’t surprise me that the 2015 DOFDA Best Fashion Doll Blog winner wasn’t nominated, because there are…by far…much better blogs out there. And there are bloggers who are professionally respectful to their industry, and each other – they can still be critical, but they criticize with a well-informed knowledge base…and they aren’t afraid to talk to each other, ask questions, and understand their world and their community as opposed to just publicly commenting and bitching about products of which they are so personally biased toward that it markedly shifts the narrative to a broken subjective prose which is neither informative to…nor supportive of…its community.
I am puzzled by the range of DOFDA categories and the selected nominees, however – not unlike many of us are when the film award nominees are announced. We are often left wondering what in the hell were they thinking? Why did they choose that one? Why didn’t they choose my favorite? For example:
Disclaimer: It’s not evident if these nominations are made from the previous dolls released in 2016, or current/future dolls from 2017, or if there is a specific period of time a doll must be released – although it seems cover mostly 2016 (maybe I should have done a full year in review to remind folks exactly what was released for consideration). Also, there’s no page I could find to view the nominees – you have to enter the voting to see your choices…
Best Playline Fashion Doll – I guess Mattel and the now defunct Tonner-One (Walmart refers to the brand as ‘Generic’) are the only ones who make these? Well…no…it just seems no one seemed to know about companies like Hasbro, Moose Toys, MGA Entertainment, Bandai, Hunter Products, etc. (yes, there are more). Consider that Disney Descendants, Betty Spaghetty, Musical Moana of Oceania, Bratz Study Abroad, Project Mc2 Camryn with Hoverboard, Miraculous Ladybug, Shibajuku Girl, etc. One can argue that some of these are too ‘child-like’…then explain to me how Monster High fits in this category? Is it the boobs?
Best Collectible Vinyl/Plastic Fashion Doll – Dear LORD…this is such a broad category…but then so is ‘Best Picture’. However, it seems that price range would greatly affect the outcome of judging given some are much more adept at higher levels of quality and included accessories which may easily sway a voter’s opinion as to what’s ‘best’. I was surprised to not see Superdoll, Tonner, BFM Silkstone, and Integrity Toys – snubbed from this category when they all had nomination-worthy beauties? Given the shrinking world of vinyl/hard plastic – you would think they would ramp up the exposure to these endangered species as much as possible…even expanding it to more nominees like The Academy did with ‘Best Picture’.
Best Resin/Porcelain/BJD Fashion Doll – Just no. There is nothing comparable to a resin and porcelain fashion dolls – in no way, shape or form…largely because of who is making them (no porcelains were nominated, by the way). Oh, and Superdoll Dalston is Gen X Vinyl…she shouldn’t be here at all, dears…
Best Convention Exclusive – How are you supposed to judge these very, very different dolls? Some are manufactured, some are not…and the genres/audiences for each are markedly different. Again, not a direct criticism – but an honest question. It would be helpful to have a level playing field of criteria that equally relates to each as a special event doll.
Best Celebrity Fashion Doll – Explain to me how Amazon Princess Wonder Woman and Zomby Gaga are celebrity dolls, and Disney Princesses are not? Aren’t Disney Princesses considered ‘Celebrity’ (maybe not unless it’s Lily James, Cate Blanchett, Emma Watson, etc.?)? Wonder Woman is based on the movie (so says the description), but Gaga is a stretch. Is it because the United Nations named Wonder Woman an Honorary Ambassador of Women’s Rights (well, that didn’t last long, now did it?)? Really.
Best Fashion Doll Accessory/Playset – Accessories and Playsets are not the same thing…one is a football, the other is a whole stadium. If you are going to include these together, and include divisively different price points – a list of selection criteria for the voter to consider is needed once again. Its unfortunate IT’s Give it Up Set, and Barbie Looks Candy Pop are included here as the only representation of an ‘outfit only’, which is now considered an accessory/playset? Tonner, Marcelo Jacobs, Hasbro and others got nothing in outfits only to warrant its own category? Hmmmm…
Best OOAK Fashion Doll Artist – Of for fuck’s sake…really? The only two sets here that are comparable (and not to each other): Noel Cruz and Jon Copeland (face painting should be its OWN category), and Magia2000 and Sebastian Atelier are clothing/face artists (also its OWN category). Joey Versaw is a doll artist/maker, dears…he makes his own doll, painting, clothing and accessories (with occasional support from other clothing/accessory makers) – but make no mistake, his work is by far incomparable to anything else here because it’s not apples to apples. I would suggest: Best OOAK Costume Designer, Best OOAK Wearable Accessory Designer, Best OOAK Face Paint Artist, Best OOAK Coiffure, Best Doll Photography, and Best Overall OOAK Fashion Doll (meaning you have to pick one…and not just the artist). You could also have a shoe category on its own…since they drive so much passion from collectors in and of themselves.
Best Fashion Doll Designer/Brand – Why add ‘Brand’? It’s not the same thing…it’s a category like ‘Best Picture’. It’s best to leave this as ‘Designer’ – because that carries its own prestige and humility. I mean…it diminishes the name of the actual designer. Who gives a crap about the brand? This mostly affects the Mattel and Integrity Toys Designers – because although they may be independent in their design ideas, it is likely they ARE following a brand/corporate concept which will affect their direction as a designer. Superdoll and Dollcis can do what they like, and they can do so much more with exponentially higher budget ranges of which to work their design execution…at a considerably higher retail price.
Best Independent Online Fashion Doll Retailer – In what sense are they the ‘best’? Consider inventory, customer service, responsiveness, pricing, and presence in their community. ‘Best’ is such a subjective term…but what exactly makes them the ‘best’. Unless one actually married Robert Best, you need to give voters more to consider here.
Best Corporate Fashion Doll Retailer – Why is this even a category? Who really cares? Do you really think any of these nominees gives a shit about a win/loss here? It’s an odd choice considering the omission of other relevant categories in the aforementioned paragraphs.
Ahhh…now onto the important stuff…
Best Fashion Doll Blog – It’s wonderful this is a category, and I’d love to see it broken out into sub-categories such as ‘Opinion’, ‘Photography’, and ‘News’ – but we don’t see ‘Best Picture’ broken down at The Oscars (though the Golden Globes does). Nevertheless, it is important to understand that blogging is a vicious mistress, and I am flattered to be in the company of these folks, because they do a much more consistent job than I do at keeping fresh content running in an effort to inform and entertain. I’ve written about what makes a good fashion doll blog (which you can see in its entirety, here – though it’s now somewhat outdated) – however, I never actually summarized the elements of a good fashion doll blog – they are (in order):
Relevance – This is somewhat of a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many can deviate from the subject of dolls (um…me, for one) – but yes, it’s true: a fashion doll blog must be relevant to fashion dolls. It doesn’t matter if it’s devoted to one fashion doll, or a variety of fashion dolls – it should not deviate too far into such innocuous subjects as human fashion, child and/or baby dolls, pop culture, shit your kid spits up, or ‘life’s little lessons’ – those blogs lose points on fashion doll relevance. Unless, of course, someone has created a pregnant fashion doll that can be worn as an accessory and vomits with the press of a button to the ‘Game of Thrones’ theme, thus teaching us to be more virtuous. I think you get my drift here…
Knowledgeableness – A fashion doll blogger needs to know about the subject of which one writes. It’s not just about opinion (though that can color the blog with a special shade of you). Personal tastes and observations are only applicable when the writer/photographer actually understands the fashion doll in its various forms, how they are designed, and more importantly – how they are made; this contributes to relevance. Just because you’ve bought every doll out there, taken mediocre photos of them, and provided a highly subjective critique before you unload said doll on your sales pages – well, dear, this does not make you knowledgeable.
