After a long time of working on and off on this project, I finally finished customizing my first Blythe doll. Her coloring is orange and green with brown freckles, so I’ve named her Tiger Lily (or Lily for short) after the flower.
Starting from a Nicky Lad base, I carved her face plate and gave her a new face up, painted eyelids, new eyelashes, and four sets of hand painted eye chips. She has a Pure Neemo body and I made her a little squirrel dress for autumn.
Her pull string has been replaced with ribbon and charms in matching orange and green hues, with flower and leaf motifs to match with her flower theme. I also added a pull string for sleep eyes.
The idea of customizing a Blythe was a little intimidating at first, and almost every tutorial warns not to carve too deep or you’ll carve through the face plate. This was my biggest fear as I got started.
So to conquer my fear, I decided that carving through the face plate would be a deliberate part of my plan – then I wouldn’t have to worry about doing it on accident! So Lily has a slightly open mouth, with the open part visible only at certain angles.
For her eye chips, I used clear glass cabochons, the kind used for jewelry making. It was a little harder than I expected to paint a perfectly round pupil, let alone two matching ones!
Since I could make the pupils any size, I experimented with some larger ones on a few of her eye chips. For the irises, I decided to go with a solid color instead of getting fancy, since I can always replace her eye chips later.
Her eye colors are green with large pupils, pale icy blue with regular pupils, brown with large pupils, and turquoise blue with large pupils.
The advantage of using the cabochons is that the glass gives lots of depth and shine and it’s easy to peel the dried paint off and start over if you make a mistake or don’t like the results.
But unfortunately the cabochons are raised up just a bit too high for her eye mechanism to rotate properly, so it takes some wrangling of her eye mech and eyelids to get them to change. This has ruined her eyelashes, which were so pretty when I first replaced them.
I’ve ordered some blank Cool Cat eye chips, so I plan on painting some new ones for her and replacing her eyelashes. Since the Cool Cat eye chips have a pupil “stem,” they’ll be perfectly round every time. They also have versions with larger pupils if you like that look (I do!).
I learned a lot from mistakes I made along the way and am excited to start another custom, knowing lots more now than I did before. Here are a few of the things I learned:
Watch lots of tutorials on carving and face-ups! This seems obvious but I wish I had watched more when taking breaks in between carving. Things always make sense when you watch someone else do it, especially since that person has developed specific techniques that work for them.
But it’s different when you try to repeat that same thing yourself, and it will take practice to develop your own techniques. Watch, practice, and watch some more.
Don’t be afraid of ruining the doll – almost anything can be fixed. Be careful and cautious, but don’t be afraid. In my case, it was actually a lot harder to carve through the face plate than I thought, and it probably wouldn’t have happened on accident. My next doll’s mouth will have a much “shallower” carve and I’ll have no worries.
At some point, you just have to be done! As soon as I finished Lily’s face up, I was tempted to sand it all off and start over. I had already learned so much as I went that I felt I could do a better job the second time around.
It’s tempting to want to carve just a little more, sand a little more, or fix a spot here or there. There are certainly things I’ll do differently next time, but for my first custom I’ve decided to leave some things alone and just love Lily’s wabi-sabi beauty as it is.