After an extended stay in customs, my Little Monica Little Enrill has arrived, and there are no words to express how beautiful he is -- and how sad too. I don't know if it just wasn't noticeable on the promo faceups or if it's just mine, but he looks on the verge of tears. I think it just made me fall in love with him more.
I was absolutely paranoid that the extended stay meant he'd arrive damaged (or not at all, given how much of my post has vanished into the 'ether' -- i.e. someone's pockets) and as the box he arrived in was so light, I was almost worried someone had had the bottom of the box open and spirited him away, but he is actually just that light.
His packing was quite odd -- he feels like he was held in place by the other things I ordered him with, but he was wrapped so securely in bubble-wrap that I don't think he was in any danger.
He also came with pretty promo pictures of other Little Monica dolls, little leaflets about where to find them on the internet and their photo competitions, his CoA, a set of eyes and some nicely pink eye putty, and, very sweetly, two Korean candies (plum and orange flavour).
I ordered him with two wigs, one long blond (since his promo images had a short blond wig I knew the colour suited him) and one short bright red one. He's pretty much claimed the blond one for himself -- although he does also look good in a mid-length brown wig I bought for someone else and it didn't suit, so I think he might just enjoy changing his hair a lot.
The eyes were a surprise. I was expecting the usual generic hazel-ish kind (I have about three pairs of those) but instead they're a very pretty shade of purple and suit him immensely. I'd anticipated putting the eyes into the spares drawer and ordering a set from Candy Kittens Emporium, but now I'm in two minds. Still, there's another one still to come, so I'll still probably need to pay her a visit for pretty eyes...!
As far as his structure goes, he's nicely made. His arms and legs are quite thick, and some seams have been sanded, while others haven't. I suspect it's the seams most likely to see the light of day that've been removed entirely: on his arms, for example, and the outside of his lower legs. Ones that get covered by his clothes have been sanded so they're not sharp, but not eradicated. His white resin (I'm so glad I asked them to change it, and that they were kind enough to agree!) is slightly pinkish, as opposed to the slight yellowish of Subject's Dollzone body. He poses quite nicely too: his elbows are double-jointed, though superficially they don't look it. His knees are single-jointed, but he does have a thigh joint that lets him pull his thighs up fairly high and has a two-part torso that bends quite naturally forwards.
I did, however, suddenly realise a couple of awkward things: one, I still have no idea who he is, and two, that... I don't actually have that many MSD-sized clothes, and I couldn't find any to hand. I scrabbled around a bit and managed to find a cream shirt with an oversized collar I don't tend to use (the collar is very disproportionate, it really gives away a doll's scale) and a pair of pleather pants I bought for Maxim and Milos only Milos is in an undecorated pair and Maxim has in his galaxy jeans so neither have used them.
We've made inroads on both points though. Point two has been partially rectified by a visit to Alice's Collections for some more clothes and boots (and there are some coming with Doll Leaves Berg) so hopefully the shorter kiddos won't be left out of the excessive amounts of clothing loop the bigger boys are in for long.
Point one... well. When he shipped (before I realised he'd shipped) I suddenly had a little voice in my head announcing that he was a prince, thank you very much. Which was a bit weird, but given the whole writing thing I'm fairly used to it. Beyond that, though, I was at a loss. When he arrived, I was still at a loss.
And then, when playing with his joints (which sounds so wrong) I sat him with his knees up and his arms around them, and with how sad he looked in just his shirt and nothing else, I suddenly started to understand him a little. Because for all the world he looked like he'd just been chucked out of someone's house half-dressed, and was sitting outside the front door, pants in a heap beside him, going "that could have gone better..."
So it seems he's the youngest prince of several in a faintly steampunk-fantasy world, who likes to wander around the city pretending not to be a prince and picking up guys for no-strings casual sex. Except it seems they usually find out (I wonder why?) and either try to extort money from him (so he leaves, probably laughing because I suspect he's broke) or they kick him out rather than run into trouble.
Hence the sitting there, naked but for an open shirt and a faintly depressed expression. And as he's sitting there, looking for all the world like he's fighting back tears, a hand reaches down and he follows its arm up to a smiling face and the question, "are you alright?"
And as an aside... Doll Leaves Berg shipped today! So hopefully this little princeling won't be alone for too long.
(Also known as an unexpected Humbrol Acrylic Varnish product review)
Milos's sleeping faceup was the first one I ever did, which in itself was a daunting prospect, but sealing such an obscurely-coloured resin? Without it lightening?
While researching sealants I heard quietly positive things about Humbrol's Acrylic Varnish, and it's pretty affordable for a small can, so I decided to risk it and although it did lighten the resin a little, it wasn't as bad as I feared. It has excellent tooth too, so it's nice for laying colours down on with pastel, and it's not glossy in the slightest.
It turns out, however, that it has an interesting feature: it's bloody hard as nails.