When a new doll is introduced, one might note that you’ll probably buy her if the hair comes out like the promo photo – and when it doesn’t – you declare that the doll maker doesn’t understand quality or its customer anymore without substantiating it beyond a production hairdo – well, methinks you need to hang it up and write about belly lint. This is just as bad as encouraging readers to not pay retail for anything without even an informed discussion and/or debate on how this hurts the retailer and the dollmaker – just because it benefits the collector (and the collector alone – doll collecting is a luxury, you mindless twit – not a bargain basement free-for-all) – this does not make it acceptable. ‘Alternate Facts’ like these are the reason we’ve lost great retailers and dollmakers, and let a lunatic waltz into the White House with his mail-order bride obediently behind him (as in 20 feet behind him – yeah, OK…I got that from Bill Maher (at 00:56) – but it’s good, so I’m sticking with it).
Timeliness – If you are a news reporter, or a satirist – it’s critical that your timing be spot on. Talking about a fashion doll released two months ago isn’t so desired (unless the doll just shipped and you have it in your hot little hands first). Keeping blog content fresh also belongs here…this keeps fresh eyes returning to your site to get the latest info. If you return to a blog regularly and frequently get treated to a new post, then that blogger gets top points (and maybe a hand job, because you know they are not doing anything else except blogging – and yes, women can get them, too; and no, I’m not offering)…
Consistency – A blog’s point-of-view must be consistently applied to be successful – this goes hand-in-hand with timeliness; but they can also be severable as well. Consistency helps us to follow the author’s journey through the blogosphere by teaching us not only the focus of the author’s intent, but also how it relates to other blogs, too. Blogs who openly link to other blogs is a good thing…and it shows the author is well-connected to others in his/her community.
Visual Presentation – A blog that is easy to navigate, read, and search is one where the blogger has put in a great deal of time and energy using digital design elements to make their blog not only accessible, but also instantly recognizable – an important part of branding. Graphic placement, consistency and legible fonts play a key factor in making a well-designed and executed blog. Don’t expect perfection – blogs take much to maintain – if the content is good and timely, this can easily be forgiven – which is why this is at the bottom of the list).
Yeah…I score well in some of these…but maybe not as well in timeliness or visual presentation – at least not as much as the other nominees. Be that as it may, if you’ve not visited any of these blogs, you’re a damn fool, for they are among the ones you should have bookmarked to visit frequently. Here’s what makes each of them unique and special, and why I rely on them for news and opinion:
The Fashion Doll Chronicles – News, information, a searchable archive loaded with years of content, photo essays, a side bar link tool to popular fashion doll websites, and of course, informed opinion. Stratos Bacalis’ blog is rich with news mostly covering the plastic/vinyl 12”/16” fashion doll makers, and many of the 16” resin fashion doll makers. His content is better than that of any fashion doll publication, and you could spend hours scrolling through past posts to get an idea of how the industry changes from year to year – or just jump to your favorites using consistently applied tags. Yes, he needs to update his side bars…but whatever – the man has a life, you know.
Dutch Fashion Doll World – formerly Dutch BARBIE World, Rogier Corbeau’s fashion doll blog changed its name after coming under fire from Mattel over unauthorized use of ‘Barbie’ without permission (even though he had been doing it for years) – because everyone just knows how the Dutch are intent on taking over the world and assimilating all of us and our brands. Really, Mattel. And don’t you dare say it’s dilution, when everyone know that argument holds little-to-zero validity. DFDW explores mostly Barbie as she reigns over the fashion doll cosmos of dolls, events, fashion and pop culture; however, Rogier also covers many of his favorites such as Superdoll of London, Ficondoll, Demuse Doll, The Modsdoll, and other fashion dolls that are directly relevant to the world of couture. DFDW is prolific in its postings – many new posts a week are not uncommon (you’ll want to sign up for its email notification to keep up with the latest news). Although it doesn’t have a searchable archive, its keywords and taglines are so well-placed, you can simply Google the subject matter, add ‘Dutch World’ and find virtually anything you need.
tommydoll – What can I say about my blog that’s objective? It’s the only fashion doll blog of its type – by virtue mostly of its writing, animated GIFs, and usage of the word ‘fuck’. I write openly and honestly about my personal struggles with depression (not an easy subject to explore in satire), my history with the doll industry (both good and bad), the shit the doll industry wants you to believe in their ‘sweetness and light’ venues, and the reality of ‘fake news’ and outright lies that wreak havoc on our community. No one writes about the things I do, because it’s not always pretty. Yet in a world that watches itself build barriers-to-entry for new collectors because of stupidity and assholes who don’t know any better, I like to think of myself as an industry whistleblower, a satirist, and a bearer of the unadulterated truth. Partner that with my step-by-step ‘How it’s Made’ series regarding the design and construction of fashion doll clothing, and you have an entertaining view targeted toward the adult collector who likes to laugh at oneself from time to time (it never hurt anyone, except maybe Hitler and OJ Simpson). I lose points on frequency of my postings (but they are sooooo long, Puddings!)…and in its design, things aren’t always easy to find, indicating a lack of focus on exactly what the purpose of my blog is – fashion doll commentary, history, satire, or other? I write because I feel compelled to. My blog is not ‘child-friendly’…so keep your grubby little disease-bearing mongrels from the iPad while reading me.
PĂPUŞILE MELE – I couldn’t pronounce this if I tried…but I don’t have to. Based in Bucharest, Ada Bogoevici Soci creates a Barbie World that covers everything Barbie, other playline dolls that will become tomorrow’s collectibles, and adult collector dolls worthy of mention across the globe. Her coverage is consistent, if not a little too timely with her partnership with Doll Genie (isn’t witchcraft punishable by fire in Hungary – how else do they get those images so early?)? Oh who cares – Ada’s on top of it all…and we are the better for it. With a searchable multi-year archive, well-organized tags, and personal experiences/commentary on events and industry, PĂPUŞILE MELE is a must-read for novices and seasoned collectors alike.
Inside the Fashion Doll Studio – Yep…Barbie for Big Girls (and boys who want to be girls)…and so much more. I know many of this year’s entries tend to focus on Barbie…but you have to understand that Barbie is the Fashion Doll Queen of the Universe. That being said, the three Barbie-related blogs included in this year’s blog nominees are far from the same – each brings a unique insight into our industry of toy dolls and fashion doll collectibles. Rebecca Berry’s Inside the Fashion Doll Studio is no different. Barbie isn’t all that’s covered here. In a mostly photo-rich blog, Berry covers the Barbie world, but other comparable 12” fashion dolls as well. What makes her site unique is the extraordinary attention to the visuals – a mixture of manufacturer content and her own gifted photography inspired by such fabulous independent designers as Hilda Westervelt and miniature makers as co-nominated blogger, Rogier Corbeau. The result? An explorative eye-candy journey through our miniature fantasy of fashion-made-real by artists who give a shit. A picture is worth a thousand words, and although Rebecca does also write commentary, her images are the prime reason to bookmark and enjoy her blog when all you need is an occasional escape from the human world.
The Rest of the Story…
There are two other categories that need mentioning in the 2017 DOFDAs:
2017 Fashion Doll Innovations Award: Best Customer Relations – I think this might be a mistake? They almost seem like two separate categories. ‘Innovation’ seems to be about design and execution, and ‘Customer Relations’ seems more like…well…customer relations. Blending the two sounds like creating a new app that bitch-slaps collectors who are knowingly stupid or otherwise don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground, or one with a Siri-style voice of Alain Tremblay (Integrity Toys) explaining to obnoxious collectors how everything they read on the internet isn’t true – no, really.
