Lidia Snul Bjtales BJD

The Magic of Lidia Snul, Russian BJD Artist (Part 1)

BJD artist Lidia Snul talks about becoming a doll artist, her family, and her creations. This interview is also available in Russian.

BJDmagazine: Are you an artist by training? Have you always designed dolls?

Lidia: I have always been good at drawing and shaping clay, ever since childhood, and didn’t think it was anything special: I assumed everybody could do this, so I never thought about getting a formal artist’s education. I wanted to make dolls for animated movies, but at the time, couldn’t find a place where they taught that. I found one later, but by then it wasn’t feasible. When I got a little older, I liked doing 3D-modeling – and again the same story, I thought anybody could do that, didn’t try to market my skills, worked quietly for a small souvenir-making company – made glass souvenirs with laser etchings inside. Possibly the same story would have happened with my dolls, but when I started making them, a lot of people expressed their support over the Internet, at my favorite Russian BJD resource. They said: “You have to show them, this is magical, we want to buy them.” And then I started taking this seriously. Now I remember that as a child I always made little fantasy creatures with my hands, out of wire lengths and pieces of cloth…

Lidia Snul Bjtales Ophelia

Ophelia. I never expected my dolls to be able to get into poses like this. My friend – Alyona Belyakova – is a wonderful photographer and can “play” with the dolls as a virtuoso! I am very happy to have met her on my life’s journey.

BJDmagazine: When did you discover BJDs? When and how did you start designing BJDs? Why did you chose to design BJDs?

Lidia: I’ve always been concerned with their utter flexibility. When I was about 12, I wanted very much to make a little person that looked real, had complete flexibility, elastic skin, “real” eyes. But the only doll-making materials available to me then were paper-mâché and generic glue. I only discovered the miracle of BJD after 18 years, and became simply obsessed. At first I was thinking in terms of “designer” BJDs, then in terms of the Japanese artists’ work, and only later, I found my own style.

BJDmagazine: What are the inspirations for your dolls? Myths, Russian tales?

Lidia: I don’t know, I think the inspiration kind of comes by itself. At first, I make a face, then a body for this face, and then look for a possible matching prototype in the myths and fairy tales, and fine-tune the details based on that. Most often, fans of my dolls come up with names and stories even before I think of something.

Lidia Snul Bjtales BJD

This is how it looks up close!

BJDmagazine: Your dolls are small, frail, almost like the branches that they often sit on in your pictures. Can you tell us more about that?

Lidia: I like miniatures. Also, I am very near-sighted, and that helps me see tiny details better than if I had 20/20 eyesight. My eyes comfortably span an area of about 25-35 cm (10-14 inch). Actually, my dolls are not that fragile: porcelain is a very dense material, of course it will break if dropped, but if you handle it carefully it will last thousands of years. As for “branches” – these are just stuff I find in the woods and use as props for displaying my dolls. Let’s say I find a broken branch or root, decorate it slightly with copper sticks, acrylics, self-hardening materials – there you have a tree…

BJDmagazine: Your dolls have young bodies, but at the same time function outside of time. Can you elaborate?

Lidia: My dolls have the kind of body I imagine having myself, before I look in the mirror. In my imagination, I am young and thin, light and carefree, flutter from branch to branch in a shady warm forest, live in a moss hut, swim in secluded lakes in the woods… That’s very far from my reality, but one can always dream…

Lidia Snul Bjtales BJD

A little joke. When I made her head with ball-jointed ears – couldn’t decide – is it a sea or a forest creature? I wanted both. One of my talented students suggested – make it a Sea Horse – “this way it will be both marine and hoofed”.

BJDmagazine: What materials do you use to create your dolls? What are your favorite materials to work with?

Lidia: I like bake-able plastics (polymer clay) – my first widely known doll, White Mouse, is made out of them. And my kids play with dolls made out of these materials – they are warm, bouncy, easily posable, you can drop them on the floor or in the water without fear. But as far as I know, their lifespan is limited by the chemical properties of the material. In my opinion, this is unacceptable for collection dolls, which require so much time and labor to make.

BJDmagazine: Can you describe your creative process for us? Do you plan every stage, or do you let the clay guide you?

Lidia: It is very hard to honestly answer this question. Sometimes I plan ahead, and then the doll turns out to be completely different from the original design, sometimes the other way around – I act on an impulse, and suddenly arrive at an image that has been living inside me for a while, but somehow never materialized. To be completely honest, each doll is supposed to be a costume project, but I don’t have patience and skill (and simply just the time) to make clothes. I want top-notch clothes, and now fortunately I’ve met a wonderful Lithuanian artist, Dorote Zaukaite Villela, (aka Tirelessartist). We literally simultaneously thought about making a project together – she wrote to me at the same time as I was going to ask her about this possibility. I think this will be much better than my amateurish attempts.

Lidia Snul BJtales BJD

Alyona caught the sparkle in those eyes.

BJDmagazine: The faces of your dolls are incredibly expressive. Many people read sadness in them. What is your perception?

Lidia: Here there is a simple answer – I have two kids, I watch them when they sleep or play quietly, noticing the placement of facial muscles, color accents on skin, and other anatomical details (don’t think me cynical – I just like to watch people and notice things, and your own kids are the best object for study). My older son also thinks that my dolls are sad, even though I don’t really give them sadness on purpose. I see them as  serene. A lot of people think that the facial expressions of my dolls change – this is probably because of the slight asymmetry.


Join us Thursday at 8 a.m. (Boston Time) for the second part of our interview with Lidia Snul.

You can find Lidia Snul on:

Her Blog: http://bjtales.wordpress.com/

Her Website: http://bjtales.com/main.php

Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bjtales/

We want to give a special thank you to Helen Eventov for her editing help.
Please help us by linking, tweeting, and sharing this article with your friends.
~BJDmagazine

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.

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