Chapter 2: BéBé
(2006 ~ 2008)
A lof of friends might know me from the tiny and adorable baby dolls. Lii was the second complete bjd I made, and she came from a promise with my college roommate: in order to let me have time to make dolls, she wrote my class assignment, and in return, I made an animated doll for her. I knew that she was encouraging me to keep going. My roommate gave me a lot of help and support in the early days, and I am still very grateful to her.
Lii, 2006, Ladoll clay
My plan at that time was to earn money by selling dolls soon after graduation to prove to my parents that I could support myself. Selling meant I need turning clay prototypes into resin copies. Small BB size dolls cost less materials and less expenses, therefore it was a good start for me, a senior college student who no longer take money from the parents.
More than a decade ago, resin casting was not as popular and mature as it is now. I searched on the Internet for days, switching keywords constantly, and finally found a foundry making miniature military models. After my hard pleading, the owner agreed to make a small batch for me. That night I was too excited to sleep, thinking my wonderful plan was coming true. However, the next day the owner back out, said that it was not the same thing they produced, so they couldn’t make it. At night, I couldn’t sleep again, but this time I was crying. I thought it was so hard that I hadn’t even taken the first step and then “the way has already been closed”. I started to think about giving up, finding a normal job to save my mind.
The next morning, however, I forgot these thoughts and continued to negotiate with the owner. I found that he needed English translation for his business, so I offered to help for free, as long as he could help me cast the doll. Finally, the owner was moved by me.
On the morning of my graduation ceremony, I received the first batch of the resin dolls. I hastily assembled one and brought it to the commencement.
Shanghai Jiaotong University, 2006
That was the end of my school days.
After graduation I started making dolls at home full time. In the same year, I released a tiny 10-cm size BJD, tiny Mero. Tiny Mero brought me an income of $2500. Not much it was, but it relieved a lot of pressure for me who only had a deposit of $250 for start money, so that I could go on with more confidence.
Tiny Mero, my third BJD, 2006, clay
Later, because I was not satisfied with the quality of the foundry, I decided to learn casting by myself. In 2007, with the help of my mom, I rented a small bachelor apartment next door as a studio. Just like how I learned making BJD, I started from a complete amateur, collecting information and trying to figure out: how to make silicone molds, how to assemble a vacuum defoaming machine, how to operate the machine for resin casting.
Defective pieces, 2007, resin
The initial failure rate was very high. Often all the pieces were defective after a day of work. But I said to myself, “If others can make qualified products at home with the same equipment, that means it’s not impossible, then I can make it work too.” So, after repeatedly trying, failing, solving problems, and trying again, I finally started to get some qualified pieces.
Successful casting pieces, 2007, resin
During this period, I made several different BB face molds. Productive though, overall not outstanding. However, it was also during this period that my goal changed from “making BJDs that everyone can afford” to “becoming a world-class doll artist“.
BB dolls with different face molds, 2008, resin
Unfortunately, the gradual start in my career did not stop the deterioration of my family relationship. The difficulties in doll-making made me stronger, while the problems in the family hurt me deeper. From my father’s view, I was always a “lazy”, “not promising”, “NEET”, a “bastard” just “sitting around waiting to die”.
When knowing that I had rented the next door apartment, my father was furious and said to my mother, “If you help her anymore, I’ll divorce you!” Then he slammed the door heavily and left.
After calming down, he asked me to write him my working plan monthly. I refused. In my opinion, he had not contributed any money, was not an investor or a superior, so he had no right to ask me to write reports. What’s more, he said, “I want you to fail, the sooner the better. Then you’ll realize that you are wrong and will give up ealier.” Foreseeably, a person who wanted me to “fail as soon as possible” would only give negative and blow to whatever plan I wrote, and would not give any constructive advice.
I said to him, “Don’t worry, even if I die on street, I won’t ask you for a penny!” He quickly answered, “Write it down, and we sign an agreement.” Although this agreement was never written down , I have kept my promise to this day.
(tiny Mero and Lii, 2006, resin)
One day at lunch, the courier delivered a package of the tools I had purchased online. Once again, my father flew into a rage and kept yelling at me for spending money recklessly. I felt aggrieved that my expenses were very low compared to my peers. I just bought some tools worth less than $10 with my own money. How did I end up with such an accusation?
During his endless harsh scolding, I suddenly found that my fingers were stiff and tightly clenched, looking a bit like chicken claws, couldn’t be loosened and I felt numb from the tips of my fingers to my arms. It took a while for the situation to get better. Later, I told my roommate about this. She said, “Do you know that people can die of anger?”
tiny Riko, Resin, 2008
During that period of time, I was scolded for all kinds of trifles. In my diary, I wrote, “All other girls are precious babies, but I am a wild grass.” When I couldn’t stand it anymore, I would start cutting myself or stabbing myself with needles.
Self-harming behavior and suicidal thoughts had been with me since childhood. When I was 8 or 9 years old, I started to cut my fingers with a small knife because I couldn’t stand my father’s verbal abuse. As I didn’t know how to control the strength for the first time, I still remember the pain of the blade sliding through the deep skin and watching the blood start to come out.
Now I know that it was my aggression and anger had no outlet when being verbally abused by my father, so eventually they turned to attack myself. But I didn’t understand that much at the time, just eased the mental pain with physical pain instinctively.
One night after being scolded, I cried and wrote the word “love” on the wall with blood. Because I couldn’t feel it. I felt like I was a stranger in the house. Worried about being called as “a psychotic”, I used more blood to write “self-confidence, self-improvement, self-love” which seemed more positive. But all I really wanted to say was “love”. To my surprise, my father did not blame me. After a while, he just cleaned the wall and asked me with a smile, “What did you use to write that? It’s quite hard to clean.” I gave him an awkward smile without a comment.
Every time I couldn’t take his insults anymore, I wrote in blood, in a Go tutorial book on the bed, on the inside of a tear-stained pillow, and on the clean wiped wall, I wrote a big “love” again. But these “silent cries for help” were doomed to have no response. In the middle of one night after being verbally abused for hours again, I typed “suicide” in the search bar with tears.
While other “babies” were in sweet love and planning their future, I was thinking over and over about how to end my life.
But that night, the result popped up on Google was a suicide intervention website. It said, “The problem you are facing is temporary; suicide is permanent. Don’t solve a temporary problem in a permanent way.” It seemed to have some sense. From that night on, I stopped hurting myself. Even later when I was pushed to the breaking point again and again, I told myself to hold on, HOLD ON!
BéBé represents the “toddler” period of my career. I designed her as a next-door girl. She doesn’t stand out as much as her other sisters, but she is the one that I revised the design most over and over again in the collection. How to make the ordinary BéBé stand equally with her other sisters? In the end, I realized that “ordinary” does not mean “mediocre”, and behind her ordinariness, BéBé’s tenacity owned her a place in this collection.
Although I had not yet developed my personal style during this period, the knowledge gathered through self-learning and the practice laid the foundation for my future development. I called the last three years of living at home as “dark three years”. But at that time, I did not realize what the root of the conflict was. I always thought that if I succeeded in my career, I would be able to resolve the conflict in my family. Therefore, I still had hope for the future, hoping that one day I could become my father’s pride.
to be continued