DOFDA ‘Fashion Doll Community Friend’: a write-in category – Just a name, dear…don’t bother with an explanation as to why the nomination is warranted (you only get 140 characters, President Trump). I’d love to see the actual results of this to see how many people vote for Barbie, Carrie Fisher, or Caitlyn Jenner. I think the intent here is noble…but man-oh-man…that’s a tough call. Good luck with your nominations, Puddings. My guess would be it will be Robert Tonner, given his obvious snub to the nominations with the sole exception of a toy doll from a merged company that doesn’t exist (did it ever – ‘Generic’?). It’s a hard knock life, dear…
I give Doll Observers much kudos for sponsoring such an undertaking, given the time and energy that it takes to not only run a site such as they do…but to also endure snarky criticism from folks like me and others. I can only hope they see the humor in it all…and maybe they might take away something from it, too. It’s not every day you put yourself in the line of fire directly in a sea of strongly passionate and emotionally charged collectors who would defend their favorites to the death.
I can see a nice expansion in 2018 to further define and bloom recognition in an industry that so well deserves it. That being said, other omissions could be rectified. Why no Artist Fashion Doll which would include Superdoll Chalk White (Pinterest Album by Sandra/NL), Pidgin, Popovy Sis, Rafael Nuri, Marina Bychkova, Mary Magpie, Artists et al.? Should men be considered in its own category – or should they even be considered ‘fashion dolls’ at all? And the Asian BJDs – there should also be a category for them – because an Iplehouse Carved Heritage Doll does not equate to a Sybarite in any sense of the word. Both are easily separated by price, scale and level of detail…apples and oranges…but both worthy of consideration in competition; just not against each other.
Finally, why don’t we have a write-in for the most annoying collector? We all know plenty of them – those that refuse to respect others, learn something new, bully others into submission, or just the sheer need to ruin the fun for everyone else in the sandbox. We’ll call it the Kitty Collier Industry Litterbox Award for Most Annoying Collector. It’s catchy…no?
Thank You, Doll Observers…may the odds be ever in our favor…now, what will I wear on the Red Carpet this February?
A big recap means too much thought..what do you think?
Yeah…a fun year with lots of bullshit…let’s recap:
|GlamourOz Dolls||Tonner Dolls|
|Superdoll Conventions||Integrity Conventions|
|Not Needing Integrity’s ‘Official Announcement’||Waiting for Integrity’s ‘Official Announcement’|
|Barbie as a Trump Mistress||Barbie for President|
|Fantasy Fashion Bodies||Big Doll Heads|
|Sewing for Dolls||Doll Photography|
|Andrew Yang||Nicholas Lamm|
|Flash Sales||Factory Sales|
|Original Gene Marshall||JAMIEshow Gene Marshall|
|Blow-molded Packaging||Twist Ties, Straps and Ribbon Knots|
|Rya Jones||Jones Publishing|
|Classic Fashion||Avant-Garde Fashion|
|Therapy with Professional Therapist||Therapy with Friends on Bulletin Boards|
|GoFundMe Charity Fund-Raising||OOAK Charity Doll Auctions|
|Vodka at Conventions||Wine at Conventions|
|Adults at Conventions||Children at Conventions|
|One Single Souvenir Doll||Souvenir Collections|
|Originals Illustrated||Couture Illustrated|
|Barbie as Barbie||Barbie as Celebrities|
|Sanding Seams||Raw Seams|
|Nigel Chia||Jason Wu|
|A Single European Barbie Convention||Multiple European-Based Barbie Conventions|
|Doll Discussion Focus Groups||Doll Clubs|
|Learning About Collecting Fashion Dolls||Reading the “Collecting Fashion Dolls by Terri Gold” blog|
|Admiring $80,000 Art Dolls||Buying $80,000 Art Dolls|
|Celebrity OOAK Projects by The Repaint Society||Celebrity Deaths|
|Criticizing Kingdom Doll||Criticizing Superdoll|
|Gloves with fingers||Painted replacement hands|
|Real clothes for Action Figures||Molded clothes for Action Figures|
I can assure you…watch me…stakes just got higher…and who really needs DOLLS Magazine, anyway…(right, Diana?)…
Several lives were sacrificed to bring this data…and it all got tossed like this…
Damn droids. I love you, Carrie Fisher…
Something about glam and New Year’s that just goes hand-in-hand and drives me stupid blonde wild. Using the extraordinary couture samples from Sandra Stilwell and wigs by Ilaria Mazzoni…well, the job’s easy for the camera. Learn more about Sandra Stilwell Presents Richmond, VA event in 2017 here (info coming soon!) – and take a look at Ilaria’s ‘Time of Doll‘ stunning wigs here...
Note: Featured Dolls: Superdoll ‘Law’; Mel Odom’s Gene Marhsall by JAMIEshow; Veronica by JAMIEshow; and Kingdom Doll ‘Guinivere’…and no…none of these are available, dears…sorry.
Happy New Year, Puddings!!!
I have had a truly fucked fall. And as is true of most Tommydoll posts, this will include a fair amount of Tommy Drama…so deal with it…
Not since my being laid off from Tonner in 2010 have I felt so disparaged by the doll world. Not that they haven’t been supportive in some ways, mind you…but also in other ways that totally and truly suck. Let’s recap, shall we? (No…this isn’t the ‘Best Of’ for 2016…it’s something extra just for you.
HauteDoll Magazine folded. Why? Well…it’s not my fault, Puddings – just seems that the doll industry doesn’t give a shit enough to work with the pub to place strategic advertising to support its pages – so the publisher turns to the only other advertisers around from the BJD world – of whom, fashion doll collectors just really don’t care for, nor do the fashion doll advertisers who just can’t stand seeing their product next to a Kaye Wiggs sculpt. Oh fuck, please – get over yourself. I’m am just certain Calvin Klein gets his panties in a wad over seeing his editorial mixed with Lili Pulitzer…but hey, give us something new, and we’ll cover it. And therein lies the real problem. There has been virtually nothing new from ANY doll makers in what feels like centuries.
Hmmmm…ok, so then I lose a good friend by his just (literally) disappearing…no trace, no sight to be seen…a mystery, really; I totaled my car; I injured my ankle; a promising start-up doll I was watching and helping to get funded was rejected by the sponsor after they already verbally committed to take on the project; my sewing machine is totally fucked up after a complex project to sew leather (which will never happen again) – damn thing has been in the shop twice, and still is not properly functioning (I will probably need a new one); I haven’t had a decent dolly fix in months; I missed out on two doll events I had wanted to attend; dare I go on? Even Once Upon A Time has finally ponied up a story arc that is so contrived, that not even I believe enough in magic to pull this crumbling fairy tale out of The Dark One’s ass. And those are just the tips of the iceberg, Dears. OK…so I’m being a whiney little bitch…but it can be warranted, you know.
And then the Election happened. By then, I woke up on the day before my 6th Anniversary of getting tossed by Tonner – fully believing that I was now in Hell. But it wasn’t all bad – Robert Tonner accepted my friend request on Facebook…so there is a light at the end of the tunnel – right?
Man…when it rains, it pours with me, Dearies…
You know…all I ever wanted from the doll world was a forum to be creative, share ideas, and meet lifelong friends from all walks of life. The last thing I wanted was to be ignored – and it kinda felt that was exactly what was happening – and my ego is easily bruised as my regular readers and friends well know (a least I admit it, amateurs).
And then, something new happened. And by that…I meant a new doll. A real, new doll.
