"One that definitely inspired me when I was first beginning in 2007 was Picara (Rogue Dolls)."
Ten years into customizing and Melacacia is still one of the most recognizable names in the Blythe doll customizers world. She was a pioneer on custom painted eyechips. Keep reading to know more about Melanie and her creations.
I usually have an end result that matches my initial idea or story, but there have absolutely been times when I swear the doll has a mind of her own and she is determined to tell her own story.
DollyCustom posed 12 questions to Melanie Matteoli about her history as a customizer, her process and techniques. Here are those questions:
Can you tell me a little about yourself?
I live on the North Coast of California, in an old farmhouse that was once a post office in the late 1800's. Our property sits at the edge of a beautiful redwood forest and is a ten-minute drive to the beach. We have an apple orchard, vegetable gardens, and a variety of different animals that have a good life here. It's a very peaceful and inspiring place to live!
When and how did you discover Blythe dolls?
I first discovered Blythe dolls on Etsy in 2006/2007. I was looking for something that I could sew or crochet/knit for to make a little bit of money from home when I came across these large eyed, large headed dolls and I was instantly obsessed.
How long did it take for your style to emerge?
Hmmm, I'm not really sure what my style even is! When I began customizing there were very few people doing this so it was easy to recognize my dolls as having a certain "Melacacia look". I think that look has always been natural with a touch of sweet darkness.
Do you do this as a hobby or professionally?
I started doing this professionally pretty quickly. I was a professional photographer when I discovered Blythe and I was more than happy to have dolls as my new muse instead of brides :P
What is your creative process like? Do you plan your custom dolls from start to finish or just go with the flow?
I do a little bit of both. I start with an idea or a story for the doll and then as I work, I tend to go with the flow. I usually have an end result that matches my initial idea or story, but there have absolutely been times when I swear the doll has a mind of her own and she is determined to tell her own story. That's part of the fun 😊
What is your favorite part of this process and your least favorite?
My favorite part is putting the doll back together once I am finished. It's always exciting to see her as a complete doll again after working on all of the individual parts. It's like meeting her for the first time, kind of like receiving a new doll in the mail and getting to take her out of the box for the first time. My least favorite part of the process is letting the doll go! I don't necessarily want to keep them all for myself, but I do sometimes wish that they could stay with me a little bit longer than it takes for them to sell. I mean, we just met after all! 😝
How long does it take you to customize one doll? Do you do one at a time or multiple?
I get asked this question a lot and I never really have a good answer. I usually seem to be able to finish about one doll per month... But I have never been able to just sit down and customize a doll from start to finish, so how many hours it takes me total remains a mystery. Because I don't just customize their face and call it done, I also make their clothes which is a whole process in itself. And I paint their eye chips, which I have to do in stages to allow the paint to dry in between layers. And when I do the scalp myself, that alone takes me a good 5-10 hours and usually not all at once. I will also sometimes prep a few dolls at a time and rarely have just one doll on my work table. Maybe someday I will set a clock each time I am working on a doll and finally solve the mystery of how long it takes me to customize a doll :)
Where do you work on your dolls? Do you have a dedicated workplace?
My studio is in my home. I use the home office as my studio and it is completely dedicated to my work. I have different desks or stations dedicated to a different part of the process. I have a customizing desk, a sewing desk, a drawing and computer desk, and a table for random things like ironing, shipping, and dolly dressing. This summer we redid the floors, painted the walls, and rearranged everything so it now feels more organized and inspiring! ❤
How would you characterize your style?
If I had to put my style into one word it would be Natural. I like to give these little girls a soul and make them look as real and natural as possible. I feel a stronger connection with them when I look at them and feel as if they are really looking back at me and aren't just a blank plastic doll.
What are your favorite tools? What is your favorite Blythe mould to customize?
My airbrush is one of my favorite tools. It is so diverse and allows for the cleanest lines and the best and most natural looking fading. As for my favorite mold, I seem to customize RBLs the most but I think my favorite is the EBL. Although their scalp is a little different than the other molds, I like that their eye sockets are a little smaller and the plastic just feels sturdier than the newer molds.
How did you develop the pricing model for your dolls?
When I started out, I was selling my dolls for only a few hundred dollars, but as I grew as an artist and more people began following my work, my dolls began selling for well over a thousand dollars. It seems to fluctuate as the market is constantly changing and I usually just use an auction style of sale, so my dolls sell for whatever the market wants them to sell for :)
For the beginner customizer, what advice would you give them?
Know that you are blessed that there is so much information out there for you now! Take advantage of all of the knowledge that is being shared and don't be afraid to give it a try. Oh, and start with an RBL or FBL because their head is much easier to open :)
Melacacia was one of the first Blythe doll customizers to create her own line of custom painted eyechips. Besides her natural beauties, she also completes the look with custom made clothes. Her style became famous for its natural and soft beauty. Click on her profile to follow Melanie on social media and keep up to date with her work.