Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Adventures With Barbie

I make dolls. I have been sneered at for that, looked down on and treated like a clever child. I have also been praised for my talents, impressed people, helped people win at horse shows and managed to help support my family while still staying home and raising my own kids. The people that scoff don't phase me really. When I hear "you make DOLLS?" (as if dolls was a dirty word) I just smile and say yes, that's what I do. It seems the general public believes that doll making is just a cute hobby. Which it is. I enjoy my job which is amazing since most people these days just work because they have to. I get to play. Sometimes just with my dolls and horses and sometimes with other people. I have a good job.
Recently though I have realized that the model horse hobby is really a very small community. I have always known that but it came front and center in my brain a little over a month ago. And as small as the model horse community is the portion that uses dolls is even smaller. Some people are terrified of using dolls (and actually some people are just afraid of the dolls themselves from what I hear). So that really leaves my potential client base even smaller. So what happens when no one is buying hobby dolls? I can't pay my bills and I worry about money (like regular people). THAT'S not fun in any way. So I run sales in the bad months and do what I can to get by until show season rolls around and people get excited about buying dolls again.
BUT, hobby dolls are not the only kinds of dolls out there. Hmm...
For about a year I have been thinking of dressing Barbie dolls. Just for myself, as I happen to love Barbie and I love fancy clothes and accessories. And it occurred to me that there are also Barbie collectors all over the world. So I decided I would start making OOAK Barbie dolls and selling them as well. It's still a doll after all.
This is my first OOAK Barbie. Her name is Nadia and she is a bride in a pink dress. Or she could be a lady in an evening gown (the veil is removable) but her boots didn't seem like something that a lady would wear with an evening dress so she is a bride.

Her boots happened because I wanted to see if I could make them. It turns out I can. They were made of white lambskin with petite tooling calf for the soles and heels. They were very carefully laced up with silver thread. Not too bad for a first attempt I don't think. Most of the outfit just sort of came together. I didn't have much of a plan. I altered the pattern for the dress as I worked and added things where I thought they needed to be. Making this doll was actually really freeing after having to stay in the guidelines of rider dolls for so many years. Nadia is currently for sale for $75 though I am willing to negotiate.
This next project was a sculpted head. I have sculpted heads before but most of them have not turned out well enough for me to want to finish them. I thought this one was nice enough to paint and hair. I may even get her a body at some point. I was impressed that she does actually look like a woman (I have been trying and usually end up with woman that look like men) and is actually 1:6 scale. She may get an obitsu body some day and be one of my models. Or just be part of my growing eclectic collection of stuff.
My second OOAK Barbie is Nikki. She is a biker doll and I had a lot of fun with her. Her entire outfit was made from genuine pigskin leather and detailed by hand. I must say, making fitted leather pants for Barbie isn't an easy task! I had to make the pattern (the one I had was for almost pajama-like pants) and alter it several times to make it work. After 4 or 5 tries I finally had fitted leather pants. The jacket pattern was also custom made from pieces of a shirt pattern and some trial and error (I only had to make that one twice). The design of the jacket was loosely following a real fringed jacket design. Some of it was my own creation.The conchos on the back were my husband's idea. As was all the turquoise in the jewelry. The leather hair band was Ethan's idea as well. All in all I think Nikki turned out well. She is also for sale for $75 with her price being negotiable.

Next I was thinking of making a woman in a Victorian dress but the curls for her hair are still something I need to work out so she got skipped over to make this Vegas showgirl, Sasha. There was no sewing involved with this doll but she was a lot of fun to make. I started with the same white lambskin used for Nadia's boots and wet and stretched it to make the bra top and head cover. Waiting for the leather to dry was the hardest part I think! Then there was the slow process of painting on the pink and silver stripes and circles with dimensional fabric paint and setting swarovski crystals in the paint while it was still wet. She took awhile and some funny things had to be done to her headpiece to make it stand up but I think she came out well. Her shoes were regular Barbie shoes that I added a couple of straps to and some glitter paint to make them more interesting. I think she makes a great showgirl. Sasha is also for sale for $75, price negotiable.
To get started on the Victorian dress idea I figured I would test out a new pattern. But I didn't want to commit to permanent clothing until I was sure I liked the design so I decided to make this dress removable. It is a prototype and does have a few flaws (and it needs to be ironed) but the design isn't terrible. I have more of an idea of what I want to change to make the dress I am thinking of. This dress is also for sale, but being a non-perfect prototype it is only $10. Yes, that is also negotiable.
The beaded jewelry is separate and sold together (necklace and bracelet) for $5.
Part of my Barbie selling idea is leaning towards finding high-end craft fairs and getting a booth. But not everyone wants to (or can afford to) buy a whole OOAK doll. But some people LOVE buying new clothes for their dolls. This velvet party dress is another prototype and was actually a test of an idea to make a lined dress. The lining worked out well but I don't love the fit of the dress. It is finished however and for sale for $3. Keep in mind it is a non-perfect prototype.
Anyway, to sum up, my adventures with Barbie have started off well. I already know how to reroot so I am working on learning to do facial repaints. That will also be helpful for Breyer dolls as many people like new faces. Working with the Barbie dolls is very fun and easy and intimidating all at the same time. With no guidelines of what I can or can't do to make the finished doll the possibilities are endless. Which means sometimes I have no idea where to start.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

