Saturday, January 18, 2020

Entry now Closed

Wow, such a huge response!!! I wasn't expecting so many people to want to take part! Over 60 replies so I am closing the call for members now and hopefully once we all manage to establish contact and get the fact sheets out, the 2020 Cult of Doll Challenge will begin! :o)

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Want to take a creative challenge to start the new decade?

This time the Cult of Doll Challenge is also open to writers, artists and illustrators. It will begin at the end of January with all the entries being exhibited at the end of October 2020. So that's pretty much 9 months for you to give birth to your challenge entry! If you want to take part I will need your email address and you can also join the rest of the Cult members over at our private facebook group to chat things over and share ideas:

Sunday, December 8, 2019

On the difference between making dolls, collecting dolls, and unhealthy obsessions

I doubt anyone reads my blog anymore, even I forget it's here for months on end BUT it's a good place to write things out of my head. Somehow, once ideas (even recurring ones like this) are out in black and white they make more sense... and of course, I can refer back to them whenever I start to feel myself slipping back into old ways. I guess this is a declaration of intent!

So, I was once a maker of dolls. I loved making them. They provided an added dimension of satisfaction to painting and drawing, bringing more calm to my often rather anxious life.  I was always learning new skills and my doll making was slowly improving with each new batch. I loved working on them - perhaps not every day - but I always had projects on the go and returned to them once or twice a week. I didn't really look at other doll makers work that often and when I did, my admiration never affected how I felt about my own efforts. I was happy.

Then I began collecting dolls. At first it was just little cheap Mary Quant Daisy Dolls on ebay. I'd had them as a child and it was a nice little controllable slice of nostalgia for someone who doesn't like to think about their childhood that much. You see when I was a little girl I spent most of my time with my 2 cousins. They lived a few streets away and we were very close in age, we played with dolls and even shared them. We were happy, but at some point, when I was around 7 or 8, that ended. They were very abruptly taken into care, snatched away from their home, their family and everyone they knew in the night (quite literally).  Their house, where we had played so happily with our shared dolls, had burned down. Some of our toys were simply gone, just like my cousins, but some were charred and haunting. I did not really understand what had happened to my cousins. The grown ups never wanted to talk about them and so in my imagination they had gone the way of those poor charred dolls. I became very fearful of just about everything, very mistrusting. It was like the ground beneath my feet could open up any time and swallow everything I knew. I didn't see my cousins again for several years and even when they came for brief visits, nothing was ever the same for us. We no longer shared and we no longer played with dolls at all.  So I guess you don't need a fancy-pants degree in psychology to understand that my obsession with dolls runs pretty deep.

So, some years ago my simple doll making pleasure was giving way to "collecting". I would waste hours on ebay and doll forums, poring over pictures of Asian BJD, convincing myself that I needed to study them to become a better doll maker. I so wanted to improve but now my own attempts began to frustrate me. I was directly comparing my own "skill" at doll making with those BJD artists and began to feel really bad about myself. Something that had been such a wonderfully positive hobby was becoming just one more thing that I was "not good enough" at, and I already had so many of those in my life! I have always felt that I am not good enough at so many varied things including just being me. I would occasionally still spend ages sculpting hands and faces, absorbed once more by the process, only to find them sat on the desk next day, mocking me with their wilful misshapenness. Doll making was making me rather unhappy by that point. So I stopped.

Collecting took over and became a kind of obsession. I rarely enjoyed the dolls once I had them, and began to spend less and less time customising them, which is the whole point of BJDs after all. Once I had a certain sculpt it would wait months to be given a face or for me to make a wig or some clothes for it. Eventually I would feel really bad every time I looked at the unfinished doll and have this deep need to sell it, swearing each time that I would not buy another doll once it was gone. There was a point maybe 2 years ago where I managed to wrestle control and had just one very beautiful BJD, A Dollstown 18 Soi with a fullset by Val Zeitler. Of course I eventually sold her to afford more dolls.... can you see the wheels turning yet? The whole cycle started over again. Somehow hunting for a new doll to buy had actually become the hobby instead of customising them. It is definitely obsessive but even knowing that doesn't seem to give me control over it.

