BJDmagazine: How do you decide on a face-up when you work on your own dolls, and when you work on a commission?
Miriam: On my own dolls, I am way more relaxed. It’s funny, because I often know just what I want for them. Though, with my pukiFee, I was experimenting, not knowing what she was going to look like. I love doing my own dolls most of all, because every doll has his or her own character. I just know how to work on them. When working for customers, you have to understand what they want. I created a face-up questionnaire for that purpose. It’s a simple list with questions about the general mood, the shape, and colors of eyebrows, eyelashes, mouth, and so on. I ask customers to provide photos as examples, if they have them. I would never copy a face-up from another doll owner, especially not on a similar sculpt. Though, I don’t mind copying a default company face-up. The difference is that every doll owner creates their own unique doll character (unless it’s a limited full set of course), and I don’t want to simply copy a doll from someone else, unless I know that this face-up doesn’t exist anymore.
BJDmagazine: What advice would you give to collectors wanting to commission a custom face-up from you?
Miriam: Think about what you want for your doll. What kind of character you would like your doll to express. What colors you would like me to use.
BJDmagazine: You paint beautiful sleeping faces. Tell us more about the choices you make when painting them.
Miriam: I work on them the same way I work on normal faceplates, even though sleeping faces have more neutral/peaceful eyebrows. When I do sleeping faces, I try to give the face a calm expression, as if the doll was really sleeping.
BJDmagazine: How different is it to paint an SD, as opposed to an MSD, Yo-SD, or a tiny doll?
Miriam: Sometimes it’s a relief to work on SD heads. At the moment, I have two huge SD heads from customers. I am very glad to have this change of size once in a while because bigger heads are always easier to work on. The smaller they are, the harder it is to paint tiny sharp eyelashes and eyebrows. I get a lot of requests to work on MSDs and Yo-SDs, so I am happy when I receive bigger heads. The shade work can be more interesting and it is even a bit more relaxing.
BJDmagazine: You paint wonderful freckled faces. What is your approach to making them look so natural?
Miriam: Haha! I’ve been asked about this a lot. My tip is to thin the paint with water. Make the paint very translucent, but just dense enough to leave marks when you apply it. And, of course, you need a tiny airbrush and lots of patience. Painting freckles is slow and time-consuming.
BJDmagazine: What materials do you work with? Do you prefer pastels or paints? And why?
Miriam: I work with different brands of acrylics (Lascaux, Amsterdam, Jo Sonja’s, and Americana’s), and with one brand of pastels (Rembrandt). I use different brands of acrylics because every brand has its own colors that I prefer. Some paints, like Lascaux and Jo Sonja’s, have strong pigments, which is handy when you want to work a bit darker. Americana and Amsterdam have a thinner texture, which makes it easier to produce lighter shades. Rembrandt pastels are my favorite soft pastels. They provide me with the right colors. Sometimes I also make use of my airbrush when I need to work with other colors, like purple and blue color tones. It’s hard to make blue and purple look bright and saturated with pastels, especially on normal or darker skin tones.
BJDmagazine: Are some molds harder to work with than others? Tell us why. Do you enjoy the challenge?
Miriam: Yes there definitely is a difference in sculpts. Companies like Fairyland and Soom have sculpts that are very easy to work with. Their faces are smooth and don’t have too many details, like very deep set eyes, heavy eyebrows or frowny faces. They leave lots of possibilities open for face-ups. But heads from companies like Souldoll, Doll in Mind, or cheaper Chinese companies such as Dollfamily, are harder. Some of the head sculpts from Souldoll and Doll in Mind have very deep set eyes and often deeply sculpted eye creases. This makes it harder to get an ‘even’ effect when blushing.
Another challenge is asymmetric faces. Faces from cheaper BJD companies often have this characteristic. When it’s not too obvious, there is no real problem. It can even add a touch of realism to a face, since no human face is perfectly balanced. But once, I had to work on a doll that had one eye that was a lot wider than the other. It was the first thing I noticed when I looked at it. It was really obvious. Also, the eyes were not at the same height. Even the elven ears were uneven. One ear was obviously bigger than the other. It was hard to give the face a somewhat balanced face-up. Those dolls are not fun to work on. It takes a lot of effort to get it ‘right’, and in the end, I often don’t even like the results. I guess I am too ‘precise’ with these things. I keep seeing the fact that the face is unbalanced, and it bothers me.
BJDmagazine: Do you fall in love with some molds?
Miriam: Oh yes! Definitely. I once did a face-up on a doll that was to be sold by Triskel Fantasy Shop. It was a MiniFee Seorin. In the end, I decided to buy him and he never left me . He still has that face-up. I love him very much, even though I am now capable of better quality face-ups than back then.
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