The Handmade Doll Business

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Yes, this handmade doll business is tricky business! Especially when you create one-of-a-kind, all natural toys and dolls, that appeal not only to children but also to adults. Most dollmakers have to dance a fine line between creating dolls that are completely accessible (in terms of play factor) to children of a vast age-range, but also with enough personality to satiate the inner desire of the artist (creating something true to your vision), which in turn makes the dolls incredibly appealing to discerning adult collectors.

Now if this equation wasn't tricky enough, and you didn't have to navigate the continuos and ever-evolving toy-legislation of different countries (as selling directly to consumers makes you responsible for a plethora of requirements and inventory tracking), you also have the demands that an online business requires nowadays: knowledge of website design, store platforms, online etiquette, business relations, customer service, product design, photography, social media, etc. It all must sound absolutely daunting to someone who is just starting to make dolls as their online business.

If all that above wasn't enough meat to start chewing, you still have to create the dolls. And to me, the dolls themselves are the most important part of the equation. I know some dollmakers, with years and years of experience, create dolls almost as second nature to them, their dolls have become such an ingrained thing to do, they must come easy. However, speaking from my experience, the dolls don't get easier with time. While you must develop skills and efficient ways of creating, tackling pattern problems and specific ways of assembling the doll that appeal to you, the creation itself, for me at least, is getting more and more detailed. It is not that I am adding so many more bodily features to their construction, is just that I am paying increasingly more attention to single steps. Parts of the process that revealed no joy for me, are now parts that demand my attention and conscious effort. For example, I used to stuff the bellies of the dolls like it was nobody else's business, I just knew more or less the width of the belly and I stuffed until it was plump enough, trying not to create too many lumps or unsightly mistakes. Now I spend time deciding wether the doll is to have a little paunch, wether she has a slender waist, needlefelting the core to create a very sturdy torso that won't lose either shape or volume with the passage of time. And while I would love to complain and moan about how tedious this all is, I am afraid I have quite the opposite to say: taking the time to build the doll from the inside out, to decide how hard the limbs are to be, wether wrists will be more pronounced on this one, or the neck wider, represent parts of this process which are unbelievably enjoyable for me. Go figure.

If you are interested in doll making check this post out: 

As a word of encouragement to my fellow starting dollmakers (I don't want to scare them away!), the enjoyment varies. There are several degrees and I feel inclined to say it has something to do with experience. While for me the beginning was a bit of a blur, and I was going about it the best way I could, then I moved on to really designing the doll. The actual pattern design took a life of its own, and I created a different kind of doll (the figlette) that appealed to me at the time; now I can design a body pattern pretty much confidently (not without trial and error I must say).

Whilst at the very beginning creating the clothes for the dolls was something to make me sweat and quit many times in frustration and tears of sadness, it later evolved into something that makes me salivate at the thought of having an afternoon all to myself just to dig deep into the fabric pile and sew clothing for my dolls.

I could say the exact same thing of stuffing with wool. I used to dread the dimples, the over-stuffing of certain parts, rolling the heads sometimes felt as if I required professional psychological support just to get through it, I never imagined it would be something that with time I would define as a perfectly satisfactory way to spend my evenings. olling and stuffing, turning limbs inside out, poking and prodding, it is all so much fun, that I am starting to see I actually prolong the process so I can enjoy it even more! (almost like taking very small spoons of ice cream and letting it melt extra slowly in your mouth...).

It does get easier! it does get better! and the parts that you dreaded or feared at the beginning, evolve over time into parts that you sincerely enjoy.

Now, all these other business aspects, that is a different story. Photography has become one of the areas that I feel I am comfortable with, but I wouldn't say it comes easy to me. Talking to others about my dolls, and pronouncing in public that I am a professional dollmaker has also become an easier pill to swallow. Website design intrigues me. Social media still has an aspect of terror for me, but I am starting with little steps and slowly cracking my own shell. I am genuinely distrustful of social media because I believe we are all drowning in information over-load, so much of it useless and trivial. But I also feel, quite strongly, that we need to change the conversation, that we are the makers and stewards of our world and is up to us to be pro-active. If I dislike advertisements, and I crave connection and truthful engagements, then I should try to be a voice for that. If I am going to bring something into your life, wether it is a newsletter or a facebook update, I aim to make it meaningful and always mindful. Please send me good wishes, so that I accomplish this next part of the process of my handmade doll business:

to be mindful and meaningful.

 

Penelope over here is now very cross that I wrote an entire post, using her photos and didn't even mention her once. I have to go and appease her, so please excuse me.

Posted on April 27, 2013 and filed under dollmaking, self-growth.