Saturday, April 23, 2016

Creative Doll Collector of the Month: Debbie Behan Garrett (Blackdoll Collecting)

Hey hey, dolly friends!
How was your week?

I hope you spent it well, and with at least a doll, tee hee..
The other weekend, my family and I went on a 5-hour bus and boat travel to our favorite summer beach destination and of course, everyone had so much fun!
But, I did not bring a doll, and as always, I feel a little sorry...
But more on that later...

... because for today, we are featuring a dear dolly friend who is one of the nicest I've "met" in this doll universe. She's been collecting for an awesome 25 years now, her collection is focused mainly on black dolls, and she has a mission!

Debbie Behan Garrett is a published author and the blogger behind Black Doll Collecting, a blog that features her beautiful collection, her creative dolly pursuits, dolly news, among other topics that keep us dolly lovers updated and entertained. Check out Debbie's three books on the subject of black dolls.

Just seven years in collecting here in a photo in 1998, Debbie has already amassed hundreds of black dolls!

Debbie and I "met" on Etsy, when she first ordered leggings and tops for her sixth-scale ladies in 2012. I was so happy when she told me that she shared a post about my creations, detailing how she appreciated and enjoyed them a lot. From then, I have met other collectors who eventually became my dolly friends to this day. I have found a great community around her blog, as I really enjoy reading her posts and chatting with her followers there, too!


Above are photos of Debbie's recent dolls in atelierniSHASHA clothing

Debbie kindly said yes when I asked her to be one of our dolly contributors for the Doll Collecting Tips and Topics series. With her long and rich experience in doll collecting, and most importantly, to a specific doll preference, Debbie has so much to share with us. You could just imagine how I instantly became the happiest kid on earth when she said yes (again) for an exclusive interview, right?

Okay, so without further ado, please let me introduce you guys to Debbie Behan Garrett or as some of us lovingly call her, DBG,
our Creative Doll Collector for the month of April.

Here goes the interview.

Please tell us a bit about yourself aside from being a doll collector and advocate of black dolls. 

I am a wife, mother of two, and grandmother of two handsome grandsons. 
I work in a virtual office setting as an auditor for one of the leading providers of clinical documentation. When not collecting or writing about the dolls I love, I enjoy watching informative documentaries, listening to soothing music, spending time with my grandsons, and curling up in the bed with a good book (a physical copy or one stored on my Kindle). 

DBG and some of her black dolls

It has been 25 years since your first purchase of a doll collectible, which started it all for your collecting journey. 
What can you tell about the doll collecting industry, particularly about black dolls? 

The doll collecting industry with respect to black-dolls has evolved and the evolution continues. Today’s black dolls are more adequate representations of black people whereas many early black dolls were racial stereotypes, portraying black people in postures of servitude and/or with exaggerated facial features. It was probably not until the 1960s before the physical appearance of black dolls as a whole exhibited more positive imagery. I have also witnessed first-hand the improvement in the appearance of black dolls from the 1990s (when I purchased my first one) compared to today’s doll creations. A variety of complexions are now used to illustrate the vast color spectrum of black people whereas in the 1990s and prior, Hershey-brown and often an unrealistic gray-brown color were used for many black dolls. With the help of the Internet, black-doll access is also better compared to the limitations experienced by parents of adults in my age group and collectors in prior years. 

Do you think the market of black dolls has substantially increased since your first few years? 
If yes, what do you think are the factors of this exciting milestone? If no, would you know any factors? 

The market for black dolls from a collector’s perspective has always been a viable one and is even more viable today as a result of improved access and availability. More companies are including black dolls in their lines and in recent years many black-owned doll companies have formed. With access to the Internet, a collector can find just about any type doll they desire. The improved doll access is beneficial for conscientious parents who desire the cultural awareness through playthings that I desired for my children.

So In Style Grace and Chandra striking poses

In your very big collection of dolls, you also have a plethora of doll categories, including precious ones handmade from more than a century ago in your collection. How do you manage the identification and preservation of these, especially the much aged ones? 

I did not do this early on, but since 2008 I have maintained a doll inventory procedure that I follow religiously. With each new doll, I enter its specifics into an Excel workbook to include: manufacturer’s name, year made, doll’s name, physical description, cost, and a photograph. The workbook contains spreadsheets for years 2008 through present. The dolls are always in a climate-controlled area and none are exposed to direct sunlight or harsh temperature changes. The more delicate ones are in a curio cabinet or storage trunk.

