Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cheap Thrills

Although there are 4 Family Dollar stores within a 10 minute drive of my house, shopping there used to be as scary as walking through a graveyard on All Hallows' Eve.  There were always homeless beggars camped in front of the entrances and the one closest to my house had a height chart painted next to the exit so that the cashiers could give the police accurate descriptions of the armed robbery suspects after yet another stick up.  Yet, when D7ana posted about the Midnight Magic dolls a few weeks ago, I knew I had to have these $5 Monster High clones even if it meant combing through every seedy Family Dollar in Atlanta.

From pictures of boxed specimens I could see that the dolls had articulated elbows and wrists and I wondered what the legs were like.  I ventured to the Family Dollar that is a block from my house last weekend and was pleased to see that the parking lot of the strip mall where it is located was being re-paved.  I still had to pass some vagrants to enter but they were at least two yards from the door.  Inside I found a fresh case of the Midnight Magic dolls and was intrigued to see that they are manufactured by the Lovely Patsy company.

Apparently monsters and vampires have become so popular that even the purveyors of princesses and fairies are eager to join in the danse macabre.


What is even more amazing is that this line of clones has a background story and each doll comes with a secret code, which is supposed to unlock games and other special content on the Midnight Magic website.

The website is slow, the game doesn’t seem to be up and running yet and the graphics are so close to the Monster High logos and motifs I’m surprised Mattel hasn’t slapped Lovely Patsy with a lawsuit.  Once I opened the cute, coffin-shaped box (a neat touch that Mattel didn’t think of), I discovered the similarities between these clones and the Monster High dolls are even more striking.

    The Midnight Magic dolls are taller than the regular Monster High girls but they are almost the same size as Nefera de Nile.  I was glad to see that because Mattel hasn’t produced any more outfits for her and while she could easily shake down les soeurs Garoul for some of their fashions, she wouldn’t be able to fit into them.

Nefera sniffed when she first saw Pippa’s tacky silver snakeskin dress and cheap, blow molded boots but since she doesn’t have any other options, she decided she had enough personal panache to make it work.

Given that these days Lovely Patsy dolls usually have hollow plastic bodies with stiff legs, I was impressed to see that Pippa has vinyl legs with click jointed knees.  


Her knees are very stiff, however.  Indeed all of her joints are very stiff.  I suspect they are also very fragile.  Still she is more poseable than a $5 Barbie.  Her hair is not as thickly rooted as Mattel products usually are but it has a luscious, silky texture. 

    Yet, the more I looked at Pippa and Nefera, the more I came to suspect that Mattel and Lovely Patsy may have reached a secret agreement that allows Mattel to profit from the inevitable discount clones of their popular Monster High line.  

Pippa’s pelvis is slightly deeper than Nefera’s.  

The shape of her bosom is a little different and her feet are just a tad bit wider.

 but the hands would be even more similar if it weren't for the extra flash on Pippa's fingers.  

I believe that Mattel should use creativity rather than lawsuits to bury the competition, but I have to admit that the Midnight Magic dolls are blatant copies.  Nevertheless I hope that Lovely Patsy will keep giving us these cheap thrills for some time to come.

À Bientôt and Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

From a Sow's Ear

Top designers have been creating ensembles for Barbie for decades, but in real life many of us shop for our wardrobes at Walmart and Target.  Similarly not all of the characters in my doll world can afford to shop at exclusive boutiques like Ni'Chalet’s in Morristown.  Last year I snagged a number of $1 fashion packs at Dollar Tree and then set out to make silk purses from these sartorial sow’s ears. 


Our model today is Greta Behan, a gift from Debbie Behan Garrett of Black Doll Collecting who knows my fondness for dollar store clones. 


I upgraded her to an articulated Mattel poser body that had previously belonged to a Barbie cheerleader or athlete.

The black and white striped top had unfinished neck, hem, and armhole edges.  I wanted to stop the fabric from developing runs so I stitched black rick rack around the neck edge. 


I also cut the back open and added a Velcro closure so my ladies can put it on and take it off without having to pull it over their heads. 

The skinny jeans show off Greta’s long, shapely legs but did not fit snugly at the waist so I added some belt lops and made a braided belt from red embroidery thread.

Greta has flat feet and can’t wear any standard fashion doll shoes so I made her a pair of suede sandals. 

I also opened the side seam of the jeans and stitched rick rack around the hem to coordinate with the other rick rack accents.

Greta's hat was borrowed from a Dolls of the World Barbie and her purse is a Kari Michelle accessory.

Several of the Dollar Tree fashion packs included shapeless tube dresses made from cheap velour.  The orange and lime green ones were so bad I couldn’t salvage them but the red and black ones yielded just enough fabric to make the coordinating bolero jacket with ¾ length sleeves that completes Greta’s ensemble.

