Love for Dark Resin Dolls

As a child I had very little interest in dolls. All we had in Finland was standard Barbies with blond hair, blue eyes and insane smile, and I hated those dolls. I felt like they were telling me to conform to some preset mold and I had much more fun scraping my knees climbing and sword fighting with sticks. Needless to say I was a tomboy and all my friends were boys.

It was only later, when my six years younger sister got the Disney Pocahontas Barbie that I felt like I wanted a doll for the first time. Her long black hair and exotic features were enchanting, but I felt I was too old to play with dolls. The first Barbie I did up buying, at the age of 22, was the Princess of South Africa. To me she was just too beautiful to pass by and that ebony skintone was mesmerizing.

When I finally became a doll collector on 2006, my first doll was Urban Outfitting Nadja from Fashion Royalty. I never really understood why the dark dolls always seemed least popular to mass audiences, as over the years, I bought several duplicates of this doll for customization. You can see some of these early works on my Flickr sets: Nadja/Colette, Snow Queen, and Road Warrior.

Very soon I noticed that for some reason ebony skin dolls such as Nadja ended up discounted and discontinued, where the tan version of the same sculpt (Colette) was one of the favourites. I still cannot fathom why is this, that both in adult collectible market and playline toy markets the African dolls were less popular. Is this a socio-economic factor of the American market that dominates the sales, racism or media white washing beauty ideals? What ever the case was I wanted to stand against it.

So, on 2011 when I was working on my first prototypes for Inamorata, it was an African sculpt head that I started out with. In the end of 2012 the first two Inamorata prototypes were unveiled in Haute Doll article “Beloved Dolls” by Jill Jackson, and I took a quite a bit of a risk by rebelling against the Caucasian doll stereotype by releasing African Nnaji and Asian Miao. Happily it paid off and the first LE Inamorata dolls in 2013 all sold out withing 12 hours of release. It wasn’t until 2014 in Paris PFDF that I finally added a Latin doll, Charo, to the Inamorata family. On 2017 I added three other sculpts including another African character: Nubia.

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I do love dolls of every shape and colour, but somehow it is the dark resin ones that I truly enjoy working on and photographing. They are more challenging to light and photograph. Sometimes, when it’s really cold in winter in Hong Kong (we have no indoors heating here), the UV sealant spray turns milky and completely ruins the face up or body blushing I’ve spent days working on. It can be super frustrating, but the only thing to do then is to remove all paint and start over.

I love dark resin dolls and the two African sculpts: Nnaji and Nubia, although it is always exciting to see other sculpts in dark resin too. I find them so exotic and beautiful. It is something about the exquisite arch of the elongated Egyptian skull. It is the beautiful broad nose and luscious lips. It is the way light plays on the dark skin. I tried hard to capture this beauty in both Chocolate and Coffee shade resins. It is the gorgeous contrast of the lighter palms and feet. It is simply the presence, unique to black beauty. That is why I wanted to write this post to celebrate versatility and the dark resin Inamorata dolls I’ve made over the years.

Please leave comments and tell why you love dark skin dolls, and do you think they have become more popular over the years?

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Creative Process and Shadowlands Collection

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.

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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.

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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.

Ashe – The Immortal

The third character in the collection is Ashe. She is one of a species called Felashi, Shadowwalkers or Immortals since they have such long life spans. Much of what is called magic has come into the other species from interbreeding with Felashi. They are telepathic or empathic and have other talents as well. Their eyes turn full silver as they use these gifts.

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During the centuries Ashe has roamed the world, she has lived many lives. She has been a captain of a space ship, protector of a royal family in a long gone capital, and a shadowwalker to guide the caravans through hostile deserts. Hard life has left her body and soul scarred. She blocks most of the memories, and people, out. Her companions are a pair of Helkin, Shadowcats, Polaris and Aurel.

Ashe’s hair (hard cap wig made with saran and mohair) is midnight black, but glimmers with red highlights when sun touches it. A strand of hair has turned grey from and old scar running up from her right eyebrow. Her wears no make up, so her face up was more about giving emphasis to the sculpted aging, blushing more shape to the face, scars and few beauty marks. Her body was also was heavily resculpted to add massive scarring. The sculpted micro wrinkles concentrate on her hands and face, areas that would be bare to to arid environment of the desert planet.

Ashe wears a, armour patched together over time. Other characters assume it is Sanddragon skin, but parts of it are of a creature now extinct. I wet-sculpted ostrich and salmon leather to create this mythological armour. Since they are in a hot climate I took a gladiator approach to the side and left the back bare, covered in straps that display her gruesome scar from a star ship crash. A wound that would had killed a human. Ashe is a warrior and wears her weapons as other women wear jewellery. She has a Sanddragon fang sword, similar to Rahal’s, only Ashe’s has a decorative carving running down it’s side. She also carries a pair of honour blades and an array of smaller knives hidden all over her person. I even hid two throwing daggers into her hair piece. She also carries a quarter staff with Sanddragon teeth embedded into it as a spiral, and ties her House colours onto this staff when approaching and Oasis deep in the desert.

