Fashion Doll Quarterly Magazine

2008- Fashion Doll Quarterly Magazine. Winter Issue, p.140-145. New York, USA

Full Article posted below

The Magical World of Enchanted Dolls – By Amanda Arnold and Alexandra Forbes

When first encountered, the work of doll artist Marina Bychkova takes your breath away. Not only are the dolls exquisite and delicately beautiful, but also there is an undercurrent of subversive danger about them. As you step into this realm of fairytales and folklore, you become immersed in a unique experience. Marina’s imagery remains very true to the original tales by storytellers such as The Brothers Grimm and is a far cry from the sugar-coated, sanitized reworking of these stories today. You will not find a chubby, rosy-checked heroine with golden barrel curls and a puffy pink frock among Marina’s creations. Instead this courageous young artist will make you question your stereotypical beliefs as she presents an altogether more challenging representation of some very familiar tales.

Although Marina has been making dolls since childhood, the decision to turn this passion into a career came in her senior year at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Vancouver where she achieved a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. The multi-disciplinary art training she completed at Emily art focused heavily on developing concepts and creativity but less on acquiring skills and techniques. Marina found that the classical technique training she had hoped to gain from the courses was sadly lacking, so she had to explore and learn most of this herself. This self-motivated study has continued and is something Marina feels very strongly about, whether it takes her to hands-on jewelry courses or extensive book research.

As a professional artist and doll maker, Marina believes that if an artist wants to be taken seriously by others and become successful, he must first take himself seriously and treat his practice like a business. Marina elaborates: “I resent the worn-out cliché of the flaky and emotionally driven artist living in the perpetual state of poverty and creating only when the Muse visits. It seems like a very unprofessional, irresponsible, and lazy approach to art. On the contrary, it takes a lot of self-discipline, control, motivation, and organization to run a financially successful and creatively satisfying art practice. You can’t rely on Muses all the time for inspiration; set a schedule and stick to it.”

The Creative Process

With this perspective in mind, Marina’s approach to the creative process is a disciplined one but not without challenges. These challenges tend to be both multi-faceted, and diverse in nature. As Marina explains, it becomes hard to know where to begin or where to end when listing all the challenges her work presents since ”all of it is challenging. But I love problem solving and figuring things out.” Like many artists before her, she is able
to single out the ”perpetual time deficit” as her biggest challenge. Endeavoring to be efficient with her work through organization and good time and task management, Marina often finds there is just too much she wants to do with her day and only so many hours to do it in. A typical workday is usually 10-16 hours long. Although she loves the fulfillment of working, it can be difficult to maintain that kind of pace. Marina still gets burned out at times, “but everyone has to pay his or her dues.”

The creative process begins in the artist’s head, and every doll exists, at least partially, in Marina’s mind before it is “born” in porcelain. One-of-a- kind costumed pieces take between 150-350 hours to complete, and although Marina may be working on several projects simultaneously (in addition to any custom nude orders), she still can not accomplish all that she wants. In fact, the full realization of her dream dolls can take months. “I have to prioritize a lot.” Marina says. “And while working on one piece. I have ten others swarming in my head and waiting their turns. I’m always excited when I begin a new project and borderline bored by the time I complete it. I’m ever anxious to move on to a new dreamm.”

Fashioning the faces of these unique dolls is intense and time consuming, and Marina has created many facial sculpts use the standard body. She often uses mass inedia images as references for the facial sculpts. Although she usually has an idea of the features she wants to convey and the general appearance of the faces she makes, Marina still feels she needs to find an actual, living face (as close to her idea as possible) to sculpt from. This helps her to create the correct anatomical bone structure Sculpting a new face can take anywhere between 10-40 hours. After sculpting, a rough mold is made; this takes 6 hours plus 7 days of curing time. Next the head is cast, fired, cleaned, fired again, and finally sanded. This head becomes the master used for final molding. All of that takes about 3 days. Finally, following another 6 hours of mold making and a further 7 days of curing, the mold is ready for repetitive casting and the making of doll heads. Thus, the preparation work alone takes approximately one month! Luckily, after the mold is done, all Marina has to worry about is pulling good casts from it. Marina then casts, cleans, fires,= and paints the head for the final doll (approximately another 4 days of work). Eventually the mold wears out and another has to be made from the master.

The process of creating these exquisite dolls requires many specialized tools. Marina explains: “I have a set of tools for sculpting, a different set for mold making, another one for casting, a different one for stringing, and yet another one for painting. Costuming a doll requires a whole new set up, beading yet another one, and don’t even get me started on all the jewelers’ tools for metal work. There is a tool for every stage of the work, and because I go through so many stages to get to the final product, I have thousands of dollars worth of tools in my studio.”

Marina accepts commissions for her stunning, hand-crafted dolls, but the number she is able to complete is very limited and consists Of nude (not costumed) dolls only. Marina creates each i doll after the client has chosen from a selection of dolls and faces that can be customized further to some degree. Within the Enchanted Doll website a client can preorder the doll of her choice and complete the order form on which there are choices of different customizing options. Some of the options are free of charge while some incur additional costs depending on the complexity and time required to complete them. Every nude doll is made specifically for an individual client; because of this individual approach the quality of Marina’s dolls is outstanding.