Debutante by American Character 1939

Soul Sister dolls from the 1970s

I know that during your collecting journey, you have developed a mission and a vision, specifically for empowerment, uplifting self-love and image positivity. 
How do you think both the doll industry in general and its trends contribute to your advocate? 

As mentioned previously, many early US-made black dolls, specifically those made during my 1950s childhood and prior, were demeaning. During this time, dolls that were brown versions of their white counterparts, that were more appealing, were often not available in some areas of the country particularly in the South because xenophobic store owners refused to stock them. As a child who never owned a black doll, I subconsciously developed a void that could only be filled by my possession of black dolls as an adult collector. This lack of positive playthings with which I could have fully identified greatly influenced my adult advocacy for black children to own black dolls. Representation and positive imagery are vital to helping children develop a strong sense of self-love and worthiness. Because many new doll companies and merchants are focusing on black and multicultural dolls and existing doll companies are creating more inclusive lines reflective of all people, my mission continues, but is less intense. 

Chyna, the main character in the Disney show, A.N.T. Farm

As not just an ordinary collector but a creative one at that, how does your collecting fuel your passion and creativity? 

Each time I see a beautiful black doll my inner child is awakened. I derive pleasure with just the thought of a black doll. They excite my senses, renew my spirit; black dolls bring me joy. Because I have always loved researching subjects of interest and writing, there is nothing better to me than sitting down at my computer to write about a new doll acquisition or to inform the readers of my blog about a new doll that has either entered the market or about one that will soon be released (whether or not my plans include acquiring it). When a doll arrives that does not completely satisfy me, my creative juices flow by making the necessary changes to enhance its appeal. 

2014 So In Style Fan Club Doll Chandra

What creative activities do you do around your collection? 

As mentioned, I write about my dolls and I do minor doll makeovers and repairs.
I have changed dolls’ wigs, restyled existing ones, and made wigs. I do not sew, but if I had the patience to do it, I would design and sew clothing for my dolls. If I had the patience and skill to paint, I would perform repaints to achieve more facial realism, particularly for the eyes. Maybe one day, with more free time on my hands, I will cultivate these unrealized talents as well as the possibility of doll sculpting. Sculpting is something I would really love to learn. 
 I have become quite adept at composition doll repair, but only for myself. This is not something I have perfected enough to perform for others. 

Can you tell us if you have done any collaboration with black doll artists? 

From 2002 through 2006, as co-editor of Black Doll E-Zine, the only e-zine devoted to collecting black dolls, I interviewed black doll artists (and collectors) and published their profiles in this quarterly publication. Through collaborative efforts, I have also written doll articles about artists and their dolls which have been published in Doll Reader, Dolls, UFDC’s Doll News, and Fashion Doll Quarterly. Additionally, along with the members of my online doll group, We Love Black Dolls Anew, I collaborated with artists whom we commissioned to create annual club dolls. 

A portrait paper doll of Debbie at age 10 by Diana Vining - so cute!!!

You have published great books about Black doll collecting, please tell us what prompted you to do so? 

In 2002, I was contacted by the CEO of Hobby House Press with a request to write a black-doll reference book. 
The CEO, Gary Ruddell, had received an appeal from a fellow black-doll collector to publish a black-doll reference book because at the time none had been published in almost a decade. The collector offered Gary my name as the potential author, and the rest as is often said, is history. After Hobby House Press closed their publishing doors in 2006, I went on to self-publish two other books on black dolls because the need for black-doll documentation existed and still does. 

Cecelie by Heidi Plusczok

You also run a very successful blog, helping other collectors like me in many ways. 
How do you see your blog in the next, say 5-10 years? 

Since my blog posts are usually about dolls in my collection, and because I am selling several, my posts over the next few years will probably focus on reconnecting with dolls that I plan to keep—dolls that have never been written about in the past, which may actually be new to many readers. 

Through my blog posts, I will continue to share black-doll-related news such as upcoming doll shows and other events. Guest posts from others from time to time will also be featured, and who knows, in 5-10 years, I may have mastered the art of sculpting and doll making and will then write about my own creations

Jill and Jill by Vogue

Any words of wisdom you might want to share with us who are relatively new to doll collecting? 

