Monday, September 14, 2009

Interview with Grace from Gracefaerie Designs

#10 Takeshita-dori pattern
#29 Steampunk Dress
#35 Don't Pin Me Down View #1
Messenger from Another Place
Planetdoll Riz Forsaken Side View
Planetdoll Riz Forsaken Rear View
Planetdoll Riz Forsaken Front View
Ascent, example of visual arts gallery sculpture
#35 Don't Pin Me Down View 2

Grace, from gracefaerie designs recently agreed to do an interview with me, and I was delighted to get to know her and her business a bit better.

About the business:
Grace was introduced to ball-jointed dolls in 2004 by her husband, who needed a Volks SD13 Nana in his photography work. She had been collecting vinyl and antique dolls, and was instantly captivated by the glow of the BJD's resin. Her husband was asked to create an outfit for the doll, and of course, Grace was hooked.

As her passion for clothing design rose, her interest in exhibiting visual art in galleries waned. Grace explains the transition this way: "While I loved the process of making art (primarily mixed media sculpture), the gallery context was becoming increasingly shallow and unfulfilling. Offering patterns for the BJD community seemed like the perfect way to redirect my energy."

gracefaerie designs formed in 2007, when Grace made a pattern for her niece Gertie, whose first BJD (CP Luts Miyu, Momo) needed a new wardrobe. Gertie (on winter break from the Art Institute of Chicago) and Grace's sister-in-law Joni (of JoniJewelry) combined efforts with an Ebay store in March 2007, selling Grace's patterns, Joni's jewelry and Gertie's garments and accessories. Laura, Grace's tech diva, set up the website and designed the pattern covers. Soon, Denver Doll Emporium carried the entire line of patterns. Today, there are 41 patterns in the line. Patterns are designed primarily for ball-jointed dolls, but some are also available for 14" articulated Kish dolls and Ellowyne Wilde.

Grace's favorite part of designing a pattern is the prototype. After the initial muslin phase, she plays with the design of the garment. Selecting fabric and embellishments that make the design come to life are most fun and inspiring. The most challenging aspects of pattern design are writing clear instructions. One of the primary goals is providing patterns that are fun to make, and removing as many of the fitting struggles as possible. This way, users can easily add their own personal creativity and style to the pattern.

When I asked Grace if there was a lot of "trial and error" in the process, she admitted she laughed out loud. (So, I have to confess, I've never created a pattern!) Grace told me, "In private, I call my method, 'mistake-driven'!" These "mistakes" are what lures her out of her comfort zone, however, and what move into new visual territory. From her training in visual art exhibition, Grace has learned that the struggle of getting what might be a "disaster" to work visually and emotionally often rewards you with your best work. One of her mentors taught her to actually turn her paintings upside down to help her see what was going on visually with her composition. An interesting technique, I thought!

Grace loves to sew. Her grandmother taught her, and she's been sewing since since she was three. Her best tip is pressing your seams: your iron is as important as your sewing machine. She enrolled in an adult tailoring class at the age of thirteen and made outfits with lined jackets and bound buttonholes. Just a word of advice on fitting bodices: For 27 years, Grace worked as a dancer, choreographer and dance instructor. No complaining when the pin pierces the velvet and pokes you in the ribs! She and the other dancer learned to stand perfectly still while skillful wardrobe mistresses fitted the corseted bodices of costumes like second skins.

Her highest compliments come from customers who enjoy her patterns and hear they "set their imagination in flight." (Check out the amazing article on BJD Collectasy as well.) Paulette Goodreau has been supportive and generous as well. Goodreau's beautiful ad in Doll Crafter and Costuming in January 2009 featured gracefaerie designs. Paulette also invited Grace to design the cover pattern and costume for Queen Azure for the cover of July 2009 issue, usingthe exclusive pattern Steamy Summer Steampunk. Joni made the jewelry and Gertie created the hat to complete the look. The article and pattern should appear in the electronic version of Dolls Magazine in December.

Some of the outfits Grace are most proud of: Takeshita-dori #10 and #11 and Serafuku #34 required some of the most research (Grace gives cat, who she met on a doll message forum and is very knowledgeable about this area, credit for research help), as well as Steamy Summer Steampunk fall into this category. Berdine Creedy's Melodi (now Viola, thanks to Michele Hardy's delicate face-up) was the inspiration behind pattern #35 Don't Pin Me Down. The kitty hat took eight and a half hours to draft, as the ears had to be perfectly oriented in the curved side seams. But the project was fun, and it was an inspiring process.

