Archive for November, 2010

Ruby on ebay! Listing number 330500804771

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

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Listing number 330500804771

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Ruby by Enchanted Doll -a ball jointed, porcelain doll.

Listing number 330500804771

Starting Price: $4,050 USD

Ruby is a brand new, hand made, ball jointed, porcelain doll with a unique steel spring articulation and a permanent China painting and blushing on her features and body. Her removable, magnetic wig is hand made from soft, natural mohair and can be washed and styled with ease. Ruby can mimic a wide range of human movements and has a custom-made, flexible stand to support her without restricting her flexibility. She comes with a beautiful custom tin box for easy storage and transportation.

Her china-painted, porcelain complexion renders her permanently resistant to UV radiation and non-absorbent of any kind of dirt, such as finger oil, solvent and many other chemicals. The doll can be safely wiped down with water and/or cleaning agents to easily remove any dirt or dust without ever removing her china paint. However, the doll must not be immersed in water to prevent corrosion of the metal springs inside her. Like all Enchanted Dolls, Ruby is very well balanced, but she must always be supported by stand when in standing position for maximum safety.

Items included in this auction are: 1) A nude Enchanted Doll Ruby, 2) a flexible metal stand 3) a removable, magnetic wig and 4) a custom tin box. The outfits and accessories shown in photographs are NOT a part of this auction. All of the above mentioned items are made entirely by hand and I, Marina Bychkova, am their maker.

A full payment must me made within 7 days of the auction’s end to receive Ruby by Christmas. However, a 30-day layaway plan is available upon request. In case of layaway, a 50% NON- REFUNDABLE deposit must be paid within 7 days of auction’s end in order to hold the doll for the duration of layaway. Payment accepted through paypal. International shipping is available.

Please contact me if you have any questions.

The Auction runs until Dec 02, 201022:31:56 EST

Also, what is your favorite picture of Ruby?

The Birth of Ruby – Wigging

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

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In the morning, Ruby is sitting on my desk and waiting patiently for her wig. Taken by her beauty, I stop mid-stride on my way to the desk and admire her smooth, pretty profile bathed in the grey light of the studio. I’m loving the soft lines of her features and her delicate chin and I reach out impulsively and stroke her silky cheek with my index finger. As usual, I feel a small pang of regret of having to part with her soon, but quickly chase it away. I can’t allow myself such sentimentality – it’s a slippery slope for an artist.

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Making a wig is a messy work. The glue ends up all over my hands and the doll’s head, but the upside is that I don’t have to use any protective surfaces for the doll because glue, no matter how sticky, can not damage a china-painted, porcelain surface. I just scrape it off the face with my metal carving tools once the wig is done and that’s the end of clean up.

My wigging system requires that for the best quality wig, I spend about half an hour holding the strands down in strategic places while the glue sets. This frees up my mind and leaves me with plenty of time to think while both my hands are busy. I get comfortable in my Thinking leather arm chair accented with brass studs, put my feet up on the matching ottoman and with Ruby on my lap, and with her little head in my hands I return to my recurring, unsolvable dilemmas.

……Minimalism vs Excess.

Moderation seems to be the right answer to a lot of things, but not a day goes by without a struggle with my ambivalence towards being an artist who makes objects, thus contributing to consumerism. When I create another doll, I always feel a little guilty of adding more physical clutter into our clutter-filled world. I keep trying to rationalize it by telling myself that the need to create things is a part of human nature. We’ve been crafting stuff with our hands, attributing great value to physical objects  and hoarding them since the dawn of evolution. It’s been the way of things ever since we grew a big brain and two opposable thumbs.

But with the coming of industrial revolution and modernization of manual labor, our relationship to our valued possession and objects has changed. They became simple to mass produce, readily available and easily disposable and replaceable. A lot of those object make our life easy and enjoyable. I for example, don’t remember how to live without a microwave and I don’t have to spend most of my energy on basic survival. I am largely freed from domesticity and can dedicate my life mostly to the pursuits of creative and intellectual fulfillment and pleasure. And here I am, creating and crafting objects for that fulfillment. Why?