Pidgin and Mary Magpie/First Love are possibly the newest things to happen in our arena since the BJD’s went all lifelike mannequin from the West, or too vomit-cutesy by otherwise talented sculptors within the BJD world, but not a part of the Asian BJD movement. Most of what I am referring can be seen here…
Tonner has gone all Willy Wonka on us, closing its collections for good in support of something called ‘Phyn & Arrow’, which just makes one scratch his head…
Ellowyne Wilde and Evangeline Ghastly are finally dead as they clear out of their dusty attics. Integrity Toys (IT) keeps putting out more and more of the exact same thing (except we finally did get Coven, though it was a disappointing contribution to the FR collection – IT also did a double whammy by nixing its 16” girls, because its collector base ‘doesn’t have the room for 16” girls’ – but they will happily usher home dozens of 12” dolls from a single convention, and cram them on one shelf in the name of completion-ism, and denying Barbie any room in their 12” world. IT…your ‘Tonner’ moment is coming soon…and faster than you think…
Mattel took a swing at Lammily – the year’s biggest anti-story; but they also articulated the Silkstones, so that was a moment coming out of constipation, I guess. Madame Alexander has all by withdrawn from any corner of the doll world, but continues to make (but I doubt actually sell) that excretious Alex.
When I say there’s been nothing new under the sun…you can bet on it – with the sole exception of Pidgin and Joey Versaw’s creations. If I missed something, one of my readers will gladly correct me in the comments section.
“Nothing new,” did he say? Welllll…not exactly. You see – turning Superdoll into vinyl isn’t new – but it is a necessary evolution that no other resin company dares to even venture. And others…well, breaking your collectors’ bank accounts by offering a million ‘exclusive’ convention products isn’t new (and you are ALL guilty of that – probably with a tie going to JAMIEShow and Integrity Toys). Articulating Silkstone isn’t new – nor is varying body types (Tonner has you all beat there). OZ IN STEAMPUNK IS NOT NEW, YOU FUCKING MORONS AT MADAME ALEXANDER – Jesus…really? Nothing in the ABJD (or the Alt.BJD) world is new – they just get more expensive and harder to buy (English as a second web language, really folks?)
Fashion Doll Quarterly (FDQ) is now the ONLY fashion doll magazine resource (DOLLS has been reduced from magazine to brochure – and will probably be a leaflet by end of 2017 – but they barely even know what a fashion doll is anyway, so no one is likely to notice) – and as much as Pat at FDQ tries to keep it fresh and new (though still somewhat stale because she mostly only covers advertisers), the mag has mostly become a catalog for Kingdom Doll; much like Haute Doll was a catalog for Jpopdolls, JAMIEshow, and formerly Superdoll. But hey…if they’re paying – gravy. If they are trading dolls or not doing anything but getting exclusive imagery – that is stealing from a magazine’s resources – and it puts them out of business. Thanks for nothing to the overtly guilty here. No…I’m not bitter at all.
I was ready to raise my over-sized spoon of Talenti Salted Caramel Gelato in a collective ‘Fuck You’ to the doll world – until I started conversing with Jozef Szekeres – about his (wait for it) – NEW doll collection.
Before we start into the details of this exciting new (yes…it is new) dolls. Not new: they are app. 1:4 scale (inline with 16″ scale, but slightly taller in height), they are fashion dolls, they are exaggerated body types (so leave your ‘body image‘ bullshit at home)…but they are not resin. Szekeres is the first individual aside from Robert Tonner to not use any corporate funding to develop a hard plastic/vinyl fashion doll. ‘Say what,’ you say?
Well…that’s why you have seen a HUGE explosion in resin dolls – few doll makers outside Mattel, Hasbro and IT can afford to pay the up-front costs associated with plastic. Of the resin makers (and IT), they whore every dime out from collectors to continue to produce painfully expensive resin dolls, instead of doing what Superdoll did, and gradually invest in itself to develop vinyl molds to give their customers a price break on their art. Remember…just because it’s plastic, doesn’t mean it’s cheap. Plastic does involve far less finishing techniques than resin – so you can see a cost savings that can be re-distributed to its accessories…unless you use a vastly outdated costing mechanism as Tonner does, and simply keep removing accessories to keep the cost down to a ‘perceived’ level. All of this is business, science, and a dash of art. For those who don’t understand why dolls cost so much, this lesson is for you – and yet, you continue to ignore the truth, defecating your senseless drivel to any bulletin board, chat room, social media app, or bathroom wall (which is precisely why you will suffer alone in a custom-made, painful level of Hell for all eternity).
Resin molds costs hundreds of dollars to develop, and you have the costly resin needed to produce a very heavy doll needing extensive finishing – mold costs are small, but cost to produce the doll is steep. Vinyl molds cost thousands of dollars to develop, but savings are seen in some reduced finishing procedures – vinyl is cheaper than resin, so there is a trade-off in the increased cost for molds (which can produce more dolls before replacement than resin molds), and there is a marked decrease cost of actually making the doll. Hard plastic molds costs tens of thousands of dollars to produce – the cost of plastic is extremely low, thereby making the cost to produce the dolls very low – you can make exponentially more dolls from hard plastic molds than from vinyl or resin molds. By creating a durable, larger quantity of dolls, you have more money you can spend on the clothing and accessories. Do you get it, now? And don’t you dare give me the ‘I only collect art dolls’ – my dear, you don’t even know what ‘art’ is.
But the end result is laziness of the doll maker – no one wants to put the money upfront (or they can’t) – so they spin this ‘art’ explanation of how resin is superior when it comes to making dolls. Some have even gone so far as to abscond with another artist’s sculpt and call it their own (which is its own argument I won’t even address here).
‘Look how luminous resin is‘…’feel how heavy it is‘…’the artist actually peed on this one…ooooooo – it MUST be quality‘.
With some artists, yes…with most factories, it is possible – but unlikely because of the dynamics of a factory cost model. But there is a more sinister reality to resin v. plastic: durability. This isn’t just talking breakage – this is referring to longevity. Bottom line – plastic dolls will last much, much longer in a better preserved state with modern plastic than ANY kind of resin. So hope you die before that resin doll falls apart…because it will long before a plastic doll does. So how much did that resin doll just cost you? Ah. I hope you get $700 of life out of her. I have many friends that collect what they love – so this doesn’t really apply to them – it applies to all the ignorant collectors who jump on the Lemming Bandwagon, ignore facts, and accept ‘fake news and opinions’ from online blog and chat room resources who don’t know their plastic surgeon from their proctologist (unless the poor bastard is the same person – that would explain much). These collectors don’t want facts (kinda sounds like a recent Presidential Election, no?)…because it would expose themselves to be the financially irresponsible imbeciles they are. Wow…that was a mouthful…right?
That is what makes Szekeres’ doll new – it’s hard plastic and rooted and/or wigged vinyl with screened and hand-applied facial features. It also doesn’t hurt that the new dolls are jaw-dropping gorgeous. And so with Jozef, let’s examine a little history about the man and the artist. Then we get to actually stick it to him (questions, that is) about his new beauties…
Jozef Szekeres – the man behind GlamourOz Dolls (GODs)
First of all…don’t you hate that Australia can use a fabulous name like ‘OZ’? There’s no hard copyright on the name, and it can instantly be identified with the Country Down Under that gave us Olivia Newton-John, Kylie Minogue, Hugh Jackman and Dame Edna. Hell…all we get in the ‘US’ are Kardashians, featuring Krazy Kanye; Ru Paul and Donald Trump.
Tommydoll (TD): I love how you draw inspiration from Indigenous Australian themes and marry that with your own family – it’s reminiscent of Robert Tonner, but also very unique. How did Australia inspire you in characters, sculpts, and those wonderful 60s-inspired (yet very up-to-date) fashions from Stephen Moor – more specifically, how did you piece it all together into the exotic, glamorous and dangerous world of the Bizelle Sisters?
