The Etsy Made Local market gives the local community of the Blue Mountains and surrounds a chance to meet and interact with a whole host of local makers and artisans. It’s a wonderful way of discovering new local businesses whose work is centred on being original and handmade.
This year we are excited to have Moss Dolls debuting at her first Etsy Made Local Market. Monika Victoria is the designer and maker behind Moss Dolls. She launched her first creation, the Singing Bryophyte, in early 2017 as a Kickstarter Project, ‘I was overwhelmed with the positive response, and was able to bring my first toy into being through the amazing support of friends and toy collector’s worldwide.’ Monika also illustrates her ‘cast of characters’ using watercolours, blending scientific observational illustration with fantasy and imagination.
We asked Monika to share a little bit more about her creations, the processes she uses and what sparked the idea to start Moss Dolls.
Where did the name Moss Dolls come from?
I am a huge fan of moss! The first toy I designed, the Singing Bryophyte, is simply named after the scientific term for Mosses and Lichens. I wanted something that reflected the cast of characters that I would be creating - inspired by mosses, ferns, mushrooms, and insects.
What lead you to start Moss Dolls?
The first spark of inspiration for Moss Dolls was when I was hiking through the Primeval forest of Mt.Kasuga in Japan. I kept imagining little spirits hidden amongst the lush foliage, and filled my sketchbook with doodles of mossy creatures. It was shortly after this that I decided to turn them into a reality, and began heavily researching how to make this happen. I'd been customising designer toys and dolls for years already, it seemed a natural step to start designing my own.
Can you please describe what you make and the processes you use to create your dolls and artwork? Do you use any particular methods, tools etc?
It always starts with sketches. I have been doing the 365 Day drawing challenge for 2 years now, and it means I get to explore a huge range of characters and see what the response is for each one. After settling on a character, I will work out the jointing and posing functions, and plan for any internal fixtures. Finally I'll sketch the toy from the front, side, and back views, ready to be sculpted.
My paintings are more organic, I start with a loose pencil sketch, then paint in all the little details and build up a mossy look through many delicate layers of translucent watercolours.
What materials do you use to make your items? Where do you source them from?
I employ a variety of materials depending on the design and function of each toy, whether the toy is going to be a solid statuette, or a poseable figurine with many complex joints. I have used poly-resin, Japanese premier clay, incorporated recycled toys, 3D printing, and am working on producing a toy in Japanese Soft Vinyl, known as Sofubi.
How long have you been creating for Moss Dolls?
I have been customising toys and dolls for well over 10 years, painting and illustrating since I was a child, but only began Moss Dolls in 2016. So it is fairly fresh!
Where do you create your items?
In my home studio. They end up spreading all over the house though - I will find myself airbrushing parts at the kitchen counter, spraying sealants in the garden shed, sorting paper dolls into packaging on the couch, with a cat on my lap. I often turn my 2.5 hour commute on the train into town into a mobile studio - embroidering miniature mossy outfits to make the most of my time.
What is your favourite item design?
I'm going to say the Singing Bryophyte - my first internationally successful toy. I got to make an edition of 100, and it was an absolutely mammoth task. Each one was individually painted by me, packaged, and numbered. I designed the packaging myself, and had a friend and her dad help by hand-turning 100 wooden magnetised specimen stands. I only have a few of the edition left - it will be strange once they are completely sold out!
When and how did you learn the skills required for your art and dolls? Who taught you or are you self-taught?
I am entirely self-taught. I studied Fine Art at the National Art School, but in an entirely different medium. I then taught myself watercolours, and began experimenting with customising and repainting dolls like Blythe, and BJD. I am still very much learning through trial and error every day!
Have you had any disasters in the making process?
Sometimes it feels like disaster after disaster! Lots of things can go wrong. I have one design who has been going through various hiccups in the prototype and revision stage for over a year and a half already. She's still no-where near done, as each stage brings up new problems or obstacles to smooth out. I just have to remind myself to keep focused on the end goal, no matter how long it takes to get there.
What do you love about this particular craft?
It's very multidisciplinary, requiring many different skill sets and approaches. I can be painting delicate mushrooms in the morning, drilling holes into miniature limbs in the afternoon, then sewing tiny outfits in the evening. The next day could have me sketching a cicada husk for inspiration for a new design, gluing tiny plastic leaves over a discarded doll, then sculpting several different moth "noses" in epoxy. Every day is different, it never gets boring!
What do you love about having a handmade creative business?
I have always been artistically inclined and drawn to creating. I cannot imagine who I would be if I didn't constantly have several projects in the works. Sketching every single day of the year is so integral to how I live my life. I feel lost if I realise I've left my sketchbook at home and I have new ideas popping into my head. It's this burning passion for creating that has helped keep me focused and dedicated through the hardships of trying to run and market your own business - its tough work!
What are your thoughts on the ‘Handmade Movement’? What do you love about handmade items and shopping handmade?
I love seeing what other artists come up with. I always try to go to as many handmade markets as I can throughout the year, to congratulate the artist's I have been following on their progress, and choose something special to show my support. I love that each piece has been created with time and care by an artist, working on their passions.
What do you enjoy about living and creating in the Blue Mountains?
The ability to have enough room to have a studio at home is amazing. I would not be able to do this in a cramped share-house in the city, commuting to an expensive studio. I enjoy being able to walk to the Leura Cascades, immersing myself in the very type of environment that so heavily influences my designs. I'll take my toys on long bushwalks, to photograph them in their element.
You can shop Monika’s dolls and artworks at the Etsy Made Local Blue Mountains Christmas Artisan Market, Saturday 24th November, 9-3pm, Norman Lindsay Gallery, 14 Norman Lindsay Crescent Faulconbridge.
The Etsy Made Local Blue Mountains market is hosted by the Blue Mountains Makers Etsy Team.