My best advice to novice collectors is to buy what you like (and can afford) without regard to any current or future perceived value. You can never go wrong collecting what you like, what warms your heart, what renews your spirit.

So there you go, guys! I hope you enjoyed reading the interview with Debbie as much as I did.
I am just blown away by her rich experience in doll collecting, and the way she expresses her life ideas through this journey of collecting.

The way I see it, black doll collecting, as a whole, is Debbie's art.
She may have other brave endeavors, but this one, I am pretty sure is one of her masterpieces.

Again, I would like to thank Debbie for giving me the honor to pick on her brains and wonderful memories, so that we, too, can be inspired while traversing this collecting journey, which sometimes can be a solitary thing. The photos she shared in this post are each a delight to see and very much appreciated. I'm looking forward to see more from her blog in the years to come.

Thanks to you, dear dolly friends for reading up to this point.
I hope you enjoy it and I hope to chat with you again soon!

love lots,

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

atelierniSHASHA on this year's FDQ Spring Issue - again !!!

Hey hey, dollies!

I'm so ecstatic to just share a really exciting news with you guys today.
Our dear doll friend Michaela Unbehau, Germany-based doll photographer with works you can find in her Flickr, Facebook, and Instagram accounts as well as doll magazines like Fashion Doll Quarterly and Haute Doll, recently contributed an article which also features my little creations!

This is just a peek from the pages of the newest Fashion Doll Quarterly issue - Spring 2016.
Seeing Michaela's dolls in this whole page, all glam-ed up in my creations is just pure joy.
Although I have enjoyed and collected fashion magazines since I was a teenager, I never really dreamed of seeing my creations on one. But here they are - and even for the second time!

A page from the Fashion Doll Quarterly Spring 2016 issue...

Yup, the second time around as last year, Michaela also contributed to FDQ, and shared one of her photos - a gorgeous doll wearing yet another atelierniSHASHA ensemble.

Last year's FRD Spring Issue - the doll to the left in sweater and shorts - uber cool!

I am also super happy to see my doll soulmates from KoTori Couture - Marcela and Jojo, featured in the same latest Spring issue of FDQ.
I love these girls eclectic aesthetic, very natural, very raw, so rich in culture yet so global in its vibe - something I would love for my dolls and myself.

KoTori on the right side of the page - super gorgeous, eh?

We are actually having a virtual party right now over at Facebook, where the KoTori girls and I mainly hang out. LOL!
And my girls - if only I had a bar full of fabulous drinks - for sure would be partying to celebrate such wonderful achievement for the atelier.

Thank you so much for sharing this momentous event with us, and more importantly, thank you for supporting us with our craft and passion - we are so blessed to make a living out of the things we love to do. You inspire us always!

Thanks so much and see you again next time, guys!


Thursday, April 14, 2016

What's up at the atelier?

Hi guys! I know it's been a long time since I have posted!
And more importantly, it's been ages since I have shared what's up at the atelier.
So, here you go..

For the month of March, we have been working on the three-part article on how our dolly friends store, display and organize their doll collection, and other related items such as wardrobe, dioramas, among others. Here are the links; I thought it would be handy to have them all in one page:

I feel so blessed to have worked with more than 20 dolly friends to come up with this mini-series.
Imagine just how positive, generous and loving the doll community can be, yes?
If you haven't yet, please check out what our doll friends can offer, as the tips are invaluable.

I also made a few of the Diane Dress, a midi-length dress with a wrap front panel.
I was inspired by the wrap dress by Diane von Furstenberg.

Portia in the Diane dress
Weeks later, I also released the Luna cardigan. I thought I needed to add a cardigan to my girls' wardrobe because this piece is such a chameleon - it can be dressed up or down, depending on the items you style it with.

Luna wears the Luna cardigan with her daily clothing
Yes, the Luna cardigan was named after this lovely strawberry-blonde babe =)

The Luna cardigan, dressed up...
As for the month of April, I will have a round-up by the end of the month.
A sneak peek, though, for the week ahead:

Another doll collecting topic to talk about : BUDGET

So, stay tuned guys as I we will find out how we can improve our collecting journey at its financial aspect. I needed this so badly, so I am ecstatic to read all that our contributors have shared about the subject. And I was just blown away by the generous tips they gave!

