I had to take a break from the doll hobby for a time while I sorted out my mother's health — she almost died of a ruptured intestine and sepsis almost two years ago — and my own, both physical and mental, as caring for someone's taken a toll on me in both ways. (I wasn't exactly stunningly healthy to begin with myself.)
The thing is, this absence has left me with a whole bunch of dolls I've flat-out neglected all this time. Not just in the 'not playing with' side of things, and we won't talk about the coat of dust over Tay and Scott's legs, but the fact that I've got several dolls who're still lacking faceups over a year after I got them.
On top of that, my mother bought me a Resinsoul An for Christmas last year. He arrived in November-ish and she checked his hands and feet for damage, but didn't remove him from the bag and pillow. ...He's kind of a mess, but not in the way she knows to look out for. He's coffee resin, but his sanding is appalling. I've got a deertaur from them and the sanding is entirely unnoticeable, but the sanding on An is atrocious, and so rough you'd think it was done with the stuff you use for sanding metal. His chest doesn't seem to fit his torso, and his lower legs don't seem to fit his thighs. His eyewells are a mess. Well. One is a mess, one is perfectly fine; it's like something happened in his casting and someone just shoved massive amounts of resin into the gap to cover it up. I had to order a 16mm eye-weller from Dollmore to help fix the issue, and he only takes 14mm eyes.
I saw the issues with his sanding immediately, but I first thought it was marbled resin. But at the same time... what can you say? He's a Christmas present! So you smile and say thank you, but I suspect she noticed I didn't immediately take photos like I did with Kse and Rowan, my other Resinsoul dolls.
Later on I looked at him and realised it wasn't marbled but badly made (not something I expected to say with Resinsoul to be honest) and I had to put him back in his bag again. I was genuinely wondering if I could buy another coffee An from Resinsoul myself and substitute him ... but what would I do with the other one, because who'd want to buy a doll that looked like it'd been mangled by an utter beginner, but was straight from the company? So I put him back in his bag again, and back on the kitchen table, and sort of tried to ignore him again.
And I managed like this for months. Because I've got all the cooking to do (I can't cook, so this is a terrible experience for me), and all the cleaning and gardening, all the bins and recycling, all the pets to look after (cats, dogs, birds), and I have work on top of all that — and just because I work from home, doesn't mean I can get away with not working, it's all logged with targets etc., plus I took on a new work project that's both interesting and stressful, always good — I didn't really think much of dolls at all. Lirio is sat on top of Gabrys's box in my office, Milos is sitting on my desk to my right and Maxim started off on my sewing machine and has now moved to a printer stand to my left, while everyone else is sat behind me, but after a while I didn't see them any more.
Kir still has shoulder-length hair like a minor Cousin It because I haven't found either the time or mental strength to cut it. Kse's been headless for almost a year now.
But after a while, I kept seeing his little bag and pillow on the table. My mother saw it once on one of her infrequent visits to the kitchen and asked when I'd work on him, and I still couldn't say anything. Eventually, after months, I picked him up and looked at him again. And I felt so bad about this little doll that I'd wanted, until he turned up in a mess, and then I couldn't bear to look at him. Saying "it's a metaphor for my life" is both cliche and disgustingly trite, but (creepy alert) I picked up this little doll and hugged him and felt like a real shit for just letting him sit there doing nothing for ages.
LUCKILY! We've had insane amounts of sunlight for the last month or two, so suddenly the vitamin D burst has kicked in and I have a little willpower now. Not much, after everything else, but enough that on one fine day a couple of months ago I went into the garden and sealed a whole bunch of faces: Alex, Lirio, Kse's next layer, Rowan the little deertaur (and his hooves and horns), Ais's head (one day he'll have a body!) and Paradigm (An).
Annnnnd then we got the Summer Of Hell 2018 and it was too hot to spray sealant without it going peculiar. But a few days ago I started working on Paradigm (An) and Alex's heads, and I finished Paradigm's today, I found a bunch of clothing from Alice's Collections that suits him (including some jeans he stole from Maxim that work perfectly) and he's got one 14mm grey eye from acbjd and one purple eye from Safrindoll when she made her own eyes, and suddenly, even with his awful sanding that's visible even under layers of sealant and faceup, I love him. I also picked up a stand from Alice's Collections and it's like having my own Play Arts Kai doll or something. But slightly bigger, more customisable, and more playable with, because I can't imagine posing both my Raiden figures like this.
And again I'm reminded of why I got into BJDs in the first place: to have my own poseable figures of my own characters, that I can customise however I want. I mean, how am I gonna find a figure of a shy asexual shuttle thief if I don't ultimately make it myself?
And not even Resinsoul's poor handling and quality control can take away from me the character I've created from their mess.
(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...
In an effort to clothe my poor prince, who despite being my oldest doll is sorely lacking in the clothing department, I found a pattern for a tunic in one of my crochet magazines and started working on it.
What? I like crochet.
It's... going. Sort of. I'm not sure how I feel about it right now, but if I turn out to dislike it on Gabrys I at least have plenty of other dolls it'd suit...