With the Guest Artist Series, Nancie of Nankatts resized #30 Play Day for her 10-12" BJDs, and invented seven new variations. Jozel's version of #40 Clarissa's Closet accents the best of the chunky new ABC Goodreau bodies. The next artists to contribute are Charie Wilson and Gale of WeeWardrobe.

gracefaerie designs takes pattern suggestions. Many patterns from #10 were inspired from customer requests. So don't be shy--send her your request on messages groups and forums.

Today, you can find gracefaerie designs patterns on her website, the Ebay store, through Denver Doll Emporium, JPop Dolls, Bobobie Mall, Dolls Dept 25, and soon through Goodreau Doll Lab. Denver Doll offers the patterns for sale at conventions. And most recently, Gale of WeeWardrobe and Jozel offered the patterns at their sales table at the Goodreau/Creedy Convention.

Latest additions to the website: #41 Best Friends, a very easy pattern for 10.5" toddler Creedy girls and 8" Goodreaus from the Goodreau/Creedy convention, and Forsaken, photos and instructions on how to make the embroidered sleeves.

Some things her customers can look forward to: Charie Wilson has drafted an original pattern, #43 Planet Lux - Layers of Luxury for 43cm Planetdoll girls. The pattern will include many garments designed for layering, and even includes a hand-knitted lace pattern.

About her collection:
According to Grace, "Where normal people have a sofa or dining room set, we have doll cabinets and displays (my husband has a large collection of artist dolls, Gene repaints, and BJD). Whole rooms are devoted to dolls along with most of the wall space." From dolls she has collected from her childhood, to her grandmother's, aunts' and mother's dolls, she has a large variety. She has a Tiny Betsy McCall, Tiny Tears, a few original Barbies, a Madame Alexander ballerina. Though her collection mostly grows with the addition of ball-jointed beauties.

As far as themes go--prior to the introduction of BJDs, she had a large group of mod era dolls, lots of Francie dolls, Willow, Daisy and TNT with rooted lashes. In addition, she also has a several repainted Gene Marshal repaints, Kitty Collier, and contemporary Cissy dolls, many with handmade outfits, which she and her niece created together.

Her current favorites are the BJDs with custom face-ups. "I respond to the “hand of the artist” that is visible in the tiny brush strokes along with the feeling that the artist’s spirit brought my doll’s personality to life." (So do I!) When I asked Grace about a grail, she excitedly admitted she's longed to add Dollstown Seola to her collection, and in fact, just this week, she's ordered her (hooray!), and she'll head straight to Jay Searle's studio for a face-up. She can hardly wait.

Mostly dolls with complex personalities and sculpts that express a range of emotions (not just pretty faces) are what draw her to a doll. She prefers strong body sculpts, such as Dollstown and Planetdoll, as these dolls read more like sculpture, than like dolls.

For her eclectic clothing style, she's drawn to a steampunk aesthestic, which is the pairing of Victorian fashion and steam-powered inventions." (Check out this great article on Wikipedia, as well for more information.) Also, she experiments with variations of the EGL and EGA genres, such as these outfits of from Messenger from Another Place and From Another Time, inspired by Volks SDG Kin, now Elicia after her Jay Searle faceup.

Grace sews for her dolls frequently, so she can answer questions from her customers who need fitting instructions on a particular body sculpt. At this point in time, she isn't selling her creations.

Grace rarely suffers from creative blocks--her problems mostly result from a backlog of creative ideas and a time limitations. She uses her dolls as her creative inspiration. Her first muse was CP Luts Miyu. In addition, Berdine Creedy's and Paulette Goodreau's dolls are a continual source of inspiration for her as well. And Planetdoll Riz is the entire source of inspiration behind the costume Forsaken. In Grace's words:

"Strong personalities, resin or human, invite me to reach deeper into my own personality…to discover clusters of emotions that interact in a dynamic synergy. For instance, I may see sadness, loneliness, and loss in a face, and also feel a profound sense of beauty and joy. Every feature…the shape of the mouth, the line in the forehead, the depth of the gaze… speaks of compassion grounded in sorrow… inner strength shaped by vulnerability and loss. My models are my muses, and my mirrors."

Photos courtesy of gracefaerie designs.


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