Milos's face took a dive — a common Dollshe faceplate issue — while I was photographing him in the conservatory. Luckily I think the gods heard the prayer I bellowed as it threw itself from his head and it didn't shatter on the tiles. It did, however, pock air bubbles into the sealant which couldn't be disguised with the careful placement of hair, so I set it aside from wiping and got off my lazy arse and did the faceup in his open-eyed face instead.
(As an aside, Milos's faceplate is now securely washi-taped to his head. I have absolutely no desire for this to ever happen again.)
Fast forward almost exactly a year — I checked the date on the photo — and I get the urge to finally wipe his faceup. (Might this have something to do with the fact I have another face and a half to complete? It might.) I've got the (sort of) appropriate tools: Windsor & Newton Brush Cleaner and cotton wool buds and pads, so all that remains is wiping the faceup off, right? Simple.
Except... Humbrol Acrylic Varnish is bloody hard as nails.
This... did not involve a simple wiping.
I hadn't sprayed many layers due to not wanting to discolour his resin any further, but the few I did spray had absolutely no intention of shifting. These cellphone photos were taken over the course of several hours.
By half past midnight, I'd managed to narrow the remaining faceup down to patches around his inner eyes, his inner mouth and his ears. (Not pictured due to frustration and poor lighting.) This morning, I finished off his mouth as best I could and spent another couple of hours cleaning the resin around his eyes. I've left the pink lacrimals because... well, I can't shift it and it didn't even get a heavy coating of sealant.
I've left his ears as well because I've never once claimed to have the patience of a saint.
In short... if you're perfectly content with your faceup skills and you never want your sealant to shift ever again, then I whole-heartedly recommend Humbrol. If, like me, you're just starting out however... maybe try something a little less stubborn.
I'm now desperately hoping I didn't seal RQ's face with it as well...
I've been eyeing the Neewer 80cm photo tent for a while now, ever since I saw a post on Tumblr talking about how helpful and affordable both the tent itself and their products in general were. Considering that I use a Neewer remote shutter for my camera and am starting to wonder how I did without it, I figured that I might as well take a punt.
It was £23.99 from Amazon.co.uk from a Prime seller, so it arrived the day after I ordered it, and I enlisted a little help with opening it...
It's quite big if you're only 70cm though, so Tay had to enlist a little help himself, in the form of his almost-brother-in-law Milos and between them they managed to pull the handy 40cm bag from its wrapping and then pull both the backdrops, handily wrapped in one bag, and the tent itself wrapped in another, from its case.
And then this happened.
No dolls were harmed in the making of this photo. Not so sure about the Air Ram though.
Because this photo tent?
When you take it out the plastic, it explodes.
This was its third airing and my folding has improved, so I had to ask it nicely. I've learned to keep my distance.
I have no idea how they convinced it into such a small space, but it clearly did not like it because on exposure to air it promptly unfolded itself to its full 80cm height.
I mean, it stayed flat so I can thank the gods for small mercies, but bloody hell. Which is exactly what I accidentally shouted as it leapt from my hand with a surprisingly loud *whumpf*. Loud enough that it was only after I'd finished these photos that I realised it'd knocked the Air Ram over and the dogs, who'd been trying to look at what I was doing before this, suddenly decided that the office wasn't that exciting after all...
It comes with four backdrops: white, black, blue and red, and as they're all folded they all arrive with very neat rectangles creased into them. I try to iron them, but first I'm going to try either draping them over something or rolling them into a tube and hoping that they just sort of... fall out. I'm not big on this ironing stuff.
The tent itself remains flat even after it's disrupted your household and you pull open first one side and then the other. These are surprisingly sturdy and open into a good-sized shape.
As you can see, it fits Milos (a Dollshe Saint) with room to spare -- his fingers were only just grazing the roof. It's not entirely as square as the promo images would have it but that's no big deal. It doesn't give the impression that it's going to roll away even with slightly more rounded lines.
It's a little fiddly getting the backdrop into the tent, partially because you do have to crawl into it to push it against the velcro, and partially because there's velcro on both sides of the backdrop but the tent comes with no instructions, so it takes a moment to figure out which side goes back to the tent. I still don't actually know what the velcro on the other side is for -- it's not for sticking it together for storage, far as i can tell -- but maybe it'll become clear in the future. Or maybe it won't.
It also comes with a velcro cover to block out additional light, which has a handy slit in the front for your camera lens. This does ideally require quite a low tripod. I can't imagine this playing so nicely with my larger one, if I'm honest; the lowest possible height would have the lens pressing against the fabric at the top, so it's something to be aware of if you only have larger tripods.
I bought this to use in the conservatory, which is full of natural light in the day and where I often try to take pictures (and no one needs to see the stuff -- and the cats -- usually floating around in there) and I don't have standalone lights for a proper setup, but I have to say I am now considering buying some to enable me to use this in other rooms in the house.