Jozef Szekeres (JS): Thank you Tommy, I appreciate you taking this time to interview me, and introduce my new line of GlamourOz Dolls to the Fashion Doll Collectors around the world.
“Launching a new line of Australian Fashion Dolls born from Oz could only be complete with its inclusion of the very first Indigenous Australian Fashion Doll character…“
Now to your first question (I hope they’re not all this complex, well then again… bring it on!), I’d like to begin by paying my respects to all the Indigenous Australians, the traditional custodians of my homeland. Launching a new line of Australian Fashion Dolls born from Oz could only be complete with its inclusion of the very first Indigenous Australian Fashion Doll character (that I know of).
My father, an accomplished artist in his life with his day job as a house painter, was an avid art collector, and on occasion would do his trade literally for the trade of art. As a child, I remember one hallway of my parents’ home had the most amazing Indigenous Australian artwork hanging on both sides that my father acquired in this way, and it’s still there today. So he instilled early in me a great respect for all art, whether tribal, western, and even sculptural. I had the opportunity in my early adult years to visit the Thankakali Broken Hill Indigenous Community, and do a comicbook workshop for and with the children and adults there. The elders were excited to show their own art, and describe that beyond the visual aesthetics, all the art elements had great symbolic meaning, and showed how it can be read sequentially… A visual arts language, their own ancient “comicbook” language.
I’ve seen Indigenous Australian dolls before, but only as baby, child, or adult souvenir dolls from my youth. I even have an Australian Barbie Club convention souvenir doll using an African-American Shani doll as an Indigenous Australian stand in. But to my memory, I’ve not yet seen a sculpt created specifically to be an Indigenous Australian Fashion Doll, as we understand Fashion Dolls to be. So when creating the head-sculpts in preparation for my new doll line, with intention I created one to be an Indigenous Australian, looking to the Australian supermodel scene as my inspiration to respectfully capture their distinct features and beauty.
Being Australian, I wanted all of my characters from my first release of my new line to be of and from Australia. From inspirations of Elle “The Body” Macpherson, to the gorgeousness of proportions and beauty of Olivia Newton John’s Sandy (from “Grease”) and that of our beloved songbird Kylie Minogue (a favourite of my father’s). However growing up in Australia, media focused primarily on Western-looking personalities. Thankfully that is changing and Asian-Australians are rightfully represented in media today too, and therefore my line would not be complete without its own Asian Australian Catwalk Model.
Three of my character head-sculpts have their names taken from my family members. My sister is Elizabet Kotalin, and our mother is Lucille. Bindi is a traditional name from the Sydney Darug Tribe, meaning “beautiful butterfly” or “beautiful girl“, depending on which tribe’s dialect is used. Also, Bindi Irwin has recently brought that name to international prominence, and as a nation, we’re all very proud of our “Dancing With The Stars” winning girl.
Stephen Moor’s artwork entered my life when my sister married his son. I was in my mid teens, and I guess he saw I had some artistic aptitude and leanings, and he took me under his artistic wing. I knew of his fashion sketches rather early, but only later realised that though he was a nationally successful Who’s Who of Australian artists, he had never published or seen his fashion works from the 60s – 70s realised. When he gave me his folder of fashion sketches, he urged me to look into entering fashion, saying he hoped his fashions could help me or inspire me, and that I could use them if I wanted or needed to. At the time, I had already established my own artistic career path as a young Disney 2D animator, so though deeply touched, his fashions sketches were only shared within the family. However, I knew on an instinctive level that this 80 strong fashion sketch collection needed to be kept whole and complete, and was significant to Australian fashion history.
I’ve always visualised that I’d do my own line of dolls, even when at school and told one of the teachers, who sarcastically said “As if” and “Dream on“… and I took that backhanded advice, and did dream on. I at first thought I had fulfilled that dream wish when I did my first Elizabet Bizelle line in 2003. But my passion for dolls has only grown stronger over time, and somehow, everything in my artistic experience seemed to funnel down and compress into this singularity that has become my new GlamourOz Dolls line. It’s my own personal Big Bang!
TD: It’s interesting that many of the world’s countries have their own spin on ‘era fashion’ – such as the 1960s – what is Australia’s take on the colors, clothes and textures then?
JS: Australian fashion was built on (or maybe from) the backs of Merino Sheep. Wool, and earthy colours are quintessentially Australian. Though the Mod fashions were emulated in Australia, the Aussie take focused on geometric yet deceptively simple classic shapes. That’s why I think Stephen Moor’s fashions are so iconically 60s Australian, yet also look ever so modern today.
JS: Ahh, Disney either way! You can’t go wrong with either choice. However, with edition titles like “Double-Cross Cover-Up”, “Secret Garden-Path”, and “Ribbon Reveal”, you know there’s “something” going down!
TD: How do we see the characters in Moor’s clothing designs…I get the fashions are for all the dolls, but who is more likely to wear what…and why?
JS: Elizabet is my lead girl, so I see her comfortably in anything. She wears Double-Cross Cover-Up, because it’s cheeky, sexy and fun, the 60s mini skirt of the line. I created the jacket design to go with the mini dress, originally as a value add, but now they are inseparable to me. She’s a blonde that has “more fun” in the mainline of this garment set. In the limited variant, she’s a fiery redhead, not to be toyed with lest you get burned.
Secret Garden-Path Elizabet – softly glamorous in a statement 60s young-green evening spiral path gown. Her copper red hairstyle revisits her signature hair design originally worn in her 2003 release, “Dangerous Discovery“!
Ribbon Reveal Kotalin – high class all the way. Sexy high in its reveal-through panel detailing, married to a classy silhouette. For some reason I get Marilyn Monroe in “Niagara” when I see her in this garment, especially from behind… for that full minute walk. Blonde for the mainline, and long and Ginger with a 60s bump for the limited variant edition. For this garment, the bridal white sketch has been transformed into a beautiful warm salmon pink.
Glittering Gala Kotalin – silvery in a gun metal sequence gown, once again emphasises her high glamour. Her brownette hair design inspired by Stephen Moors fashion sketches, with length added at the back for fun hair play (I’m thinking of you, Darko!).
Bjeran Bindi (Cool Begins) – from the Nyoongar Indigenous Australian calendar,
describes the beginning of Winter. With beautiful lines, shapes and textures that embody the bush edged Australian outback, this jacket keeps her warm in the desert cool beginning nights of winter.
Yawkyawk Billabong Bindi (Mermaid Pool) – Yawkyawk is a word from the Aboriginal Kunwinjku/Kunwok language, meaning ‘young woman’ and ‘young woman spirit being’. Sometimes compared to the European notion of mermaids, Yawkyawks are usually depicted with the tails of fish. They have long hair, associated with trailing blooms of algae, typically found in Arnhem Land streams and rock pools.
Lucille wears Yum Cha Cha-Cha – which embodies her classy sophisticated lady, and “Anything Goes” toe tapping nature, ready to star in a musical opening number… Think Willie Scott, from Temple of Doom.
Executive Day to Night Lucille, is power play in the boardroom, and power player of the night.
TD: Do the Bizelle sisters actually live in Australia…or are they children of the world at large like James Bond?
JS: Australian born, but children of the world at large. For their character’s histories and behind the Catwalk Supermodel scenes, I definitely see a blend of Bond for the classy international intrigue and suspense, Indiana Jones for the arcane mystic mysteries, and Charlie’s Angels in their hair flippary fun, and for their fashion forward fraternal sisterhood, this Supermodel band of “Pussycat Dolls” call themselves GODs (GlamourOz Dolls)!
So… why not bring part of Australian culture back to your home with our GODs.