What do you get when a Nor'easter hits in October?

Besides this one cool photo....
...The iced swingset...
...a messy street (yup, that's a tree in the road)...
...a very bent tree...
...a buried car...
....this is my side yard...

...that's Ethan's truck under there...

That is our miraculously unharmed brand new shed.
So the answer to the question is...when a Nor'easter comes through in the fall and dumps 12"+ of heavy wet snow on trees that still have lots of leaves it makes for a big mess and a huge power outage in about half the state. We were only out of power for about a day (no Internet until 4 days later) but my parents are on day 4 with no power. And the mess will take a long time to clean up.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Weekend show report NEPC 2011

This past weekend I attended the New England Performance Challenge (NEPC) in Spencer, MA. I am a slacker and have not managed to get my show report done in a timely manner. But here we go.

This is the only OF entry I brought for the day. It is my side saddle strapless dressed in a saddle I believe by Jennifer Buxton (I can't really see it in the photo and can't remember what I dressed her in...) with a bridle made by Lauren Islip. I made the halter, sidepull reins and leadrope. The dolls were all made by me and the little boy riding is my Travis doll made to look a bit like my son. I have been doing this therapeutic riding entry since I started performance showing and have improved on it over time. The horse, Lady Intrigue, is working on a superior event horse award from NAMSHA. She is only about 1 or 2 cards away after her second place win last weekend.

This first entry in the custom division is Highwayman, my Ikantu resin painted by Angelica Nelson. He is wearing a GORGEOUS Native American costume but I have no idea who made it. The doll was sculpted by Joan Yount and her clothing was made by me. I will be remaking it as soon as I find thinner suede to work with. This was Highwayman's first performance show and we started it off with first place!

The next class in the costume/other division was other costume. Highwayman thought he would try out this cute Harry Potter costume. Though when competing against horses wearing gorgeous parade tack and very well done historical costumes he couldn't get higher than 5th. He seemed to enjoy his costume all the same. The costume was made by me.The next class we competed in was showmanship. Highwayman came back with a good showing for first place. The show halter was one I made (in the car, during my daughter's piano lesson, for another horse at a different show, lol) and the dolls are mine as well.

The last class Highwayman competed in was other performance where he was in an auction scene that I forgot to take a photo of. He got 4th in that class. He didn't get any champs but that's OK. He had a really great first show.

Next up was Enchanted Eve in the CM English division. Enchanted Eve is my lovely Victrix resin also painted by Angelica Nelson. Her tack is by Jennifer Buxton and her doll was made by me. Her first class was other English where I threw together a riding lesson scene. I knew I wasn't doing something right when I set it up but WHAT exactly was wrong was eluding me. The note from the judge said "have the instructor hold the reins please" and then it clicked, when riding backwards it's only safe if someone is holding your horse, lol. I originally intended to have the riding just mounting but Enchanted Eve is so tall and I don't have a mounting block. Next time either I get/make a block or the instructor remembers to hold those reins! Obviously I forgot to take a photo :(
The next class was this natural trail entry. I have only ever set this up for a western horse and couldn't for the life of me figure out what to do. So I asked some other showers and they said the doll should be holding the reins. It makes picking up trash harder but at least she won't lose her horse in the woods. This entry (like my other English entry) got 5th place.
The next class for Enchanted Eve was Arena trail. She made up for her poor start with 2nd place.
Enchanted Eve next showed in dressage doing a salute. I am so annoyed with myself for forgetting that photo. I have been working on getting that set-up just right (with a different horse but still...) and we got 2nd place. And I didn't even get a photo!
After dressage was English pleasure and Enchanted Eve got third in that class. All of that together was enough for CM reserve English champion! Not bad for her first time showing.