The Dressed Doll

There is a strong escapist theme running throughout Marina’s work. Her dolls are imbued with a mythical or surreal appearance to intentionally remove them from the world and time which we currently occupy. She is responsible for the design and creation of every aspect of her dolls, including articulation, costumes, and jewelry. Marina feels that she does not really “get” the mainstream fashion dolls, and she has a general disinterest in contemporary or pop culture fashion when it conies to dolls. She explains: “My costumes have to be extraordinary, bejeweled, extravagant, and timeless creations-ensembles which no one has made for a doll before. If I ever release a hue of clothes for my nude dolls (and I’m actually thinking about it), the line will be an ultra limited, high end, exquisitely beautiful, and unique couture collection.” It is perhaps because of this that Marina loves to watch couture and high fashion runway shows. High fashion transcends normal, everyday functionality and becomes a beautiful, sculpted work of art.

When asked about which dolls are her favorites, Marina confesses that she has laces that she is particularly attached to and sometimes reluctant to part with – but luckily they can be recreated with her molds and china paint! Marina tends to keep the first doll of every limited edition series as an artist proof. She feels that these are the most valuable to her because they are the mother pieces. The one doll that Marina believes she will never bring herself to sell is Mermaid Song, her first tattooed doll; Marina adores her. But as far as the one-of-a-kind, costumed pieces go, she has no problem parting with them for generous and fair compensation because, as Marina herself says, “that’s why I make them.” Right now she is not selling costumed dolls because she is building up a Large collection for her first solo show in April 2009 to be held at the Villa Terrace Museum of Decorative Art in Milwaukee.

Russian Heritage

Originally from southwestern Siberia, Marina’s Russian heritage has played a huge part in everything she makes. “It’s the very essence of who I am, so how can it not?” she asks. Marina is very attracted to the highly decorative elements of ancient Russian culture and ethnic dress. Inspired by traditional costumes of various cultures such as Chinese, Near and Middle Eastern, East Indian, and Mongolian, she often feels that the more intricate the decorative elements, the better. When designing a new doll or a costume (unless specifically making a period project), Marina tries to bring all of those influences into play-albeit to different degrees. In this way she can create a piece that will be both a hybrid of historical elements and that timeless quality she seeks to create. This fascination with cultural diversity has led to Marina’s other biggest passion after making dolls: collecting rare and out of print books on illustration, ethnic dress,jewelry, art, and instructional books on different media. Marina has amassed a large enough library of those texts in her home that she muses that she might one day be able to teach a university course on the theory of doll-making. But getting back to her books, Marina says, “I collect them because I consider them to be very valuable tools in my creative process. One of my most treasured possessions is a very extravagant, two-tome, photo album book called Costumed Ball in the Winter Palace 1903; this book has 260 authentic photographs of the Russian aristocracy, including the Romanoff royal family, dressed for this grand ball in sixteenth arid seventeenth century Russian costurnes.This book cost me $400.00 CND and my aunt had to bring it to me from Moscow, but it was worth every penny for all the visual references it provides me?’

What the Future Holds

Marina is always working, and there is always something new cooking up in the studio. She lives an exciting, if exceptionally busy, life but feels lucky to have found a vocation that makes her feel so complete. Orders for nude dolls have flooded in to the point where Marina can no longer meet the demand; she has had to stop taking commission orders to allow for a few months of rest and travel. This break in taking commissions (which starts in September) will also enable Marina to prepare for her big solo show as well as some smaller shows which are coming up in 2009. But before you all become too despondent, Marina does plan to resume taking orders later next year. She says,” If you’re interested in having one nude, email me to get on the wait list as I have a very limited number of slots each month.”

As for other new and upcoming projects, Marina is working on the Tattooed Porcelain series and creating more tattooed dolls with various designs in both multi color and monochrome palettes. Another series, known by the working title Silver Bound Bodies will find Marina creating ornate, cast silver clothing articles for the dolls. This metallic series will explore the restraint of the body in pursuit of socially accepted norms of beauty, proportion, and gender. The one-of-a-kind, fully costumed dolls are still in the planning stage for next year, although Marina is a little unsure about which will be realized. Tentatively she has been thinking of a doll based on Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid, but that could change. In addition, there are still some unfinished pieces to tend to.

Marina was particularly pleased to announce to FDQ that the British celebrity fashion designer Julien MacDonald, who has designed for Chanel, Alexander McQueen, and Givenchy, has acquired one of her dolls. He intends the doll to wear one of his couture dresses inspired by Dali for all exhibition called “The 20th Anniversary of Salvador Dali.” That is something that Marina can not wait to see! Marina also reveals that there has been some talk of doing a show in Sydney in the summer of 2009) however, the proximity of the Australian show’s dates to her show in Milwaukee have Marina a little concerned about how that would work. Another project Marina has in development is a limited edition line of precious metal accessories for the nude dolls; this line would include goodies stich as sterling silver and even gold slippers, head dresses, and jewelry-all of which sound simply divine! Marina plans to do the bulk of the designs for thus line during the fall when she takes her much needed holiday from custom nude orders. This is certain proof (if any were needed) that she really does live and breathe her art.

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