Interview with Kayleigh Pritchard from Lolidoli

Kayleigh Pritchard is an UK-based customizer that found her style in the realm of candy mermaids, unicorns and particularly the Calavera. She works with beautiful pallets of pink, lilac, teal and black and white with shimmery paints to create dreamy and fantastic characters.

I'm a terrible perfectionist which can really slow my progress down, but I wouldn't have it any other way as I couldn't send a doll off to someone that I wasn't fully happy with.

Kayleigh Pritchard / Lolidoli

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

Can you tell me a little about yourself?

I'm a 29-year-old artist from Yorkshire, England. Currently living with my boyfriend and Mum. I love eating out, dogs and video games.

When and how did you discover Blythe dolls?

I'm not exactly sure when but I remember reading a craft blog of a girl in America, her and her friends had some Blythe dolls which they made clothes for and photographed. I remember thinking it was weird but cool that they were adults with dolls. I searched online for them and realized they were a bit too expensive for me at the time! But a few years later I bought my first Pullip dolls, and that's how I entered the world of collecting and customizing. The first Blythe I bought was a Zinochika to customise and sell and the first Blythe I owned was a Wendy Weekender, for that lovely Mint hair.

How long did it take for your style to emerge?

I think I found my stride with my artistry about a year or so ago when my Calavera designs started growing in popularity. I find them really fun to do and I think that established me as someone who specializes in painted artwork designs. Finding my style with carving has been much more recent, it's something that takes a long time and a lot of practice to learn, nobody teaches you how to do it! But now finally I feel comfortable with the work I'm putting out there, instead of feeling that it could always be better.

Do you do this as a hobby or professionally?

This is my second year doing this professionally! It's hard but tremendously rewarding.

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

Mostly it starts with a single idea, a unique selling point I suppose, a theme or a style. Then I'll sketch up my ideas. Carving never usually ends up exactly how I imagine but that's fine, sometimes it ends up better or inspires me to change the design slightly. If there's artwork on the face then I'll map that out in white pencil before I start painting. I don't tend to improvise because that sometimes ends in disaster! But at the end, I'll add flourishes, shimmer, and sparkles that weren't necessarily part of my original idea, I think it's these finishing touches that make a girl really special.

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

Certain parts of carving and definitely sanding are the worst parts, it can be painful for the skin on your hands and uncomfortable on your wrist and elbow joints. I've recently bought a rotary sanding tool which helps. My favorite is when a doll's face is nearing completion and you can see her character emerging, adding the pretty finishing touches is really fun.

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

I have to admit I'm a pretty slow worker. I tend to take on way too much work at a time as I hate saying no to people! Also, I'm a terrible perfectionist which can really slow my progress down, but I wouldn't have it any other way as I couldn't send a doll off to someone that I wasn't fully happy with. I pride myself on the quality of work I put out there.

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

I have a desk in my bedroom that I now have to share but it serves me well at the moment. One day I'd love to have a room just for doing my doll work in, with lots of lovely storage space and somewhere nice to display my dolls. I love seeing pictures of other customizer's workspaces, even though I get a bit jelly!

Lolidoli / Kayleigh Pritchard’s workplace.
Lolidoli / Kayleigh Pritchard’s workplace.
How would you characterize your style?

Style: Illustrative. Theme: Fantasy. But of course, it always varies depending on what the customizer wants and what's popular at that time. At the moment I'm mostly doing Calaveras, mermaids, and unicorns which is fine by me!

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

I mostly use my wood carving tools, I don't know how people carve with scalpels, I'd end up removing half of the face! My favourite moulds are RBL and FBL. RBL's have nice big eyes and are trustworthy and easy to work with. FBL's for their lovely pale skintone that works so well for fantasy dolls.

Trying out some new carving styles 2017.
Trying out some new carving styles 2017.

 How did you develop the pricing model for your dolls?

I started very cheap so I could get lots of work for practice and for my portfolio, then I stayed cheap so that that would be my unique selling point. Once I became self-employed I realized I had to raise my prices so that I could eat! I'm still one of the cheapest customizers around for what I offer, I want my customers to feel that my prices are fair. It's hard to get that balance right sometimes.

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

Be humble! Even if you're a relatively experienced artist like I was, it doesn't mean you're going to be a great doll customizer and its a completely different and unusual medium. There is no 'Customising for Dummies' handbook! Customers are looking for experience, price your first commissions/dolls low and be very thankful that people trust you enough to pay a new artist! Work, work, work, do as much as you can that first year or so. Experiment! Build up a portfolio of your work, you'll also build up a network of fellow customizers and repeat customers that will help you through those hard early times. It may be frustrating at first but everyone has to start somewhere.

2017 Lolidoli’s most favourite pics from Instagram.
2017 Lolidoli’s most favourite pics from Instagram.

Even though not many years have passed, Lolidoli has established herself as a pro customizer doing great work with fantasy customization of the Blythe doll. Mermaids, Unicorns and particularly the Calavera gave her the motif to express herself and gain space in this growing field of customizers.

Make sure to follow her on her social media – click the Profile button below to access all links and keep up with her work.