Marina Bychkova of Enchanted Doll explains the soulful expressions of her ball-jointed dolls, the magic of her painted eyes, and tells us about her soon to be released resin BJDs.
BJDmagazine: Commentators have projected many interpretations upon your dolls. If your dolls could speak, how would they rebut those interpretations? How would they represent themselves?
Marina: One thing that viewers tend to observe most often is that Enchanted Dolls appear to be sad. My intention is to convey emotional and physical vulnerability through my dolls. I gravitate towards creating non-smiling dolls with a contemplative look because I’d like to leave their facial expressions ambiguous enough for personal interpretations and allow a projection of the viewer’s own emotions onto the doll. A smiling face is very attractive, but it always means one thing: joy. This significantly narrows down the meaning behind each face, while a thoughtful, emotional and contemplative appearance can subtly imply many different moods and thoughts.
BJDmagazine: Tell us about references in your work to physical, psychological, and social captivity.
Marina: The themes of vulnerability and captivity are indeed quite recurrent in my work. I can try to rationalize it with explanations such as social commentary, which is definitely a part of it, but the truth is that I don’t fully comprehend the driving force behind it myself. I wonder how Freud would explain my preoccupation with these issues? In fact, it was the reading of some of Sigmund Freud’s and Jacques Lacan’s papers, and being exposed to social theory, psychoanalysis, and more crucially, feminist theory in Art School, that had made me more critical and conceptually driven with my work.
BJDmagazine: You choose to paint the eyes of the dolls, instead of using glass eyes. You say they are the soul of the doll. Do the eyes transcend captivity?
Marina: No, I don’t think it’s possible for the eyes to transcend captivity; on the contrary, I think they convey captivity because our emotions and faces reflect our environment.
Eyes are considered a window to the soul because they are a natural focal point of the face. But eyeballs themselves don’t have much expression to speak of. It’s the subtle movements of our facial muscles that create emotions around the eyes, thus providing them with expressions. So, in reality our whole face is the window to the soul; a very powerful map of signals for others to pick up and interpret during interaction. Facial expressions are very often involuntarily assumed because they are closely linked to emotions.
However, it is possible to compartmentalize and disconnect the two, especially for sociopaths, whose emotions are impaired.
BJDmagazine: Please tell us about the long-awaited release of your resin dolls. What was the transition like for you as an artist working on a new medium?
Marina: The resin line has been in development for nearly a year and it proved to be a lot more challenging than I had expected. Working with a manufacturer and letting go of even a tiny fraction of control as opposed to relying only on myself to make everything has been difficult to adjust to, but I think I’m getting the hang of it. Its been a learning experience, and I’ve learned that I’m a control freak. I think we’re near the end of development. It’s been plagued by delays, but early next year I expect to launch.
BJDmagazine: Please tell us about your inspiration for the jewelry and garments for your dolls.
Marina: I’m inspired by various folk traditions from many different cultures and and ethnicities, but there is always a little bit of Russia in every doll I make. I’m particularly inspired by Chinese and Middle Eastern ornamentation. But really, it’s impossible to pinpoint the source of my inspiration, because everything is connected in the world, everything, even the most mundane object can be inspiring in the right circumstances.
BJDmagazine: Recently you talked about preparing Ruby for auction. Why and how is she special to you?
Marina: I really enjoy what I do and every doll is special to me while I work on it. It’s always a little bit sad letting go of my girls, but I know that this enables me to continue producing more beautiful work, improve and grow. My favorite doll is always my next doll.
BJDmagazine: How do you strike a balance between delicate form and articulation in your dolls?
Marina: I work really hard at balancing the form and function in my work. I don’t like one-dimensional art and it’s very important to me that my dolls transcend the traditional boundaries of the doll aesthetic and exist in other contexts and genres. My goal is to create the most unforgettable and exquisite toy in the world. The notion of beauty is very subjective and varies from person to person, but I believe that if I can relate my own genuine vision of beauty effectively, then my audience will respond to that.
BJDmagazine: Interestingly, you describe the mouth as the most sensual, but secondary to the eyes, which are expressive. Can you elaborate?
Marina: I don’t choose one over the other- I create the package. A beautiful face is both expressive and sensual. One simply can not exist without the other.
BJDmagazine: Your recent dolls have had beautiful body art/tattoos. Are they primarily ornamental or symbolic? What do they represent?
Marina: I like to infuse the dolls with multi-foliate interpretations, and tattoos, just like every other aspect of any given doll, serve as a vehicle for expression; they add an extra dimension to the doll by providing more visual signifiers to construct meaning and suggest various interpretations.
BJDmagazine: The storage tins you’ve designed are beautiful. Can you tell us more about the artwork on them?
Marina: The artwork on the tins was commissioned from two of my favorite contemporary artists: Natalia Pierandrei and Lostfish. It took almost a year to develop the project and have it manufactured, but it’s been on my mind for much longer than that. I’ve always had a soft spot for various containers and boxes, and wanted to create beautiful and durable packaging that would be fitting for Enchanted Doll. It was a long road to find the right manufacturer and work out all the logistics, but I’m immensely happy with the result. It’s exactly what I wanted.
What can I say, once I get an idea stuck in mind, it’s usually only a matter of time until I find a way to do it!