Interview with Rachel Harper from Starrytale Dolls

Looking beyond the present, Starrytale Dolls opens a window into the distant future where beautiful android dolls populate the Earth. Rachel Harper has been a prolific Blythe doll customizer since the day she started back in 2015. Her style is now highly recognizable in the dolls she creates but also on the starry eyechips that are her brand.

Dream big, try new things and don’t be afraid to ask others for advice if you get stuck.

Rachel Harper – Starrytale Dolls

DollyCustom posed 12 questions to Rachel Harper 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 Rachel. I’m happily married to a loving husband and have two sweet and energetic little boys. I was homeschooled for most of my childhood, so that meant I spent a lot of time alone. I filled my days with reading, drawing, and daydreaming. Customizing Blythe Dolls has given me a medium to turn some of my fantasies into reality.

Rachel Harper and two of her custom Blythe dolls.

When and how did you discover Blythe dolls?

I first discovered Blythe when searching for one of my other obsessions: Re-Ment miniatures. I never cared for dolls before this… but there was just something magical about Blythe that drew me in. I ordered my first Blythe, a Goody Go Go Girl, in 2014.

How long did it take for your style to emerge?

It was immediate… I knew I wanted to make fantasy and nerdy- esque type Blythes. My very first custom Blythe was a half girl/half butterfly… so my style emerged right off the bat.

Do you do this as a hobby or professionally?

It started as a hobby, but soon after a warm reception from my first customers, it quickly turned into a full time job.

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

It’s a little bit of both. I either have a very clear vision and story in my head for the dolly I want to create, or I have no idea what to do. When I don’t have a clear vision for a girl, I’ll sit down to do the face up and just play with colors until she emerges. Sometimes they have to make themselves!

Rachel also does custom eyechips for Blythe dolls. Available on her Etsy store.

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

My favorite part is finally putting a finished dolly back together, and getting to see the dolly finally come to life. It’s like crafting little souls. I also really love making eyechips for each doll, because their eyes are what shines the most and brings out their personality. Least favorite part is carving mouths because I never feel like I’m doing it good enough. It’s something I struggle with, but I am always trying to learn, grow, and improve.

“Carving process with my favorite tools”
“End result”
“Face up time with a few of my favorite things”
Finished face up

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

Multiple. I live in a smaller space so all my tools and supplies are stored away when not in use. I like to do things in batches, so I’m not having to pull out customizing supplies and tools non stop. For example, I’ll do 5 eyelid arts one day, so I only have to set up my airbrush once instead of 5 separate times.

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

I have a small desk where I carve and make eyechips, and everything else is done on my kitchen table.

Rachel Harper’s workplace..

How would you characterize your style?

Whimsy, fantasy, and bright colors all in one cute little package. I like to imagine them as ethereal spirits living among us. Their existence and purpose is to bring happiness, so that is always on my mind while working on them.

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

Swann Morton scalpels and Dremel. RBL mold because it’s easy to work with.

Favorite carving tools

How did you develop the pricing model for your dolls?

I try to pay attention to what other similar customizers are charging for their work. I also take into account the supplies and complexity of the artwork used. Base doll used, does she have a reroot, etc.

Eyechip making process

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

Love what you do. Customizing Blythe dolls is like cooking, it’ll show right away if there’s no love put into it. Dream big, try new things and don’t be afraid to ask others for advice if you get stuck. Blythe has a great community with so many nice people. If it wasn’t for the help and support of the Blythe community when I first started, I probably wouldn’t be here today.

Rachel’s top 9 favorites of 2017.

Starrytale dolls are a look into the distant future where Androids walk on the earth in a post-human Blade Runner-like work. Sometimes they come from a fantasy world, where the rainbow lives inside their eyes and hairs. A fantastic nature is always present in Rachel’s work.

Even though Rachel’s work only started in 2015, she has already developed her signature style and brand eyechips with a very prolific work of over 200 dolls.

Follow Rachel and Starrytale dolls on social media to keep up with her latest creations – check the link on her profile page.