Sunday, 30 January 2011

Enchanted Doll Competition

Anyone who likes fairytales and beautiful dolls will love the work of Marina Bychkova, who makes the most stunning porcelain ball-jointed dolls. Inspired mostly by folk and fairy tales, these hand-made, hand-painted (and anatomically correct!) dolls are also adorned with lavish costumes and ornate jewellery, all made by Marina herself, who has been making dolls since she was about 10 years old.

One of three daughters, Marina was born in 1982 in Siberia, Russia, until her family moved to Canada when she was 14 years old. As a child she made hundreds of dolls out of whatever material was at hand - grass, flowers, paper, cloth. In 2002, while studying Fine Art at the Emily Carr Institue, she discovered polymer clay, and began making more realistic articulated dolls. Eventually she decided to sculpt her doll and have them cast in porcelain, which is more durable and allows finer detail.

The photo above shows Marina with one of her first full-costumed porcelain dolls, the Snow Maiden. Created in 2004, the doll wears a 5-piece removable costume embroidered with over thirty thousand glass seed beads, and weighs almost a pound!

The complete process of making a doll can take 150 to 350 hours. A new doll form is sculpted in Super Sculpey, and plaster moulds are made from the parts. The parts are then cast in porcelain, fired at a low temperature and then sanded in water. Marina has said she hates this part of doll making, as it is very tedious and time-consuming! Then the parts are fired again before the painting can be done.

Each doll is hand painted with china paints. I was amazed to learn that it takes 3-5 days to paint each doll, as the paints have to be built up layer upon layer to achieve the desired intensity, and between each coat the parts have to be fired to dry the paint. The advantage is that this means the paint will never come off. When the painting is finished, the joints are lined with leather and the doll is strung together with tiny steel springs, which means they move beautifully, and can hold poses better than most ball-jointed dolls. You can see step-by-step photos and descriptions of the process on the Enchanted Doll website.

Marina has studied jewellery making for 4 years, so most of her dolls have ornate and detailed accessories cast in silver and studded with precious stones. Look at the beautiful, intricate headdress on this Beauty and the Beast doll, and her tiny silver high heels.

I find the henna tattoos on this doll, called Lavanya, quite stunning. They are engraved with a needle, and then filled with china paint, and are amazingly detailed. She even has a tiny nose ring!

The dolls all have wonderful handmade mohair wigs, often done up in elaborate styles, like this doll of the Empress Cixi of China, who's hair is decorated with an antique Chinese hair ornament made of Kingfisher feathers, as well as various other precious and semi-precious stones.

Marina is running an Enchanted Doll Birthday Contest, where you can win one of her naked dolls. To enter, you have to come up with an original idea for a doll, costume or accessory, and email in your idea in 100-200 words, along with artwork, by 10 March 2011. Details of the competition are on the Enchanted Doll blog. I'm so excited by the idea, I've got ideas buzzing round my head!

(All photos taken from the Enchanted Doll website.)


  1. My goodness they are stunning! Piroska, if you like dolls and fairy tales you must read The Museum of Mary Child by Cassandra Golds, it is truly magical and like these dolls hauntingly beautiful. now i must go and peek at Marina's site! thanks for an amazing post. jxx

  2. Thanks for the book recommendation, I will hunt that one down!

  3. I am amazed by these dolls!!!! Can I order some doll?!
    I wud like to buy! please answer to

  4. Wow! I've never really been a doll girl but these are just amazing. I can't imagine anyone who wouldn't want to hold such a delicate and beautiful creation just once!
    Thanks for the intro.