Next up was the CM Western division. I had a good time with this division. The first class up was roping. I did a lot of studying on roping in the weeks leading up to the show. I learned a lot and I am still not sure if everything is perfect. But it was good enough for second place. The horse is my Matriarch resin, Flash in the Sky, painted by Joan Yount. I have no idea who made the tack but I have had a lot of people offer to buy it from me. The cowboy is a new bendy one I made.The next class in my western line-up was speed games. It's not easy to get a standing horse into a speed game class so I did a housewife scurry set-up. The judge told me that the kid (who is my new Elecktra doll made to look something like my daughter) would still be moving pretty quickly even while doing a pick-up. Maybe she's a novice...my documentation will have to say something about that. Even though they weren't moving they still got 3rd.

Next up was CM non-speed games. And this one got me really excited. As soon as I saw the placing I said I couldn't wait to tell Jennifer Buxton about it! The set-up is the 2 barrels and a pole game with photo reference and description directly from Jennifer's blog. The judge had never seen this before. Ever. A whole bunch of us got to talking about Jen's blog and how great it is for ideas, tips and so much more. Thanks Jen for a super, first place idea!Our next western entry was natural trail. The doll was made by me and was one of the first casual dolls I ever made. I did the picking up trash entry again and it really is easier in western tack. And good enough for third place.

Next was arena trail. The doll was made for me by Joan Yount and the poles were part of a set made by Marci Driscol. I made the flowers to match the jump the poles go with. The scene was worth 3rd.For other western I decided to do an extreme cowboy entry. This was actually the reason I made myself a bendy cowboy doll. I couldn't get him bent down quite far enough to actually be taking the ball off the cone but it's in his hand. And the judge thought it was pretty cool as well.
Flash in the sky also did western pleasure stock type and received 3rd place. All in all it was worth CM reserve western champion. I really worked harder on my set-ups this time around and it paid off.

As my last entry of the day I entered Enchanted Eve in western pleasure other type. Just to see how she would do. She managed to get 2nd place. She is wearing a pretty bridle, a saddle pad that I got with a bargain saddle, a working western saddle made by Jennifer Buxton and a doll I made. After she got her second place win I pointed out to anyone who was close enough to talk to that she won her class with a working saddle. Proving it isn't always bling that wins in western pleasure. Since I started showing I have almost exclusively shown in OF performance. With the exception of my therapeutic riding entry this show was all CM performance for me. While the competition is fierce in any performance ring in region X it is even more fierce in custom. The entries have to be even more perfect to do well. So I was very pleased that my hard work and attention to detail paid off.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Making dolls look less like dolls

Dolls will always be dolls and there really is no way around that. We can repaint their faces and add new hair and custom made, fitted clothes, but they will always be dolls. The dolls I make start out as toys and then I change them until they look less like dolls and are less like toys. Because that's all we can hope for. But what do we do to make the dolls look less like dolls? And what do I really mean by that?These first 2 dolls were made fairly recently. One in July and one last week. Both have padding added on their rear ends so they sit well, both have new hair and both have custom made clothes. However the doll on the right also has padding added to her waste. She still looks like a very thin lady but she also looks more human.
You can really see the difference from the back. The doll on the left has a sort of pinched waste and the doll on the right looks like a person. If you are not completely familiar with dolls you may even need to look twice to see that the doll on the right is in fact a doll. But the photos were taken in the same spot in my yard and from the same angles (lucky for me I always take certain angles). My newer dolls also have a few other standard body upgrades but they were discussed in a previous post. Changing the base doll takes time but the results I think are well worth it.

Now making dolls look more like real human beings is only part of what I meant by "making dolls look less like dolls". My best example of that is this group shot. Now a shot like this is actually very hard to get and takes a lot of time. But since I have used this as my website header, my blog header, on my business cards, gift certificates and so on, I thought it was worth the effort. It took hours to get this photo to look like this. With this many dolls there were so many opportunities for something to look like a doll. So I took bunches of photos, uploaded them, studies what needed to be fixed, fixed it, took more photos and so on. Hours. And then if the dolls in the back row fell over (which they did a few times, lol!) I had to start that section over again. The cowboy in red still looks sort of doll-like but most everyone else looks more like a person. The pink western doll on the far left is whispering something to the youth doll. The ladies in front are leaning in to cuddle with my "Travis" doll. Just a few things real people might be doing in a group photo.
After the photos were uploaded, and I could clearly see all the details, I would adjust the dolls to make them look less like dolls. If they had a shiny spot on their face I would move them so the flash wouldn't hit them in the same way. If they looked stiff and unnatural in their chairs I would bend them a bit more so they looked like they were actually sitting comfortably in the chairs. It took a lot of time but it was fun as well.

