Suddenly, it popped out of my mind that I had never talked about the beautiful Black Blythes out there. You may think I am not a quick thinker! So, I interviewed recently 3 Blythe friends who love to create Black Blythe custom dolls with each their own lovely style. They will make you want to have one… or even more than one!
For the record, the first Black Blythe I have ever seen is Millicent by Ragazza and I loved her right away.
Photo: Ragazza. Millicent, Black Blythe custom.
The Who’s Who of Black Blythe!
Soon after, I discovered the Black Blythe customs made by Mar, aka Lunita. Mar is 42, lives in Spain and discovered Blythe on a Dollhouse forum: “I was browsing some posts and all of the sudden I saw a picture of the cutest doll I had ever seen. At that time I didn´t know it was Blythe, so I looked at the webpage of the person that had uploaded the pic and I found that cute doll was Blythe. Actually thanks to Keera, I fell in love with this doll, since she was the person that had posted the pic on the forum. That was back in 2007 and ever since then I´ve been collecting Blythes and have left aside my other hobby, dollhouses. Two years ago I had like 60 Blythes… I thought I had too many, so now my collection is pretty small, approx 20 Blythes, and one of my favorites is Apple, my first black Blythe”.
Photo: Lunita. Apple, Black Blythe custom by Lunita.
Zenzile Greene, aka Zanalee, is a Black Blythe lover and customizer too and it’s always a pleasure to have a look at her doll’s adventures in NYC! She is a photographer/writer born in Brooklyn, New York, but she now lives in Harlem, Manhattan, works for the City University of New York and is a part time student in Art, Media and Social Issues: “I discovered Blythe for the first time while vacationing in London ten years ago. In the gift shop of the design museum, I spotted This is Blythe by Gina Garan and I suddenly felt I was looking at something I could finally connect with while at the same time I had no idea what the actual intended context was. I struggled with the question of whether this was in fact an art piece targeted at children simply because it was filled with images of this strange doll. The themes seemed somewhat mature, but there was definitely playfulness and an eccentricity about it that I was very struck by. I had never seen anything like it before and wasn’t sure what to make of it. But it stuck with me and I filed it away as something to revisit when I returned to the states. It would be some years though before the idea of actually owning a Blythe ever occurred to me. Back in New York I had found the website and would regularly download Gina’s photos to a personal folder on my computer. For me, Blythe was still a doll owned primarily by Gina and contextualized by her in this ongoing photo project. I did not understand Blythe as a collector’s doll. That didn’t happen until I got into photography. As the daughter of a professional photographer, I got bitten by the photo bug quite late in life and it was sometime in 2008 when I realized that photography was not just about documenting special occasions and peopled events but also about finding the beauty of everyday things. One day I did a search for Blythe on Flickr and the rest is history. I suddenly got it, that Blythe belonged to many many people. I was totally seduced by her particularly when I saw Yatabazah’s photos of Mary Collins. That was it for me. I just loved the way he saw and understood her and how she had her own very specific life. I had to have one. I was on Flickr for about a year before I got my first Blythe, an ADG Pow Wow Poncho. I understood that she was a photographer’s muse”.
Photo: Zanalee. Zenzile in action.
Kyi is My Delicious Bliss in the dolly community and also a mother of two lovely daughters, 11 and 23. She lives in a coastal community in Los Angeles County, California, and work a full time job in Law Enforcement as well as running a local Event Planning and specialty company called Kyi’s Creations. She has a passion for photography, fashion and all things Blythe. She loves to customize Blythe dolls with her youngest daughter who is her muse and to craft doll houses with her father of Poppies Woodshop Designs: “My original background was in the fashion industry. I have been playing with dolls all of my life. I previously worked for a popular fashion retail company as the District Visual Coordinator, which meant I got to purchase and style mannequins, which means I got to play with the biggest dolls of all for a living for 8 years. Focusing on new trends, styling, creating window displays, coordinating fashion shows, and working with some of the most talented stylist, makeup artist and mannequin manufactures”.
Photo: My Delicious Bliss. Kyi and Evangeline.
Mar: “The reason I started making custom Black Blythes is because I couldn´t find one I really liked. The first custom Black Blythe I ever saw was a custom made by Loukomi on Black is Black‘s photostream. I thought she was just too cute and that I needed to have one”.
Photo: Black is Black. Black Blythe custom by Loukomi.
