I haven’t written for a while but I sure as hell have been making things.
You see, my friends and I were hit with not one but two sociopaths this summer. We didn’t know about #summerofscammers until after the devastation. We’re petitioning that if there is a destructive human force NEXT summer that someone send us the hashtag memo earlier.
One total fucking horrible person is in my hometown and we’re awaiting his trial. I won’t get into details because they suck. Suffice to say these both came to a head within four days of each other in late May.What happened in my hometown affected many people, some of whom I will never meet, many of whom I know…and my friend Emily.
And, honest to fucking god, I asked myself: is there a doll I can make to help?
I meant it jokingly. As in “What the fuck can I even do in the face of this? I customize dolls. ”
In reality I’m coming to know what skills I can provide in these times: listening skills, trying to hold space for people’s feelings, gathering/sharing information and networking friends. I’m also learning some of my limits after the fact…I’m glad I had friends there for me at the times this summer that I broke down.
I, secretly, started making Emily a doll.
My hands need things to do. I need to be creating objects. It counter balances so much of the mental and physical energy I expend even in smooth times. When things get crazy, less essential ways of coping…like writing this blog…fall away but I still need to be making things.
I had a doll. I’d purchased it at Dollyteria in Ikebukuro on my birthday in April. It was naked, in a baggie, had already once been repainted, and needed a new body. You know I have extra bodies and dolls just laying around in my craft room.
I neglected to take a full body shot because sometimes when I need to make things I don’t slow down and document it all. I NEEDED to make this.
I spent a LOT of time feeling like Emily’s stalker. Looking at her Facebook photos over many years. REALLY LOOKING AT THEM. HI, EMILY CAN YOU FEEL ME STARING AT YOU?
Her make-up routine is generally very dramatic dark eyes with winged liner and a fairly light lip. Emily often has a pink of light blue/green hair streak. There was NO WAY I was going to try and transfer all her tattoos.
I went wig shopping online at Dollyteria again and found a black/pink wig that would work.
I removed the existing face with rubbing alcohol/ paint thinner. Then I primed it and set to work. I added some blush with chalk pastels. Set that. Then started the layers of watercolor pencils, acrylic, and more chalk pastels.
You probably noticed Emily’s eyes. If you don’t get those right you don’t have an Emily doll. I found a good match at on Etsy and ordered them.
Almost finished. Later I cleaned up the inner eye
By this time I also had planned a two-week trip to America in mid to late August. I haven’t been to see friends on the East coast in…um…18 years. I’d see friends in a few different cities and then Emily and I would meet up in Philadelphia. Philadelphia is neither my home town nor hers…we wanted a city so we could just be someplace together and hang out. Talk about things that needed to be talked about when they came up and just have fun when it was time to just have fun.
I had a deadline. I wanted to surprise her with the doll in America when I saw her.
That left the problem of clothing.
Emily’s aethetic is deeply Victorian Gothic….but it’s not how she dresses in daily life. She’s also been very rockabily styled but those items haven’t been in rotation for a while. Comfortable jeans and a pullover hoodie didn’t really suit the doll I was making.
I started looking turning to Gothic Victorian styled dolls, Tim Burton, and Helena Bonham Carter for inspiration. I talked to my friend Ebony about it as well. Ebony’s also heavily goth inspired and has come to know Emily a bit through me and FB. Ebony suggested I add Penny Dreadful to my inspiration files.
Fun Fact: I promptly watched the WHOLE three seasons while working on the doll. This means I’ve seen one episode more than Emily. Emily has, in a desire for the story not to end, abstained from watching the final episode.
Bonus; Penny Dreadful has a whole DOLL thing going on in the third season. I was on the RIGHT TRACK.
I visited Shinjuku Okadaya (fabric and trims) for some fabrics…I still not was sure on what I would make. I also had a small supply of Ebony’s “spoooooky fabric scraps”.
At some point during all of this Emily and I had one of many a video chat session. At some point she had to turn off her camera to answer a call and I put one of my many dolls in front of the video screen to greet her when she returned. This lead to a tour of some of my dolls. The last time I saw her in person she’d been intensely curious about the dolls and when she got video introductions to some of them she was quite excited about their existance and my art…knowing nothing of the fact she’d be getting one. Another sign I was on the RIGHT TRACK.
Fun Fact: Emily used to be afraid of dolls.
I tried to draft my own doll corset but I soon found the deadline to America coming up too soon. I turned to my doll clothing pattern books. I have a fair collection now because JAPAN. I decided I’d modify the “Autumn” dress for my needs.
First up was the skirt. I love layering fabrics to make simple textiles look more lush. The skirt is a Halloween fabric layered over burgundy/wine silk. Spiders became my animal motif not unlike Vannesa in Penny Dreadful has scorpions as a leitmotif. I used an Obitsu body for her new body (her old body had floppy arms)
Then the top:
Her shoulders seemed bare so I found a free knitting pattern for a cobweb shawl for Blythe and made two. One for Emily and one for another doll of mine.
I decided she needed earrings. I asked Ebony if I could raid her stash knowing FULL WELL she stocks up on Halloween earrings and charms. Ebony came through when I visited her. The doll’s earrings are: Spider studs I added chains and web and cross charms to…all from Ebony’s stash.
But wait…there’s more!
I could have stopped but I decided to make a veil…
Which she can exchange for her clip on fascinator (which can also be clipped into the hair of her owner)…and I put a tiny spider clasp on the cloak.
She then was carefully wrapped and placed into a wooden wine box I’d also been given by Ebony. When I arrived in America I swapped the fleece wrapping fabric I’d used for some halloween fabric I bought at JoAnne’s
On August 25th my friend Rook (who I’ve made a doll for before) and I picked up Emily at the airport in Philedelphia. We went back to were we were staying (after a stop in which we actually bought more dolls…more on that later) and I told her I had a gift for her.
She had NO clue, the long wooden box did not tip her off.
She cried with joy as she cradled it.
Will a doll help? Sometimes.