I have had a truly fucked fall. And as is true of most Tommydoll posts, this will include a fair amount of Tommy Drama…so deal with it…
Not since my being laid off from Tonner in 2010 have I felt so disparaged by the doll world. Not that they haven’t been supportive in some ways, mind you…but also in other ways that totally and truly suck. Let’s recap, shall we? (No…this isn’t the ‘Best Of’ for 2016…it’s something extra just for you.
HauteDoll Magazine folded. Why? Well…it’s not my fault, Puddings – just seems that the doll industry doesn’t give a shit enough to work with the pub to place strategic advertising to support its pages – so the publisher turns to the only other advertisers around from the BJD world – of whom, fashion doll collectors just really don’t care for, nor do the fashion doll advertisers who just can’t stand seeing their product next to a Kaye Wiggs sculpt. Oh fuck, please – get over yourself. I’m am just certain Calvin Klein gets his panties in a wad over seeing his editorial mixed with Lili Pulitzer…but hey, give us something new, and we’ll cover it. And therein lies the real problem. There has been virtually nothing new from ANY doll makers in what feels like centuries.
Hmmmm…ok, so then I lose a good friend by his just (literally) disappearing…no trace, no sight to be seen…a mystery, really; I totaled my car; I injured my ankle; a promising start-up doll I was watching and helping to get funded was rejected by the sponsor after they already verbally committed to take on the project; my sewing machine is totally fucked up after a complex project to sew leather (which will never happen again) – damn thing has been in the shop twice, and still is not properly functioning (I will probably need a new one); I haven’t had a decent dolly fix in months; I missed out on two doll events I had wanted to attend; dare I go on? Even Once Upon A Time has finally ponied up a story arc that is so contrived, that not even I believe enough in magic to pull this crumbling fairy tale out of The Dark One’s ass. And those are just the tips of the iceberg, Dears. OK…so I’m being a whiney little bitch…but it can be warranted, you know.
And then the Election happened. By then, I woke up on the day before my 6th Anniversary of getting tossed by Tonner – fully believing that I was now in Hell. But it wasn’t all bad – Robert Tonner accepted my friend request on Facebook…so there is a light at the end of the tunnel – right?
Man…when it rains, it pours with me, Dearies…
You know…all I ever wanted from the doll world was a forum to be creative, share ideas, and meet lifelong friends from all walks of life. The last thing I wanted was to be ignored – and it kinda felt that was exactly what was happening – and my ego is easily bruised as my regular readers and friends well know (a least I admit it, amateurs).
And then, something new happened. And by that…I meant a new doll. A real, new doll.
Pidgin and Mary Magpie/First Love are possibly the newest things to happen in our arena since the BJD’s went all lifelike mannequin from the West, or too vomit-cutesy by otherwise talented sculptors within the BJD world, but not a part of the Asian BJD movement. Most of what I am referring can be seen here…
Tonner has gone all Willy Wonka on us, closing its collections for good in support of something called ‘Phyn & Arrow’, which just makes one scratch his head…
Ellowyne Wilde and Evangeline Ghastly are finally dead as they clear out of their dusty attics. Integrity Toys (IT) keeps putting out more and more of the exact same thing (except we finally did get Coven, though it was a disappointing contribution to the FR collection – IT also did a double whammy by nixing its 16” girls, because its collector base ‘doesn’t have the room for 16” girls’ – but they will happily usher home dozens of 12” dolls from a single convention, and cram them on one shelf in the name of completion-ism, and denying Barbie any room in their 12” world. IT…your ‘Tonner’ moment is coming soon…and faster than you think…
Mattel took a swing at Lammily – the year’s biggest anti-story; but they also articulated the Silkstones, so that was a moment coming out of constipation, I guess. Madame Alexander has all by withdrawn from any corner of the doll world, but continues to make (but I doubt actually sell) that excretious Alex.
When I say there’s been nothing new under the sun…you can bet on it – with the sole exception of Pidgin and Joey Versaw’s creations. If I missed something, one of my readers will gladly correct me in the comments section.
“Nothing new,” did he say? Welllll…not exactly. You see – turning Superdoll into vinyl isn’t new – but it is a necessary evolution that no other resin company dares to even venture. And others…well, breaking your collectors’ bank accounts by offering a million ‘exclusive’ convention products isn’t new (and you are ALL guilty of that – probably with a tie going to JAMIEShow and Integrity Toys). Articulating Silkstone isn’t new – nor is varying body types (Tonner has you all beat there). OZ IN STEAMPUNK IS NOT NEW, YOU FUCKING MORONS AT MADAME ALEXANDER – Jesus…really? Nothing in the ABJD (or the Alt.BJD) world is new – they just get more expensive and harder to buy (English as a second web language, really folks?)