“When I make a custom Black Blythe, I try to make them as natural as possible… I don´t like them with really bright make-up… The processs of making a Black Blythe at the beginning was not too easy. There is not a lot of information out there but I really have to thank Loukomi, Froggymonkey and Lucy Harper. They´re the ones that gave me the tips to make a Black Blythe. There really is no secret on how to make a Black Blythe, just patience. All you need is any kind of spray paint, MSC or similar to seal, and tones of patience”.
“My first trial at making a Black Blythe was a total disaster because I sprayed too much paint and it took forever to dry, then the bubbles and cracks appeared…”
Zenzile: “Very soon after I had acquired my first Blythe in 2008, I started to see Black Blythes pop up here and there on Flickr photos and totally flipped out. I had fallen totally in love with Blythe but was really disappointed that I could find no Black or even Brown representations of her on eBay or other online shops and at the time Heather Sky just wasn’t doing it for me. She didn’t come close to fulfilling my need for a diverse reflection of peoples of color in this doll community. So when I started to see all of these unique and amazing looking Black Blythes, I decided to get over my shyness and hesitance about messaging strangers online and immediately started to inquire: Where did you get your Black Blythe? Where are they selling them? I want one! I felt like there was something I didn’t know. Were they a limited edition? And then someone I messaged told me that there were not produced by Takara but customized. I soon discovered that some of the very first Black Blythes had been made by a fantastic Blythe customizer named Lunita. When I learned that someone else was making Black Blythes, my only thought was that if they can do it, I can do it.
I have made all of my Black Blythe Customs except for two which were gifts. In 2009 I set out to make my first one, Reya Light, who was originally an I Love you it’s true. I learned about all the different Blythe molds right away. She is an SBL and when I learned I had to saw her head in half to get her open, I was horrified but I figured I would do it once and it would be the last time. I was in the park across the street from where I live on a hot sticky summer day with a can of vinyl spray paint and newspaper. And back at my apt I had more newspaper laid out all over my living room with sand sponges and a hand saw. Often I felt very much like I was in over my head but ultimately, the result was indescribably rewarding and I earned a lot of respect and love for the entire process. To me Blythe customizers are artists and I can never have a Blythe for very long before I want to take her apart and begin to transform her. This way, I feel like she’s really mine and truly one of a kind”.
Photo: Zanalee. Reya Light, Black Blythe custom by Zanalee.
Kyi: “I only started collecting and customizing Blythe in August of 2011. My daughter wanted the new Line of Littlest Pet Shop Blythes and I told her the LPS were based off of a doll that used to be around when I was a child. Together we searched the internet for Blythe and were amazed by all of the beautiful Blythe photos we encountered. Being a women of color, I wanted to have a Blythe that my daughter and I could identify with. I fell in love with Lunitas Custom Black Blythes and I instantly knew that I had to have one, but to my dismay, Takara did not sell a Blythe of color, not tan, I wanted a true Brown skinned Blythe. So I decided at that time to research to try and find a way to have one created for me. In this search I came across Zanalee’s Blythe Blog Born To Blythe, in which she documented her own journey into customizing her own little Brown Blythe. She inspired me and gave me the courage to try and create my own black Blythe. Proof that I too could create a customization that would quench my Brown Blythe desire! Thus Evangeline was created; she is my very first Beautiful Brown Blythe customization and still my very favorite girl”.
Photo, Black Blythe custom and dollhouse: My Delicious Bliss. Evangeline and her seaside cottage. This is delicious bliss indeed!
“I joined flicker and through that gateway I have come across some truly inspirational customizers who have fulfilled their vision of what a beautiful Brown Blythe is to them. In that inspiring me to be creative and now today I am an overjoyed customizer of Beautiful Brown Blythe Dolls. I have gotten so much help and assistance from this wonderful Blythe Community. And have formed some great relationships even with the talented artist that inspired me. Mar (Lunita) the talented artist whose creations made me want a Black Blythe for myself, today I call her a friend and she has always been so supportive and helpful throughout this journey. I want to thank all of the customizers who have the courage to take apart a Blythe and rebirth it into something new and unique: you are all a true inspiration”.
Tips from the experts!