Szekeres is a 2-D artist and sculptor – he has a pronounced experience in Australia as a Disney animator, primarily the Disney Princesses (so what’s there not to like?). Read the full interview with Jozef Szekeres by an Australian colleague – click here). In the late 90s/early 2000, he designed, sculpted and produced the Elizabet Bizelle fixed-pose fashion dolls of haunting and unique beauty. This was just at the dawn of the articulation movement, which made for some lovely posing – however, with every joint you add, you remove an element of beauty to the lines of the human form. His dolls were true to that, making them display perfect…and ripe for photography. They sold well, but were highly limited. For all the dolls in the 16” movement following Gene Marshall in 1996, and before the rise of Tyler Wentworth in 1999 – Szekeres’ Elizabet (and sister, Kotalin) Bizelle were the most unique looking and styled fashion doll – featuring a body sculpt that was mesmerizing in its idealized beauty. The Bizelle Sisters beckoned to be re-fashioned into poseable ladies of exaggerated style and sumptuousness. Raising his own money over a decade would usher him closer to his dream – cash everything out, and make the sacrifice to make the molds.
TD: How many Elizabet and Kotalin dolls were originally made? How was the decision made to not continue with them…money, saturation…both?
JS: 840 dolls in total were made, spread out in 3 main editions, and 2 IDEX editions of 20 each.
The rise of articulation in the 16″ fashion doll world changed them from display dolls into play dolls for adults. My initial production was created within the means I could muster at that time, and also when articulation in 16″ dolls was established as limited, going full articulation was well beyond what I could afford. Just getting to my first and only USA IDEX (with my wonderfully supportive mother in tow) was a huge cost and big deal for me, and this is where I met you for the first time. It was heartbreaking to see my doll passed over because her articulation was limited. Collectors kindly complimented the sculpt, but saying on the boards, “I’d buy her if she was articulated” further depressed the issue. I wanted to say… If only you’d support her now, then in the future, full articulation would be possible, like Gene and Tyler’s eventual and (in Tyler’s case), gradual articulation. But once articulation took hold of the collectors’ focus, anything other than full articulation was seen as less-than. As a consequence, sales dropped, and that basically ended the line there.
Original 16″ Elizabet next to 22″prototype sculpt wearing lingerie by Doug James – The prototype was Sculpted in a larger scale for 3-D scanning and printing to preserve detail.
TD: Has it been difficult compromising body beauty for articulation? How did you resolve the marriage of the two?
JS: Once I saw the new articulation movement in both Resin and Hard Plastic dolls, I could see where it worked and where it didn’t. My engineer side of my brain took over and guided the sculpt. Having 13 years of 2D Disney animation behind me focusing on the Disney Princesses, gave me an appreciation and understanding of the flow of form and pose, which I brought into my sculpting. I wanted every body part to have grace not just in and of itself, but also in how it connected to each other… to ensure this sculpt was also sinuously tall, and elegantly graceful from head to toe, so the finished articulated sculpt would look whole, rather then an assembly of parts. I returned to my own 2003 established aesthetic and in 2006 started a sculpt of a new doll at 22″ so as not to be influenced by any other dolls or trends (which I brought with me to the 2007 New York Comiccon, and while there I got to show Madame Alexander in New York, but they already had their Alex doll, so weren’t interested, then I took the sculpt to Philadelphia showing Ed Ferry of “Happily Ever After” when attending his in-store doll club gathering). I shelved the unfinished sculpt (like Edward Scissorhands, she lacked hands), till I could afford to continue. Once I was ready to self finance, I revived and completed the sculpt in 2015. The factory got involved in early 2016 and the doll was resized down to fit into the 16″ world, where I got to see her for the first time at her final height size.
TD: Was it a decision to expand the diversity and story to add the two new characters – or was it necessary to break even on development/production costs?
JS: With the initial 22″ inch sculpt in SuperSculpy, Elizabet was the first head-sculpt in 2006, then in 2015, I retooled the Elizabet head-sculpt, and added Bindi, Lucille, with Kotalin as the last completed, thus rounding out this first line up. So I started with just the one head-sculpt, but once I started to seriously see that this could be realised, I expanded the head-sculpt range knowing that the minimum run would be 3000 units. As a collector myself, I knew 3000 of just one character would not be as interesting as four.
TD: You are using every resource in your savings and personal worth for these – isn’t it scary?
JS: Indeed it is. I know it’s a risk, but it’s not a fatuous one. As a career artist, I need to trust in what I create is to the best of my own ability and standards and the needs and standards of the paying client, and that hopefully will resonate with those people it’s targeted to reach. If I couldn’t do this, I wouldn’t have a job. This time around, my own collector self is that client. I feel if I can appeal to my own needs and wants with this new doll that I’m not currently finding in the 16″ Fashion Doll market, then I’m being true to my art, vision and voice, and hopefully that will resonate with the Fashion Doll collectors need and want, too.
TD: What are you eating now you are factory development poor?
JS: Hopefully, not my words.
TD: In all your sacrifices, is there something you miss more than others?
JS: Prior the the factory involvement, the body sculpt and additional heads took about 6-8 months to complete till I felt it was ready, for I knew it had to be as right as I understand that to be, because of the financial investment it would entail.
2016 working with the factory has been full time on this, earning not a cent while shelling out more money that I’ve ever seen move through my hands. Spread over the year working with the factory, I’ll have spent more then 6 months working directly on premises with the factory in China, so I have missed my partner Todd, my family, and close friends… who have all been so very supportive. I’m currently in China working with the factory, and will even miss Christmas 2016 and the 2017 New Year at home. But I’ve a new baby on board right now, and I’m heavy with that pregnancy and responsibility that this new life to be born must take first priority.
I’m working to complete the production samples, which will be followed by the official photography of the line, then the official launch! Estimated production times will mean release dates will fall in the 4th quarter of 2017.
TD: Few people understand what it’s like to put your life saving on the line for something of which you have tremendous passion. How would you explain this level of commitment to one of your collectors that may take plastic/vinyl for granted.
JS: I’d only ask them, if you like what an artist does, be that patron of the arts and the artist who’s work you want to see more of, and support their releases, so they can do more and create more for you to enjoy.
My commitment and passion for dolls and the creation of them drives me to want to do more. My hope with sales is that I can remove the financial burden over my home that I’m using as collateral to create these dolls, and have enough left over to live, eat and cover my bills and expenses, and hopefully earn enough to do it all again next year. I’d love this to be my job and career path from herein.
I’ve certainly not taken the creation of these dolls in plastic for granted, their expense to create them has driven that home. As a child looking at Barbie and the shameful knockoffs, I could see back then that a budget $10 plastic doll has the similar mold value as a collectable, but it’s usually the sculpt and engineering quality that separates whether one is cheap and the other is of value. I thought then… if only they had gotten a better sculptor…, and that fuelled my young mind with interest and the possibilities, to want to know more about how toys were made before they appeared magically finished at the toy store. I remember the Jem dolls of the 80’s, and never asked my mum to buy me one, because they just didn’t look as beautifully realised as their box art, even though the dolls themselves were well engineered. So Barbie remained my Fashion Doll of choice (thanks to my mother who would buy them for me, with Beauty Secrets Barbie being my favourite, as she had more mobility and poseability over her sister contemporaries).
To me, for a Fashion Doll, I’ve always felt that what was of greater value was the quality of the sculptural art coupled with top quality engineering, and not the medium that should be valued.
New and Original 2003 Comparisons
TD: Your original Bizelle sisters were in resin, making you a pioneer of resin casting in fashion dolls of our genre. How would you communicate your desire to see your art translated in a material that many see as ‘cheap’ or inferior to the wide-spread perceived value of resin?