I despise clutter. I despise gift shops with cheap trinkets and pointless nicknacks. I can’t stand hoarding and never own more than one functional bag (not a purse) at a time. Who cares whether it matches my shoes or not? That’s not what happiness is, no matter what those shallow broads on Sex and the City are trying to sell me. I wonder how many girls that show has simultaneously, liberated, emancipated and damaged? But strangely enough, I love watching it. Like a car wreck, I suppose. For the record-I hate Carrie.

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When the glue in the wig is set, I leave it for several more hours and then wash and brush the hair. I put it back on Ruby while it’s still wet and watch droplets of water run down her forehead as I take this snapshot. She is lovely and I feel another pang of regret.

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Now, don’t get me wrong. I love possessions. I love comfort and beauty of interior design and I love some expensive things. But I absolutely don’t own what I don’t need. Having said this, I believe that one can not use moderation when it comes to art. Art must be what it must be, and I love extravagant art. My constant dilemma with who I am is whether I’m contributing to the problem of rampant, pointless consumerism, or if I’m somehow adding to the beauty of the world with what I create. Perhaps I’m doing both and I can’t help myself. I can’t stop doing what I do because I’m in love with the process of creation.

But If I must make things with my hands, if I can’t live any other way, then I must make them in a meaningful way. The universe is a fantastic creation that appeared out of the void. If I’m going to add objects to that universe, then I have  an obligation to honor it with my creations, not clutter it with thoughtless, meaningless, cheap, disposable and forgettable trash. The objects I make, must be more than things-they must become meaningful experiences for people. That’s the only way to justify our possessions. My dolls must enhance the quality of life in some small measure in order to validate their existence. And I vow to do that.

Ruby is complete.

Reminder, this Ruby will be put on eBay on November 25th

The Birth of Ruby – Assembly

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

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I’m on the home stretch with Ruby. The glue in the leather lining will begin to enter its maximum strength stage in 12 hours and while it’s setting I lay out the parts neatly on the tray and begin to measure out pins and connect the springs in the required configuration. I have my formula down and I follow it.

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Assembly itself is not the most interesting part of the doll-making process, but the fact that it’s shortest and the last stage of it, makes it very exciting. It’s a culmination of all the work that has gone into the project, when everything is literally pulled together. For days the doll exists only in my mind’s eye and in small bits of porcelain. But when I begin to assemble those parts, then the vision becomes a reality.

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At the end of each assembly I can’t help but feel a slight awe at the fact that only a few days ago this creature did not exist at all now it’s here, and I’m its maker.

I’ve been brought up to be a humble person. My parents have taught my sisters and I that a person should be a good human being first, and everything else later. I try to live by it and not let my pride get the best of me most of the time. After all, no matter how good you are at something, there is always some one who is better than you. But at the moment of assembly I allow myself a moment of glee and triumph: ‘Damn, I’m good!’-I think to myself:’ I made this out of nothing!’

I let those feelings wash over me for a few moments, then gently move them aside and begin to think of ways to improve myself: my concepts, my techniques, my work ethic and my general performance as a human being. We have to be so many things in our lives, and I’m all too aware of how one aspect of you can evolve at the expense of others. It’s hard to keep all parts of you in a semblance of a balance, in fact, it’s almost impossible. The law of Relativity. Sadly, we are governed by the laws of physics. Even art.

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I like to celebrate the assembly of each doll in my own small ways. Sometimes I go to sleep while other times I watch a movie. The actual celebration happens inside my head with the sense of accomplishment and a fleeting, temporary peace, only to be broken again a short time later with the thoughts of making another, better doll.

The Birth of Ruby – China paint

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

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Painting a doll is hands down the most rewarding part of the doll-making process.

As usual, I set up my painting surface with a mixture of anticipation and nervousness, knowing that even after countless faces and lots of practice it’s still all too easy to fail at creating a beautiful face. In fact, I believe I’m still in need of a whole lifetime of practice. Painting a porcelain doll takes several days because China paint is transparent and the depth of colour must be built up in layers with a firing between each layer.