Word of warning though, 80cm is inexplicably huge. You'd think I'd be expecting it, given that five out of eight dolls are 65-70cm boys, and you know what adds insult to injury?
That the bloody thing does not want to go back into the bag. I should've been expecting this, it's referenced in reviews quite frequently, but I think I was thinking these people just aren't trying hard enough. Nope. It's not that at all. It's that it simply does not want to co-operate, and this is again why I wish it came with written instructions. And when your bag is 1/4 of your tent?
HOWEVER! Skimming through the Amazon.com reviews and discounting the smug ones who state they can flatten it in 30 seconds without stating how, a Danny Perfect wrote a very useful review with this instruction:
Which works, albeit with a lot of internal swearing. Thank gods.
My new Azrael doll from Souldoll, ordered via Dandy Highwayman Dolls in the UK, arrived about a week ago (I can't make my Tumblr blog spit up the actual date he arrived, which is a pain in the arse). I normally have a character planned out when I order a doll -- that character is, in fact, usually the reason I order the doll -- but in Caeso's case I fell so heavily in love with his design... and when a new UK doll dealer opened up I concluded it was fate and promptly ordered him.
(I was their first customer; they are such a lovely company that to say thank you they gave me free shipping from them to me!)
After I ordered him I had a small panic. I mean, I've never ordered a doll without a character before, and at that point I had four, all of which were ordered with characters in mind! Chatting it through with a friend helped, and when she said he had a certain classical Roman or Greek look to him he suddenly gave me his character: a young Roman who fell in love with a fellow soldier while he was on campaign, a soldier who, after they returned to Rome, was killed in the street. Caeso, grief-stricken, swore to the gods that he would never forgive them, little expecting a smiling Mars to appear before him in the street, cursing him with eternal life so he could have forever to literally never forgive them.
Honestly, with that simple comment she's caused me so many plotlines...!
His journey to me, however, was not without its... well, several hiccups, absolutely none of which were the fault of Dandy Highwayman Dolls. First Souldoll told them that they were about to ship out Caeso, which they relayed to me with great excitement... and then Souldoll didn't actually ship him out when they said. (For a moment I had visions of April Story's "next week" excuse: some people were waiting for "next week" for months.) Then they shipped him out and he spent time in Customs, which honestly is always the worst part of any doll's journey. Every doll I've had spent time at Coventry, although time is variable -- Tay was there for all of five minutes, which was horrifying, while I've had dolls spend over a week there and been waiting on the edge of my seat for tracking to update.
And then... Virgin Media decided to be Virgin Media. This... probably doesn't make sense if you're not a VM customer, but they're not exactly known for their reliability. They used to be great, but over the last six weeks or so I've had so many ridiculous internet problems, including my connection dropping out up to ten, fifteen times a day. This was mostly considered to be issues with my house, resulting in a new hub and a fantastic two-hour conversation with a really nice engineer, but ultimately, after maybe a month or so, they decided it was an area fault. And the minute it was fixed, it went wrong again, and then as soon as it was fixed? My emails decided they didn't really want to arrive.
So even though Dandy Highwayman Dolls had emailed me to let me know they'd received him and were waiting for me to confirm the address I wanted him shipped to?
Virgin didn't bother to send that email along until several days later. And I know when they sent it because the correct date was still on it. It was a pretty long way up my email list.
Soooooo we moved communication to Gmail instead, and this is where they really came into their own. I don't like using my birth name, but as it's the name my bank account is in (since I set it up when I was 16) and the name my PayPal is in (as it's tied to my bank account), I use an email address with that name to avoid confusion, particularly as some companies go peculiar if you have one name on your email and another on your payment details. Once they found out I don't use my name, they changed both the shipping label and how they addressed me to the way I prefer as well, which honestly is fantastic.
And then Hermes happened. Hermes are a UK courier and my experience of them is our aged, aged delivery driver who, despite the doorknocker on the front door right in front of his face, insists on feebly flapping the letterbox to announce his presence. And he does this even though -- or in spite of -- my mother showing him exactly where the knocker is and how to use it. (She does not like his letterbox-flapping.) So... given that that's just one of their couriers... it's perhaps more understandable that despite Dandy Highwayman Dolls arranging for them to pick up Caeso for delivery twice, they failed to turn up both times. (And I know this is the case: they were kind enough to share the collection requests with me.) In the end they actually took the box to the Hermes depot themselves rather than rely on them, and he arrived here very promptly afterwards.
And he is gorgeous.
Okay, perhaps 'gorgeous' is subjective, but given that I usually dislike things with half a skull for a head, he really is absolutely beautiful.
So I guess... that's my unboxing of my lovely l'il immortal psychopomp Caeso and a review of the very awesome Dandy Highwayman Dolls, who I'll have no hesitation in ordering from again. And from the way I keep scouring Souldoll's site for a Lucius to go with Caeso, it may not be too long before I do...
A noodler with a doll obsession.