Bloom

Chapter 4 Bloom

(2010~2015)

The Alice series, which started in 2010 and has not yet been fhinished, is probably the most widely known work of mine. At the very beginning, I chose to make an Alice doll, not because I loved the story of “Alice in Wonderland” so much, but because almost all types of dolls will have an Alice edition with the classic elements: blonde hair, blue and white dress and black shoes. I thought that I should make a DD-Anne’s Alice too.

At that time, I didn’t have much expectation or long-term plan for the Alice series, just thinking of designing a few costumes for my BB dolls, selling, and then moving on to another new series.  But instead of simply repeating the classic elements of Alice, the first thing I did was to read the original story. In my opinion, to make DD-Anne’s Alice, I should deconstruct and transform the original story in my own way, rather than imitate other modern refined works.

I bought and studied this book specifically for the Alice series

In the process of reading the original story, I found that though it was a fairy tale, it contained a lot of metaphors for the characters and events from the author’s time. This became my starting point. I made each chapter of my Alice story connect to a tragic story in real world, and the design of each character was the combination of the original characters and real tragic metaphor. Thus the outline of this 6-chapter series called “Alice in Underland” was settled in 2010.

The “Underland” here is what I call “the boundary of light and darkness, life and death, haunted by the painful soul.”

(Alice in Underland, Chapter 1, White Rabbit, 2010, resin)

To my surprise, the first chapter, “White Rabbit,” was very popular after its release. So I kept launching the second chapter “Caterpillar” and the third chapter “Cheshire Cat”, and each chapter was favored by fans.

Alice in Underland, Chapter 2, Caterpillar, 2010, resin

Alice in Underland, Chapter 3, Cheshire Cat, 2011, resin

In 2011, the chapter 3 Alice was on the cover of <HAUTEDOLL> magazine.

As a self-taught artist, it was the first time for me to get an “official” recognition. 

However,  due to I did the design, casting, makeup and dressmaking all alone by myself, meanwhile my standard for design and skills became higher and higher and the orders became more and more, the production cycle of each chapter became longer and longer, from two months, gradually to six months. When it’s time for the chapter 4,  “Mad Tea Party” took me even 15 months.

Alice in Underland, Chapter 4, Mad Tea Party, 2014, resin

From left: March Hare, Mad Hatter, Alice

In order to achieve the best results, I began to learn make shoes, miniature food and furnitures by myself. Although these skills allowed me be free to create whatever I imagined, this one-person working mode was gradually dragging me down. But I didn’t realize this problem. At that time, what I wanted was to present the works as good as I could.

Shoes for the 3 characters of Mad Tea Party, 2012, leather

 Table and Chairs for Mad Tea Party, 2012, resin

Miniature, 2012, clay

I recreated the Mad Hatter’s watch into a rare creature in Underland.

It could not speak. When being asked “what day is today”,

it would show you by looking at the scale on its face.  2012, clay

During the time I was working on Alice, I moved twice. For the first time, I moved from the bachelor that did not have a bed to a one-room apartment facing northwest. Finally slept back on bed.

Due to the landlord sealed the bathroom window and left no the exhaust, the gas from the water heater built up easily in winter. One night there was a close call to death for me in the bathroom. After taking a shower, I found myself feeling more and more suffocated while I was still breathing. Without time to dry off, I slipped on my nightgown and rushed out of the bathroom. Just in three steps to the living room, I felt my vision was shrinking and getting darker. And my legs were so weak that when I barely made to the bedroom, I fell on the bed and could not move anymore. The cold November breeze blew quietly on my body, which was a bit chilly, but I was glad: “There is wind, I won’t die”.

I did’t know how long it was before I finally had the strength to sit up, then suddenly I began to retch uncontrollably. After a while of chaos, everthing quietened again, leaving only two cats and me staring at each other confusedly with wide-opened eyes in the night.

Meow and Mimi were both stray cats that I adopted

After living there for another short 15 months, the landlord wanted to take back the apartment. So I was forced to find a new place within a month. This time I moved to a better neighborhood and had a balcony where I could grow flowers, which briefly fulfilled my dream of a garden.  It was one of the few happy moments in my life when everything seemed to be going for the better.

Spring 2012

2012 was a special year. In that year, me the one never watched reality shows happened to find “America’s Next Top Model” and “Project Runway”, two fashion related reality shows, which opened a new door to the world of fashion for a “bumpkin” like me. Through the judges’ comments, I learned that beauty is diverse with no single standard, and that there are logic behind the design of silhouette, cut, and selection of fabrics. Before that, I just relied on my instincts. 

In the same year, I also got the opportunity to learn the porcelain making. The trip to Jingdezhen, a Chinese city famous of its ceramic industry didn’t give me all the knowledge needed to make porcelain BJDs. However, as long as I was allowed to step through that door, I was able to teach myself into the new world, just as I had always done.

Souvenirs made by learning ceramics in Jingdezhen

After finishing all the orders of “Mad Tea Party” in June 2013, the BB dolls I made 5 years ago were no longer meet my higher standard for fashion design , so I felt it’s the time to start preparing my own porcelain BJD. Therefore, I made 2 complete new dolls at the same time, Papana and Venus.

