Sara Torres is a Spanish illustrator that started creating custom Blythe dolls in 2009. Her artistic background is present in her sweet dolls made with care and perfection. She customizes Neo Blythes, but also Middies and Petites. In this
Work for the love of it and enjoy every little part of the process.Sara Torres / Hola Gominola
DollyCustom posed 12 questions to Sara Torres about her history as a customizer, her process
Can you tell me a little about yourself?
Hello, my name is Sara and I’m from Córdoba, Spain. I studied Fine Arts in Seville and moved to Madrid, where I’ve been working as an illustrator, designer and art teacher for 16 years.
When and how did you discover Blythe dolls?
I discovered Blythe in Gina Garan’s pictures for Sony Minidisc ads. I was fascinated but never thought I could buy one of those amazing dolls for myself. It was some years later, in 2009, that I started my research again and found some online shops, forums, and tutorials about customization. I joined the Flickr doll community back then.
How long did it take for your style to emerge?
My style emerged after some first attempts to test the volumes and define colors. I got confident through the years so I achieved more extreme carvings and interesting expressions. I’d say my style has been evolving constantly, getting more realistic but keeping the spirit of my first dolls.
Do you do this as a hobby or professionally?
I started customizing as a hobby, but soon some friends asked me for commissions. I was working as a freelance illustrator back then, so I combined both works. Years later I focused on the dolls and related illustrations and designs for Blythe (portraits, pins, necklaces, tote bags…).
What is your creative process like? Do you plan your custom dolls from start to finish or just go with the flow?
I like to go both ways, depending on the project. Sometimes I need to have the character in mind beforehand, so I draw sketches, use pictures of children as a reference for realistic volumes, test the color palettes, etc. When I feel more like improvising I just go with the flow, it’s fun for me either way!
What is your favorite part of this process and your least favorite?
I love carving so much! Also painting the faceplates, eyelids, eyechips… Putting all the parts together and see how the character is born might be the most exciting moment. My least favorite ones are definitely opening those stubborn heads and gluing scalps.
How long does it take you to customize one doll? Do you do one at a time or multiple?
It depends, some take me 2 weeks, some 1 month… There are many factors involved, such as the time I’m able to spend on them, the need of a special expression, something new I might be trying, extra things like haircuts, textured eyechips, etc. Also, some dolls behave great but others are a rebel! :P. I usually work on 1 neo at a time but can combine with 1 middie or petite. It helps me with the volumes since I’m not stuck with the same mold all the time.
Where do you work on your dolls? Do you have a dedicated workplace?
Not really. I work all over the house looking for the perfect lighting. The sun rules! But when it sets I can sit on my desk for a while until my eyes get tired.
How would you characterize your style? (Click to focus this heading)
I like to think of it as a 3D adaptation of my illustration characters. Colorful, sweet but a bit naughty sometimes, and with cool personalities.
What are your favorite tools? What is your favorite Blythe mold to customize?
My favorite one since I started customizing is a scraper, an engraving/etching tool I had around that ended up being very useful. Also, I think that a good set of sanding foams makes all the difference. My favorite mold is RBL.
How did you develop the pricing model for your dolls?
I managed eventually learning from my customers and demand. Prices went up in 2011 because many people were ready to pay more. I was doing commissions and F.A. girls for very affordable fixed prices at the time. Then I realized that some of my dolls were headed to the second market and collectors was paying higher prices for them. At that moment I thought it would be a good idea to ask for offers myself and see how things worked this way. Basically, the market decides.
For the beginner customizer, what advice would you give them?
- Work for the love of it and enjoy every little part of the process.
- Be patient and careful. Work on all your dolls as you were keeping them for yourself.
- When carving, trust your sense of touch even more than your sight.
- Be yourself, try to get better but don’t compete with others. Focus on your own personal work and try to evolve taking non-Blythe-related references such as pictures of real people, illustrations, movie characters…
- Experiment! That’s the most fun and fulfilling thing about it.
Sara Torres / Hola Gominola is one of the best known
- Dolls: 143*
- Started: 2009
- How to Purchase: Direct contact via Instagram or Flickr for private offer or fixed price.
- Favorite Customizers: Lili-Ga / Tiina / Erin Deir / Vainilladolly / Dr.Blythenstein / Sirenita Dolls / Nanuka
* Sara / Hola Gominola has customized 124 neos, 9 middies and 10 petites (up until 31st July 2017).