While the mouth is the most sensual, the eyes are the most expressive and therefore, the most important part of the face. They are a window to the soul. To create a living face, one must not paint the eyes, but the soul of the doll. To some extent, the artist paints fragments of their own soul looking through the eyes of their subjects.

I pause in my brushwork, one of my tiny brushes balanced in my fingers while the other in my mouth, and stare unseeing into the space right in front of me, pondering what in means in the context of my work. It’s been noted by countless observes that most, if not all of my dolls have sad eyes. Just about every single media interview i’ve done up to now features the question about that. ‘What does that say about who I am?’, I ask of myself, ‘and is there a deep-seated, subconscious sadness in me, straining to escape through my doll’s eyes?’ If there is, then I don’t feel it.

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Layer 2.

I shake off my thoughts and go back to painting, just to return to them only moments later. I’m in a philosophical mood today. My gaze wonders to the original Ruby doll sitting in front of me as my model and my mind drifts. ‘Does she really look sad?’, I ask no one in particular, straining to see sadness…..nothing. ‘She’s just not that sad to me.’-I conclude for a millionth time and reach out to pick up more paint from my pallet with the tip of my brush.

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Layer 3

I believe that all those universally preconceived notions of artists being an emotional, sentimental mess of feelings are kind of insulting. It implies that creative people are not in control of themselves. Art may be art, but at the end of the day it is also a job. It has to be done well.

‘I suppose that there are some subconscious driving forces behind my doll’s seemingly consistent sad eyes, which are too internalized for me to comprehend, but there is also a very calculated reason for that.’- I repeat to myself and to my imaginary listener: ‘It’s a deliberate strategy, a manipulation in a sense, to elicit the strongest emotional responses in my audience and to steer their perception in the direction I want it to go. My personal emotional state has very little to do with it.’

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Layer 5

Somewhere between layers two and four I decide that this particular Ruby needs freckles to enhance her face. I’ve never tried freckles on a Ruby before and didn’t know how that would work out for me. Tight deadlines are usually not a good time for experimentation as things are quite likely to go sideways, consuming precious time, but limited work time may actually add a strange sense of completion to a project as well. I’m pleased with Ruby’s new Lucy Liu freckles.

I also put some extra highlights in her pupils to see if it will give her eye a new dimension or capture any other emotions not present in the other Rubys. Perhaps there is a little trace of sadness in them. Like they say: eye of the beholder.

I believe that we are defined by what we do, and what we do is defined by who we are, but it’s impossible to say where one ends and the other begins. How far does my identity define my work, and at what point does my work begin to define me and the choices I make?

But more importantly, are my doll’s eyes indeed sad?

The Birth of Ruby – Kiln trouble

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

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An FTL error message flashes on the display of my kiln at the end of an extraordinary long firing, confirming my growing certainty that the heating elements are burned out and require immediate replacement. Although I’ve been anticipating the elements to fail any day now and ordered replacement parts early, I’m still annoyed at having to deal with it right this minute, particularly because it will delay Ruby’s bisque firing.

After a day of procrastination and another 11 hours of cleaning she is finally smooth and perfect enough to fire to maturity, but that will have to wait. Normally I would use my alternate kiln in this situation, but that needs repairs as well. I don’t think I’m going to make that house warming party after all – both of my kilns need to be taken apart.

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I walk over to the tool closet to get my Ohm meter and measure the resistance in the elements, then change my mind: there is no point – I already know the are quite toast.

When my work surface is set up, I open up the control box to disconnect the wires, change the element connectors and then stick my arms into the kiln to carefully pull out its burned, brittle insides and replace them with brand new ones. My arms sting from the skin irritation and scratches caused by the contact with the fire brick, but having done it many times, the operation itself no longer bothers me like it did the first time I had to take my kilns apart. I was rather scared and nervous of not being able to put them back together again. In fact, I was so frustrated with it, that I even briefly considered just getting a new kiln every time the elements wore down, just to avoid the replacement procedure once every few months. How silly of me. But I got the hang of it and now it doesn’t seem like such a big deal anymore.

A wire slips and cuts my hand just above the wrist. This is the 4th time. I curse under my breath, unable to stop what I’m doing. It will have to wait a bit. Sadly, superficial injuries are a part of the process. A kiln is worse than an angry cat sometimes.

