I sell my simple dolls for $85 & up. They are on the less expensive side. My goal as a doll-maker has been beautiful simplicity in the name of affordability, without sacrificing quality of materials or durability.
My dolls are made of heavy-weight cotton tricot skin, minimally processed, humanely-raised wool stuffing, and various natural-fiber yarns that are often hand-dyed by me. I use high quality thread, have a high-end sewing machine made for heavy use, and go through quite a number of needles, both hand and machine. When I sew the dolls, I use a stretchy-stitch that uses quite a bit of thread, because I want to be sure that children playing tug-of-war will not pop a seam. I hand-sew three times around the attachment at the head and at the shoulders with doubled, waxed thread, using tiny, invisible stitches that go deep into the body. The hair, too, is stitched deep into the head, so as it cannot be easily pulled out. Hair alone can take 4 hours or more. In order to save money, I try to source the most economical of high-quality materials. I purchase them in bulk.
Rolling a happy, round head with big cheeks takes experience, as does producing a consistent expression. For a more seamless look, I stuff the body through a tiny opening with 8” forceps.
As for clothing— my dresses are fully reversible and have no raw seams showing. To ease the user’s frustration, all clothing can be worn frontwards and backwards because there is no front and back. And all of the clothing and the dolls are my own design.
When I make a custom doll, do I like to spend time talking to my customers to insure that they are getting what they want. If I am making a doll to look like their child, I like to know what their child looks like. I hold this child in mind. And with each simple mouth I embroider, I smile, for I want the doll to be happy. Happiness grows happiness.
When I am done creating the doll, I photograph it. As a good photograph sells better than a shoddy one, I take some time. Then there is the dull, behind-the-scenes stuff: marketing, searching for customers, listings fees, PayPal fees, accounting, website maintenance, and so on. When a doll sells, I pack it lovingly for its trip to forever-home— I attach it’s little numbered tag on a gold band, write a hand-written note, include a blush kit, and tuck it in a bed of colored paper. I want my simple brown boxes to be a joy to open. I estimate, with everything included, each doll probably takes 16 hours.
But honestly, it is quite difficult to keep track of time. I spend plenty of extra time starting and stopping, and this I can’t really account for, for I work on my dolls with one small child running around and one 6-month-old baby to care for.
I hope people wonder, by now, why a doll costs only $85 in stead of wondering why the dolls cost so much. There are plenty of artists whose dolls cost much, much more than mine. And these doll-makers are just that: artists. Their dolls are objects of beauty. The highest-end dolls are generally collected by adults, not played with by children. The maker might make one doll per month. I do not believe there is a single doll maker who is over-charging customers. Most do not make a livable wage. A few make a living.
If one needs to have a less expensive doll, it is a wonderful experience to make one from scratch or from a kit. There is a lot of information on line on how to do so, and there are a number of good books out there. There are also used dolls, cheaply-made dolls, plastic dolls, and factory-made cloth dolls. So many options! How we make our choices depends on our value system and our pocketbook.
I make dolls with love. I make dolls for loving. I make dolls to last. For those who can only afford to look at them in photograph, I hope they bring a smile. These little dolls are smiling for you.