Then their is the "doll love" photo, also from the last post. Dolls don't really want to sit on picnic tables, even if the tables are in 1:9 scale. So I had to bend them and squish them to make them sit there. And then the cowboy was a bit reluctant to hold onto his sweetheart. He kept popping off the table! I didn't go inside to upload the photos to study them but did enlarge them on my camera display. When the dolls looked as if they were staring vacantly off into space I would adjust the angle of their heads or the angle I took the photo from. This photo was nice but...

...this was my favorite. I also noticed that the guy looked like he was hovering off the table so a little more cropping and voila! The dolls look less like dolls and more like a couple enjoying a romantic moment. And from the angle I took the photo it looks like the lady is looking into her man's eyes. In fact her head is turned very far to the left. It is physically possible (I tried it) but it's not comfortable. In the photo it looks natural and sweet.
Now setting up dolls in date scenes and group shots is probably totally pointless for most people but attention to details like how a doll is sitting and where your doll is looking can really help you in the show ring. If your doll is vaguely looking off in the opposite direction as your horse is moving, it will look like a doll. But if you have the doll focused on the same area the horse is headed, it will look less like a doll. Which is all we can hope for ☺.

Friday, September 16, 2011

New dolls

I realized this morning that I have not done a blog post in several months. Part of it was lack of cool photos (because photos in blog posts make everything more fun) part of it was the craziness of summer and part of it was I didn't have much to talk about. I was thinking about the newer dolls I have done recently though I wanted to share a bit. This first one I especially like. She has carved feet, a padded waste to make her more realistically shapes, her first finger on her left hand is split out from the others so she can hold the reins properly. She is just so much easier to use. I am really liking the body upgrades that are standard on my newer dolls.
This next doll is also really cool because she can do so much. For as long as I can remember hunt seat dolls could either do flat classes or over fences (in-flight) because a regular doll looks silly going over a jump. This doll got a body rebuild so she is able to do flat classes and then also get into a jump position and do over fences classes. She is great for almost any English class you can think of and very easy to use.
This next d0ll also has the new, standard body upgrades and is in an outfit that is currently trendy in the show ring. She has decorated chaps and a back zip OOAK silk shirt. She also got new make-up and a manicure.

This last photo I took to amuse myself. I had this pretty lady doll and this bendy cowboy and they wanted to hang out together at (on) the doll-sized picnic table. They look to me like they are enjoying a nice date on a beautiful summer day. What you can't see in the photo is this lady's diamond engagement ring! Doll love amuses me :)I guess the last new thing I should mention is the interview I did with Jeanne Grunert. Here is a link to the written article and here is the link to the photo article. I really enjoyed doing these and was very flattered to be asked.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Travis on show weekend

This could be a post weekend show report, but it's not. On Saturday I went to Factory Ponies Live held in Spencer, MA and on Sunday I went to NEMHC also held at the same hall in Spencer, MA. While I did actually show on both days I was more concerned with my son Travis. He came to the shows with me for the first time ever.
Bringing my son to a show might seem like no big deal but Travis still has limited communication, can get very silly and hyper and loves to run. Lucky for me there is also a very large chair closet that he was allowed to hang out in. Not only did we nickname it "The Cave" but there were stacks of chairs Travis could climb when Mom wasn't looking.

On Saturday we did take several breaks to go outside and run around. Travis has learned at school to stay within a defined boundary while running off steam so I told him to stay on the carpet of the covered porch and as long as I reminded him every now and then he listened and got to run and run. My daughter, Elecktra, also came to the shows with us and helped me keep an eye on Travis and they went out for running breaks together once I had defined the boundary. Travis looks like he's having a good time.
I thought that the second show day would be even harder for him but as soon as we came into the hall he went right into "The Cave" and asked for his blanket so he could hang out on the floor. Elecktra set up his chair couch (3 chairs next to each other that he liked to lounge on) and he was super calm all day and only wanted to take one running break. A good weekend all around.
Surprisingly even though I didn't pay as much attention to showing as I usually do and I got only OK placings in a lot of classes, I had enough points for Lady Liberty to earn Western Performance Champion and then Overall Performance Champion. So the weekend was great and I got some big rosettes. Good times.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Weekend show report CM performance

I am sort of impressed with myself. I managed to get the OF photos from Quabbin Valley uploaded and blogged about last night and this morning I have managed to get the CM photos uploaded as well. Yay for getting things done!
First up was the stock horse division. This is my Bold Endeavor resin, Cloud Dancing. He is wearing a saddle by Pam Perkins and the doll was dressed by me and has a sculpted head by Liesl Dalpe. Cloud Dancing only did 2 classes in the Stock horse division and they were other stock work where he got 5th with his team penning entry...

