Interview with Irene Garcia from Sirenita Dolls

Irene Garcia is a toy designer living in Los Angeles, USA. She is better known for her amazing Calavera Blythe custom dolls. In this interview, you will learn how she came across Blythe dolls, what her favorite tools and molds are, and a lot more.

Mistakes will make you grow, you will have to figure out a solution and overcome your obstacle and over time you will get better and better…

Irene Garcia / Sirenita Dolls

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

Can you tell me a little about yourself?

Hi! My name is Irene Garcia aka Sirenitadolls on Instagram. I live in Los Angeles and went to art school here to study animation but along the way I developed a passion for painting and art dolls and now I work for a toy company designing toys and in my spare time customizing Blythe’s and painting/illustrating. I’ve been collecting Blythe’s since 2006 and started customizing around 2007. My most favorite part about Blythe is taking her with me to photograph around the city, she’s the perfect muse.

When and how did you discover Blythe dolls?

It all started back 2006, I use to buy Haute Doll magazines for their tutorials on repainting dolls because at the time I was really into customizing Hasbro “Padme” dolls from Star Wars. I would recreate her costumes and makeup from the films. One day I saw a BJD doll article in this magazine and I was really fascinated by this type of doll. So I went online to find more info and I discovered that there were people on Flickr who collected and photographed them. While perusing for BJD dolls I stumbled across a Blythe photograph and I thought she was such a unique looking doll. All of a sudden I forgot what I was originally searching for and was now looking for more photos of this “Blythe doll”. It became an obsession, every day I would log on to Flickr to see these amazing photos people were taking of their Blythe dolls. After a couple of weeks, I caved in and bought my first one on eBay. I’ve been hooked ever since.

How long did it take for your style to emerge?

I think from the very beginning my style was kind of outlandish. Whenever I came up with a concept it tended to be kind of crazy and not “natural” looking. There were a few times I took on commissions and was asked for something more normal looking but that was rare. About three years into customizing I thought I would try and do a “Calavera” custom and it became my most requested type of look. I think that’s what I’m mostly known for these days although I do enjoy doing other types of looks too. I would say it took me about two years to really become comfortable with customizing and honing down my techniques. In the beginning, I spent a lot of time learning how to use my airbrush properly and not injuring myself while trying to open an SBL faceplate. I’m still to this day trying to improve my techniques and hopefully take my customs into a more innovative direction.

Do you do this as a hobby or professionally?

When I first started out I was just doing it as a hobby. After a few years of customizing and improving my skills, I decided to start doing it professionally by taking on commissions as a second job. I would go to my regular job during the day and come home and keep working on my commissions. I did that for a couple of years and I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, my day job became more demanding and I could no longer take commissions. Eventually, I had to return to customizing Blythe’s as a hobby. Although I hope one day I can do it full time along with my fine art. That would be a dream.

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

Most of the time I plan out my customs in advance. I’ll start by doing an illustration first, where I figure out her color scheme, hair, and faceup. Then I move on to carving/sanding, this part is what takes the longest for me. It’s important to try and smooth out all the super tiny scratches because if I don’t they’ll be visible once I start airbrushing. Once I finish the sanding I wash off the faceplate, mix all my acrylic colors and start airbrushing the base colors. And finally I add on finer details with a brush, occasionally I’ll do a bit of pastels. Then I seal her up and put her back together.

Sirenita Dolls sketch and final doll

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

My favorite part is definitely adding all the hand painted details right after airbrushing. By this point, the hard part is done and I can just enjoy painting on small details to the lips and eyes. I also love painting eyechips. My least favorite is sanding, sanding is tedious and so boring and it hurts my wrist. I usually get through this part by watching Netflix.

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

It’s hard to say because I only work on dolls whenever I have a little bit of free time. Sometimes it can take me 2 weeks to finish one and other times it can take months depending on my work schedule. A long time ago I could work on two dolls at a time but these days I keep it to just one doll.

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

I have a separate room that is my dedicated work studio. I have it set up so that I can work on my custom dolls and other types of toys as well as my painting studio.

Sirenita Dolls’ workplace

How would you characterize your style?

Creepy cute, dark with a pinch of sugar, I think.

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

My favorite tools are my airbrush, nail polish brushes (great for super fine details) and tiny ceramic dishes (for mixing paint) they are easy to clean. My favorite mold to customize is an SBL, that was the first mold I ever customized. Even though they are harder to open than an RBL/FBL they just feel sturdier to me.

How did you develop the pricing model for your dolls?

When I first started out I was only doing commissions, I would research what other customizers were charging to get an idea of commission prices then I would charge significantly less than that since I was new and trying to build a following. After a couple of years of taking commissions and listing some of my customs on eBay, I started getting a better idea of what my dolls were worth. Eventually, I was able to raise my prices to match what they were going for on the second-hand market. I know that this is a touchy subject for some. Trust me I felt very guilty when I raised my prices because it is a lot of money for a doll but it didn’t feel right when I would do a commission for $150 (my old custom price) then a few weeks later seeing my custom dolls on the second-hand market selling for over a thousand.

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

Mistakes are GREAT! Mistakes will make you grow, you will have to figure out a solution and overcome your obstacle and over time you will get better and better, develop new techniques and skills and learn what doesn’t work for you and what does.

When you speak of the Calavera Blythe, you need to speak of Sirenita Dolls. Her Calavera dolls are perfectly done technically but also aesthetically. The choice of colors, the layering of the paint over the plastic, the eyechips, everything goes in a perfect syntony that is hard to find in other Calaveras.

Check Irena Garcia’s profile page to follow her in social media and keep up with her amazing work.