Monday, April 29, 2013

Brenda VS Yvonne

 I realize that some people have an issue with nudity even if it is just in a toy human (*ask* a doll). So the cautionary message above will show up instead of a nude doll photo if you are a subscriber.
Welcome to the first ever (that I am aware of) head-to-head competition between the Breyer female rider dolls and the new Zica humanoid doll Yvonne. We'll call the Breyer doll Brenda (as that was her name for awhile) just so we can talk about them.
Here Brenda and Yvonne are meeting for the first time. It's always nice to start with a handshake.
 For the first round I am just comparing the height and the overall look of each doll. Yvonne is wearing the smallest size breasts that she comes with (she comes with 3 sizes) and the hands that are the most appropriate to ride (until I get out the heat gun and mess with another set...). Yvonne seems a little bit shorter than Brenda which will make a lot of hobbyists quite happy since Brenda is often out of scale depending on which horse she is riding.Yvonne looks to have a more human looking waist and thighs that seem to be a bit shorter. Maybe they won't need to be shortened to fit the saddles...

Oh, Yvonne also stands exceptionally well. Brenda takes a little work and holding your breath.
 For the second round We are seeing who can bend their head down further. Good for saluting in dressage, games and probably a whole bunch else. Brenda isn't very good at this.
 Round three is tilting the head back. Great for speed games and over fences. Probably Arab showmanship as well. Brenda doesn't seem to be good at this either. Yvonne is doing an OK job but could do it a bit better to be perfect I think.
 Round 4 is the bendy test. Brenda is trying hard but that is as far down as she can go. Again, breathing is not allowed because she will fall over. Yvonne seems to be exceptionally good at this challenge. Even with her arms flipped over backwards! (I noticed that after the photo shoot). Yvonne's knees and elbows do something weird in this extreme bend but it does allow her to get down further. Brenda still has normal looking (sort of) knees and elbows. I would say it's a tie but I like that Yvonne can bend so much without being rebuilt.
 Well now Yvonne is just showing off! Brenda has no chance at this one.
 Round 5 is sitting a horse. Brenda does that pretty well but she has to "hold on" or she will slide right off. She can do it though...
 ...I think Yvonne does it better. She doesn't need to "hold on" with her hands and can stay seated very easily on her horse. I imagine I could change her leg position as much as needed as well. Also take note, her knees look normal (I can can even switch it so her knee is on the lower pivot point and her thigh is shorter. It's pretty cool!)
 Hmm, I think she is showing off again
Brenda is a nice enough doll that can ride and with some body modifications she can sit nicely, look human and contribute to a win in the show ring. But that does take a lot of body work to get her there. The above Brenda has one of the nice, smaller factory heads (I really will miss them when I run out) but I think Yvonne's head and her features are more in scale with a real person. Yvonne looks cranky but I might be able to make her look more happy, or just serious, with a bit of a repaint. All in all I am incredibly impressed with the new Zica humanoid female doll. They can be ordered here. I will have to test one out dressed before I can give my opinion of a final verdict on the usefulness as a hobby doll but so far I like her a lot!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Getting Better

I'm still not happy with the fact that I HAVE to sculpt heads or be forced to use giant heads on my dolls. But I have a few face molds and am getting better at putting the faces together with a head and adding ears and so on. Adding ears is something I often forget to do. But if you happen to own and incredibly hot hair dryer (like I do) you can cook on a tiny ear if you forget to make one. Or if you realize the ears you put on in the first place are lopsided and you have to take one off and sculpt a new one. I'm still not ecstatic with these heads but they are certainly nicer than if I tried to just sculpt them (still can't sculpt lady faces) and I think they are much preferable to giant heads. I do now have a few giant heads if anyone is interested. I also still have some normal sized factory heads.
The fun thing about cast the faces and molding the heads onto them is that no head is ever going to be exactly like another. Just the process of taking the face out of the mold and smoothing the seem where you added the head is going to change things a bit. This lady below came out of the mold with a toothy smile. I gently closed up her mouth before baking and she looks very different. Differences in painting will also make each one unique. I don't like the fact that I HAVE to sculpt heads but I do like the variety.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Our wonderful worldwide hobby