Fashion Doll Quarterly (FDQ) is now the ONLY fashion doll magazine resource (DOLLS has been reduced from magazine to brochure – and will probably be a leaflet by end of 2017 – but they barely even know what a fashion doll is anyway, so no one is likely to notice) – and as much as Pat at FDQ tries to keep it fresh and new (though still somewhat stale because she mostly only covers advertisers), the mag has mostly become a catalog for Kingdom Doll; much like Haute Doll was a catalog for Jpopdolls, JAMIEshow, and formerly Superdoll. But hey…if they’re paying – gravy. If they are trading dolls or not doing anything but getting exclusive imagery – that is stealing from a magazine’s resources – and it puts them out of business. Thanks for nothing to the overtly guilty here. No…I’m not bitter at all.
I was ready to raise my over-sized spoon of Talenti Salted Caramel Gelato in a collective ‘Fuck You’ to the doll world – until I started conversing with Jozef Szekeres – about his (wait for it) – NEW doll collection.
Before we start into the details of this exciting new (yes…it is new) dolls. Not new: they are app. 1:4 scale (inline with 16″ scale, but slightly taller in height), they are fashion dolls, they are exaggerated body types (so leave your ‘body image‘ bullshit at home)…but they are not resin. Szekeres is the first individual aside from Robert Tonner to not use any corporate funding to develop a hard plastic/vinyl fashion doll. ‘Say what,’ you say?
Well…that’s why you have seen a HUGE explosion in resin dolls – few doll makers outside Mattel, Hasbro and IT can afford to pay the up-front costs associated with plastic. Of the resin makers (and IT), they whore every dime out from collectors to continue to produce painfully expensive resin dolls, instead of doing what Superdoll did, and gradually invest in itself to develop vinyl molds to give their customers a price break on their art. Remember…just because it’s plastic, doesn’t mean it’s cheap. Plastic does involve far less finishing techniques than resin – so you can see a cost savings that can be re-distributed to its accessories…unless you use a vastly outdated costing mechanism as Tonner does, and simply keep removing accessories to keep the cost down to a ‘perceived’ level. All of this is business, science, and a dash of art. For those who don’t understand why dolls cost so much, this lesson is for you – and yet, you continue to ignore the truth, defecating your senseless drivel to any bulletin board, chat room, social media app, or bathroom wall (which is precisely why you will suffer alone in a custom-made, painful level of Hell for all eternity).
Resin molds costs hundreds of dollars to develop, and you have the costly resin needed to produce a very heavy doll needing extensive finishing – mold costs are small, but cost to produce the doll is steep. Vinyl molds cost thousands of dollars to develop, but savings are seen in some reduced finishing procedures – vinyl is cheaper than resin, so there is a trade-off in the increased cost for molds (which can produce more dolls before replacement than resin molds), and there is a marked decrease cost of actually making the doll. Hard plastic molds costs tens of thousands of dollars to produce – the cost of plastic is extremely low, thereby making the cost to produce the dolls very low – you can make exponentially more dolls from hard plastic molds than from vinyl or resin molds. By creating a durable, larger quantity of dolls, you have more money you can spend on the clothing and accessories. Do you get it, now? And don’t you dare give me the ‘I only collect art dolls’ – my dear, you don’t even know what ‘art’ is.
But the end result is laziness of the doll maker – no one wants to put the money upfront (or they can’t) – so they spin this ‘art’ explanation of how resin is superior when it comes to making dolls. Some have even gone so far as to abscond with another artist’s sculpt and call it their own (which is its own argument I won’t even address here).
‘Look how luminous resin is‘…’feel how heavy it is‘…’the artist actually peed on this one…ooooooo – it MUST be quality‘.
With some artists, yes…with most factories, it is possible – but unlikely because of the dynamics of a factory cost model. But there is a more sinister reality to resin v. plastic: durability. This isn’t just talking breakage – this is referring to longevity. Bottom line – plastic dolls will last much, much longer in a better preserved state with modern plastic than ANY kind of resin. So hope you die before that resin doll falls apart…because it will long before a plastic doll does. So how much did that resin doll just cost you? Ah. I hope you get $700 of life out of her. I have many friends that collect what they love – so this doesn’t really apply to them – it applies to all the ignorant collectors who jump on the Lemming Bandwagon, ignore facts, and accept ‘fake news and opinions’ from online blog and chat room resources who don’t know their plastic surgeon from their proctologist (unless the poor bastard is the same person – that would explain much). These collectors don’t want facts (kinda sounds like a recent Presidential Election, no?)…because it would expose themselves to be the financially irresponsible imbeciles they are. Wow…that was a mouthful…right?
That is what makes Szekeres’ doll new – it’s hard plastic and rooted and/or wigged vinyl with screened and hand-applied facial features. It also doesn’t hurt that the new dolls are jaw-dropping gorgeous. And so with Jozef, let’s examine a little history about the man and the artist. Then we get to actually stick it to him (questions, that is) about his new beauties…
Jozef Szekeres – the man behind GlamourOz Dolls (GODs)
First of all…don’t you hate that Australia can use a fabulous name like ‘OZ’? There’s no hard copyright on the name, and it can instantly be identified with the Country Down Under that gave us Olivia Newton-John, Kylie Minogue, Hugh Jackman and Dame Edna. Hell…all we get in the ‘US’ are Kardashians, featuring Krazy Kanye; Ru Paul and Donald Trump.