Mar: “So the fist tip I would give people who are trying to make a Black Blythe is don´t spray too much paint. It´s better to spray 4 or 5 layers of paint, than just one. Really thin layers of paint, let it dry and paint again. If you use MSC to seal, don´t spray too much because it may leave like a white sort of look, so with the MSC the same tip don´t use too much. For the make-up no special tip, just the same as you would do with a white Blythe. The body is quite a sticky issue and I would say maybe the most difficult part, for my first Black Blythe, Apple, I used a licca body and I was lucky because it´s not really sticky, I would never use a Takara body, paint seems to not dry at all, and ADG bodies are more like the liccas and less stickier. For the body use really thin layers of paint or it will never dry. The best option for the body would be the Pure Neemo, the first person that used a Pure Neemo on a Black Blythe was Barbara, a.k.a Little MissNoName. So thanks to her there are a lot of Black Blythes with none sticky bodies”.
Zenzile: “As anyone who ever attempted to customize a black Blythe will tell you, one of the most difficult things about making them is finding a body on which the spray dries completely. I was very lucky with Reya because I found someone who swapped an ADG body with me for a Licca body that I didn’t care for at the time. To this day, Reya’s body is perfectly smooth and without any stickiness or fingerprints at all. The Licca and the Takara body are notoriously hard to paint because of the sticky finishing of the plastic they tend to be made. They never seem to dry completely enough though there have some who have managed it with things like MSC which seals the paint in or baby powder which helps soak up moisture”.
“The face plates are not a problem once you have a steady hand with the spray can. Always remember to spray lightly and not too close to the plate. Light coats are better than heavy thick ones at close range. This way you can always come back and fill in light or blank spots. If the coats are too heavy and thick it’s harder to repair errors like paint bubbles or streaks. In most cases, mistakes like this mean you have to start all over again and it’s just awful sanding paint off of a face plate after it’s already begin to dry. Trust me! I also find that MSC is great for sealing in paint and for Black Blythes in particular it creates a very photographable surface”.
“It was very challenging for me photographing Reya when I first made her because of the combination of high contrast that her darkness created as well as the high shine on the surface of her face plate. With Castaneda I sprayed a light coat of matte MSC after her prime color had dried and the difference was incredible. Her face looks to me like ebony bisque and photographing her is a dream”.
Photo: Zanalee. Castaneda, Black Blythe custom by Zanalee.
“As far as getting information online, there are also some really helpful people in the Blythe community so don’t hesitate to ask questions if you need to. I have somewhat shy and reserved tendencies about connecting with people online but I have had to learn to get over that in order to learn what I need to about this craft. I have to say that for the most part I have had nothing but pleasant, helpful and really gratifying exchanges in the Blythe world. In fact I have made good friends there with wonderful people who I still have yet to meet in person but whose talents are broad, fascinating and indispensable. Unfortunately there weren’t many tutorials available when I first started out making Black Blythes but I referenced Jaszmade’s tutorial and Puchi Collecctive most often and it got me off to a great start. In 2010 I also published a photo essay “Little Brown Blythe” on Blurb.com which highlights some of the steps in my process making each of my custom Black Blythes”.
Photos: *jaszmade. Soul Seven, Black Blythe custom by *jaszmade.
Kyi: “The hardest thing about creating a Blythe of color is the paint and body types. Depending on the type of body used, the technique of painting must change. I have experimented on Takara bodies and the paints I have tried thus far do not keep on their bodies, it is too rubbery. The Pure Neemo Bodies take the paint the best to me, even Licca Chan bodies are tricky, because the tilt head Liccas are harder to take the paint than the regular Licca bodies. The legs on the tilt head are rubbery like a Takara body. Different brands of paint take better on some bodies than others as well, so each time going in to paint a new body is always the luck of the draw. I continue to experiment trying new paints and new bodies to see what holds up the best. I want to be able to handle the Brown Blythes more so their paint work is not so fragile. I have a good technique now but there is always a better way and I am searching for it”!
Photos: My Delicious Bliss. Spray painting process.
Photos: My Delicious Bliss. Glowing brown skin.
“For anyone who is thinking of customizing their own Brown Blythe, I suggest lots of patience, practicing technique and not giving up. It is a forgiving art, if you mess up just sand and redo”.
Photo: My Delicious Bliss. The latest Black Blythe custom by My Delicious Bliss is named Meadow.
Mar: “Right now I´m not making anymore Black Blythes just for family and friends. I have made 15 Black Blythes, right now I have one that is almost finished and it´s for a friend, as I said for now I won´t be making any more Black Blythes”.
Photos: Lunita. Black Blythe customs by Lunita.
