Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Meet Elizabeth...She's a Real Doll

Well, as I wrote about last week, I have a new store on the way that focuses on doll avatars and accessories. The Heart of a Doll will cater to people of all ages, styles, and tastes, offering over time dolls of many different varieties. The first doll I previewed was Mishka, a 16 year old Russian Gothic Lolita doll avatar in a cute little babydoll dress and pigtails. After much inner debate, stress on my poor brain, and a good deal of stomping about and throwing of many prims in frustration...I have finally completed the second in the forthcoming doll series.

Meet, Elizabeth, a 24 year old Victorian period porcelain doll from London.

With Elizabeth I went back to the basic skin and tried to make a paler, more porcelain look, changing some of the joints and removing the back battery panel. I made her dress, boots, hair and hat all from scratch and was rather pleased in the end with the look.

Like Mishka, she is currently on display in the lobby at Temenos Island as a sneak preview before The Heart of a Doll opens...hopefully in a week or two.

Now I start on the third doll, a cloth ragdoll type with a gothic horror bent hopefully still in time for halloween. I am finding it so hard to settle on which dolls to work on next as I have so, so many ideas fighting for dominance. In time they will all come into being, but for now they are each scrambling to be the next one I make, and that keps me in a constant state of confusion...well...more confusion.

In additional Doll-related news...

I placed an order for Dolltopia last week. Dolltopia will be a new sim entirely devoted to my dolls and the fun ideas they inspire. I have some special people in mind to help me with Dolltopia, and hope that once the sim opens and The Heart of a Doll and our other doll stores move in people will enjoy the fun, off-beat, and child-like atmosphere that we hope to give it. The entire Dolltopia team is very excited and eagerly awaiting delivery of the island so we can start playing...erm...building.

I will keep those interested in The Heart of a Doll and Dolltopia updated with sneak peaks and information here as things develop.

A New Song from Tweet

Sumire Mochi is probably the freshest, most unique new designer in all of Second Life. I have watched her work on her outfits since the start and I have never seen anyone so meticulous about every detail. Her imagination is truly a marvel and I envy her her vision.

So, it's always a huge treat to see her release something new, even if I have seen it slowly taking shape over weeks before. To see the finally product up and for sale gives me a nice jump start and inspires me.

So, it was nice when I woke up a week or so ago and found she had finished not only the next two outfits, but also had made a set of gorgeous prim umbrellas and scarves that are just delicious. Candy colours and off-beat prints like all her designs, these new looks are as fresh and different as it gets folks, and the umbrellas and scarves are just in time for late fall.

So, if you love originality and funkiness with a J-pop flavour as much as I do...drop in and check out Tweet. These newest songs from this songbird are music to my ears...and coming from a deaf woman, you know that means they are special.

Going Wild at Paperdoll Designs!

Okay, as I mentioned in my previous post, I like to encourage and offer help and sometimes store space to new designers that need a hand up and some morale boosting. Most of them are new to Second Life when I meet them, but usually they are not new to art in general. Gabee Story of Paperdoll Designs is one of those amazing exceptions that I can't help being amzed at...a true natural with no previous background.

Before someone says it, as they did with Sumire Mochi when Tweet first opened, Gabee is absolutely not an alt of an older player or another designer. Gabee is the real life girlfriend of my friend QuietlyCharmes Vega of Playful Kitten. Gabee and Quietly live in an area hit bad by hurricane Katrina last year, and Gabee had to take her son and leave for most of the past year until things got better. But recently she came home and joined Quietly in SL when she did.

Gabee is no stranger to online worlds. She has years of time in Everquest and Star Wars Galaxies and the like. But, she had no previous background in art or running the type of virtual-based business she decided to start when she came into SL and started hanging around Quietly and myself just two short months ago.

Within days of being here, Gabee was trying to learn to use Quietly's copy of photoshop and had uploaded her first outfit. Since then she has made a mind-boggling amount of offerings, and with each new one I see her skill growing exponetially. I am truly and totally amazed.

She has gone in a few short months from total novice in art and prim work to making prim clothing that is totally astounding. She has mostly gone in a tribal direction with her prim outfits...but have to see em to understand how far this lady has come.

Moving from a small corner space downstairs I have since given her the 4th floor store space in the temple at Temenos because her volume of work was growing so rapidly. I can't keep up with all she is making anymore. And I know for a fact she has a lot of unreleased work sitting up in her skycave too.

Gabee is one of those rare stories that inspires me. A struggling mother who has weathered so many trials and problems, disasters, and heart-break...but can still have the drive and energy to start her life again in a totally new direction and not only do well with it...but excel. She is friendly, positive and helpful, and I have never seen anyone more happy to talk with customers. I am so proud to call her a friend and to have her at Temenos Island.

With how far Gabee has come in these few months she has been home and in SL, I can't wait to see where she will be in 6 months, or this time next year.

Frosty Treats for Kids

Over the past few months I have offered store space at Temenos Island to several new, up-and-coming designers in Second Life. Sumire Mochi's Tweet being the first, and now the widest known and talked about. But other new and aspiring designers are always out there, and I like to encourage them as much as possible. Yes, I know that seems odd maybe. They are competition, aren't they? Well, I don't look at stuff that way.