Tommydoll (TD): I love how you draw inspiration from Indigenous Australian themes and marry that with your own family – it’s reminiscent of Robert Tonner, but also very unique. How did Australia inspire you in characters, sculpts, and those wonderful 60s-inspired (yet very up-to-date) fashions from Stephen Moor – more specifically, how did you piece it all together into the exotic, glamorous and dangerous world of the Bizelle Sisters?
Jozef Szekeres (JS): Thank you Tommy, I appreciate you taking this time to interview me, and introduce my new line of GlamourOz Dolls to the Fashion Doll Collectors around the world.
“Launching a new line of Australian Fashion Dolls born from Oz could only be complete with its inclusion of the very first Indigenous Australian Fashion Doll character…“
Now to your first question (I hope they’re not all this complex, well then again… bring it on!), I’d like to begin by paying my respects to all the Indigenous Australians, the traditional custodians of my homeland. Launching a new line of Australian Fashion Dolls born from Oz could only be complete with its inclusion of the very first Indigenous Australian Fashion Doll character (that I know of).
My father, an accomplished artist in his life with his day job as a house painter, was an avid art collector, and on occasion would do his trade literally for the trade of art. As a child, I remember one hallway of my parents’ home had the most amazing Indigenous Australian artwork hanging on both sides that my father acquired in this way, and it’s still there today. So he instilled early in me a great respect for all art, whether tribal, western, and even sculptural. I had the opportunity in my early adult years to visit the Thankakali Broken Hill Indigenous Community, and do a comicbook workshop for and with the children and adults there. The elders were excited to show their own art, and describe that beyond the visual aesthetics, all the art elements had great symbolic meaning, and showed how it can be read sequentially… A visual arts language, their own ancient “comicbook” language.
I’ve seen Indigenous Australian dolls before, but only as baby, child, or adult souvenir dolls from my youth. I even have an Australian Barbie Club convention souvenir doll using an African-American Shani doll as an Indigenous Australian stand in. But to my memory, I’ve not yet seen a sculpt created specifically to be an Indigenous Australian Fashion Doll, as we understand Fashion Dolls to be. So when creating the head-sculpts in preparation for my new doll line, with intention I created one to be an Indigenous Australian, looking to the Australian supermodel scene as my inspiration to respectfully capture their distinct features and beauty.
Being Australian, I wanted all of my characters from my first release of my new line to be of and from Australia. From inspirations of Elle “The Body” Macpherson, to the gorgeousness of proportions and beauty of Olivia Newton John’s Sandy (from “Grease”) and that of our beloved songbird Kylie Minogue (a favourite of my father’s). However growing up in Australia, media focused primarily on Western-looking personalities. Thankfully that is changing and Asian-Australians are rightfully represented in media today too, and therefore my line would not be complete without its own Asian Australian Catwalk Model.
Three of my character head-sculpts have their names taken from my family members. My sister is Elizabet Kotalin, and our mother is Lucille. Bindi is a traditional name from the Sydney Darug Tribe, meaning “beautiful butterfly” or “beautiful girl“, depending on which tribe’s dialect is used. Also, Bindi Irwin has recently brought that name to international prominence, and as a nation, we’re all very proud of our “Dancing With The Stars” winning girl.
Stephen Moor’s artwork entered my life when my sister married his son. I was in my mid teens, and I guess he saw I had some artistic aptitude and leanings, and he took me under his artistic wing. I knew of his fashion sketches rather early, but only later realised that though he was a nationally successful Who’s Who of Australian artists, he had never published or seen his fashion works from the 60s – 70s realised. When he gave me his folder of fashion sketches, he urged me to look into entering fashion, saying he hoped his fashions could help me or inspire me, and that I could use them if I wanted or needed to. At the time, I had already established my own artistic career path as a young Disney 2D animator, so though deeply touched, his fashions sketches were only shared within the family. However, I knew on an instinctive level that this 80 strong fashion sketch collection needed to be kept whole and complete, and was significant to Australian fashion history.
I’ve always visualised that I’d do my own line of dolls, even when at school and told one of the teachers, who sarcastically said “As if” and “Dream on“… and I took that backhanded advice, and did dream on. I at first thought I had fulfilled that dream wish when I did my first Elizabet Bizelle line in 2003. But my passion for dolls has only grown stronger over time, and somehow, everything in my artistic experience seemed to funnel down and compress into this singularity that has become my new GlamourOz Dolls line. It’s my own personal Big Bang!
TD: It’s interesting that many of the world’s countries have their own spin on ‘era fashion’ – such as the 1960s – what is Australia’s take on the colors, clothes and textures then?
JS: Australian fashion was built on (or maybe from) the backs of Merino Sheep. Wool, and earthy colours are quintessentially Australian. Though the Mod fashions were emulated in Australia, the Aussie take focused on geometric yet deceptively simple classic shapes. That’s why I think Stephen Moor’s fashions are so iconically 60s Australian, yet also look ever so modern today.
