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Dale Zentner: Creating a Beautiful BJD Sisterhood

Canadian doll designer Dale Zentner is known for her BJD fashions. Her creations have been featured in publications such as Haute Doll and Doll Reader. Dale sells her ball-jointed doll clothing through her online boutique, Pink Grapefruit Fashions and blogs at http://dalezentner.wordpress.com.

In early 2010, Dale set out to create her first paper-clay BJD. With Ryo Yoshida’s book, Yoshida Style Ball Jointed Doll Making Guide in one hand, and a translation from Den of Angels in the other, Dale began the intricate processes of creating a BJD from scratch.

She drew the figure, cut a styrene core, applied the paper-clay, removed the core, sculpted and sanded the clay, added the ball joints, strung the figure together, added two torso joints. Of the process, Dale writes “Lots of tweaking going on. Tweak… sand… tweak… sand ….string ….correct …again and again. Must be like making a movie… about take ten it comes together.”

Upon completing the sculpt, Dale transformed the ghostly figure into flesh and blood with oil paints and named her Amelia. Dale created jewelry, clothing, and shoes for the finished figure. Dale writes “I know she is just a doll or piece of art but I’m in love with the magic of creating.”

Amelia, Dale's first BJD figure

Portrait of Amelia in summer dress by Dale Zentner.

This Fall, Dale used her experience to create Bianca, her second ball-jointed doll, with improved joints and more refined features. “I’m very proud of these dolls. It was a great challenge to make them. I had to learn to work with a different clay (La doll), sculpt a whole figure, make those crazy ball joints work, and paint with oils. They are more difficult and time-consuming to make than my polymer clay dolls, which were on a cloth body, didn’t have joints, and needed minimal painting. I still have lots to perfect with the paper-clay dolls but that will be done over time.”

Bianca, Dale's second ball-jointed doll

Portrait of Bianca in black hat by Dale Zentner.

Creating clothing for her dolls is Dale’s favorite moment in the genesis of her characters. “Once a doll is made and the paint is dry, she needs to be dressed. I love natural fabrics. I hunt for velvet dresses or skirts, beaded saris or other interesting clothing to transform into outfits for my dolls. The fabric has to have the right weight so it drapes well. If it has a pattern, the scale has to look right on a 1/3 scale doll.”

She pays attention to every detail, from the detailed headpieces down to the the hand-made shoes. “Hats are also fun. I’ve made straw hats from scratch using straw braid. Ultra suede and wool felt is also very useful for hat making.” She crafts her BJD jewelry from semi precious stones and glass beads. She often uses Japanese Delica seed beads in her beadwork. For shoes, she makes the uppers with a variety of materials such as recycled kid leather gloves, trims, ultra suede. She makes the soles and heel from polymer clay, which she paints.

Of course, the experience would not be complete without a photo-shoot. In the rooms she created for the dolls, Dale brings Bianca and Amelia to life, giving us a window into the charmed lives of these two sisters.

BJDs, Bianca and Amelia in silk velvet gowns with beaded details

Bianca and Amelia in silk velvet gowns with beaded details by Dale Zentner.

Through the frosted glass, we see two sisters of exquisite beauty, connected souls.

Bianca and Amelia in silk velvet gowns with hand-beaded trim and accessories

Bianca and Amelia in silk velvet gowns with hand-beaded trim and accessories by Dale Zentner.

At other times, alone and pensive.

Reclining Bianca in red embroidered Indian silk sari dress by Dale Zentner.

Reclining Bianca in red embroidered Indian silk sari dress by Dale Zentner.

Like variations on a theme, sisters share a common origin, and at times even clothing, but remain uniquely different.

Bianca and Amelia in silk velvet dresses with Gold Japanese Delica seed beadwork.

Bianca and Amelia in silk velvet dresses with Gold Japanese Delica seed beadwork and shoes by Dale Zentner.

When they’re apart, their dolls play sister games.

Bianca in red embroidered Indian silk sari dress by Dale Zentner.

Bianca in red embroidered Indian silk sari dress by Dale Zentner.

And they occupy each other’s thoughts.

Amelia. Embroidered dress from Indian scarf. Flower headpiece. Amethyst glass bead jewelry.

Amelia. Embroidered dress from Indian scarf. Flower headpiece. Amethyst glass bead jewelry. By Dale Zentner

About BJDmagazine

BJDmagazine is a free online magazine for the ball-jointed doll community. We feature DIYs articles and how-to's, interviews with prominent BJD artists, BJD photography, and product/doll company news.

15 thoughts on “Dale Zentner: Creating a Beautiful BJD Sisterhood

    1. Dear Dale. It was a pleasure working with you. Your ability to create living breathing characters is astonishing. Your exquisite fashions are central to creating that vitality. Thank you for granting us this interview and insight into your work. ~Caroline and Rolfe

  1. What a beautiful article! Each of these dolls is exquisite but seen together and dressed so perfectly, they come alive as true sisters in this lovely piece of writing. Delightful! I will come back again and again to enjoy this. It is a Toast to talent and artistry.

    1. We appreciate your complements, Alden. We strive to share the beautiful work of talented creative individuals like Dale with the BJD community. Your recognition makes it worthwhile.

  2. I am an all time major fan of Dale's artistry, creativity and work on sculpting these two lovely young ladies. For several years I have stalked her site to see and purchase the most wonderful outfits for my DOLLSTOWN D0lls. Dale's work is impeccable. Each article is finished in the most professional manner, and all I can say is that whatever she decides to create is made to absolute perfection. Each outfit has its special little extra such as a necklace, hair ornament, hat and all outfits come with tights or leggings.
    Dale's footwear is wonderfully made, sturdy and helps the doll to stand securely.

    Dale is a lovely person and friend. I treasure her work as many of my dolls wear clothing and shoes made by Dale. I am looking forward to the time when the dolls she makes will be available to purchase.

    Pink Grapfruit is a favorite of mine.
    Wendy Rundel

    1. Wendy, I'm sure our readers will appreciate this hearing this description from someone who has clothed her dolls in Dale's creations. Thank you, ~BJDmagazine

      1. As a collector of Dale's OOAK dolls over the last ten years (I have 9 ) I can certainly echo all the previous lovely comments. I have been inspired by her to buy 4 BJDs, giving me a wonderful new hobby in my retirement. Her dolls come alive on her 'Fun pics' giving them a new dimension. A true artist!

  3. A wonderful article about a fabulous artist! I am the lucky owner of one of Dale's clothing creations and am seeking more! Such fine craftsmanship, design and detail. Dale's dolls are amazing and I can't wait to be able to add her delightful darlings to my collection.

    I will read this article over and over – thank you!

    Deanna Sosnowski

    1. Thank you, Deanna. Like you, we hope one day to add a Dale Zentner BJD to our collection. And we are so glad you like the article. ~BJDmagazine

  4. I have fallen in love with Dale's beautiful dolls and wish she would create BJD's in resin so more collectors can have an opportunity to own one of her creations.

    Sue Toye

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