Awhile back I discovered that Breyer has started producing their dolls with a larger head. I am not sure what possed them to do this but they have done it. At first I thought it was just the dressage doll. Then I found photo proof that it was also the show jumper doll and I knew we had a problem. On March 17th I wrote a blog post entitled Trouble that illustrated (with pictures) my fears. I have recently found out that not only is it the dressage doll and the show jumper doll but also the vet doll and soon the cowgirl doll that will have those big heads. I find that news very sad.
   Not only does it make my job as a doll maker harder but it leaves us showers in the hobby with limited options. We can deal with the large, unrealistic heads, we can make due with older dolls until they just can't be found anymore or we can use sculpted heads. Not everyone can sculpt and not everyone has access to someone who can sculpt for them. I am not an awesome sculptor but with the face push molds I can make a decent head that is properly in scale. With practice I imagine I will get better. I don't really enjoy doing it though. If I could find an in-scale face that I really liked perhaps I would find more joy in producing my own doll heads. I still wish I didn't have to.
   There may be a new option soon. A fairly new company, Zica toys, is now producing a 1:9 scale female doll and I am hoping to get mine in soon. I ordered awhile ago but the company is just the one man (he isn't doing the manufacturing) so I might have a bit of a wait until he gets caught up with all the initial orders. Once I get the doll I can test her out and see how she is as a hobby doll. I really hope she won't need much work as she is pricier than the Breyer dolls. But the Breyer dolls need A LOT of work to be really user friendly. I have high hopes that Yvonne will be the doll of the future. There is also rumor that individual doll parts may become available. If I could just buy some heads that might not be a bad option. Unfortunately it may also force me to raise my prices a little bit.
   Anyway, the part of this post that has to do with our wonderful worldwide hobby has been the support I have been receiving from different parts of the world. I did that post about the trouble with the new big heads on the Breyer dolls and have gotten comments and emails from many people that all agree, this is not a good idea and this is not something we want in a LSQ doll. Just today I got a message from a woman in Germany and then several hours later from a woman in Poland. It's so great to hear from people all over the world and to hear that people are reading my blog! It makes me want to come up with something to say.
   For whatever reason Breyer is convinced these bigger heads on the dolls are a good idea. I don't agree and I have not heard anyone else say that they agree. Perhaps people will stop buying them and Breyer will go back to smaller heads. Perhaps they don't care because they know people will keep on buying from them as they have for years. I don't really know for sure. I do know that I love the model horse hobby and I love being able to make dolls for the collectors. And I really appreciate the support of fellow hobbyists from all over the world.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Weekend show report Factory Ponies Live