JS: The original 2003 Bizelle sisters were in resin, only because that’s what I could afford, with not even a thought of pioneering anything. When on occasion the doll fell down the stairs or some other similar mishap occurred, my heart would jump in my throat till I saw what damage had been sustained. If I’d see that the doll had a broken finger or some other part. I’d glue it back, but it forever felt broken, no longer whole. It literally felt like damaged goods, almost repulsive, I’d then be reticent of touching it, fearing it’s structural integrity was compromised and it would break again. I want to enjoy my dolls, with quality sculpts, engineering and durability. I want my dolls to be beautiful on display, and resilient in play, and then stuff them in my backpack if I want her as a travel doll, and know that when I take her out.. with a flip of her hair, she’ll still be beautiful and whole. Plastic for me is the perfect medium to realise all of that.
TD: Why not begin them in 12”, instead…it’s a much larger market. Was this a personal passion for the scale – or a need to fill a huge gap in the 16” plastic/vinyl fashion doll world (compared to the rise of Gene and Tyler – who thought we would ever be asking this question?)?
JS: My passion has been with the 16″ dolls since Mel Odom introduced his glorious Gene Marshall doll in 1995. My thanks always goes out to Mel, for without his brave vision, there’d be no 16″ dolls in the wake of Gene’s creation for us to enjoy.
I do collect 12″ dolls, and love them, and maybe one day I’ll explore that scale as well. Though it’s a much larger market to explore and appeal to, I also think it’s saturated with product, by companies and producers with deep financial pockets to back them, and therefore a harder market to enter as a solo doll artist/producer.
Moving forward beyond this first year’s mainline release focussing on Stephen Moor’s designs, and then releasing a new GODs line with these sculpts, using my own fashion designs for the next year, I’d like to explore a new sculpt variant of the female GODs body, releasing that with its own range of new character head-sculpts. Beyond that, I’d like to start the new sculpt of my own male doll companion to my female GODs, as she’s as tall or taller then most of the 17″ male dolls already in the Fashion Doll market. My goal has always been to have a companion set of female and male fully articulated body sculpts that fit into the 16″ scale Fashion Doll world, that work together stylistically and aesthetically.
TD: The clothing is amazingly detailed…how are the prototypes varying from production samples – what can the collector expect?
JS: The history of the garment factory I’m working with is… impressive, as is their internal quality control. I will also be overseeing aspects of this production, and do my own quality control. The collector can expect to see garments created at the very best of market quality.
Now having established this fantastic working relationship with this garment factory, and seeing how beautifully they are realising Stephen Moor’s designs… I can see that they’ll be more then able to realise my own designs that will be the focus of the next future mainline release.
Wearing other makers’ 16″ doll clothing
TD: Your price points are much higher than the perceived standard of Tonner and Integrity hard plastic (and given how widely discounted they are, even more so) – but more on range in price, quality and appearance of Superdoll. How does price factor into your collection?
JS: As a start up, all the expenses are my own: the time I devoted to the Super Sculpy original 22″ sculpt and its eventual factory scanning, the 3D work to resize to 16″ scale, the physical 3D prototyping, the mold making, the face stencil mold making, the hair fibre purchases in various c.g, the flights to and from China, the accommodation and personal travel insurance. The cost to produce the entire run… Everything, the production costs included are way higher then I thought they would be. And add to that, its eventual shipping. All these things add up, and I don’t have corporate financial backing. I think for a start up solo creator of a line of vinyl/hard plastic new Fashion Dolls, and the quality delivered, USD$300 for a complete boxed 16″ doll is a pretty good deal, especially when I currently see this similar price point for 12″ dolls by independent Fashion Doll producers. So if collectors like what they see, and want to see more, then please do show your support in buying the product/s I’ve made.
TD: Staining from dyes onto vinyl is a reality – how are you addressing the issue?
JS: With plastic wraps where needed, protecting the vinyl.
TD: You’re including a certificate of authenticity…really? It’s an added cost…why not just let the markings on the doll suffice? Is there more to the certificate that a critic like me is missing?
JS: I personally have never cared for certificates to identify a dolls’ authenticity, nor taken much notice of the actual numbering of the dolls I’ve collected, because I’ve never intended to resell them once they’ve become mine. Some certificates I keep because they’re nicely designed, most get trashed with the box as space is limited these days. But I do know that some collectors do like them, and it is good to have on it information for clarity about the total number produced in the limited edition run.
The rollout of the first dolls will have many variants, satisfying collectors’ desires for exclusivity and diversity in tastes. We may even see a retailer exclusive, however, the first dolls will be available directly from GlamourOz, which I am certain will help the sculptor/maker with his rising cost risks associated with a hard plastic/vinyl doll; however, it will mean higher than normal shipping costs to the US – so don’t be surprised by this.
Given how retailers really aren’t fans of doll makers’ need to re-coup costs and increase market share, I’d rather see Szekeres continue to sell directly, thereby paying off his self-investment early and allowing him to expand the collection faster. Ultimately, it would be great to see him fond a sole US and/or European-based distributor (rather than a retailer who will just discount the product to stay competitive).
I am proud Szekeres agreed to let Tommydoll be the first news on this (and with rollout by friends at Fashion Doll Chronicles and Dutch Fashion Doll World Blogs – arguably, two of the best bloggers out there – two I invited, because I am just not that big to solely break this exciting news). It will be interesting to see if how he will strategize his introduction to the media and potential retailers willing to sell his product at full price, and not succumb to lazy discounting to move product – which means – oh, boohoo – ADVERTISING. It’s ok, Dears…you only have one magazine today to drop those ads in that will reach the right audience, but it will mean you will have to WORK for those profit dollars – vultures.
TD: Tell us more about your sales rollout – will it be pre-orders…dolls ready to ship…combo of both?
JS: It’ll probably be a combo of both, as their pre-sales will go straight to the factory to help offset some of the production costs. Last time around, I took no pre-orders, just notes of interest. And I’ve learned collectors can be fickle (as we all can be), and easily distracted unless they’ve made a financial commitment. There are commitments on both sides that need to be in place, respected and valued, for what they bring to each other.
TD: What is your plan to offset the high cost of shipping to places outside Australia?
JS: As a collector of mostly American Fashion Dolls, added shipping per doll is usually about USD$50 to $70 for each doll I purchase. So I understand that shipping will factor in price for some collectors. I will be looking into having a choice of delivery suppliers that may offer different delivery options and price points.
TD: Are you currently talking to any retailers with whom you may come to an exclusive distribution arrangement outside Australia?
JS: I’ve had discussions with a few retailers, but nothing conclusive about exclusive distribution arrangements. With the economy climate as it is, most retailers have said they’d want to see a demonstrated demand, before committing to a new doll line, which is a catch 22, and then only with orders in the low to mid 2 digit numbers. So my start up focus will be to sell direct from my online store.
TD: Tell us your concept of the ‘Basic Doll’…will there be one…or only dressed dolls and clothing?
JS: For the mainline of 8 dolls and 2 limited variants, all of them will be released as dressed dolls. I imagine a basic doll would be in either a swimsuit, lingerie or simple outfit, however there will be no basics or separate clothing this time around, that’ll have to wait to follow in the future. The gravy that comes after securing survival. Thankfully, the GlamourOz dolls wear most of the competitor garments with ease and comfort, even elevating them to a catwalk presentation. Catalogue models are beautiful, but do we remember their names? Supermodels are known by name! I like to see my girls as Catwalk Supermodels.
I could see as an extension of the mainline if there’s popular demand, releasing garment sets inspired by the fashion designs of Stephen Moor, or even future dressed dolls too… some of which will appear on the box art to celebrate his 60s fashions. They are all such amazing fashion designs, I’d love to honour his incredible work and see each of them realised eventually.
