Three different dolls are the source of my friendship with Amy. I first discovered her custom work thanks to Eydie Harlow. She was one the finalists at the Blythe Beauty Contest in 2009. I then fell under the spell of Willow, a beautiful custom Blythe created by Effluo, and who belongs now to Amy’s collection. And finally, I have been fortunate enough to adopt one of her rare and wonderful custom dolls. I am very happy to interview Amy today. We share the same passion for fashion and it is so interesting to know more about her and her art.
Hi Amy! Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Amy and I come from a small town in Oregon. I am the mother to two wonderful little children, a boy and a girl. I have a degree in Cultural Anthropology but I worked as a Case Manager in the mental health field; specifically with people that had traumatic brain injury as well as a mental health diagnosis. They were a completely interesting and complicated group. I loved my job and NEVER had a boring day.
When we moved to Sacramento California, four years ago, I became a stay at home mom to my new baby. I am married to a wonderful man who is a natural artist and musician. He is a great inspiration and support to me. I love to travel and experience new things. I have always had a great appreciation for art but never had my own artistic outlet until I discovered Blythe.
Photo: Zaloa27. Ivy and a sculpture created by Amy’s husband.
How and when did you discover Blythe?
I discovered Blythe about three years ago. I was doing research on a Margaret Keane print and came across Blythe. I saw Ragazza’s girls and also Nerea Pozo had a doll on eBay. I was captivated with what they were doing. After looking into a bit more, I discovered there were a lot of people doing this and I HAD to try and do it myself. My first custom was a white mohair re-root that I sold on eBay. The truly wonderful thing was that the person that bought her became a very important person in my life. She was a Blythe collector in NY and an artist. She encouraged me and has helped me to have confidence in my work. Thanks so much Jean!
Photo: Zaloa27. Tuesday, first custom and mohair reroot.
When and why did you start your collection?
I finally kept a doll because I started to get interested in the photography of Blythe. It has become just as enjoyable as doing the custom work.
The dolls I’ve collected from others are all from some of my favorite customizers whom I admire and find their work enchanting.
Photo: Zaloa27. Nimue, Miss Sally Rice custom.
How many Blythe dolls do you have in your own collection?
– Nimue- RBL Custom by me
– Whisper- SBL Custom by me with Alpaca re-root
– Ivy- SBL Custom by me
– Willow- RBL Custom by Effluo
– Ash- SBL Custom by Reina De Salem with Mohair re-root by me
– Vida- RBL Custom by Vainilladolly
Photo: Zaloa27. Group shot.
Where and how do you store them?
I store them in our office/studio on a shelf and sometimes they will sit in our living room on top of our curiosity cabinet. I have a small collection so it’s easy to manage and they don’t take up that much space.
Photo: Zaloa27. Willow – Custom by Effluo.
Why did you start to customize Blythe?
Custom Blythe dolls are what captured my attention, and are what I wanted to experience from the beginning. I appreciate stock dolls but doubt I will ever own one, unless I am so fortunate to come across a Kenner. It’s the transformation and personal expression that I’m drawn to.
I feel that I can express sides of myself that I don’t have the courage to do in real life. I can give a girl blue hair or white, she can be sexy or punk or shy.
I enjoy the entire process of doing custom work. I love that I no longer just get junk mail and bills in the mail. Now I get packages from all over the world. When I open a doll box that has traveled all the way from Lithuania or Japan, I take a breath in and imagine that place.
I love getting out all my tools, taking her apart and creating a blank slate. I love to see the new girl slowly start to emerge with a new identity. She is not just a doll but also a canvas to create a mood and style.
Photo: Zaloa27. Eydie Harlow.
How did you learn how to do it?
I learned by devouring all the information that was available. I took it very seriously and wanted to do the best job possible. In gathering information I also learned and took note of what not to do.
I just went slow and started small. I never did any carving and would re-do things over and over until I was happy. I still have a lot to learn and I am excited to see what I will be doing in a couple of years from now.
Photo: Zaloa27. Sadie, Winsome Willow custom with Simply Peppermint scalp.
Where did the name Zaloa come from?
When I was living in the Basque Country I met a women named Zaloa. She was a painter and had the most interesting and beautiful art studio that I have ever seen. It was not new or fancy it was just imaginative and eclectic. It was filled with old treasures with art everywhere. It smelled like an attic mixed with incense and coffee. She lived and breathed art in a very effortless way, it was just who she was from her clothes to her furniture.
When I finally found my art at age 35 I wanted to be reminded of her, and how she made me feel when she talked about art or when I was in her home.
“Zaloa’s Studio” is in remembrance of her.
What gives you inspiration for custom work?
Fashion- I love fashion, style and people that are edgy and making interesting choices in how they look and what they wear.
Photography- I love to see how people look at the same thing yet are able to capture it so uniquely and artfully.
Ball Joint Dolls (BJD) – I love to see the quality of work done on BJD. The flawless, complex makeup is something that inspires me to be better and gives me something to work toward.
Other Customizers- I love to see how others use color or carving to create something special that stands out. Or, takes you to a special place and make you feel something that was lost.
What is your work rhythm? How do you like to work?
My family dictates my work rhythm. I do most of my work at night and squeeze in time when I can during the day. Once both my kids are in school I hope to be more productive.
Photo: Zaloa27. Cherry, Cousin Olivia custom with red hair.
How does your studio look like?
I have completely taken over our home office. I’ve slowly organized things so that my doll supplies have a safe place away from the kids and I have easy access.
Most of my work is done at the kitchen table at night after the kids are in bed. But, some things like prepping a doll or painting eye chips is done in my studio.
I try to do makeup during the day because natural light just helps me to see better and I have a more accurate view of colors.
When you work on custom commissions, do your clients usually have specific requests or do they give you a free hand?
Most people know exactly what they want and are very specific. A few times people have let me do what I want. My next commission is like that. She gave me a general idea of what she likes but told me to do what I want. I surprise myself often because the smallest detail can make a big difference in an expression or mood. I enjoy both and both make me better at what I do.
Photos: Zaloa27. Wonder Woman Blythe.
Where do you sell your custom dolls?
I usually sell them on eBay or Plastic Paradise.
What are you working on these days and what are your next projects with Blythe?
Right now I’m doing commission work. I am going to finish my commitments and then take a long break and focus on doing customs to sell. Many of my own girls are in different stages of completion that I am looking forward to finishing.
When I am working on my own dolls is when I grow and feel like I can be more free or try new ideas. I hope to have a nice balance of growing and experimenting on my own customs to sell and then working on commissions for others.
I am also doing custom eye chips. I have not had a chance to stock my Etsy shop because I’ve been doing most of my work just by commission. I am always changing styles and trying new color combinations. It’s one of my favorite parts about customizing.
Photo: Zaloa27. Eye chips.
At some point I would love to focus on clothes. I enjoy sewing but have not taken the time to create a Blythe sized pattern. It’s something I will look forward to doing in the future.
A final word?
I am amazed at the verity of ways she can be altered. To see the fascinating transformation a stock doll goes through in the hands of someone with a vision is pure delight.
I love being a part of the Blythe community. Everyone has been so kind and encouraging.
I like that she is not for everyone, some people don’t get it, and I like that.
A huge thanks, Amy, for sharing with us your love for Blythe and for creating beautiful dolls. Your custom eye chips are amazing and immediately recognizable as well. They completely transform Blythe and give depth to her eyes. I also love your pictures and the way you are always in search for new experiences in photography. Thank you again for bringing all your talents to the Blythe world, and I can’t wait to see your new creations!
Photo: Zaloa27. Whisper.