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I’ve only recently become aware that almost every stage of my work, perhaps with the exception of bead embroidery, ends with applying a moisturizer to my hands. It’s not really that surprising, as creation is usually a messy, skin irritating process, but what’s weird is that I never noticed this habit until I began to verbalize and externalize my creative process in writing, and suddenly the pattern came to my attention.

Today is no different either, only this time I need some Band-Aids as well.

Attention: Ruby is back on schedule now and will go up on the ebay auction November 25th.

The Birth of Ruby- Greenware Cleaning

Sunday, November 14th, 2010

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Soft-fired doll parts have been laid out in front of me for quite some time now and my desk is all set up for cleaning.

Water bucket – check, sanding sponges – check, an assortment of various tools – also check. Still, I sit there, eyeing the parts through squinted eyes like they are my mortal enemies, challenging them to either get the hell out of my sight or clean themselves for once. I catch myself sighing with resignation for the fourth time as I anticipate the mind-numbing repetitiveness and inevitable length of the upcoming cleaning session, pick up a tiny hand and place it in the hot water. I procrastinate some more by watching a stream of air-bubbles emerge from it as sinks and think of how I always start with a hand for some reason. What a creature of habit.

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This is the one stage of the doll-making process I really don’t ever look forward to. It’s difficult, draining and worst of all, boring. This is the only stage I would eliminate if I could, and nothing else, but, it’s also the main reason why Enchanted Dolls have such a glowing, silky complexion, so I have to work myself up to it almost every single time. As usual, every cell in my body whines at me about not wanting to do this, and there are times when my discipline disintegrates during a particularly nasty case of Aversiontoworkanitis.

‘Perhaps I should check my email real quick before I start on these parts,’ I think to myself: ‘And then it’s probably a good idea to get a snack. I do feel a little tired. I know it’s only one past noon, but, maybe I’ll just rest my eyes for just a few minutes to get refreshed, or even catch an episode of Dexter….yea, that’s what I’ll do and then, and then I’ll totally start working right away.’

I steal a sly look at the doll parts on the desk, as if I had just outsmarted them, and make my way straight to the bedroom, deciding to skip the email and the snack after all, knowing deep down that I ain’t working today no more.

Tomorrow I will, no doubt regret this self-indulgence and will have to play catch up, but tomorrow is tomorrow. Today I need a nap.

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The birth of Ruby – The fire

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

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The rhythmic clicks of relay switches worm their way into my subconsciousness as I stare distractedly through the rain, into the yellow wetness of the trees, pliers in my hand. A glistening Maple leaf sticks momentarily to the wet glass like a little fire beacon, before being carried away again. I follow its flight trajectory with my eyes until it’s gone, mentally counting the frequency of clicks behind me; one, pause, two, pause, three, pause…, then, reluctantly tear myself away from the hypnotic rain patter outside and turn my head towards the clicking machine.

Red numbers flash on the digital display, continuously updating me with the current conditions inside its chamber. Casually, and mostly out of habit I scan the updates and then dismiss them from my mind, returning my attention to the work at hand and my liquid thoughts.

At art school I absolutely hated kilns and never wanted to own one, because our ceramics department had only manual kilns that needed constant attention. The temperature required to be manually increased every 2 or so hours, and someone from the class had to hang around campus all day just to do that. I loathed the awful inconvenience of it…. but to be fair, I wasn’t really motivated by the curriculum or my own work enough to be bothered with the whole kiln attendance thing. I swear, I spent most of my art school experience resenting everything and being constantly annoyed. I didn’t really appreciate how far my education would take me in the long run. I especially hated ceramics classes and their manual kilns.

Turning again to look appreciatively at my clicking, blinking digital kilns in the dark corner of the studio, I wonder with slight bewilderment how I got to this point in my life. Not just owning the once hated kilns, but also the whole deal of being an artist. If someone had told me back then what would be, I would have laughed in their face with disdain. Disillusioned and confused by art education, I really didn’t see any art future for myself, and wondered desperately what I would do with my life, my impractical art degree and my seemingly pointless skills after graduation.