This past Saturday I attended Factory Ponies Live in Spencer, MA. It is an all OF plastic show so it limited who I could bring to play with in performance. It also made things pretty easy. I decided to bring 2 horses that could do a multitude of things in English, Western and Other classes. I also brought Lady Intrigue for another try at that last NAN card she needed for her superior event horse award. It did both really well and really mediocre. But I got to show again and it's been a long time since I have really gotten to show in performance as I did so much judging last year.  I also got to play with some new things and that's always a good time.
   This first entry is Lady Liberty showing in calf roping. My silly cowboy forgot his hat in the box and I didn't notice until 3 classes later. The saddle was made by Pam Perkins and the bridle is a rare western bridle made by Jennifer Buxton. The cow is on long term loan from my friend Joan Fauteux.
The next entry Lady Liberty tried out was this team roping entry. I have known for years that this entry is flawed and have still not managed to talk myself into fixing it (hacking up a fence piece to make a proper gate). Cowboy still isn't wearing his hat. The cows are also on loan from Joan Fauteux but just for the show. The bridle is a Pam Perkins bridle and I have no clue who made those boots.
The next class was other western and cowboy finally got his hat! AND he got mangled into position. I can't remember if I made this doll so he could do this set-up or if I just randomly made myself a bendy cowboy and then found the photo. Either way, it's fun and it looks like the judge though so as well.
Other western was also the first class of the day for Just Because. She is wearing my other Pam Perkins western set. I should probably work up some documentation for my lead-line entry but that didn't happen for Saturday.
Next was western games and I again pulled out the two barrels and a pole game. The doll was made by Joan Yount and the documentation is from Jennifer Buxton's blog. I feel she needs credit here since I am pretty sure the documentation is what makes the judges like this game so much.
Just Because played in western games as well. Not as successfully however. She was playing musical stalls with some poles made for me by Joan Fauteux. The doll is was my 500th doll that I did end up keeping. She will not be riding this horse normally.
Just Because doing western trail. The poles are part of a jump made for me by Marci Driscoll. I made the flowers.
Lady Liberty had better luck in western trail.
In the end Lady Liberty ended up with champion in the western division. She's a good western horse.
Just Because started off the English division with this hunter entry. Here is a shot of the rest of the jump that Marci made me. The doll is my new youth doll. I plan on keeping this one. The tack is made by Jennifer Buxton. There was, as always, some really amazing jumping entries on the table.
Lady Liberty competed in English games with this rescue race entry. I think it was an excuse for me to use more dolls. It was REALLY hard getting the doll to stay on the barrel and not grab the rider inapropriatly. Lady's tack is also Braymere tack.
Just Because (and I) got lazy and didn't think up a different game for English games and did musical stalls again. It didn't work better the second time.
Funny enough Just Because did badly in English trail because I couldn't find the correct documentation. She is approaching the bridge as the documentation indicates, however it says she is jogging. Oops.
Lady Liberty however had correct documentation and did nicely with this gate entry. I should probably Thank Jennifer Buxton again here. While I didn't use her photos in my documentation I was mentally running them through my head to set this up correctly.
Just Because did this versatility challenge as her other English entry. This is almost the best she did all day. Though I think she did get second in western pleasure (Lady Liberty got first).
And look at that! Lady Intrigue came to the show to do this one class and she managed to get that last NAN card she needed! I have sent in the application to get her her Superior Event Horse award in therapeutic riding. And now that poor horse can retire. She has fallen of way too many show tables and it very dinged up. But she has been a very good show horse and has worked very hard for me. Now I will need to find some new things for my Travis doll to do.

In the End Just Because didn't do much of anything at the show except take up space and give the judge something else to look at. Lady Liberty however had a very good show day and not only received western champion but she then went on to get overall performance reserve champion. Not bad for a standing horse.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

things that amuse me and things that don't

This doll I made with the pink riding coat. She amuses me. She is currently for sale on MH$P. It won't amuse me if no one bothers to read my disclaimer and I get a whole bunch of emails telling me she's incorrect.
The disclaimer: I would like to put in the disclaimer now that I know that pink is not a traditional color for English riding coats. However I did extensive research as I really wanted to make a doll with a pink coat. I have seen photo proof that pink is allowed in dressage (black and other dark colors are still the norm) though I believe only at the lower levels. This color would also be allowed in the jumper ring. I have seen a couple of photos of pink coats in show jumping classes. One was connected to a blog post and said that the rider had received special permission to wear pink (and accessorise the horse in pink, paint the hooves pink, etc) as she was raising money for breast cancer research. If I was showing with this doll I would probably include a note saying that she was riding at a show to raise money for breast cancer research. I don't think you could get away with this doll in a hunter class as she is not in traditional colors. But I have seen proof for dressage and jumper, I make no claims beyond that :)
Also in the category of things that don't amuse me is the need to sculpt heads. As many of you know I am not a very good sculptor. I have managed to make a couple of decent heads but never a lady head. So I bought a push mold for faces and this one is OK I think. It's at least a ways ahead of a giant bobble-head.
This next face is from the same mold and I think she is maybe a bit better in some ways (I really like her lips though she looks very serious) but I may have to put some sort of finish on her cheeks. That one side seems to have almost a powdery finish and it's looking odd. Why can't anything ever just be easy. Why does Breyer have to try to reinvent the doll in a way that may only appeal to tweens (and not all of them I am sure)? I guess the good news is with the molds I can at least make female heads and with practice using them I am bound to get better. Still, the need to sculpt heads does not amuse me.