I’ve had the privilege to get one of the most interesting projects of my life, collection of dolls based on science fiction stories by Dyan Bender. The story is of a desert planet, a distant trading post between civilizations, a melting post of cultures and genes. The crew consists of creatures evolved from humans, an odd group of misfit heroes from varying backgrounds. I love going beyond mere pretty and creating dolls that are wild, have personality, tell a story. That is why this collection is such a dream come true. Dyan’s stories weave a rich tapestry of an alien world in turmoil, echoing with old Earth cultures and branching out into new paths of evolution.
For inspiration, Dyan sent me series of scattered stories that describe the characters, their personality, other’s impressions of them, and their capabilities. I find that for me this opens a deep well of inspiration to draw from. Character design has always been one of my favourite things, from childhood drawings of Tolkien heroes, teenage role play characters, theater costuming and finally dolls. Every time I paint a doll I tell a story that brings it to life. It’s part of process.
For inspiration and creativity, there is nothing more limiting than someone coming up with a premade sketch – or asking me to make one and stick to it. Conscious design process renders mediocre and boring results at best, and regurgitates used up ideas most times. I do sketch, but always filling a page with myriad ideas for the same concept. When designing a garment, I select materials, create a colour palette, then tune out my brain with an audiobook and let my hands do their part. Often I start with a square piece of cloth that I fit, drape, rouch and hand stitch directly on the doll. It is sculpting fabric rather than sewing.
However, I’ve always admired impeccable tailoring. Alexander McQueen was my idol in this and inspired by the exquisite costuming in the show Game of Thrones I wanted to give this collection a highly tailored and stiffly structured look. Especially since the first character was wearing leather armour. Hence, I need to break my comfort zone, sketch, create patterns and challenge myself.
I do love a challenge.
Rahal – The Wanderer
The first character in the collection is Rahal, a member of a race that calls themselves the Wanderers, the other species typically call them Natives. They are genetically closely linked to a big feline species called the Helkin. They have a tribal culture and few of them venture from the high desert regions, and when they are in high demand by the caravans. They are one of the few races that can sense the extra dimensional doorways commonly called Shadows. This makes her very effective guarding travelers from hunting predictors.
She has sharp little fangs, partially retractile claws on both hands and feet and faint spotting pattern along her flanks. Her eyes are dark with reflective retina like cats and surrounded by pigmentation spots. She bleached her long hair white, but has now let it grow to reveal her natural raven roots (hard cap wig custom made for her with angora wool). She wears an armour of Sand Dragon skin (vintage snake skin) lined with dark brown silk, and carries a serrated blade made out of the fang of the same beast (hand carved from two-component-epoxy putty).
The doll is a Busty Inamorata Nubia in Coffee skintone.
Fyre – The Highborn
The second character in the collection is Fyre, whose secret name is Ardala. She is the adopted daughter of a wealthy Healer and direct descendant of the last ruler of what is often called the Great City.
She is a Highborn, a race the developed from Human close intermarriage of the ruling families. Thru centuries of narrowed bloodlines a race of physically beautiful and mentally gifted people consolidated power. Marked physically by extremely pale pearlescent skin and blazing red hair with oddly metallic quality. Highborn are marked by a drive to acquire power and are gifted with something other races call Charisma.
Ardala is young, she has gained her full height but is still not filled out completely. She has been able to pass as a boy for years. Her eyes are blue, the warm blue of shallow seas, and bright with curiosity and good humor. Although wealthy now for many years she and her mother moved often and she has learned to easily adapt to new locations…she enjoys learning about new people, customs and cultures. She is gentle, and her gentle nature shows in her expression. She completely lacks the imperious and commanding nature that typically marks Highborn, but she is just starting to understand that she has personal power, she is starting to learn that she can command the attention of others.
She wears her silk finery, wide pants of teal silk that were left a bit short in the ankles in her last growth spurt; silk slippers encrusted with brass sequins; a silk chiffon vest draping over her young shoulders with fine brass chains; a bra heavily embellished with tiger eye gems, brass and gold, forming hawk motives that symbolize and foreshadow her soaring potential. Her hips, neck and intricately braided hair are adorned with gold chains.
The doll is a Andro Inamorata Nnaji in Milk skintone.
More to come…