Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Method Behind My Madness a.k.a Why My Dolls Are Priced the Way They Are.

As far as doll pricing goes I make dolls priced in the middle range. Sometimes I wonder if I am setting myself up for failure. If I am pricing my dolls in the middle range do people think that the dolls are of a lesser quality than the higher priced dolls out there? I'm pretty sure that there are people that think that way. I also have a feeling that because I run sales (less often than I used to, but I do have them) people may also be thinking that the dolls are worth even less than what I normally charge. I thought it would be interesting to share why I price the way I do. There really is a method to my madness.
   First let me share some about the creation of the dolls. I have had people make comments that lead me to believe some people think making a doll is easy. Well it's not the most challenging thing I have ever done in my life but it's not the easiest. On average a doll takes between 6 and 12 hours to make and sometimes more. That's 6 and 12 actual hours, not playing online or doing other things hours. It also doesn't include all the time it takes to email back and forth, do any additional research, plan the doll, shop for supplies or anything else. That 6 to 12 hours is really just construction time.

The above doll was pretty fun to make. While she is not the most complex doll ever she was not one of the simplest. All of the silver swirls on her coat were hand painted without any patterns. Just the painting took a couple of hours. She was very interesting to make and the asymmetrical pattern was easier than mirror imaging (which I have a lot of trouble with still) but it still takes time, patience and a very tiny brush.

This doll was made in a very similar style to the black and silver doll. She has ultra suede chaps with no decorative edging, custom made ultra suede boots, a fancy top with asymmetrical swirls and Swarovski crystals. A bendy neck (I think, hard to tell in photos) and a new face. Plus her hat was custom painted to match her chaps. Western dolls like this take longer than the average hunt seat doll.
    But lets talk a bit about hunt seat dolls. The lady below has rebuilt soft-sculpted legs that are shorter than the factory dolls. Her legs fit better in most English saddles which makes the overall picture of doll and tack look better. But when I shorten the legs of a hunt seat doll I also shorten the doll at the waist. That means time with the dremmel and restringing the doll so they stay together. Again, not the hardest thing I have ever done but not the easiest. And it all takes time. The doll underneath the clothes takes longer and longer to make. I think the results are worth it as you will have a doll that looks more human, is more user friendly and just an overall better doll. I think the finished product is worth the prep work. And just to share, the prep work on a rebuilt hunt seat doll such as this also takes several hours. That's just rebuilding the body, not hairing the head, painting the face or redressing.
The dolls that I have been getting recently actually need a lot of work just to function as a show doll. Many of them have floppy legs, loose arms and crooked waists. Not to mention strange wide hips that make the finished doll look lumpy in strange places. I spend a lot of time with the dremmel, armature wire, medical tape, bandages and other assorted things (including dental floss) to improve the doll just enough to make a basic doll. It all takes time. And money, none of the rebuilding materials are free.

Remaking patterns takes time as well. I don't have to do it all the time but sometimes you really need to just rework a pattern to make it work. And to make things that look like they do in the real world. If I had a Shrink ray like Dr.Gru (Despicable Me) I would totally use it. But then I would have to pay more for materials so maybe that wouldn't be a good idea... anyway, shrinking a pattern down to 1:9 scale doesn't just happen. Sometimes you have to create things from other patterns or just out of trial and error. There is actually a lot of trial and error in pattern making. As an example I have used at least 3 different boot patterns since I started making leather (and ultra suede) boots. I have redone my shirt patterns at least as many times. Pants patterns, chaps patterns and anything else I have made probably isn't the same as it used to be. Improving takes time as well.
So far I have talked about a lot of reasons why the dolls cost as much as they do but not why they don't cost more. Well that reasoning is simple. I don't want to make it so only a few people can afford to own and enjoy hobby dolls. I think dolls add a wonderful amount of realism to a model horse set-up and I want to make it easier for more people to have them. And to help the hobby in that way I am willing to make less on my dolls. Because after cost of materials, time taken to research and make the dolls, time taken to improve the way I make dolls and taxes (yes, I pay taxes, LOTS of taxes) I really don't make very much per hour. But I do get to stay home and raise my own kids and I get to make dolls that are priced in the middle range that are high quality, realistic and easy to use. I try to make it possible for people to afford my dolls. Sometimes I take trades I don't necessarily want (not often, but it has happened) I take time payment if needed and I do run sales. If that leads people to believe that my dolls aren't worth the cost...then they are welcome to not buy from me. I enjoy making dolls that people can afford without making them compromise on quality. When I say I am always working to improve the ease of use, realism and so on, I really do mean it. I enjoy making dolls and I enjoy the excited emails from customers telling me of the recent wins they had using my dolls. Whether it is a small local show, NAN or just people playing on their kitchen table, if I can make people happy with my work, it makes me happy too.