I guess you could say it's a form of compulsive spending, but I am not really spending beyond my means... mostly! I often use needing the money for something or other as an excuse when I simply feel compelled to get rid of a particular doll. The selling is almost as compulsive as the buying, I simply need them gone. This hobby is way too expensive to not make a person happy and I have to stop this revolving door of dolls once and for all. I do adore my little 2 headed Popovy, I have made clothes for her so she has earned her place in my life, she will stay. I felt the same way about the PashaPasha and would have always kept her if I hadn't genuinely needed some very quick cash at that point (BJD are generally becoming very hard to sell on the secondary market, only a few very sought after dolls are guaranteed a quick sale) and will happily buy another Pasha to keep in the future.... but everything else needs to go for the sake of my sanity! I adore Dollstown but have had so many over the the last 10 years, had a lot of fun with them and will be happy to enjoy them vicariously through other collectors photos. I just need to feel in control again, so I just have to let them all go or this destructive cycle will never end. It exhausts me.

This is what I know really deep down: the BJDs need to empty out from the cabinet to make way for the new dolls I am beginning, tentatively, to make again. I am feeling quietly more secure. I am not interested in realism - I never was - so why did I ever unfavourably compare myself to incredible sculptors who can make perfect tiny replicas of the human form? What they create so beautifully was never what I was striving for in the first place. I need to become a maker again and end the collecting, because, for me, has become just another way of feeling bad about myself.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Just for C, seasonal Faceswap swap...

OK, some unlikely Rock 'n' Roll "mystery Lovechild" for C, who invented it but doesn't usually get to play :)

Who do you think the proud musical Mummy and Daddy were:

Travesty number 1:

Genetic No-no Number 2:

Mad Hatter, Number 3!

The Beautiful People! Number 4

Let me know if you want some clues :o)

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Time to get off the roller-coaster

I enjoy being a freelance designer... well, I must do - because I've been doing it for the best part of my career. Not that it's always out of choice, it's just the way a lot of companies decided to employ designers, on an "as we need you" basis. It works well if the freelancer has a few regular clients and juggles their time between them, usually having more than enough work to keep them busy, but not so much that they are swamped. I have definitely been lucky that way. Sometimes there are lulls and sometimes clients just disappear. The roller-coaster rhythm of freelancing. A few clients have asked me to come and work for them full-time in the last 15 years, but it has meant yet another relocation to a part of the country (or world!) and I did enough of that in my younger days to last several lifetimes, so, no thanks, not anymore. I am settled, just unfortunately in a part of the country that doesn't offer many job opportunities for someone like me! Sometimes sadly, a regular client goes bust, or your best contact moves on or even retires. Sometimes, your old contact needs your design services at the new company.... but you always need to be on the look out for new contacts, always balancing the stress of having too much work with the icy panic of having too little. Freelancing has always been something you need a certain temperament to do, there are no guarantees. So, I am good at freelancing, and I enjoy it.

I used to enjoy it a lot more than I do now, to be frank. It used to be a LOT less stressful. The only materials I needed were layout pads and a ready supply of pens and magic markers! If there was no work, I didn't have any overheads to worry about other than my personal ones. Now I have to keep an up to the minute Apple Mac (and various back-up hard-drives) running the latest full Adobe software and I also have to know how all of it works to a reasonable level because I am pretty much my own IT department. All of this got a lot more expensive when greedy Adobe demanded you pay them a monthly fee to 'access' their software.... no more economising by running on older discs. So, now it costs a fortune to sit around with no work. I also used to have the luxury of a huge calendar on the wall and all my deadlines were inked in and carefully juggled so that everyone got their work on time and I got to have evenings and weekends - sometimes - even days off. Then all of that changed, the very technology that made it so convenient to work from home also imprisoned me. It took away the need for pre-planning as far as clients were concerned. Pretty much every job a freelancer is now offered has the same deadline:ASAP. If everything you are offered is needed 'as soon as possible', you could be forgiven for imagining that would make juggling the work easier, but the reverse is true in practice. It has also become the norm for clients to ring the morning a considerable amount of work is needed for an afternoon deadline. No checking that you are available because that is a given... I am never far from my Mac, how could I be? So, these days I am juggling the demands of people on several continents with differing timelines and everything has simply become a great deal more stressful. I wonder if I actually enjoy freelancing at all, anymore?