JS: Ahh, Disney either way! You can’t go wrong with either choice. However, with edition titles like “Double-Cross Cover-Up”, “Secret Garden-Path”, and “Ribbon Reveal”, you know there’s “something” going down!
TD: How do we see the characters in Moor’s clothing designs…I get the fashions are for all the dolls, but who is more likely to wear what…and why?
JS: Elizabet is my lead girl, so I see her comfortably in anything. She wears Double-Cross Cover-Up, because it’s cheeky, sexy and fun, the 60s mini skirt of the line. I created the jacket design to go with the mini dress, originally as a value add, but now they are inseparable to me. She’s a blonde that has “more fun” in the mainline of this garment set. In the limited variant, she’s a fiery redhead, not to be toyed with lest you get burned.
Secret Garden-Path Elizabet – softly glamorous in a statement 60s young-green evening spiral path gown. Her copper red hairstyle revisits her signature hair design originally worn in her 2003 release, “Dangerous Discovery“!
Ribbon Reveal Kotalin – high class all the way. Sexy high in its reveal-through panel detailing, married to a classy silhouette. For some reason I get Marilyn Monroe in “Niagara” when I see her in this garment, especially from behind… for that full minute walk. Blonde for the mainline, and long and Ginger with a 60s bump for the limited variant edition. For this garment, the bridal white sketch has been transformed into a beautiful warm salmon pink.
Glittering Gala Kotalin – silvery in a gun metal sequence gown, once again emphasises her high glamour. Her brownette hair design inspired by Stephen Moors fashion sketches, with length added at the back for fun hair play (I’m thinking of you, Darko!).
Bjeran Bindi (Cool Begins) – from the Nyoongar Indigenous Australian calendar,
describes the beginning of Winter. With beautiful lines, shapes and textures that embody the bush edged Australian outback, this jacket keeps her warm in the desert cool beginning nights of winter.
Yawkyawk Billabong Bindi (Mermaid Pool) – Yawkyawk is a word from the Aboriginal Kunwinjku/Kunwok language, meaning ‘young woman’ and ‘young woman spirit being’. Sometimes compared to the European notion of mermaids, Yawkyawks are usually depicted with the tails of fish. They have long hair, associated with trailing blooms of algae, typically found in Arnhem Land streams and rock pools.
Lucille wears Yum Cha Cha-Cha – which embodies her classy sophisticated lady, and “Anything Goes” toe tapping nature, ready to star in a musical opening number… Think Willie Scott, from Temple of Doom.
Executive Day to Night Lucille, is power play in the boardroom, and power player of the night.
TD: Do the Bizelle sisters actually live in Australia…or are they children of the world at large like James Bond?
JS: Australian born, but children of the world at large. For their character’s histories and behind the Catwalk Supermodel scenes, I definitely see a blend of Bond for the classy international intrigue and suspense, Indiana Jones for the arcane mystic mysteries, and Charlie’s Angels in their hair flippary fun, and for their fashion forward fraternal sisterhood, this Supermodel band of “Pussycat Dolls” call themselves GODs (GlamourOz Dolls)!
So… why not bring part of Australian culture back to your home with our GODs.
Szekeres is a 2-D artist and sculptor – he has a pronounced experience in Australia as a Disney animator, primarily the Disney Princesses (so what’s there not to like?). Read the full interview with Jozef Szekeres by an Australian colleague – click here). In the late 90s/early 2000, he designed, sculpted and produced the Elizabet Bizelle fixed-pose fashion dolls of haunting and unique beauty. This was just at the dawn of the articulation movement, which made for some lovely posing – however, with every joint you add, you remove an element of beauty to the lines of the human form. His dolls were true to that, making them display perfect…and ripe for photography. They sold well, but were highly limited. For all the dolls in the 16” movement following Gene Marshall in 1996, and before the rise of Tyler Wentworth in 1999 – Szekeres’ Elizabet (and sister, Kotalin) Bizelle were the most unique looking and styled fashion doll – featuring a body sculpt that was mesmerizing in its idealized beauty. The Bizelle Sisters beckoned to be re-fashioned into poseable ladies of exaggerated style and sumptuousness. Raising his own money over a decade would usher him closer to his dream – cash everything out, and make the sacrifice to make the molds.
TD: How many Elizabet and Kotalin dolls were originally made? How was the decision made to not continue with them…money, saturation…both?
JS: 840 dolls in total were made, spread out in 3 main editions, and 2 IDEX editions of 20 each.
The rise of articulation in the 16″ fashion doll world changed them from display dolls into play dolls for adults. My initial production was created within the means I could muster at that time, and also when articulation in 16″ dolls was established as limited, going full articulation was well beyond what I could afford. Just getting to my first and only USA IDEX (with my wonderfully supportive mother in tow) was a huge cost and big deal for me, and this is where I met you for the first time. It was heartbreaking to see my doll passed over because her articulation was limited. Collectors kindly complimented the sculpt, but saying on the boards, “I’d buy her if she was articulated” further depressed the issue. I wanted to say… If only you’d support her now, then in the future, full articulation would be possible, like Gene and Tyler’s eventual and (in Tyler’s case), gradual articulation. But once articulation took hold of the collectors’ focus, anything other than full articulation was seen as less-than. As a consequence, sales dropped, and that basically ended the line there.
