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.