Okay, so buh-bye for now and I'll see you in the next post!

hugs and kisses from the Philippine islands,
s h a s h a

Monday, April 4, 2016

Collection Storage, Display and Organization - Series Finale

Finally, the third installation of our Collection Storage, Display and Organization series. I know I promised for this to be posted soon, but as usual I put too much on my plate, and everything just went crazy. So so sorry, dollies... I hope you will let me get away with things again ;P

For this series, I am so thankful to have our dolly friends share their stories and journey so that we can learn a thing or two and make this doll life even more colorful. It true that there is treasure everywhere, and I find them in these lovely people:

Anika, FordModolls, VanessaArianneConnieVanaDebbieTerriBriniRobertBubblesRebecaDiademaMelanEdelLeslieEliMarcelaGeorgia GirlKatieJaviKenyaJelynMichaela and of course, jSarie.

I could say that this part would be perfect for those who wouldn't have much time to read the super long part 1, or part 2, for in this post, I am aiming to summarize what works from our dear contributors, list down a few unique tips, and  finally, let you in to the dream world of our contributors, as they share their fantasy doll organization. So, let's get it on!

What works for most collectors...
Arianne's awesome doll storage system
For our dolly friends, the most popular ways to display their collection include putting them in wall-mounted or stand-alone shelves, glass or acrylic-paneled display cabinets, diorama set ups done by the collectors themselves, and their work desks. Our collectors put their dolly faith on one or a combo of these solutions to avoid dust, preserve hairdos and lashes of their dolls, and provide inspiration for everyone who comes into the doll room.

For storing dolls away when not in use or play, what seems to be the de facto in the storage solutions department are plastic storage containers, stock boxes, closets and cabinets, drawer-type containers, and shoe boxes/shoe organizers. These inexpensive containers provide safety, easy access, as well as low-maintenance storage for the dolls.

Since there's a myriad types of dolly must-haves, segregating them according the categorization that works for you is a must. For most of our dolly friends, dolly must-haves are sorted into doll clothing, shoes / footwear, jewelry, bags, hats and other head-worn accessories, diorama items and other essentials.The most popular storage solutions for doll clothing include plastic drawer-type containers, plastic bins and air-tight plastic bags for separating each clothing category.

Grouping dolls is a also common system for these collectors. When displaying or storing their collections, most of our friends separate their dolls according manufacturer/ doll type/series, by type of clothes or themed outfits, by doll features (hair color, character/sculpt, articulation, skin tone, nationality), by special selection (usually displayed in rotation), by project/ diorama setup/ photo story characters, and year released. Through segregation, it makes them easier to locate the doll they are thinking of the moment come photo shoot or play day.

Now, it seems like knowing these basics already makes us so ready to organize, or reorganize our collection, yes? But wait, before we head to the nearest office supply store to grab these storage products, we might as well want to be reminded of a few small but very important things. All these solutions can give us the ultimate benefit if the dolls are displayed or stored away in the some specific conditions as recommended dearly by our contributors.

Firstly, dolls should be stored nude, or at least in light-colored clothing, or non-staining footwear. It would help in preserving their quality if they are stored in upright, or standing position, with hair secured in hair nets, or saran wraps, and with desiccants or silica gel packs popped in each sealed container. Our dolly friends also warned us to store or display our collection away from direct sunlight, sunlit windows, or areas exposed to heat. And last but not the least, it would be nice if we store them in containers that are free from dust and acidic moisture.

Quirky tips that might work for you, too!

Some of our collectors also have special ways to organize their collection. Read on to see if you can use them, too =)

Displaying/ storing dolls in rotation is one great way to give equal love to all our dollies. Some of our friends like Edel, Ford, Kenya and jSarie love this system.

Eli suggests we repurpose materials like cardboard, rubber bands and laces that we get from our doll packaging. She cuts cardboards and slips them into doll clothes to avoid wrinkles. Eli also uses her rubber bands to make sure each of her doll shoe pairs stay together.

Speaking of recycling materials, Connie uses boxes from other packaging for storing her nude dolls upright.

I like that Connie can easily find the doll she wants in this simple yet very effective setup
Diadema also stores her doll shoes by pair, and kept in individual shoe boxes she has made herself. She also makes her own earring organizer, which is made from a sponge. She just pins her doll earrings there after using, and when she needs them again, it's so much easier to pick a pair.