Greta will be wearing other Dollar Tree ensembles in an upcoming photo story about LaQuita Jackson, a remarkable young woman who is determined to make a better life for herself and her son even though she wasn’t born with a silver spoon in her mouth. 

À Bientôt

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Kid Stuff

This season's black doll bonanza has yielded unexpected treasures.

Dollar Tree has been selling white fairies with this mold for several years.  This season they have even shown up in other discounters like Roses/ Maxway but yesterday was the first time I had seen black and Hispanic versions of these dolls. 

The fairy dresses are irredeemably cheap and tacky.  Still the doll comes with an impressive array of accessories -- fairy wings, a fairy wand which you can use to blow soap bubbles, a brush or comb, a purse, and a pair of slippers.

Mattel and other manufacturers of branded dolls make plenty of baby and toddler sized black dolls.  While their record on producing Hispanic and Asian dolls is not as good, doll families of any ethnicity can readily include small children.  Finding 1:6 scale ethnic school age dolls is another story, so I was delighted that Dollar Tree has provided some options.


and Carmen

are modeling Bratz school uniforms that I found on clearance at Target last week. 


Even though their bodies are made of stiff, hollow plastic with skinny matchstick legs that don't bend, they make adorable second graders.

In 2005 I found these articulated child dolls at a mom and pop dollar store on the West Bank of New Orleans. 

Each doll came with a bicycle, which I thought would be useful. 

I also thought the articulated bodies would be perfect for doll videos.  Over the years I have tried different techniques for making children of color out of these dolls.  First I tried coloring one body with a brown Sharpie.  The doll ended up looking like she was made of wood and I couldn't find a child head that was  good match in terms of size and complexion.  Next I tried painting over the Sharpie color with acrylic paint.  Unfortunately the paint flaked off the soft vinyl head. 

Lunette's new body needs a few more coats of paint and sealer but now that I have found a source of heads at Dollar Tree, I can finally make use of the other five bodies I bought seven years ago.

Dollar Tree also had some black toddler dolls. 

I scalped this one so Lunette could have a baby brother. 

Oliver has a hollow plastic body that isn't even jointed at the hips but the bicycle makes this set worth the money.

Roses is currently selling these dolls in fairy or pajama party sets:

I bought several sets of these twins from Family Dollar in  2005.  At that time, dolls with this mold had soft vinyl legs and bendable knees.  Their hip joints are a little weak and their arms are a bit short but I thought that if only their heads weren't so large, they would make cute "teeny boppers." 

I put an adult head on one to make the diminutive Beulah Knapp.

In general, however, adult heads made these dolls look too old for junior high school.

Daneese's turtleneck disguises the fact that this body is not a good complexion match. 

Still I will be using these bodies and Dollar Tree heads to make five more classmates for Daneese.

I found Cordelia's body in a bargain bin at a doll show last May. 

Her grandmother washed, pressed and curled her hair, but she's been playing hard and the ringlets are starting to fall.

It's been a long time coming but I am overjoyed to have found these child dolls.

À Bientôt

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Coming 'Round the Mountain

Well, I wasn't driving six white horses but Fall Break took me through the mountains with a stop at the  Kentucky Artisan Center again.  Books of Kentucky ghost stories, a broom-making demonstration, and this soft sculpture witch evoked the Halloween season:

There were also plenty of enticements like this Lindy Evans Santa Claus for the throngs of early Christmas shoppers:

Evans started her career as a doll maker by creating fabric dolls as gifts for family and friends.  Then, after 17 years as an educator in the public schools, she became a full-time doll artist.  Evans draws inspiration from studies of real people for the one-of-a kind faces she sculpts from polymer clay. 

She then hand paints the faces, wraps polyester batting over a wire armature to shape the bodies, and dresses the figures in vintage fabrics. 


Evans' work has been featured on Home and Garden Television and in numerous national magazines.

I was sorry to learn that Nita Keeler, the creator of this "Darn-it-the Cowboy" figure had recently passed away:

According to the hang tag, "Darn-it is resting here with his cowboy boots off, whith his one sock off, and the other exposing his toe thru a hole." 

"He is contemplating the end of day, as he adjusts his hat and enjoys the comfort of no boots upon his weary feet." 

"Darn-it is a soft sculpted body with a hand sculpted polymer clay head and feet."

Fortunately younger Kentucky artists like Jennifer Zingg are exploring new modes of expression with traditional craft media such as gourds:

As an art student at Kentucky Wesleyan College in the early 1990s, Zingg initially did not appreciate the box of gourds her grandfather gave her. 

Then, after the birth of her second child in 2001, she re-discovered the gourds in a closet and began creating what she calls "contemporary folk art." 

Her work has since been featured on Home and Garden Television.

So if you happen to pass through Berea next time you are "coming 'round the mountain," take time to stop at the Kentucky Artisan Center.  You might even find a plate of chicken and dumplings at their cafe.

À Bientôt