M: I wasn’t trained as a photographer; I’ve got an MA in English language and literature and I currently work as a freelance editor of romance novels. Photography came much later, although I had an analog SLR camera when I was younger – my dad used to be an avid amateur photographer and we had our very own darkroom at home. When I first saw the many beautiful pictures of BJDs on Flickr, I immediately knew it was something I’d like to know how to do, too. As luck would have it, my husband had just bought himself a DSLR. I’ve been hogging it ever since.
Q: Tell us about your first BJD?
M: My very first was a BlueFairy Pocket Fairy Choco. At least, she was the first that arrived! The first BJD I ever fell in love with was a Lati Yellow Byurl. I remember seeing a picture on Flickr and thinking: I’ve got to have that one! That’s when it all started. And you know how these things go – once you’ve got one, you just need another. And another, and another… The Byurl has moved on since, but my Pocket Fairy still lives with me. Now that I think of it, she’s got her first anniversary coming up in a couple of days!
M: In short: eye candy. I am forever browsing other people’s photostreams. If the internet didn’t exist, I’d have a LOT fewer dolls! I know some people conjure up elaborate stories and backgrounds for their dolls, but it doesn’t work that way for me. I see a doll, I fall in love, I need to have it. I’m a greedy little pig, really.
M: Hmm, that’s a difficult one. I started out wanting just the tiny tinies, like Lati Yellow, but in time, I became curious to see other sizes. I then completely and utterly fell for a Lati Green Gloomy Garden Coco, so I moved up a step on the ladder. Next up were another two tinies, but then I stumbled upon Leeke World Mabel. She’s MSD size, a size I’d always said was much too big for me! When she got home, her (in my eyes) huge body really put me off at first, but after I had gotten used to her, she just felt so solid and looked so elegant, I was hooked. I’ve now got four MSDs, and I’m saving up for an SD! Each size has their own special charm, from the tiny pukipuki to the big SD, but I think I am mostly drawn to the bigger sizes, Yo-SD and upwards.
Q: You often commission faceup artists. Who have you worked with? How do you decide on a faceup?
M: The first time I commissioned a face-up was for my Leeke Mabel, who travelled to Caroline of Viridian House, in Scotland. I was so scared! I had NO idea how to exactly describe what I wanted. Caroline is an amazing person, though. She was very patient and understanding, didn’t mind me changing my mind about the eyebrows for the umpteenth time, and sent progress pictures every step of the way. Plus her work is absolutely stunning, of course. Highly recommended! I’ve also just worked with Luna – Sleepingliar in Italy, who has revamped Abby, my Lati Yellow Sp Coco. Abby’s on her way back to me as we speak, and she’s looking absolutely stunning, judging by the pictures I saw! I’ll be commissioning fellow Dutchie, Sweetly Twisted, and US-based Meggilu in the near future.
Deciding on a face-up once again involves lots of browsing the internet. I can’t draw for the life of me, so I usually use other people’s pictures as a reference for a certain style or colour. Never exact copies of course, that wouldn’t be fair, but say, the shape of these eyebrows, the colour of that mouth, freckles like these (I love freckles!), that sort of thing.
M: I think most important is that you like the general style of the face-up artist. For me, the shape of the eyebrows is the decisive factor. I don’t know why, but when a face-up artist knows how to paint pretty eyebrows, the rest of the face-up will usually be excellent too. Also, try to be as specific as you can, send pictures, give the artist something to work with, but allow for their artistic vision, too! If you like their style, trust them to make your doll beautiful.
Q: Your dolls have an impressive wardrobe. How do you choose the garments, what are your favorite sources, small artisans or larger companies?
M: I try to picture in my head what kind of person my doll is. Is she a pink and frilly kind of girl? Or a bit of a tomcat? Plus I try to colour coordinate her clothes to the colour of her hair and face-up. It doesn’t always work out; sometimes a doll decides she wants to be something completely different than what I had in mind! That’s okay though – there are more than enough sisters around here who also like new shiny clothes. I’ve ordered from large companies and small artisans alike. Dollmore has a huge collection, and I love AnotherSpace 2. Nine9style is my absolute favourite of the bigger ones. As for smaller artisans, my favourites are Spampy, who is a joy to work with, and Her Delicate Strength, who makes the most amazingly detailed clothes for MiniFee and Unoa you’ve ever seen! For jeans, check out dambuster01 on DoA. If you like superbly crocheted dresses and tops, Kirika Dawn on Etsy is the one you’ll need, and Honeythorpe (also on Etsy) sews the sweetest dresses. To name just a few!
Q: What is important in the choice of a wig?
M: For me, material, mostly. I’ve got a number of heat resisting fiber wigs, which are nice, but I have found you just can’t beat mohair for prettiness and versatility. True, they do have a tendency to get fuzzy, but the big advantage is that you can actually wash them and they’ll mostly be alright again! Plus you can style them any way you like. My favourite company-made mohair wigs (real and synthetic) are by Glib and Monique. For home-made mohair wigs, I like to commission Tinybear or Miyukidollfie.
Q: What are your favorite eyes, and why?