AS WOULD WE…
TD: What has been your biggest business challenge in developing a marketing plan with social media being the hungriest attention whores out there?
JS: Thankfully, I was accepted into the Australian government funded MTC NEIS program nearing the end of 2015, where I did a fully funded business course over a 6 week period, where I got the grounding information I’d need to launch and sustain my startup business and marketing strategies. The greatest asset of the NEIS program’s commitment to the startup businesses is to have a business mentor available for them for 12 months. It has been good to have someone with business knowledge to bounce off and share some of the hardships with, who can also offer real guidance.
I think the biggest marketing challenge thus far has been deciding when is the best time to release information, as I know new news gets stale quickly on the net these days, especially when the reader isn’t privy to the reasons why there may be delays or time slips. But now I feel is the right time, and with your extensive industry history and experience, and with the respect and wisdom that comes with that, you and your blog is the right person and place… Including your blog flow on partners.
TD: Are you going to have a ‘club’ (please say, ‘no’)?
JS: I’m a member of a couple company toy clubs, and I do love the ease of assuring certain releases, without having to chase them down. This helps greatly being an international member. And it’s also a place where brand loyal collectors can congregate and share their mutual love. So, knowing how company collector clubs have helped me,… I’m not opposed to it, but I’m not yet ready to set up one of my own just now.
TD: Hopes/Plans/Expectations for your first doll event?
JS: There’s a strong, but small Fashion Doll collector base in Australia, with me being one of these collectors. Most of the Fashion Dolls we collect seem to come from America, and we often feel our island country’s isolation, or distance from the main doll events. I hope to launch my dolls first to the Australian Fashion doll collector base, and grow it from there to an international audience. I’d love to see a yearly GODs Fashion Doll convention based in Australia to be added to the international must m-attend events.
In 2017, I’d like to attend the main Fashion Doll conventions in America, Europe, and other international locations, to introduce my new doll line, and meet the collectors.
JS: I’d love to meet and greet with collectors all over the world. So I’ll definitely make myself available to do so. Certainly it would be an honour to be the recipient of a funded convention or tour visit.
TD: Seriously, though…you must be scared – doll collectors are so fickle – you’re placing a great deal of risk in their confidence. I hope you also market to the Action Figure folks because of the ‘Spy’ storyline.
JS: I’m a Fashion Doll collector, so I know I can be fickle at times, too – a pretty new thing can certainly get my attention over an equally pretty older item, causing me to miss out on the older item and then have to seek it out as a more expensive grail item. But I’m also very brand loyal and supportive of those brands I love and collect. My hope is that my dolls and brand will attract its own loyal collectors, that will want what I do now and in the future.
Most action figure products are licensed pop culture, rather then original fare – like He-Man, She-Ra, Jem and Transformers – the toys are released concurrently with their own pop culture vehicle (in these cases, animated TV series) to anchor their products to. Most action figure collectors will buy an action figure, even a bad one, with a character they already recognise or have a pop culture connection with, over a well made action figure of a character they don’t yet know. What’s different about fashion dolls, that I love, is they can survive entirely on their own merits without an established pop culture reference. And the Fashion Doll collector thrives on discovering something new… A new story, new fashion, new face, new body, new characters. I’m sure there is some crossover, but they seem to come from different ends of the spectrum.
My two 2006 releases, “Woman in Red” Elizabet Bizelle, and “Birthday Bash” Kotalin Bizelle, were inspired by The Matrix film. Describing it thus to a fashion doll collector, they got the concept straight up… “Inspired by fashions”, and if they liked it, they bought it. But when these same dolls were placed in action figure stores, the action figure collectors there would ask “Who are they?” I’d say they’re fashion dolls inspired by The Matrix, and the collector’s response would be, “Nicely made, but if it’s not Trinity or a character or exact fashion I recognise from the film… then I’m not interested”. Lessons learnt.
TD: Plans for accessory sets…where will you go with this? Will there be guns?
JS: No plans as yet for accessory sets of this nature. But who knows what the future will bring.
TD: What is your direct message to the people who would just look at the doll and say, ‘It’s not my thing.’ Knowing it’s because it’s plastic, a fashion doll, 16”, or otherwise competes with one of their faves like Ellowyne, Gene, Superdoll, et al?
JS: I’ve never been a fan of big headed dolls, so I’ve never collected Ellowyne, but I have and still collect Tonner Fashion Dolls that I love that speak to my aesthetic. Gene is a Fashion Doll icon, in all her incarnations, and she holds a special place in my heart and collection. The Superdoll Sybarites are incomparably the Fashion Doll Divas, and always will be in the Fashion Doll world at large and within my own collection. The Fashion Royalty 16″ (FR16) dolls by Integrity Toys are my favourite body sculpt currently on the market. Some of my favourite and loved dolls that I own aren’t 16″ fashion dolls, but their aesthetic and fashion sense and quality of sculpt resonates with me, like the beautiful dolls by New Zealand doll creator Jan MacLean. And there are other dolls that I love and have yet purchased, but intend to in the future, like “First Love” male Fashion Dolls by Joey Versaw. I won’t stop collecting the dolls out there by other brands and creators I love and support just because I’ve created my own doll, and I don’t expect other collectors to do that either if they start collecting mine. There is room in the Fashion Doll world to love many brands. What I’m offering is a new doll and brand to love amongst your other established Fashion Doll loves.
As to the nay-sayers, and the haters of plastic, 16″, or Fashion Dolls… I’ve had friends tell me I’m wasting my time and talent, and that my dolls look no different from the pack. I’ve had these same friends tell me that my doll’s body is offensive to them, and that they’re just not even interested to know more…. A simple “good luck” from these friends would have sufficed. But I understand each persons’ personal path informs them of what is of value to them, and these friends are not my target audience, and will never see what I see or am trying to achieve. If I can take this from friends, I’m well prepared to take similar from strangers.
I’d rather invest my energy into impressing the supporting friends and collectors who love my dolls. As RuPaul has said, “I’m too busy loving the people who love me“.
I’ve created what I’ve wanted and needed in the Fashion Doll world that I felt was not there for me already as a collector. My hope is that others will resonate with that same want and need, whether it’s been there for a while, or newly discovered when they see my GlamourOz dolls for the first time.
If you’d like to know more, or be added to my mailing list, please contact me via my website: www.glamourozdolls.com
Thank you Jozef…for this opportunity to break out of my fall funk…and learn something new about the Bizelle Sisters. Just one last message – please, Dear…no more men. We just don’t need any more, thanks.
Well, not necessarily in that order…
With the recent sad news of Tonner basically evaporating in lieu of something totally unknown, and Integrity dropping 1:4 scale like a hot brick – all is not lost…
On Boxing Day 2016 (December 26, 2016) – you’ll be able to get a peek at a new 16″ Fashion Doll Collection – in…wait for it…NOT resin. Hard Plastic and vinyl, to be precise – with an extraordinary wardrobe of detail, flourish and sexy, dangerous style. Finally, someone has stepped up their game to fill the void with extraordinary, non-corporate-driven 16″ fashion dolls that will undoubtedly be worthy of Robert Tonner’s legacy as a sculptor, and fashion doll creator like no other…ever.
As most of my readers know by now…there are many types of fashion dolls – and you can learn more about them here. Born from a Creator of Goddesses – these new fashion dolls are art-driven. They feature a of hands-on art and manufacturing. The are not Heathers, and even ascend above the Doyennes because of superior articulation and diversity. It seems painfully appropriate they are GODs…
Time to get excited again, Puddings…you’ve been waiting for these ladies…