Catwalk Couture: 2017’s First Disaster?

failI have eight plates of runway dolls and their clothes. I made dozens of mistakes with them: missteps, botched paint jobs, wildly off-model designs. Something about these dolls is cursed. 

It all began when I compromised on Ifu, model No. 1, who, if you’ve been following, was sort of a stand-in for Lupita Nyong’o. The doll I made wasn’t very statuesque, but I thought that would be all right: I have a typical body style and she fit it. Then I compromised on her face. I painted her lower cheek too dark and I painted her eyes wrong. The eyes I fixed in PhotoShop, but the darkness of her coloring could not be rectified. I should have taken all those little problems and stepped back from the project, but I kept barreling through, telling myself not to get hung up on niggling details.

But the mistakes kept coming. My Burberry lines ran all kinds of crooked, doll No. 2, Lonan, had to be reconstructed in PhotoShop due to hair problems, I failed to under-color doll No. 3, Xia. And then there was doll No. 4, Niall, who just…oh…there are no words, really. Niall is just an unfortunate thing.

Was I too ambitious? Was I lazy and inattentive? Did I just not have a coherent plan?

I didn’t really have a plan–that’s true. I went from one model to four overnight and my choices were not well thought-out. At the end of the day, I really like Lonan and Xia, but Ifu and Niall give me heartburn. It all came to a head last week when I thought: “I should make tuxedos for the men so that I can do red carpet gowns for the ladies” and it struck me how much I didn’t want to paint all-black suits. Sure, tuxedos come in other colors, but it was too late. I had already broken out into mental hives.

Ironically, an all-black suit is actually very easy to paint compared to other things. Which is my cue that it’s not the suits that put me off, it’s something much more serious. I wanted these dolls as fun, unstructured fashion models–and they became a nightmare of over-organized, rigidly plotted, time-sucking, eyeball-burning labor.

If it ain’t fun, don’t do it folks.

It’s a mantra I’ve seen in fellow artists’ blogs and when it comes to hobby art perhaps wiser words were never writ. Some of the pieces I’ve made for these dolls are quite lovely and it’s a shame to waste them, but I am so honestly not in love with the whole set. Bits might be salvageable, but I made bad choices on the models and bad choices on the clothes and bad choices on my templates. I could post the eight plates as a cautionary, but I’m not sure I want to. Fact is, I’m chucking any future plans for them and starting over. No comment on what that would look like at the moment.

I ain’t asking for advice or consolation. I’ve made up my mind and I’m already over it. emoji_winkBut I did want to post about it to share this unlovely part of the process and to say, well, I promised I would have runway dolls by the time the Oscars came around and, hey: I still have 44 days to go!


Please follow and like:
  • RLC

    When I was first learning to sew, my mother used to say to me, “When you start to make mistakes, then you need to walk away for a while.”

    As is often the case with advice from our mothers, it took me years to realize how right she was. In my eagerness to “just push through” I often pushed myself into a place where I was fundamentally unhappy with my work. So, I suppose what I am saying is this: It is always okay to walk away.

    But I would also urge you to put it down for a while and come back in a few months and look at it with fresh eyes. Sometimes, when I get totally frustrated with a project, I later come back to it and think to myself, “Well, okay, it is not perfect, but it is a lot better than I thought it was.”

    And then I can salvage something from the wreck.

    I really appreciated your honesty in this post. I think the internet needs more of us being honest about our fails. I’m rooting for you over in my little corner of the internet.

    • awww, thanks Rachel! i’d been trying to salvage these dolls since Christmas and it’s so disheartening to realize they aren’t working. for a while i thought i would keep Lonan and Xia and pitch the other two, but i’m okay consigning them all to a paperstack grave so that i can rebuild them in a better way.

      i’ve been spending time on your blog this evening, looking at all the work you’ve done and getting jazzed about possibilities–and ogling bit of your process/formula that i can steal ~ hahaha. i’m an old dog, but i can still learn some new tricks!

      : D

  • Julie Matthews

    This is easily my favorite post on your blog – ever – for all of the reasons Rachel mentions. I hate the word “mistake”. It makes it sound like your time was wasted and it clearly wasn’t. You zoomed in more on what you want to achieve and, more importantly, what you don’t. Creative people need to share the failures – we’re too hard on ourselves, it helps re-focus, and it teaches other artists that failure is not a bad thing but really just a part of the process.

    I’m eager to see a contemporary fashion model paper doll…when the time is right.

    • the time is now!

      these are a wash, but i’m nothing if not a quick study in recovery.
      perhaps admitting my failure makes me competitive ~ ha!

      it’ll probably take me all weekend to restructure the dolls, but i’m already much much happier with them–and Niall doesn’t look like a garbage can guinea pig anymore, so i’m going to call it a win already!

      thanks for your encouragement, Julie ~ i always am inspired by your steady commitment.

  • bfmama

    I’m a little sad these didn’t work out, I was really looking forward to them, but I totally agree that if you’re getting no enjoyment out of it, you should take a break from it. Consider it a learning experience and move on. Maybe later you’ll decide it’s worth continuing it. Good luck! 🙂

    • oh don’t you worry ~ we’ll have our runway dolls!
      even as i type i have already redrafted all four dolls and am carefully salvaging the few bits and pieces that i can. God bless PhotoShop!

      yes, a lot of it will get chucked, but i hope we’ll have something super cool within the next 44 days (and hopefully sooner).

      • bfmama

        Great to hear! Thanks!

  • bfmama

    I love your descriptions of things. It really makes me want to see them. Especially Niall. He sounds SO interesting! LOL!

    • he’s feeling much better now ~ hahaha!