Papana, 2014, resin

Papana is a cute anime style resin doll. Considering that porcelain making might take a lot of  time to explore and try, I planned to use the income from Papana to support my daily expenses and the costs for learning and experimenting on porcelain BJD.

(Venus, 2013, clay prototype)

Influenced by fashion design, I took refference of the body proportion from fashion illustrations.

Although I had learned the general process of porcelain making, it was still difficult in practice. Without a teacher, I had to solve all problems by my own. Most of the time, no ready answer was found, so I needed to analyze the causes and then experimented with different solutions. Often, once a problem was solved, another new one popped up. The same headache reminded me of trying resin casting years ago. But no matter how difficult it is, I’m not afraid. Because I know “if others can achieve it, it means it is not impossible, and as long as I solve the problems one by one, there will be no problem one day eventually.”

Porcelain pieces fired in kiln

Porcelain doll hands

A professional friend told me that it is not easy to achieve this level of quality

even for a professional porcelain maker.

By the end of 2014, as the porcelain dolls gradually on the track, I began to prepare the 5th chapter of Alice series, “Queen of Hearts”. To improve efficiency and quality, I started to learn 3D modeling by myself. At that time, 3D printing became popular and the cost was getting cheaper. I sensed that this was the future trend. There was a traditional view that non-handmade BJD had no soul, but I thought no matter hand or 3D was just a tool, the work was ultimately determined by the person who made it.

My first work “Scared BoBo” made by 3D modeling 

The design was inspired by my timid cat “BoBo”, 3D printing,

resin casting, acrylic painting, silk brocade, 2015

BoBo, the cat

Although I had already participated in some doll exhibitions in China and Europe, I still hoped to make world-class artworks that could be exhibited in art museums or galleries one day. However, coming from a science background and relying on self-learning, I had no mentors, contacts and resources, and seemed be very far from the “art world”. Once some one who graduated from art school even said to others in front of me, “What she does is not art.” This made me very unconvinced.

So when I heard that the highest award in the art doll world, the Pandora Platinum Prize, was held in Moscow, Russia, I secretly made up my mind that I would win the prize with “Queen of Hearts” to prove my ability.

In 2015, my first pair of porcelain BJD was born.

After I moved away from home, the distance eased the tension with my family. Although confilicts were still there, I would go back for dinner sometimes. Yet all this was just the calm before the storm.

Again in 2012, my father began to frequently talk about a soon to be married cousin, who was 3 years older than me. Every time his name was mentioned, it was like stabbing a dagger in my heart. Because he had continuely molesting me for several years since I was 11 or 12. Maybe even earlier, I can’t remember exactly when it started. I just remember that, during those years,  going to grandma’s house was my biggest fear. Every holiday, when others were enjoying the family reunion, I would rather walk aimlessly on the street all afternoon alone or stay in the stationery store pretending I had a lot of things to buy, rather than “Go upstairs and play with your cousin T.C.”, as Aunt said.

At that time, I was afraid that my grumpy father would quarrel with Uncle and my mother would be embarrassed, so I never said anything. Now that my father kept talking about the cousin again and again. At one dinner, I finally couldn’t bear to speak out what had happened.

The first reaction from Mom was, “You must have misunderstood!” At my insistence, she admited that she had heard that he had a history. There was a parent of another victim child had come to the door, which Aunt sovled by money.

On the other side of the table, my father just repeatedly asked how old he was at the time, even though he could clearly count out by himself (15~16). Then he said in a righteous tone:

“At his age, having that kind of impulse is understandable.”

Under…standable…???

Over the years, I had thought over and over about how my father would react… Would he rush into a rage? Or would he feel shame and humiliated? Would he curse him just like what he did to me? However, I never expected that a father, who for years could not understand that his daughter had the freedom to pursue her own life, would be able to empathize with his daughter’s abuser in just a few minutes. The reality was far more absurd than I could imagine.

But what more unexpecting was that my father continued to mention my cousin in a concerned tone in front of me as if nothing had happened, almost every time we met. When I couldn’t stand it anymore, I asked him to stop talking.  He first seemed to have no idea what he had said, then he gave me a look of disgust as if I had ruined his good mood. So gradually, I didn’t want to go home for dinner.

Every year after that, when we went to grandma’s house for dinner, he was even more enthusiastic, sitting next to the cousin and chatting forwardly. I even began to wonder if he had done something similar, otherwise why was he so sympathetic? All of this made me disgusted with “grandma’s house”, “New Year’s Eve” and even all the festivals to the extreme.

Bloom, is the stage of breaking out of the shell, the cocoon emerges into a butterfly. This was a highlight period of high productivity, rapid learning, horizon expansion. After nealry 6 years of practice, my personal style began to take shape. However, family relations was still a dark cloud over my head. One friend said that she felt the butterflies on Bloom’s hat were a bit  unpleasantly serried, when first seeing them. In fact, this is exactly what I intented: beneath the seemingly beauty, hides a trace of worrying unease.

to be continued

next chapter: Twilight

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