Do I really 'enjoy' the freedom of working in my pyjamas? The reality of that is sometimes waking up to the sound of a client on the phone and the first time you get a chance to comb your hair or even go to the loo is when the job is emailed off at 1.30pm? Do I really enjoy my only face to face contact with another human being on many days, actually being the Postman? I never turn on the Skype camera because often my tiny back bedroom/studio is such a mess and it's occupant even messier looking. Why make an effort when no-one ever sees me? Then there is the constant cycle of worrying about doing paperwork. That has never been my strong point; keeping up with invoicing, chasing payments, book keeping, filling out Tax Returns, making sure I meet those six monthly Tax payment deadlines. There are definite bonuses to being self-employed and working from home.... but more and more I wonder how much longer I can go on this way. I often feel isolated and harassed these days. I no longer enjoy freelancing.

There, I have said it. "Said" it in black and white. I don't even know if I will publish this, but I need to see those words written down.


I wrote all of the above a few months back, just for the release of writing out what I was feeling. Between then and now something unexpected happened. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I was offered a great full-time job with a local (ish) company and even more unexpectedly, I accepted. I will be starting a full-time design job in the New Year! The last time I worked for anyone but myself was way back at the very beginning of THIS Millennium!!!

It will take a bit of mental adjustment... I doubt they will welcome me rolling up for work in my pyjamas, for instance... but it is beginning to sink in, that it will bring stability back into my life. Something that has been missing for so long. Routine, 9-5.30 with weekends, able to make plans with friends, take holidays that I don't have to constantly push off into some never-never fantasy future - because I can never turn freelance work down (just in case they find someone else to do it!). In the last 18 months I have had regular dreams that I die at my desk.... alone in this little untidy house where no-one will come to find me for weeks because friends and family are so used to me having to break engagements (I'm sorry, there is this rush job I HAVE to do). Another rush job, another broken arrangement. Sometimes things happen for a reason and sometimes things change at the best possible time. Serendipity. If I were superstitious I would point to my winning that sweet little Tarot reading doll from Pantovola - the first time I have ever won anything - perhaps she dealt me a less isolated future? :o) Wish me luck

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Return of the Vampire Showgirls!

Irmalene the Vampire Showgirl (and her fellow chorus line) have been on a prolonged Hiatus thanks to my Printers stubborn refusal to print out onto quality art paper or card. It meant that my etsy shop had nothing in it for a long time and was also closed for a while. The paper dolls are fun for me to make and also keep a presence on etsy in the long, long months when I am not able to work on physical dolls, so that was quite a blow.

I decided to prepare the artwork for download and so needed to simplify the doll outlines, as I used to hand cut them all myself with a scalpel. So as I was reworking them I also changed the colours and tweaked some details. Here is Irmalene #2, all ready and waiting to be downloaded and assembled in my etsy shop.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Halloween around the corner

The days are tumbling by toward Winter now at an alarming rate. Yet I look at the calendar in disbelief - it's as if someone tilted the box of my year slightly and now we are sliding back down the snowy end with not much to cling on to. It's oddly warm and humid all day until the early evening chill when the sun goes down prompts me to turn on the central heating.... only to lead to panicky window openings and midnight standing in the garden to "cool down" later on! My bedroom is too warm for sleep and yet a chill breeze through the wide open window always finds my right hip before the dawn chases it away again. My hip - never felt that creakiness in my hip before. I'm sliding toward Winter in more ways than one.

The imagined "Time to create" never materialised over Spring and Summer and so Halloween is almost upon us and I have little new to put in my etsy shop. Searching through my old Paper dolls I decided to recolour them, tweak them and make them available again as downloads and "Ludmilla & the Raven" is the fist to be finished... hope you like her :o)