and non-competitive (ranch scenes) where he got 4th with this scene of moving the herd.
Up next was the western division and the doll was switched out for my casual doll. I had a natural trail entry but either I missed the photo or just can't find it. We got 3rd place with that entry.
Next was Arena trail and the doll was switched again, this time to the "me" doll made by Joan Yount. We got first place with this box entry.
Next was western games and I was so thrilled to finally do well with this 2 barrels and a pole game. The idea and reference photos were from Jennifer Buxton's blog. I would post a link but I can't ever find the right blog when I am looking for it. Anyway, the games entry got 1st place!
Next was the other western class and Cloud Dancing got 1st with his western riding entry.
Now we need to switch horses for a moment to talk about my new horse, Flash in the Sky. She is a Matriarch resin painted by Joan Yount, wearing a western set made by Jennifer Buxton a saddle pad I borrowed from my friend Linda White and my cheetah print parade doll. Perhaps it was the mixed, non-matching gear that did her in. Or perhaps I was not too careful with set-ups. And I just now realized why I couldn't find the natural trail entry for Cloud Dancing, it's because Flash in the Sky did that class, lol. For natural trail she got 3rd, for Arena trail she got 4th and for pleasure she got 6th. Not a great start to her show career but she is very pretty and will probably be a halter horse. And sooner or later she will have gear that matches and an owner that pays more attention to detail and then perhaps she will do better. I enjoyed looking at her all day anyway.
Now we need to switch back to Cloud Dancing who actually did very well in western pleasure getting 2nd place.
That was the end of the CM western division and Cloud Dancing received the championship!
The next section was the other performance section. First up was Showmanship which is one of my favorite classes (and yet I skipped it in OF...). Cloud Dancing got 1st place for his set-up
The next class in the other division was "scene". Cloud Dancing was in a bareback pony ride scene and that earned him 1st place as well.
next was generic performance and Cloud Dancing got second place with this auction set-up...
Which was enough to bump him up to Champion for the other performance section.
The next section was sport horse but Cloud Dancing only did one class and that was Dressage. He got third with this salute. The judge said she absolutely loved it and would have placed it higher but she likes to see the bridle numbers. I have one and forgot to put it on. I knew I forgot something.
The next section was the English performance division. The first class was games and Cloud Dancing is now wearing a tack set made by Lauren Islip, a saddle pad made by me and finally a doll I made as well. This tennis ball relay entry got 2nd place.
Next was the other English performance class and Cloud Dancing thought about doing therapeutic riding but I just didn't have time to fix the tack. So he did a riding lesson and got his OF friend, Lady Intrigue, to come and play as a prop horse. The hunt seat tack on Lady Intrigue was made by Jennifer Buxton, the hunt seat doll and casual doll in the flowered shirt were made by Joan Yount and the casual doll in the blue sweater was made by me.
Cloud Dancing's natural trail entry "out for a walk with the dogs" got him 2nd place.
I borrowed this gate from a new show friend, Jenna (can't remember her last name) and Cloud Dancing got 1st place with his arena trail entry.
All together it was worth champion in CM English
Last was the CM costume division. First up was Native American costume. I absolutely adore this new set of mine (still don't know who made it) and Cloud Dancing looked very nice in it. The judge thought so too, she gave it 1st place.
I had a parade entry for Cloud Dancing but didn't manage to get a photo. It was sort of like cheating anyway since there was only the one entry in the class AND I could not get the bridle to fit because his head is bigger than Skippa Latte's (my OF Breyer Partygirl). I put down a card that said it was bridless parade. I don't think that would fly in real life. Maybe in an arena class, who knows.
The last class of the day for me was the CM other costume class. Cloud Dancing went in again this time dressed as Harry Potter. He got first and then moved onto get champion of the CM costume division. All in all it was a very fun day.
To top off the excitement of awards for the day Cloud Dancing managed to get enough cards to round out his numbers of cards for his NAMHSA performance versatility award. I wrote to the merit award coordinator and asked if he would actually be eligible for the award having earned all the cards he needed (plus some extra) in just 2 shows. The MAC said that there was no rule saying how many shows you needed to enter, just that only 2 cards per class per show could be used. She also said she looked forward to seeing the horse that earned the PV award in only 2 shows as she also likes horses that can do it all. But now Cloud Dancing needs a new goal :)