Being a fashion doll collector means, among other things, meeting people all over the world that share the same interest/hobby/obsession. That can lead into a beautiful friendship, which is my relationship with the wonderful Maria (from Habilis Dolls), my dear Greek friend. There are not many Greek fashion doll collectors but I am happy that I met her and we share such a wonderful friendship. Apart from being a wonderful human being, she is also a talented maker of clothes and accessories for fashion dolls! I have been meaning to dedicate a post to her extraordinary work for quite a while (you have to see her craftsmanship up close to understand the high level of quality in her work). I managed to convince her to give me an interview, which you can read below.
Fashion Doll Chronicles: Let's start with a few words about you
Maria Habilis Dolls: My name is Maria, I am 48 years old, a teacher of Ancient Greek and Latin, teaching in High school for 25 years now. I live in Syros, a beautiful island of the Cyclades in the Aegean Archipelago, am married and have a 15 year old son and a 13 year old daughter.
FDC: Tell us how you discovered fashion dolls?
MHD: That was by accident, on-line, where else? Specifically, I was looking for clothes for my Barbies (that was way before I started making myself clothes for dolls). When I saw the first Fashion Royalty I was speechless. She was Eugenia Overachiever and immediately after Eugenia Going Public. Then I knew that I had to step up a level (collecting). That was the beginning. Later on I discovered Sybarites (I own two), Tonner dolls etc. It was a road with no return. Now my collection has more than 60 Fashion Royalty dolls.
Outfit based on my own design and made by Maria
FDC: How did you decide to start making clothes for your dolls?
MHD: Along with Fashion Royalty dolls, I also discovered the very talented creators that were already part of the fashion world for dolls. I was impressed with their work and, because I can sew, I slowly started to make clothes for dolls on my own. Six years later I can say I have experience and an easy to do it. But I dedicated lots of time and was very patient and insistent. I am more proud about my insistence than about the results of my creativity (LOL)!
FDC: When did you start selling doll clothes and accessories made by you?
MHD: From the moment I started collecting dolls obsessively, I thought it would be nice to cover my spending to enrich my collection in one way or another and not incur that on the family budget. From the moment I started uploading the first photos of my creations on flickr (www.flickr.com/photos/habilisdolls), it was really encouraging that many friends asked me if I sold my creations and where they could find them.
FDC: Were there any obstacles in this endeavor?
MHD: My main desire and concern when taking those first steps were if the people who were the first to trust me and bought my creations would be completely satisfied. Generally I did not have any problems, on the contrary it is something that gives me inspiration, joy, creativity and allows me to add to my collection which is my passion.
FDC: How and where do you sell your clothes and accessories for fashion dolls?
MHD: I started selling them on eBay and that was important because in this way you become well known and many people that ignored your activity in this sector can see you. Two years later I created my own site http://habilisdolls.com and now I do most of my selling from there, since by now I have loyal customers that love my work. With many of them I also have a really warm communication, we're almost friends. I mention this as it is something that gives me great joy and I an glad that through this interview I can publicly thank them.
FDC: Where does your inspiration come from?
MHD: I am mainly inspired by my favourite creators and through the various blogs I follow. The materials themselves are also a great source of inspiration. I have a large fabric collection that I have been adding to for a while. As I observe them I imaging the outfit that can be made of them at the same time.
FDC: How long does it take you to complete an outfit so that it is ready to be sold?
MHD: That depends on the design and the fabric. If for example the fabric demands a complete lining, it can be very time-consuming. Other times the outfit is simple but has intricate accessories. Generally five to six houts is the norm, but never without interruptions as I do not have that much free time available. I also make many designs and try-outs, it often takes time for me to say "this is it". Don't forget that I do not want to miss out on the fun, as I also like to play at the same time. Trying out hair dos, I also need to see the outfit worn by a blond, a red-head and a brunette as well. So time flies by really quickly. I never stopped playing with dolls feeling satiated by it.
FDC: Favourite fashion designer:
MHD: Alexander McQueen was always a favourite and I love what Burton is doing with the house, continuing his work. If I must set someone apart it would be Karl Lagerfeld whose clothes I almost always like. Lately I like what Salvatore Ferragamo does too.
FDC: For which dolls do you prefer sewing?
MHD: Mainly I love sewing for FR because I love the way they pose. The new bodies especially are a delight to dress. I also have done stuff for 16" dolls like Sybarites and recently I fell in love with Tulabelle και Poppy Parker Fashion Teen 16’’ girls.
FDC: Which is your favourite doll and why?
MHD: My most beloved doll is and will always be Going Public Eugenia cause she was the first one I bought, love at first sight. I got her in the summer of 2008, a gift to myself for my birthday.
FDC: Tell us you favourite and also your most "despised" fabric/material to work with.
MHD: There is no particular favourite or despised material. I generally favour soft and elastic fabrics as they are easier to sew and fit better on the body. I avoid too delicate fabrics that can slip and make it hard to sew.
FDC: Which has been the greatest reward of this work?
MHD: From this activity I have been rewarded in many different ways. First of all with the money I made I was able to add more beautiful dolls to my collection. It is also a creative endeavor through which I express my self as well as get feelings of relief and restoration.. It is also very important for me being in touch with people, getting to know each other and also a great joy and recognition for me seeing photos of other collectors or friends' dolls wearing my clothes.
FDC: Most difficult thing in making doll clothes?
MHD: I think it is making the outfit come out properly in this small scale. I have noticed the difference between having the outfit in your mind and really making it. For example a pleated or draped outfit is not the same when made in this scale. You have to be picky about fabric or use tricks to give a real feel to the outfit.
FDC: What details do you always incorporate in your clothes and accessories?
MHD: In outfits I am really interested having the seams really well made and the finishing being careful and professional. I do not want people to think, when they have them in hand up close, that it was not worth the price they paid. I also want the collector that buys my clothes to have available all the comfort and ease to dress the doll without too much trouble or get annoyed doing so. I am also careful to use quality fabric so that it will not stain the doll's body. For accessories, what is important to me is that they look as realistic as possible and not doll-like. I am not sure I can always get away with it.
FDC: Favourite outfit until now and why?
MHD: I love almost all the designs I have made so far and usually I keep a copy for me. One I will always cherish is a dress inspired by Alexander McQueen.
FDC: Any advice you'd like to share with the rest of the doll-world fashion designers?
MHD: Be patient, make this with love and never miss out on the fun and the mood for play. This can also protect us from bad antagonism and jealousy that unfortunately also exist. I will never forget, when I first started sewing for dolls, the kindness and encouraging words of Kathi(aka FrauE) in some e-mails we exchanged, where she advised me exactly this, never miss out on the fun in this whole thing. Thank you so much Kathi, you are always an inspiration and example for me.
FDC: What else would you like to tell us about you and your work with dolls?
MHD: I am proud for all the things I have done for dolls and being a respected member of the doll community. It has given me immense joy, creativity and I can say it has changed my life, in the sense that being a clothes-maker for dolls is one of the things that defines me almost as much as my profession. Also very important are the acquaintances I have made, the very remarkable and interesting people I have been into contact with, the friends I made like you. Stratos my friend. If it wasn't for our dolls we probably would never have met and we would not have had the chance to spend such lovely moments in Syros! I suggest to all people to try and find something to love and amuse them as we all do with our dolls. Stratos thank you from the bottom of my heart for having me in your wonderful and remarkable blog, it is a great honor. Hugs and love to all of you.
All photos, outfit and accessories designs courtesy of Habilis Dolls, used by permission.