It suddenly occurs to me how very much like microwaves my digital kilns are: load the parts, close the lid, program firing sequence into the computer and press start, only instead of a lunch, you get a doll. Well, maybe it’s not quite that simple…but the thought amuses me as I work.

Ruby is firing. Hours go by, the studio gets darker, relays click away with reassuring regularity, fading in and out of my subconsciousness and measuring the passing of the gloomy afternoon in their electronic way; one, pause, two, pause, three, pause….   Then, replaced by random thoughts, they fade from my mind again.

The Birth of Ruby – Casting

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

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This isn’t a tutorial, just a loose documentation of the process that every porcelain Enchanted Doll undergoes to become truly enchanted. And porcelain. Through a stream of consciousness I’ll try to explain the way the process makes me feel when I’m engaged in it, in hopes that it will convey the mental state behind the work.

Casting is pretty technical, but still the easiest part of the process. Most of the session is executed through pure muscle memory: my motions are rehearsed, mechanical, fluid and efficient. It’s like meditation: all problems and mental anxieties are deliberately moved aside, my mind is almost at rest, calm, collected, relaxed, yet acutely self aware, while my hands are executing a delicate dance of the molds and the scalpel.

I hardly even think about what my movements are any more; I know exactly what I’m doing and my hands lead they way. Focusing on my work causes a simultaneous detachment from it. The trance. Knowing how to cast porcelain slip is a small achievement in life, but knowing it gives me the ability to manipulate this medium into the forms of my desire. I feel in control, in my element. Everything goes according to plan, my plan.

By now I’m so attuned to the process, that any irregularity which may signal trouble is felt instinctively through subtle changes in its mechanics, such as small fluctuations in the weight of the molds, the handling of the slip, the particular way in which the scalpel slices through wet porcelain. All of these little things talk to me and I understand the language of the medium and respond to its needs accordingly, almost entirely on autopilot. When I feel myself curiously detached from what I’m doing, I know I’ve gone into the Flow-and the Flow is the nirvana of work, a higher state of being.

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Taking out the parts is just as automated as casting, but the head, and more so the hands, require I switch off the autopilot and put my mind back in manual. Separating the fingers is a delicate and tricky work that produces different results every time. The face requires post casting touch ups as well and demands full concentration.

Cleaning up is a ritual that puts a physical and symbolic closure to each casting session. The clean up is as rehearsed and automatic as the casting, but as I methodically wash my desk and my tools and my hands, my mind is refreshed and my thought process is restructured as I emerge out of the casting-induced trance.

The last thing I do is rub some lotion on my hands to counter the dehydrating effects of porcelain slip, and as I do that, I can feel my constant companions, the daily anxieties of an artist return to me.

Enchanted Doll nude going on ebay soon

Monday, November 08th, 2010

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Dear Enchanted Doll Fans:

My Christmas gift to you this year is not only the launch of that elusive resin line, but also an ebay auction of a Porcelain nude doll!

It’s been almost a year since my last ebay auction, and I thought that perhaps it’s time to hold another one for my poster girl Ruby. It’s been a long time since I had made a Ruby, but she is one of my most beloved dolls and I really look forward to working on her again. I’m casting the parts today and plan to work around the clock in order to hold the auction around November 25th. That way she can arrive to her new owner just in time for Christmas. Gift wrapped and everything.

I’ll be posting shots of Ruby at every stage of the process as she progresses towards completion, so that you can get acquainted with her as she is born.

Bronze clad girls

Sunday, November 07th, 2010

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I have a special fondness for bronze cast pieces. These are the dolls from my own collection, wearing their bronze crowns. I’m going to add my favorite crow helmet to it soon. I like to keep a prototype of everything I make (when possible)in my own collection, so as to assemble a decent Enchanted Doll traveling exhibition sometime down the road. One of a a kind costumed pieces are impossible to reproduce of course, as replicating something that takes months to create would drive me insane, but that’s what makes them so special after all.

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I think that the snow flake crown looks better when combined with this Sulamith Wulfing-inspired, printed ‘peasant’ dress. It makes it look even more Russian. Yeah, I think I’ll keep her just like this.