Original 16″ Elizabet next to 22″prototype sculpt wearing lingerie by Doug James – The prototype was Sculpted in a larger scale for 3-D scanning and printing to preserve detail.
TD: Has it been difficult compromising body beauty for articulation? How did you resolve the marriage of the two?
JS: Once I saw the new articulation movement in both Resin and Hard Plastic dolls, I could see where it worked and where it didn’t. My engineer side of my brain took over and guided the sculpt. Having 13 years of 2D Disney animation behind me focusing on the Disney Princesses, gave me an appreciation and understanding of the flow of form and pose, which I brought into my sculpting. I wanted every body part to have grace not just in and of itself, but also in how it connected to each other… to ensure this sculpt was also sinuously tall, and elegantly graceful from head to toe, so the finished articulated sculpt would look whole, rather then an assembly of parts. I returned to my own 2003 established aesthetic and in 2006 started a sculpt of a new doll at 22″ so as not to be influenced by any other dolls or trends (which I brought with me to the 2007 New York Comiccon, and while there I got to show Madame Alexander in New York, but they already had their Alex doll, so weren’t interested, then I took the sculpt to Philadelphia showing Ed Ferry of “Happily Ever After” when attending his in-store doll club gathering). I shelved the unfinished sculpt (like Edward Scissorhands, she lacked hands), till I could afford to continue. Once I was ready to self finance, I revived and completed the sculpt in 2015. The factory got involved in early 2016 and the doll was resized down to fit into the 16″ world, where I got to see her for the first time at her final height size.
TD: Was it a decision to expand the diversity and story to add the two new characters – or was it necessary to break even on development/production costs?
JS: With the initial 22″ inch sculpt in SuperSculpy, Elizabet was the first head-sculpt in 2006, then in 2015, I retooled the Elizabet head-sculpt, and added Bindi, Lucille, with Kotalin as the last completed, thus rounding out this first line up. So I started with just the one head-sculpt, but once I started to seriously see that this could be realised, I expanded the head-sculpt range knowing that the minimum run would be 3000 units. As a collector myself, I knew 3000 of just one character would not be as interesting as four.
TD: You are using every resource in your savings and personal worth for these – isn’t it scary?
JS: Indeed it is. I know it’s a risk, but it’s not a fatuous one. As a career artist, I need to trust in what I create is to the best of my own ability and standards and the needs and standards of the paying client, and that hopefully will resonate with those people it’s targeted to reach. If I couldn’t do this, I wouldn’t have a job. This time around, my own collector self is that client. I feel if I can appeal to my own needs and wants with this new doll that I’m not currently finding in the 16″ Fashion Doll market, then I’m being true to my art, vision and voice, and hopefully that will resonate with the Fashion Doll collectors need and want, too.
TD: What are you eating now you are factory development poor?
JS: Hopefully, not my words.
TD: In all your sacrifices, is there something you miss more than others?
JS: Prior the the factory involvement, the body sculpt and additional heads took about 6-8 months to complete till I felt it was ready, for I knew it had to be as right as I understand that to be, because of the financial investment it would entail.
2016 working with the factory has been full time on this, earning not a cent while shelling out more money that I’ve ever seen move through my hands. Spread over the year working with the factory, I’ll have spent more then 6 months working directly on premises with the factory in China, so I have missed my partner Todd, my family, and close friends… who have all been so very supportive. I’m currently in China working with the factory, and will even miss Christmas 2016 and the 2017 New Year at home. But I’ve a new baby on board right now, and I’m heavy with that pregnancy and responsibility that this new life to be born must take first priority.
I’m working to complete the production samples, which will be followed by the official photography of the line, then the official launch! Estimated production times will mean release dates will fall in the 4th quarter of 2017.
TD: Few people understand what it’s like to put your life saving on the line for something of which you have tremendous passion. How would you explain this level of commitment to one of your collectors that may take plastic/vinyl for granted.
JS: I’d only ask them, if you like what an artist does, be that patron of the arts and the artist who’s work you want to see more of, and support their releases, so they can do more and create more for you to enjoy.
My commitment and passion for dolls and the creation of them drives me to want to do more. My hope with sales is that I can remove the financial burden over my home that I’m using as collateral to create these dolls, and have enough left over to live, eat and cover my bills and expenses, and hopefully earn enough to do it all again next year. I’d love this to be my job and career path from herein.
I’ve certainly not taken the creation of these dolls in plastic for granted, their expense to create them has driven that home. As a child looking at Barbie and the shameful knockoffs, I could see back then that a budget $10 plastic doll has the similar mold value as a collectable, but it’s usually the sculpt and engineering quality that separates whether one is cheap and the other is of value. I thought then… if only they had gotten a better sculptor…, and that fuelled my young mind with interest and the possibilities, to want to know more about how toys were made before they appeared magically finished at the toy store. I remember the Jem dolls of the 80’s, and never asked my mum to buy me one, because they just didn’t look as beautifully realised as their box art, even though the dolls themselves were well engineered. So Barbie remained my Fashion Doll of choice (thanks to my mother who would buy them for me, with Beauty Secrets Barbie being my favourite, as she had more mobility and poseability over her sister contemporaries).
