Posted By Courtenay Bell on December 18, 2012
When I was a little girl my grandmother took up doll making as a hobby after she retired. She made porcelain dolls with hand painted faces with glass eyes; hand stitched all the clothing, and bought beautiful wigs for each of her creations. Mostly she made baby dolls and gave them to her granddaughters, but she also made Native American maidens and fairytale princesses. I always wanted to make dolls with her, and tried. However, the time and skill required to make porcelain eluded me as a child, as I was impatient. Now being at adult I have rediscovered this interest in the modification of the popular line of dolls by Mattel, Monster High. This was not, however, my first choice in doll-type.
What I really want to work on are Dollfie ball jointed dolls from Japan. These are incredibly intricate cast resin dolls with realistic points of articulation and an eerie ethereal quality that I have admired on the internet for ages. It turns out these dolls are majorly expensive. As in more than ½ my mortgage payment expensive! So I tried to find an alternative, and discovered an entire group of people were modifying these Monster High Dolls in lieu of Japanese Ball-Joint Dolls (JBD) because they too were artists on a budget!
Monster High characters are the theoretical children of classic movie monsters like, Frankenstein, Dracula, Medusa and the like. The proportions are funky and a little creepy but very suited to creature-like humanoids. They have pre-made characters like Draculaura, and Howleen Wolf, these dolls feature pre-made back stories, make-ups, clothes and rooted hair. The line also feature “Make your own” sets with no pre-determinate features beyond plastic color and minor feature differences.
Four weeks ago I purchased my very own set of “Make your Own” dolls and got to work on a goldfish inspired sea-monster doll. First I found tutorials online and proceeded to stand on their shoulders to help me create my new dolls features. Thus far I have stripped her of her original face paint, painted her skin a new color and created a wig.
First I removed her current facial features and prepped her body with a rubdown of acetone to remove previous paint and “mold release” from the doll parts. Then I prepared with Mr. Hobby brand, Mr. Surfacer, primer. This turned out to be quite a journey to acquire, as every doll modification blog post and enthusiast insists that Mr. Hobby Products are the best materials to use in doll modification. Unfortunately, these products are from Japan, and are really difficult to get with any regularity. (Thank you Big Robot Hobby in Berkeley, and The Hobby Store in Japantown for existing!) After I primed the surface I painted with white hobby paint as a base and added layers of orange. This is where I have paused on the body and face for the time being, because the hair has been a journey.
After much research and reading of countless blogs I found a tutorial on making wigs for BJDs and Monster High dolls from, Updog1986, on YouTube . After making the wig cap, a time consuming project in itself, I made lots and lots of hair wefts from fake Kankelon hair bought from a wig shop, and foam tack glue. After the wefts dried on my “scrap wood weft making board”(I made this with a scrap board wrapped several times in cling wrap. Then I cut them into smaller workable tracks and began gluing them around the wig cap I made.