Interview with Helen Clennel-White from Black Ribbon Blythes

Helen’s dolls are unique. Just a glance and you know it’s one of her creations. Antique, some gothic, some dark and creepy, but always beautifully crafted, Black Ribbons Blythes’ dolls stand out for the new techniques and style brought to the customization world. These dolls are complete creations, their hair, textures, painting, clothes. All come together in a way that makes you feel like you are looking into something from another era, forgotten in time, but still alive.

It’s amazing to start off with a basic doll and then turn it into something completely different, even on those days when things just don’t go right, (we all have them!) It’s still positive though, as we learn from any mistakes: this is how I look at it anyway.

Helen Clennel-White / Black Ribbon Blythes

DollyCustom posed 12 questions to Helen Clennel-White about her history as a customizer, her process, and techniques. Here are those questions:

Can you tell me a little about yourself?

I live in Plymouth, Devon, (UK), famous for Sir Francis Drake and the Pilgrims Fathers leaving for America from the Mayflower steps. 
I’m married to my gorgeous hubby Kingsley, who I met while working at the school and fell in love with. 
I have 3 children 19, 23, 25. 
As for hobbies, I’m fish mad lol I keep koi, tropical fish and have a marine tank too!

When and how did you discover Blythe dolls?

I first discovered Blythe in my early 20’s but never collected or owned one. Then, when I met my husband, he knew I loved big eye art and bought me a book where I discovered a picture of a Blythe doll and fell instantly in love.

How long did it take for your style to emerge?

I don’t think my style will ever emerge – my imagination always comes up with different ideas all the time, especially at 2 am when I should be sleeping! I will always try and do something different, and I like to push boundaries creating dolls with scars etc. I’m a great believer scars should not be covered, they show who you are and the strength you have, so I like to create dolls that are a little controversial, but that’s me!

Video of Miss Annabelle May taken from Black Ribbon Blythes’ Instagram

Do you do this as a hobby or professionally?

I do this professionally; I love my job! As long as people like what comes out of my imagination, I shall always create, and a big thank you to those who have collected one of my dolls: if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be able to do what I love!

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

Usually, an idea will come to me, then it’s all systems go and the planning starts. I’m one of those people who would rather work around the clock to finish a project, rather than in stages: I find it very difficult to stop/start with an idea. Having to eat and sleep is such a pain! lol

Custom Blythe “Milly” taken from Black Ribbon Blythes’ Instagram

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

I love all of it, how could I not?! It’s amazing to start off with a basic doll and then turn it into something completely different, even in those days when things just don’t go right, (we all have them!) It’s still positive though, as we learn from any mistakes: this is how I look at it anyway.

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

I work on one doll at a time, and it can take anywhere from 3 days to 3 weeks, depending on what I’m creating and how many hours I put in during the day. I often can put in anywhere between 7 – 16 hours pretty much non-stop, depending on the dolly I’m making.

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

I so wish I had a dedicated workspace, but I don’t have that luxury: I work on my family dining room table, and every mealtime I clear everything away and get it all out afterward. Sometimes I’m sure I eat clay…

How would you characterize your style?

I think my style is very eclectic and portrays what’s in my imagination at the time.

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

I think I have more tools than the local D.I.Y store, but I’ve always got my trusted scalpel.

My favourite mold of Blythe is the old EBL’s,  not because of face shape, but because in my opinion they had the best eyechip colours, the blue are beautiful and the pink are amazing!

How did you develop the pricing model for your dolls?

My pricing varies, it all depending on how long it has taken to create etc and whether it’s a complete one-off.

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

Never be afraid to ask questions: just remember we all make mistakes, but don’t forget to learn from them. Always be original and follow your own imagination. But most of all, remember: a hobby is meant to be fun, not stressful,  so just take your time, enjoy and watch your doll come to life!

Helen’s work has so much into it, it’s hard to define in one sentence. One could take hours to appreciate all the details, the little stories that she adds to the lifeless plastic. She developed very original techniques to emulate old plastic and porcelain dolls and it’s hard to believe that beneath all that lies a Blythe doll as we know it. She continues to innovate and create new compositions, using new materials and getting surprising results. Keep up with her work by following her on social media – click the profile button below.

  • Dolls: ?
  • Started: 2011
  • How to Purchase: Purchase directly via Facebook PageEtsy or buy on Website.
  • Favorite Customizers:Awww this question is something I will never answer, as I feel there are too many wonderful artists out there, and if I forget to mention one, I don’t want to upset anyone’s feelings.