Diadema's DIY shoe boxes
Speaking of DIY, Jelyn also customizes small bags for her chain necklaces. Separating them into these neat bags keeps them from tangling with one another.

Arianne reminds us to always tie together tiny ensembles like a bikini set, to save time come the next opportunity to use this pair.

Georgia Girl recommends wrapping delicate pieces in a towel, while Terri places her precious dolly foods and drinks  between cotton swabs or pieces of towel paper before storing them in tiny organizer compartments.

Dessicants are a sure-fire way to keep moisture away from our collection but Marcela has this rechargeable plush toy with silica gel in it! Rechargeable = awesome, right?

These rather personalized ways of organizing might be something worth trying, but of course as our dear doll friend Ford says, " just store them the way what works for you". I totally agree. Each one has a different lifestyle and it would be much nicer if our hobbies work around how we live our lives, right?

and finally, the Dream System...

Anika says her ultimate dream system would combine all the methods she uses. "I think I'd love a giant armoire maybe with sliding doors that can house about 8 medium sized bins. It will have at least 15 - 20 drawers to hold clothing. There would be hooks to hold all the dangling goodies.", adds Anika.

Diadema's dream doll storage is her my Diorama Boutique. "I'm still working on it though! I have the bags and shoes already placed in my diorama boutique. Dresses are hanged in the boutique cabinet as well. I'm just waiting for the dress rack and hangers to arrive, so I can have my doll storage/ boutique complete!"

Edelmo is desperate to have a toy room because he doesn't only have dolls in his collection, he has many other toys in it. "Also, the doll clothes and accessories are taking more and more space.  A room, with natural light to set a stage for photos, a well organized stock and some big cabinets to keep some dioramas would be great. Of course a big table at the center to have dolly meetings and work."

Georgia Girl defines her dream system as something where everything was accessible.  "Dolls in one area, clothes assorted by color and type (ie all pink pants together, etc), shoes color coordinated; accessories all together by type (all belts together, all necklaces, etc). "

Javi is happy with his system but it would be nice "to add more space! Haha! "

Jelyn dreams of someday placing her dolls in a shelf when she finally gets a place of her own.

Kenya is pretty happy with what she has going on right now. "I just wish I had more vertical space and shelving."

Katie imagines her dream doll storage system to be for her dolls to have a room of their own, with glass cases on the wall so she could display them without worrying about dust. "I'd also love to have some open shelving for room boxes and furniture, which is currently all jumbled together every which way. I'd love to be able to keep a few rooms set up."

Melan's dream doll storage is a full-glass display cabinet with led light.

Rebeca dreams of a small closet for clothes and a box with various holes to place each pair of shoes, each bag, sunglasses ... by color. "It would be amazing!", she says.

Robert says his dream doll storage is an entire room for his collection where he can segregate his dolls, and other items according to color, style and material.

Terri will eventually plan on buying an armoire of some kind for storage.  For the doll clothes, maybe an old library card filing system.  "What a great project flipping one of those might be!"

The other doll collectors are already living the (doll storage and organization) dream, while I, currently bunking on my son's (future) room, dream of a room where I have a small miniature downtown, full of shops, restaurants, and apartments where my dolls dwell. Yup, Lego Movie style, baby!

A blueprint of my dream doll room for my collection's storage, display and organization
This room should be well-lit, particularly of natural light so that the "town" will look realistic in my photos; so maybe this should be built on the rooftop with at least two glass walls facing each other, yes? Of course, the "town" will be at the center, and will serve as my display. The concrete walls will be filled with shelves and a combination of accessible and item type-appropriate storage systems.

Yeah, dream big, they say, right? LOL!

So, there we go, dollies! I must admit that it is really me who benefited the most from this series! Just look at my dream doll room - it's pretty much a combination of everything I learned from this series! But of course, I am hoping you also picked some from what works, some form the quirky tips, and some ideas of a future doll room. We have been so lucky to have generous contributors for this series, and the future topics to come.

I hope you enjoyed this post, and if you can, please drop a comment for anything you might want to add. I know that in this small community of ours, everyone has something to say, which is for sure very much appreciated.

Again, thanks to our contributors for this series and to you for dropping by! See you on the next Doll Collecting Tips topic - which is about Budgeting for your Collection.

hugs and kisses,