To me, for a Fashion Doll, I’ve always felt that what was of greater value was the quality of the sculptural art coupled with top quality engineering, and not the medium that should be valued.
New and Original 2003 Comparisons
TD: Your original Bizelle sisters were in resin, making you a pioneer of resin casting in fashion dolls of our genre. How would you communicate your desire to see your art translated in a material that many see as ‘cheap’ or inferior to the wide-spread perceived value of resin?
JS: The original 2003 Bizelle sisters were in resin, only because that’s what I could afford, with not even a thought of pioneering anything. When on occasion the doll fell down the stairs or some other similar mishap occurred, my heart would jump in my throat till I saw what damage had been sustained. If I’d see that the doll had a broken finger or some other part. I’d glue it back, but it forever felt broken, no longer whole. It literally felt like damaged goods, almost repulsive, I’d then be reticent of touching it, fearing it’s structural integrity was compromised and it would break again. I want to enjoy my dolls, with quality sculpts, engineering and durability. I want my dolls to be beautiful on display, and resilient in play, and then stuff them in my backpack if I want her as a travel doll, and know that when I take her out.. with a flip of her hair, she’ll still be beautiful and whole. Plastic for me is the perfect medium to realise all of that.
TD: Why not begin them in 12”, instead…it’s a much larger market. Was this a personal passion for the scale – or a need to fill a huge gap in the 16” plastic/vinyl fashion doll world (compared to the rise of Gene and Tyler – who thought we would ever be asking this question?)?
JS: My passion has been with the 16″ dolls since Mel Odom introduced his glorious Gene Marshall doll in 1995. My thanks always goes out to Mel, for without his brave vision, there’d be no 16″ dolls in the wake of Gene’s creation for us to enjoy.
I do collect 12″ dolls, and love them, and maybe one day I’ll explore that scale as well. Though it’s a much larger market to explore and appeal to, I also think it’s saturated with product, by companies and producers with deep financial pockets to back them, and therefore a harder market to enter as a solo doll artist/producer.
Moving forward beyond this first year’s mainline release focussing on Stephen Moor’s designs, and then releasing a new GODs line with these sculpts, using my own fashion designs for the next year, I’d like to explore a new sculpt variant of the female GODs body, releasing that with its own range of new character head-sculpts. Beyond that, I’d like to start the new sculpt of my own male doll companion to my female GODs, as she’s as tall or taller then most of the 17″ male dolls already in the Fashion Doll market. My goal has always been to have a companion set of female and male fully articulated body sculpts that fit into the 16″ scale Fashion Doll world, that work together stylistically and aesthetically.
TD: The clothing is amazingly detailed…how are the prototypes varying from production samples – what can the collector expect?
JS: The history of the garment factory I’m working with is… impressive, as is their internal quality control. I will also be overseeing aspects of this production, and do my own quality control. The collector can expect to see garments created at the very best of market quality.
Now having established this fantastic working relationship with this garment factory, and seeing how beautifully they are realising Stephen Moor’s designs… I can see that they’ll be more then able to realise my own designs that will be the focus of the next future mainline release.
Wearing other makers’ 16″ doll clothing
TD: Your price points are much higher than the perceived standard of Tonner and Integrity hard plastic (and given how widely discounted they are, even more so) – but more on range in price, quality and appearance of Superdoll. How does price factor into your collection?
JS: As a start up, all the expenses are my own: the time I devoted to the Super Sculpy original 22″ sculpt and its eventual factory scanning, the 3D work to resize to 16″ scale, the physical 3D prototyping, the mold making, the face stencil mold making, the hair fibre purchases in various c.g, the flights to and from China, the accommodation and personal travel insurance. The cost to produce the entire run… Everything, the production costs included are way higher then I thought they would be. And add to that, its eventual shipping. All these things add up, and I don’t have corporate financial backing. I think for a start up solo creator of a line of vinyl/hard plastic new Fashion Dolls, and the quality delivered, USD$300 for a complete boxed 16″ doll is a pretty good deal, especially when I currently see this similar price point for 12″ dolls by independent Fashion Doll producers. So if collectors like what they see, and want to see more, then please do show your support in buying the product/s I’ve made.
TD: Staining from dyes onto vinyl is a reality – how are you addressing the issue?
JS: With plastic wraps where needed, protecting the vinyl.
TD: You’re including a certificate of authenticity…really? It’s an added cost…why not just let the markings on the doll suffice? Is there more to the certificate that a critic like me is missing?
JS: I personally have never cared for certificates to identify a dolls’ authenticity, nor taken much notice of the actual numbering of the dolls I’ve collected, because I’ve never intended to resell them once they’ve become mine. Some certificates I keep because they’re nicely designed, most get trashed with the box as space is limited these days. But I do know that some collectors do like them, and it is good to have on it information for clarity about the total number produced in the limited edition run.