Making a living from art is tough in a society that no longer values art as it did in ages past. I have lived that struggle for decades myself, and I know how hard and how discouraging it can be. In my mind, new artists are my brothers and sisters in a cultural struggle for the value of art and imagination, and they need all the boost and help I can give them. So, when I see a new talent whose work I like...someone I see potential in, or something fresh and different, I like to encourage them. Obviously I can't offer store space to everyone. But, those that I do invite to Temenos, I see something special in. Snowy Cone's Frosty Treats is a good example.

Snowy focuses primarily on making children's clothes, though most of her outfits work as well for the older gals too. bright colours, simple patterns, but cute and perfect for that young...or young at heart...look.

Snowy hasn't been here for long, and yet she already has quite a few outfits up and available, and I see her skills growing and maturing with each one. I greatly look forward to what she comes up with in the next few months in Second Life...Keep up the great work, Snowy!

Friday, October 20, 2006

For Those With "The Heart of a Doll"...

We all grew up playing with dolls to some extent. Baby dolls are one of the first toys given many girls, and even stuffed animals are dolls really. Barbies, Dollfies, collectable dolls, fashion dolls...we know em and most of us loved them. Even the guys had their dolls, though they will usually insist on calling them "action figures". *grins* Dolls are everywhere in our society...and it's only natural they end up in our Second Lives as well...

The idea for doll avatars first developed for me out of an idea I had while working on a steam-powered Victorian period suit of mech armour. The steampunk genre is a neat one and I love the Victorian period. I was planning on, and even started, a brass and copper, steam-powered victorian automoton avatar. basically an old fashioned robot with gears and tesla coils and steam valves instead of computer chips and fiber optics. I started the skin for it, and planned to make an AO as well...but I got side tracked and never finished that project.

But the idea for robots, androids, and dolls stewed in the back of my head for over six months while I was busy working on opening Temenos Island, getting neko skins and ears done and finally finishing my human skin line. It was an idea whose time was about to come...

Okay...that sounded silly and overly dramatic. Sue me.

Still, it was true the idea was about to resurface for me, and it seems not just for me either.

I was rather at a low place, both emotionally and creatively. My entire life I have stuggled with severe chronic depression and at times when it gets at it's worst my creative abilities vanish under the hopelessness and lack of motivation that ensues. The past month has been like that for me. So low I didn't want to do much except lay in bed and just disappear. I had done most of my main ideas for Nekos, and had finished some of the exciting clothes ideas I had for Boneflower Designs. I have a list of projects 9 pages long, but none of them motivated me at all, and the idea of starting any of them seemed daunting. I needed something new to stir things up...a electrical jolt to get me going again. That was when the dolls came in.

After a small, innocent few remarks by my friend about dolls, boom, I was inspired. The idea took off in my head like a brushfire in Texas and within a few hours I had hatched plans for a whole new store brand, a line of doll avatars, AOs, accessories and more.

Over the next two days I worked feverishly on a jointed doll skin that I could use as a basis for many of the dolls. I looked at some of the more popular doll lines in real life and finally settled on the joint style from a popular Japanese doll that I liked. The pictures here show the basic joints I ended up with...though not every doll will have the same exact joint configuration...

Each doll will come with two skin versions. One that is purely doll-like, and one that is anatomically correct, such as the one below. Best to appease everyone...I know some people get upset if they are deprived of their bits and parts...

After I had the skin template finished, I started one doll shapes, hair and clothes.

The idea is to have each doll be special...but not one of a kind. Obviously while having and owning a one off doll avatar would be cool...I make no money that way and it isn't a very viable business model. So, what I wanted was to make each doll special, but not limit sales of it. The plan I decided on was to make the shape, skin/makeup/joints, hair and clothing for each doll unique to that doll only. If I make hair for a doll, that hair can only be bought with that doll. It will never be reused for other dolls or sold in any other way. That way every doll is unique and special, but I don't limit potential revenue.

That decided, I started on the first doll in the series...a 16 year old Russian Gothic Lolita doll named Mishka. It took me only two days to complete her hair, shape, clothes and shoes. In the end I was very happy and very optimistic about it all. Mishka was everything I had wanted her to be.

In order to draw attention and start advertising the store (which I hoped to open before end of month with at least 3 dolls), I set Mishka up in the lobby at Temenos in her box with accessories and an information sign.

She had only been out for all to see for one night when I got up and found a whole group of "dolls" already waiting for me near her box. Seems I was not the only person who believed the time of dolls was upon us. hehe. They were all very nice people, and it gave me even more hope that the idea might really take off in Second Life.

So...that is where we stand at the moment...Mishka is finished and the second doll, Naomi is started. I want to finish at least three dolls before I open the store, as well as the Doll AOs and Doll Control panel I have pondered. I am hoping that once word gets around and people see the doll avatars in action, they too will let out their Inner Doll and join us in the ranks of those who have "The Heart of a Doll"...which is the store name BTW.

Feedback and ideas are of course wlecome. I am very interested to know what others think of the doll idea.