Saturday, December 19, 2009

Interview with Cimmi Cumes, Doll Artist and Designer

I recently had the pleasure to interview doll artist Cimmi Cumes from Santa Barbara, California. You can follow her blog at Cimmerii : California, and buy her work Visit her doll blog, in which she discusses dolls and plushies of all types, at The Doll Head.

Cimmi sells her work from a gallery in Santa Barbara, Paul Cumes Fine Art, which she shares with her husband. The gallery blog is In 2010, her dolls will also be offered in several other retail locations, as well.

About the business:

Cimmi started designing dolls in 2003, when she was hired on by Chic Boutique. Primarily, she worked on fantasy 11-1/2” fantasy fashion dolls. Her next employer, Playalong Toys, located in Florida, assigned her to work on Hannah Montana, the Cheetah Girls, Hairspray the Movie dolls, and the Playalong Club. In addition, Cimmi has designed fashions for Cabbage Patch Kids and Taylor Swift (Jakks Pacific), the Beverly Hills Puppy Club (Summit Toys), Whimzy Pets (Blip Toys) and others. The Cabbage Patch Pop 'N Style Kids won an iParenting Award. Her design portofolio is online here

Cimmi has been sewing since she was a child--her mother's experience in fashion school was gladly shared--and she started her own line of soft dolls, plushies and hair accessories in 2007. These will soon be available in her Etsy store. She has been mentioned in Seasons Magazine, 805 Living, the Santa Barbara News Press, and several blogs. Look for her in an upcoming episode of Time Warner Cable's "SoCal's Best."

Cimmi's husband Paul Cumes is also an artist. During the interview, I asked if sharing studio space worked well for them. Cimmi answered, "We do work side by side often!" In fact, she even gave me a link to a YouTube video of Paul, doing paintings of her, while she is sewing. (I watched it, and if that's not love, I don't know what is. Mark, honey, if you're reading this, take a hint!) Cimmi usually does her machine work at home and the finishing at the gallery.

Inspiration comes a variety of sources: California and Japanese street fashion, vintage fashion, Barbie and Blythe dolls, ballerinas and fairytales. She can unblock her creative process with her imagination, the internet, and fashion magazines. Her creation process starts with making blank doll bodies, and then draping them with a variety of fabrics from her stash. All fashions are sewn by hand. Her favorite part of designing dolls is doing their hair, faces and fashions. (Big fluffy tutus, super girly with a touch of punk/emo styling are her favorites.) Cimmi loves upcycling unwearable vintage dresses, leftover fabrics, and upholstery fabric sample swatch books. The most tedious is the turning and stuffing. But each doll is unique, and it's rewarding to do each one herself, from the pattern to the finishing.

The dolls are designed both for younger and older collectors: both to be played with and enjoyed from afar. In addition to classic rag dolls with yarn hair and removable clothes, the newest line, called "Hipettes," have felt hair and sewn-in fashions. The "Fashionable Fashion Kitties" are designed for girls from three to ten. They have flannel bodies, removable clothing and are hand washable. 

After the December 5 "Go Ask Alice" event (you can read about it here), I had to ask about upcoming themes. (I'm a huge Alice in Wonderland fan and just added Alice Plays Croquet to my own personal collection.) There is a nautical/ocean theme in the works for the summer of 2010, and a fairy forest theme for Christmas of 2010. Additionally, Paul and Cimmi are collaborating with his paintings and her fiber art for a room-sized installation, planned for this spring, depicting the Garden of Eden.

About her private collection:

Cimmi has been collecting Barbie for over 10 years, as well as Bratz, Petite Blythe, and other fashion dolls, and she loves Rement. She particularly is drawn to red- and pink-haired dolls. She also used to collect holiday Barbies, too.

The things that attract her most in a doll are her fashion, her facial expression (or attitude), and fantasy. A couple of grails she'd love to add to her collection are a reissue Barbie and the Rockers, Barbie as Joan Jett, and Dal.

I had to ask if she had ever made a doll that she just couldn’t part with and decided to keep for her own collection. She answered yes--there are three: One is her first mermaid doll with wire armature, which took an entire day to make. Another is a red-headed ballerina called Annie, who is currently living in the gallery. Unfortunately, people keep wanting to buy her, but she has to politely decline their offers! Finally, there is Ruth, a "very ugly ragdoll" she made at three in the morning who is now part of the family. (Suspiciously, no photo of Ruth could be found in time for running this article.) 

Currently, Cimmi doesn't sew for her own doll collection, but she may in be leaning in that direction. She'd also love to try her hand at sewing for ball-jointed dolls. I'd like to see that--I'd probably spend all my budget there! And I hope to see some fashion doll one-of-a-kind outfits, too. That would be fabulous!

Photo information:
Ballerina Alice from the Go Ask Alice Show
Mermaid with rainbow hair and vintage sixties fabric fin
Fashionable Fashion Kitty
Yellow dress Hipette with blue felt hair
Red-haired ballerina named Ruth (in the blue tutu)
Mermaid with pink hair who resides in Cimmi's collection
All photos by Cimmi Cumes.

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