M: I prefer glass eyes to acrylic ones, because they photograph so much better (more lifelike). I don’t really have a favourite brand yet, although Hand Glass Craft eyes are amazing. I’d like to try some of the urethane eyes, like Enchanted Doll Eyes for example, as I’ve heard lots of good things about those.
Q: What photo equipment do you use?
M: Well, there’s my husband’s camera of course, which is a Sony a350 DSLR, and my favourite lens is the Sigma 50 mm F1.4 EX DG HSM (all mine!). The very few times I use a flash, I use my Lightscoop to get rid of the awful flash glare. The Lightscoop is a kind of reflector shoved over the pop-up flash that bounces the light of the flash via the ceiling or wall. That’s it!
Q: What kind of indoor setup do you have?
M: None, really. I do own a light tent, but I hardly ever use it. I prefer shooting in my living room, next to the big floor-to-ceiling windows we’ve got. Natural light is the best!
Q: Tell us about your outdoor photography, and your choices of backgrounds…
M: My outdoor photography is all done in my back yard. I somehow haven’t found the courage yet to grab a doll and venture beyond the safety of my own home! Backgrounds are usually my lawn & tiny rock garden, the rather dark and gloomy bit next to my kids’ sandbox, or the small wrought iron table on our terrace.
Q: Do you have recommendations for our readers to better photograph their dolls?
M: I think most important is the use of light. If you’re shooting indoors, try to get as much light on your doll as possible. Preferably pose them near a big window, and shoot with the light, not against it! In other words; have your doll face the window and shoot with your back to the window, not the other way round. As for angles, that’s a personal preference, I think. Try to vary your poses, the doll doesn’t always have to face the camera. Oh, and keep your backgrounds as uncluttered as possible! They don’t have to be empty, as the right kind of background shapes can really help in building the atmosphere you’re trying to achieve, but you don’t want them to distract from your subject. I always try to move any of my kids’ brighter toys out of the way, to avoid big bright distracting blobs of colour, and try to keep the lines of any objects in the background clean. If you’re shooting outdoors, try to avoid harsh sunlight. Cloudy days work best! And in general: get to know your camera! The more you know about it, the more you’ll be able to let it work for you. If it has a manual setting, learn how to use it! This takes time, I know from experience. But there really is a world of difference between pictures taken with the camera on full automatic, and pictures where you’ve been the one in control.
M: That one’s easy: I shoot in Raw format. This allows me to do my own developing of the pictures, as it were. I get my pictures straight out of the camera to my computer without any modifications (as opposed to when you shoot JPEG, which makes your pictures go through a compression process), and I can easily change the contrast, bump up or down the exposure, increase or decrease the vibrancy, etc. from there.
Q: How do you store and/or present your dolls?
M: Most of them sit on their shelf in my living room, and I keep some of them in my study upstairs so I can look at them while I work. I’m not one for keeping them in their boxes, I need to be able to see my eye candy and enjoy it every day! I would like to buy a pretty travelling trunk for them one day, so I can take them places!
Q: How do you pick your dolls’ names?
M: Sometimes their names just come to me when I open their boxes, and sometimes I’ve been sifting through hundreds of names on one of those baby names sites before they even get here. I recently went through an Irish phase – hence Darcy, Erin, Rhiannon… But in the end, it’s always the doll who decides, funnily enough. Sometimes the names I’ve cooked up just don’t fit, and I have to start all over again!
M: Well, with Autumn approaching, I figured my dolls needed something to keep them warm. I stumbled upon a knitted iPhone cozy and I thought: hey! That will fit my Yo-SD dolls! So I altered the pattern and started knitting. The only problem was that once all my Yo-SDs had their hoodies, I couldn’t stop! So I’m now selling my extras. I made some of them a bit longer and wider, and voila, the hoodie dress was born. I’d like to knit long cardigans for MSDs in the future (they’re cold, too!) and also have plans to make the hoodies and hoodie dresses in MSD size.
Q: What place does your photography hold for interacting with your dolls? With other BJD enthusiasts?
M: It’s very, very important! It’s what I enjoy doing most. I like dressing up my dolls, sure, but in the end, it’s all about the photography. It’s just so much fun to have a certain image in your head and then see it become reality on your screen! And then of course there’s the comments and faves on Flickr. I have met so many wonderful people through my photography, it’s been an awesome year. What on earth did I do before BJDs?
Q: Do you go to events and gatherings?
M: Not yet. I would like to, but haven’t managed to go so far. The one drawback of living in a small village and having small kids!
Q: Do youhave a favorite doll? (we promise not to tell the others)
M: I was dreading this question. Each time a new doll arrives, she’s the favourite for a while, of course. I am now very partial to my Elfdoll Dami, who just got here a few days ago. But if I really, really, really had to choose, I’d probably have to say my Custom House Ange Ai Uri. There’s just something about her that tugs at my heartstrings, however corny that may sound!
Q: Is there anything else you would like us to ask?
M: Not really – I think you’ve been very thorough (in a good way!)! I would like to thank all my Contacts on Flickr for their huge inspiration over the past year, though! And I’d like to thank you here at BJD Magazine for having me!