Interview with Soraya Merino from Antique Shop Dolls

Soraya Merino is a well established Blythe doll customizer that has created more than 200 dolls. She’s prolific and her style was set from the start: a gothic world where sweet girls and boys begin their lives as little monsters. In this interview, you’ll know how she started working as a customizer and how she does it all.

I never took art classes or any other craft. I figured out everything trying and watching others work and practicing a lot with the help of my imagination.

Soraya Merino / Antique Shop Dolls

DollyCustom posed 12 questions to Soraya Merino about her history as a customizer, her process, and techniques. Here are those questions:

Can you tell me a little about yourself?

I’ve been always a crafts girl for as long as I can remember. I’ve been making any kind of crafts: drawing, sculpting, painting. It’s something I need to do every day of my life or I can’t sleep thinking about all the projects that start making a pile into my head. I also love dolls since the first day of my life so if you put all of this together, this is what I am. 
I’m also a horror movies and novels fan (Clive Barker especially) so my dolls are a little gothic and sweet at the same time. I used to think that monsters were little children at the beginning of their lives too so I like to represent this idea on my dolls.
For me, monsters are not necessarily bad. They are like a tiger, they kill because it is in their nature, not because they are evil. And thus, my vampire children show the sweetness and at the same time a little cruelty in their eyes. This is what I want to depict. My first idea for the name of my brand was Gothic Souls, but I think it was already taken.
When I work on my dolls I like to do it while watching a zombies movie or other horror movie.

Besides the Gothic style, I also make “real” boys and girls mostly inspired by my first nephew called Tarek or even myself as a child. You can see that all my boys, even the vampires, have my nephew’s face, hairstyle, and expressions. He is my little muse.

I never took art classes or any other craft. I figured out everything trying and watching others work and practicing a lot with the help of my imagination.

When and how did you discover Blythe dolls?

I was a doll maker all my life and I got some fame as Miniature Dollhouse dolls maker. I discovered Blythe dolls in 2009 when I was making Gene Marshall fashion doll repaints as resting from the miniatures. At first, I didn’t like them at all, I thought the heads were too big and the bodies very thin. So 10 more years passed until I review them again. This time I saw the customized ones and I couldn’t believe it, I had to make my own!

How long did it take for your style to emerge?

I’m a very prolific artist so when I start a new doll I make many in a short time. So I got my own style very soon, almost always because of my gothic characters but also features that are easy to recognize.

Do you do this as a hobby or professionally?

I do it for both reasons, it is my hobby and never will stop doing it but at this moment is good to earn some money with it.

What is your creative process like? Do you plan your custom dolls from start to finish or just go with the flow?

I always have a list with about 20 dolls I already planned and finished into my head. I need to clear the list fast to make the dolls into the real world and to add more new projects. My ideas never stop.

What is your favorite part of this process and your least favorite?

My favorite part is the end when I can see the idea in my head finished. But I enjoy all the process. I don’t like sanding… like everybody else.

How long does it take you to customize one doll? Do you do one at a time or multiple?

I can do a girl in one day or two but I always work on about four at the same time, sometimes more.  A doll can take me even a month or more if I’m waiting for her perfect shoes to arrive in the mail, but if I have all the materials on hand, it takes one day or two.

Where do you work on your dolls? Do you have a dedicated workplace?

I work on Sundays because I have a regular job. As I have little time, I need to be fast. I work in my dining room next to the balcony door. I like natural light to work and I don’t think I could work into a room without a window.

How would you characterize your style?

Sweet Gothic? Gothic babies with a sweet look.

What are your favorite tools? What is your favorite Blythe mold to customize?

I work with the normal tools for carving and Dremmel machine. I use to work always on TBL so the most similar to this one, original or not is the best for me – the RBL. I’m not a fan of the original Blythe dolls, their hair is terrible most of the times, so I prefer the TBL ones.

How did you develop the pricing model for your dolls?

I make a list with all the prices of the materials used (doll, hair, clothes) and then I add my fee depending on the finished product. 

For the beginner customizer, what advice would you give them?

Be brave and practice!

Restless and imaginative, Soraya is a prolific Blythe doll customizer. She creates all her dolls in her head, then all must come out and be materialized in the real world. Her world is a mixture of sweet and devilish creatures, wonderful dolls that has a very defined signature.

Follow Soraya Merino and her Antique Shop Dolls on social media by checking her profile page.