“What I most love is how creative we can be with this doll, and what I most love is the Blythe community. If there is one I thing I love is how many lovely people I have met and even became friends with, thanks to this doll. If you have a bad day, there is always someone there who will bring a smile to your face with the comments on flickr”…
Zenzile: “I don’t take commissions at the moment but I have made a few Black Blythes by special request. The first ever Black Blythe I made for someone else was Ramona Rae, a Blybe Clone who I customized for a dear friend’s birthday. She was a very special custom because she was for someone I love and whom I knew would love her. I still love seeing Ramona Rae now and remembering all I we’d been through together while I was making her, remembering the first day she was finally complete and how exciting that was”.
Photo: Zanalee. Ramona Rae, Black Blybe custom by Zanalee.
“For Blythe Owl, I customized a Black Blythe which she simply wanted spray painted and who became Queenable. And for Melly Kay I also painted a Black Blythe and gave her sparkly gold lips like Angora’s by request. Black Blythes that I will be creating in the near future will be available to purchase in my Etsy shop, Little Brown Blythe“.
Kyi: “To date I have created 9 Beautiful Brown Blythe Art Dolls of color and have been commissioned for 5 more by the end of this year. My Etsy shop is new and starting to take flight, getting more inquiries daily for the customs I create. It is a blessing to be able to turn a hobby into a business that does not even feel like work. It is a joy to create these customs and each one carries a piece of me, I truly love the whole process. Seeing the girls travel around the world is invigorating, a few to Australia, Singapore, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Italy and 3 in the States, makes me feel like I am traveling living… vicariously”.
Black Blythe families are growing…
Mar: “Apple and Bubblegum are the only Black Blythes I have in my own family”.
Photo: Lunita. Bubblegum. Black Blythe custom by Lunita.
Zenzile: “I have four custom Black Blythes in my collection which I have made”. Following Reya Light, I made Neige, formally a “Simply Mango”, Angora Lee, whose mohair re-root I also did and Castaneda, a Blythe Clone on a Neemo body. I have also been very blessed to receive as gifts, Hendrix, a beautiful Heather Sky Blythe Moofala Custom from Melly Kay and a Beautiful My Delicious Bliss Black Blythe Custom from Kyi Lynn who I have named Ellington”.
Photo: Zanalee. Angora Lee, Black Blythe custom by Zanalee.
Photo: Zanalee. Hendrix, Black Blythe custom by Melly Kay.
Photo: Zanalee. Ellington, Black Blythe custom by My Delicious Bliss.
Photo: My Delicious Bliss. Ellington, Black Blythe custom by My Delicious Bliss for Zanalee.
“I cannot express my gratitude for these lovely additions to my Blythe family. They are such a wonderful and moving testament to the kindness of the Blythe community”.
Kyi: “In our own collection right now we have 12 girls some have come and gone”. The Black Blythes of the gang are Evangeline, Kyi’s 1st Custom Beautiful Brown Blythe, who is Custom Simply Guava, and Meillat, a custom Beautiful Brown Middie Blythe Melomelomew.
Photo: My Delicious Bliss. Evangeline, Black Blythe custom by My Delicious Bliss.
Photo: My Delicious Bliss. Middie Black Blythe custom by My Delicious Bliss.
The future of Black Blythes?
Mar: “I really hope Takara will one day make a Black Blythe, not a tan but a black Blythe, that would be so awesome”.
Zenzile: “My next Black Blythe custom will most likely be one of the Middie Blythes, which I have recently come to adore. This will be my first time customizing a Middie Blythe and I’m super excited to see how she turns out’.
Kyi: “My goal is to attend Blythe Meets and see a diverse mix of Blythe speckled with all colors. I want my creations to appeal to everyone and not just see one random Blythe of Color in the crowd, to have those meets as diverse as the world we live in, a true reflection of our society.
Photo: My Delicious Bliss. Black Power!
Black Blythe is Beautiful!
This Flickr group is full of beautiful Black Blythes. Check it out!
Photo: Sabrina Eras. Black Blythe custom.
Photo: Addicted to Plastic. Black Blythe custom.
Photo: Funny Bunny Helena. Chocolate Pudding, Black Blythe custom by Funny Bunny Helena.
A huge thanks to Kyi, Mar and Zenzile for their time and commitment to the Blythe community with their beautiful dolls and pictures. I cannot wait to see more and more Black Blythe customs everywhere in our dolly world! They add so much color and beauty to our lives. Peace and Love!
Photo: Zanalee. Black Basaal Blybe custom with Neemo Body.
Photo and Black Blythe custom: Shannon Taylor. Cocoa Cherry Love!