The rollout of the first dolls will have many variants, satisfying collectors’ desires for exclusivity and diversity in tastes. We may even see a retailer exclusive, however, the first dolls will be available directly from GlamourOz, which I am certain will help the sculptor/maker with his rising cost risks associated with a hard plastic/vinyl doll; however, it will mean higher than normal shipping costs to the US – so don’t be surprised by this.
Given how retailers really aren’t fans of doll makers’ need to re-coup costs and increase market share, I’d rather see Szekeres continue to sell directly, thereby paying off his self-investment early and allowing him to expand the collection faster. Ultimately, it would be great to see him fond a sole US and/or European-based distributor (rather than a retailer who will just discount the product to stay competitive).
I am proud Szekeres agreed to let Tommydoll be the first news on this (and with rollout by friends at Fashion Doll Chronicles and Dutch Fashion Doll World Blogs – arguably, two of the best bloggers out there – two I invited, because I am just not that big to solely break this exciting news). It will be interesting to see if how he will strategize his introduction to the media and potential retailers willing to sell his product at full price, and not succumb to lazy discounting to move product – which means – oh, boohoo – ADVERTISING. It’s ok, Dears…you only have one magazine today to drop those ads in that will reach the right audience, but it will mean you will have to WORK for those profit dollars – vultures.
TD: Tell us more about your sales rollout – will it be pre-orders…dolls ready to ship…combo of both?
JS: It’ll probably be a combo of both, as their pre-sales will go straight to the factory to help offset some of the production costs. Last time around, I took no pre-orders, just notes of interest. And I’ve learned collectors can be fickle (as we all can be), and easily distracted unless they’ve made a financial commitment. There are commitments on both sides that need to be in place, respected and valued, for what they bring to each other.
TD: What is your plan to offset the high cost of shipping to places outside Australia?
JS: As a collector of mostly American Fashion Dolls, added shipping per doll is usually about USD$50 to $70 for each doll I purchase. So I understand that shipping will factor in price for some collectors. I will be looking into having a choice of delivery suppliers that may offer different delivery options and price points.
TD: Are you currently talking to any retailers with whom you may come to an exclusive distribution arrangement outside Australia?
JS: I’ve had discussions with a few retailers, but nothing conclusive about exclusive distribution arrangements. With the economy climate as it is, most retailers have said they’d want to see a demonstrated demand, before committing to a new doll line, which is a catch 22, and then only with orders in the low to mid 2 digit numbers. So my start up focus will be to sell direct from my online store.
TD: Tell us your concept of the ‘Basic Doll’…will there be one…or only dressed dolls and clothing?
JS: For the mainline of 8 dolls and 2 limited variants, all of them will be released as dressed dolls. I imagine a basic doll would be in either a swimsuit, lingerie or simple outfit, however there will be no basics or separate clothing this time around, that’ll have to wait to follow in the future. The gravy that comes after securing survival. Thankfully, the GlamourOz dolls wear most of the competitor garments with ease and comfort, even elevating them to a catwalk presentation. Catalogue models are beautiful, but do we remember their names? Supermodels are known by name! I like to see my girls as Catwalk Supermodels.
I could see as an extension of the mainline if there’s popular demand, releasing garment sets inspired by the fashion designs of Stephen Moor, or even future dressed dolls too… some of which will appear on the box art to celebrate his 60s fashions. They are all such amazing fashion designs, I’d love to honour his incredible work and see each of them realised eventually.
AS WOULD WE…
TD: What has been your biggest business challenge in developing a marketing plan with social media being the hungriest attention whores out there?
JS: Thankfully, I was accepted into the Australian government funded MTC NEIS program nearing the end of 2015, where I did a fully funded business course over a 6 week period, where I got the grounding information I’d need to launch and sustain my startup business and marketing strategies. The greatest asset of the NEIS program’s commitment to the startup businesses is to have a business mentor available for them for 12 months. It has been good to have someone with business knowledge to bounce off and share some of the hardships with, who can also offer real guidance.
I think the biggest marketing challenge thus far has been deciding when is the best time to release information, as I know new news gets stale quickly on the net these days, especially when the reader isn’t privy to the reasons why there may be delays or time slips. But now I feel is the right time, and with your extensive industry history and experience, and with the respect and wisdom that comes with that, you and your blog is the right person and place… Including your blog flow on partners.
TD: Are you going to have a ‘club’ (please say, ‘no’)?
JS: I’m a member of a couple company toy clubs, and I do love the ease of assuring certain releases, without having to chase them down. This helps greatly being an international member. And it’s also a place where brand loyal collectors can congregate and share their mutual love. So, knowing how company collector clubs have helped me,… I’m not opposed to it, but I’m not yet ready to set up one of my own just now.
TD: Hopes/Plans/Expectations for your first doll event?