The doll is a Andro bust Inamorata Valerie sculpt in Caramel skintone, resculpted to add aging and scars.

Aurel & Polaris – The Helkin

These new characters in the collection are two Helkin companions of Ashe: Polaris and Aurel. Helkin an alien feline species, large, fierce predators and highly intelligent. The other characters in the books wonder if they are in fact sentient beings as Ashe seems to communicate with them telepathically.

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Almost all Helkin have spots and patterns, and Aurel ‘s silvery blue fur is inspired by a snow leopard. She is a young, bold and playful creature, often being silly like a kitten. Polaris is older, calm and energy efficient. His tawny colouration is inspired by a king cheetah.

The cats are 3D printed pets designed by Helga Reinhard.  They stand about 15cm high and pose beautifully. Each cat comes with two heads and 4 tails in different poses. I painted them with highly diluted acrylics and then assembled the kits using thin rubbed bands.

 

More to come…

THREE NEW INAMORATA HEADS

I am proud to present three new head types for Inamorata dolls! Midori was inspired by the beautiful women I saw in my travels around Taiwan and Japan. I absolutely love the rebooted Nnaji 2.0 but I feel she lost some of her ethnicity with the narrower nose, so her new sister Nubia is here to bring back the feeling of the original Nnaji sculpt from 2012. Last but not the least, as I have been working on her for years, is Valerie, a new softer Caucasian sculpt to compliment the most popular of Inamorata sculpts; the Latina vibe Charo.

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The new heads are available now for preorder patch either as blank dolls or commissioned OOAKs. Please read more about the order here.

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Hand Sculpting

People often ask me why I don’t use 3D imaging in my work. I love sculpting by hand and feel more connected to the finished work this way. Also, I believe in keeping the old traditions alive. Too many beautiful crafts are dying in the world and while visiting museums in Taiwan I have become even more acute aware of this. This is why I make my dolls completely by hand.

Instead, I use hard wax to make the first drafts, make a silicone mold and home cast them in resin to continue refining the sculpt. These heads are in the resin stage of sanding the surface and endless tweaking of facial features. For this I use a 2-component epoxy putty to add mass to the resin. The brand I use; Magic Sculpt, gives about an hour to work with the soft, wax like, form of the putty, before it hardens and can be carved, sanded and painted. I paint the models grey to see imperfections of the skin more easily and finally use a surfacing agent like Mr.Surfacer 1000 to give the model a nice matted skin like texture.

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Tattoos and Hyper Realistic Body Blushing

One of my favourite things in painting dolls is to use layers to create lifelike skin so translucent and textured that it is almost as if the doll is just holding their breath, ready to gasp to life at any moment.

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Dénear – One of the OOAK Siren twins, Inamorata 2.0. with hyper realistic body blushing, freckles and strobing.

This means multi hue base. To give Milk skin that feel of translucence I use pale copper oxide green, powder pink and faint lavender. Between the layers I might draw blue blood vessels, on top freckles, moles, scars and tattoos. It’s a mixed media of aquarelles, pencils, acrylics, pastels and other pigments. I often use loose pigment powders made for human makeup such as the ones from Make Up Store and MAC. Each layer is sealed with thin spray of Mr. Super Clear UV Cut Flat sealant and each doll has 5-10 layers depending on the level of detail. I also love deep dark skin tone, although dark resin is always harder to work with, but I find the glow of dark skin and the paler palms and soles of absolutely stunning.

For tattoos I often use aquarelle pencils sealed with UV spray. If the tattoo is meant to look fresh I use darker, more vibrant colours; if the tattoo is worn and old, the colours are faded and I do the body blushing over them for a more authentic feel.

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I’ve always loved tattoos and for two years I have been planning a collection of tattooed dolls, each OOAK representing a tradition of body art. My favourite has always been the Japanese Irezumi, an aesthetic heavily influenced by the ukiyo-e wood prints, and associated with yakuza. The other body art traditions represented could be Russian Bratva prison tattoos, American traditional, Indian henna, tribal scarification and Viking warrior.

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I am also interested in exploring bruises, scars, piercing and other body modifications in dolls. I was a tomboy of a child with constantly scraped knees, that grew into martial artist naming her bruises after the person who gave them to me. I consider scars and wrinkles as a part of a person’s life story written on their skin and all of it is beautiful, even if painful, because life carves depth into our souls. Hence, making dolls that show aging, bruises and scars is a wonderful way to tell story. It is what makes the dolls, and this work, interesting.

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You can find examples of commission prices for OOAK Inamorata dolls and other doll commissions here. Hyper realistic body blushing is 100usd. Tattoo work depends much on the scale and detail, but estimate for a small individual tattoo is 50usd, and larger sleeves or full body tattoos need to be priced case by case. Same goes for leaf “gold” accents. A detailed full body Irezumi style tattoos start at 500usd.