It's an interesting challenge because, unlike a few other doll-size projects I've done, simply using a smaller hook and thinner yarn didn't result in a significantly smaller item, so I've been having to modify the pattern as I go along.
Hopefully, starting to write about it will 'keep me honest', since I'm painfully aware that I tend to start projects and never finish them.
Or it'll be the final nail in the coffin. One or the other.
I've been on the lookout for a shorter-sized doll to shell my grumpy little assassin Lirio for a while, and when I found Doll Family H Lingfeng I fell in love. His sulky little pout is absolutely perfect, and at 62cm or so he's pretty much the right height as well.
Yes, Lirio is very twitchy about his height; it's best not to mention it...
Since it doesn't seem possible to do an overseas order from DFH I had to do it through an official distributor, so I chose Jeeryama on eBay. I paid in full, confirmed the skin tone and asked whether a promotion for a free wig was still ongoing (it was), so chose one of those and confirmed I knew it wouldn't fit (I chose it for smaller dolls).
Annnnnd that was the last I heard from her! Somehow, between paying on the 6th January and the back-and-forth between Christina and myself that only started on the 12th, I was never sure exactly what the order date was... and after I saw someone else on the Den of Angels waiting room who had ordered around the same time had received their shipping notification on the 13th April, I waited a little and then emailed her on the 24th April — just jokily, asking if she'd heard anything and saying I was looking forward to meeting him.
Nothing. I still don't know if Virgin Media has eaten it, although usually when it does try that it tends to spit them out a few days later, so I'd expect to have it by now. Owing to certain mental health issues I didn't think it was really worth emailing again, but when I got home from a NaNo / local writing group meetup on Saturday 6th May I found a Customs notice from Parcelforce; I'd never received a shipping notification or tracking number.
So l'il Lirio arrived on the 9th May and for a moment, as I was unboxing him, I had that always awesome moment when you look at your new doll and go "have I made a mistake...?"
'Cause after everything else, what I really needed was to make a very expensive mistake...
But then I sat him up and even without eyes or hair, that little pout just made me realise yes, that's Lirio.
The eyes I put in him — that I ordered specially for him, damnit! — don't really fit so well so I've ordered some new ones, but he's completely cast aside the wig I'd ordered for him in favour of one of Gabrys' spares (a short version of Gabrys' current one), so I guess not only is he a talented l'il assassin, he's quite an accomplished thief too...
No pictures of him wearing them (yet), but he's currently naked but for a red ribbon and is sitting on my kitchen table with the most displeased expression I've ever seen.
I absolutely love him.
When Kana of Kana by KaNa / Rosen Lied announced the preorder of one of her stand-alone doll heads I pounced on it. Her sculpts are so pretty! And, after ordering and waiting very patiently (honest), he arrived home, wrapped so securely that all my quiet worrying turned out to be for nothing.
When I ordered him I hoped he'd make a good Alex, which is why Milos is helping — albeit reluctantly — with the box opening. But now I'm not sure... in part because he looks surprisingly good with some blue eyes I had around. Much better, actually, than their actual owner.
So while I figure out which company's body will go nicely with him, I'll have a think. He may yet surprise me further.
It's been a long time since I updated. Poor Maxim, only introduced in the last post, still is lacking mods, faceup and wig -- although I've at least started work on the wefts for that. Yay for neon pink yarn that, the more you work with it, the more you start questioning just what reality is...
I also made...
*dun dun duuuuuuuuun!*
A table. An actual table scaled (in a somewhat haphazard manner) for 70cm dolls like Tay.
He was, in fact, my baseline for it and paid the price in terms of embarrassing and apparently mid-dance arm positions...
It was an interesting experience, requiring buying two bundles of balsa wood (it's cheap and easy to bully around), an argument with Amazon about the delivery of some dowel rods (don't use Royal Mail, they're idiots) and a lot of guesswork because I haven't done woodwork since I was 14, which is an embarrassingly long time ago now. I have something approaching progress shots, but they're weird even in context.
I also managed to quietly murder my respirator filters, by forgetting to put a filter over the filter for sawdust, so... new filters and proper add-ons inbound, I guess.
I even made, albeit a while ago, doll-size folders for papers. Because what are government agents without paperwork?
Yes, I am aware I have no life.
All I need to do now is make some doll-size sticky labels for those folders, and some authentic doll-size tea stains. And given I managed to find a heavy, but still in-scale tea set when I was at my last NaNo meet...
Tea stains, here we come?
He arrived several days ago (and turned up at my door without warning, to my great surprise!) but I've not been feeling great so it's taken me quite a while to get around to posting his unboxing pics.
There aren't many, I got a bit distracted by playing with him, but he's my little project doll.
I intend to widen the bridge of his nose a little and sand down the tip. His stringing needs a little loosening, and I'll also suede and wire him. Then I'll work on his faceup and hopefully will find the frighteningly pink yarn I seem to have misplaced, to turn it into a wig. (His frighteningly pink hair is all natural, the joys of designing your own body!) And after that... well, he needs some clothes too, right?
It's exciting and a little daunting to buy a doll I intend to do so much work on, and so hopefully it won't all go horribly wrong...!
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.