JS: There’s a strong, but small Fashion Doll collector base in Australia, with me being one of these collectors. Most of the Fashion Dolls we collect seem to come from America, and we often feel our island country’s isolation, or distance from the main doll events. I hope to launch my dolls first to the Australian Fashion doll collector base, and grow it from there to an international audience. I’d love to see a yearly GODs Fashion Doll convention based in Australia to be added to the international must m-attend events.
In 2017, I’d like to attend the main Fashion Doll conventions in America, Europe, and other international locations, to introduce my new doll line, and meet the collectors.
JS: I’d love to meet and greet with collectors all over the world. So I’ll definitely make myself available to do so. Certainly it would be an honour to be the recipient of a funded convention or tour visit.
TD: Seriously, though…you must be scared – doll collectors are so fickle – you’re placing a great deal of risk in their confidence. I hope you also market to the Action Figure folks because of the ‘Spy’ storyline.
JS: I’m a Fashion Doll collector, so I know I can be fickle at times, too – a pretty new thing can certainly get my attention over an equally pretty older item, causing me to miss out on the older item and then have to seek it out as a more expensive grail item. But I’m also very brand loyal and supportive of those brands I love and collect. My hope is that my dolls and brand will attract its own loyal collectors, that will want what I do now and in the future.
Most action figure products are licensed pop culture, rather then original fare – like He-Man, She-Ra, Jem and Transformers – the toys are released concurrently with their own pop culture vehicle (in these cases, animated TV series) to anchor their products to. Most action figure collectors will buy an action figure, even a bad one, with a character they already recognise or have a pop culture connection with, over a well made action figure of a character they don’t yet know. What’s different about fashion dolls, that I love, is they can survive entirely on their own merits without an established pop culture reference. And the Fashion Doll collector thrives on discovering something new… A new story, new fashion, new face, new body, new characters. I’m sure there is some crossover, but they seem to come from different ends of the spectrum.
My two 2006 releases, “Woman in Red” Elizabet Bizelle, and “Birthday Bash” Kotalin Bizelle, were inspired by The Matrix film. Describing it thus to a fashion doll collector, they got the concept straight up… “Inspired by fashions”, and if they liked it, they bought it. But when these same dolls were placed in action figure stores, the action figure collectors there would ask “Who are they?” I’d say they’re fashion dolls inspired by The Matrix, and the collector’s response would be, “Nicely made, but if it’s not Trinity or a character or exact fashion I recognise from the film… then I’m not interested”. Lessons learnt.
TD: Plans for accessory sets…where will you go with this? Will there be guns?
JS: No plans as yet for accessory sets of this nature. But who knows what the future will bring.
TD: What is your direct message to the people who would just look at the doll and say, ‘It’s not my thing.’ Knowing it’s because it’s plastic, a fashion doll, 16”, or otherwise competes with one of their faves like Ellowyne, Gene, Superdoll, et al?
JS: I’ve never been a fan of big headed dolls, so I’ve never collected Ellowyne, but I have and still collect Tonner Fashion Dolls that I love that speak to my aesthetic. Gene is a Fashion Doll icon, in all her incarnations, and she holds a special place in my heart and collection. The Superdoll Sybarites are incomparably the Fashion Doll Divas, and always will be in the Fashion Doll world at large and within my own collection. The Fashion Royalty 16″ (FR16) dolls by Integrity Toys are my favourite body sculpt currently on the market. Some of my favourite and loved dolls that I own aren’t 16″ fashion dolls, but their aesthetic and fashion sense and quality of sculpt resonates with me, like the beautiful dolls by New Zealand doll creator Jan MacLean. And there are other dolls that I love and have yet purchased, but intend to in the future, like “First Love” male Fashion Dolls by Joey Versaw. I won’t stop collecting the dolls out there by other brands and creators I love and support just because I’ve created my own doll, and I don’t expect other collectors to do that either if they start collecting mine. There is room in the Fashion Doll world to love many brands. What I’m offering is a new doll and brand to love amongst your other established Fashion Doll loves.
As to the nay-sayers, and the haters of plastic, 16″, or Fashion Dolls… I’ve had friends tell me I’m wasting my time and talent, and that my dolls look no different from the pack. I’ve had these same friends tell me that my doll’s body is offensive to them, and that they’re just not even interested to know more…. A simple “good luck” from these friends would have sufficed. But I understand each persons’ personal path informs them of what is of value to them, and these friends are not my target audience, and will never see what I see or am trying to achieve. If I can take this from friends, I’m well prepared to take similar from strangers.
I’d rather invest my energy into impressing the supporting friends and collectors who love my dolls. As RuPaul has said, “I’m too busy loving the people who love me“.
I’ve created what I’ve wanted and needed in the Fashion Doll world that I felt was not there for me already as a collector. My hope is that others will resonate with that same want and need, whether it’s been there for a while, or newly discovered when they see my GlamourOz dolls for the first time.
If you’d like to know more, or be added to my mailing list, please contact me via my website: www.glamourozdolls.com
Thank you Jozef…for this opportunity to break out of my fall funk…and learn something new about the Bizelle Sisters. Just one last message – please, Dear…no more men. We just don’t need any more, thanks.