Molly first told me about Makies way back in August of last year. After her tip, I immediately went and checked out the Makie Lab website. This is an extremely fun site because you don't have to buy anything or have any special skills to have fun designing a Makie. You can have as many virtual dolls as you want, change their features, write stories about them, plan outfits, and share your creations on social networks...all for free. If you want, you can also have the character you designed made into a real doll.
I have been enjoying the Makie website immensely, and have designed and re-designed about 8 virtual dolls. However, it has taken me a whole year to actually place an order for the real thing. It took me this long partly because I couldn't decide which of my virtual Makies to make real. I also couldn't stop making little changes to my designs. Another obstacle is that having a doll made and shipped to the United States costs about $180, which is a hefty sum to spend on one doll.
As in so many situations, curiosity eventually trumped reason, and I bought a doll. I was simply too eager to see how my creation would translate into three dimensions, and too curious about how a 3D printed doll would look and feel. Now that my doll has arrived, I am excited to share the whole experience with you.
|Custom Makie, "Glythia," by The Makie Lab.|
Let me start by showing you some features of the design tool. Honestly, you'll have more fun if you just go to the website and try it for yourself, but here's a quick tour so that you know what to expect. The design features have changed a bit since I first started making Makies last year. The very first Makies were all pale white, but now there are four different skin tone choices, so you start the fun by choosing a gender and a skin tone. Here's the first screen with a green girl selected:
|You can also choose a name and create a backstory.|
If you click on a skin tone button, your doll will change on the screen. You can choose between Ice Frosting (white), Strawberry Milk (pink), Pale Pistachio (green) and Cocoa Bean (brown):
I'll switch to a Makie boy so that you can see what the basic boy characters look like. They have more angular faces:
You can zoom in on the face to make changes to different facial features. For example, there are six different eye colors to choose from, three basic eye shapes, three eyebrows, and then seven sliding buttons to fine-tune the eye area proportions. There are screens like this for the nose, mouth and ears, too.
You can rotate the image whenever you want to check out how your head looks from different angles:
There are a lot of fun options here, and you can easily spend an entire afternoon (or an entire year...) testing out all of the combinations. You can make a grumpy green guy:
Or a more normal-looking happy guy:
I love the elf ear feature, so most of my characters have the biggest elf ears that are possible.
Once you settle on a face, you can pick from a bunch of different hairstyles and outfits. Here's my character, Giddeon, with his huge elf ears and his tousled black hair:
Here's Giddeon in the outfit I would be most likely to purchase for him:
Many of the outfits are strange. It's a good idea to go to the Makie shop and look at photographs of the actual outfits if you're thinking of purchasing a doll. Here are some examples of the digital outfit and its real counterpart:
That's a fill error with Giddeon's eyes in the picture above--you can't actually choose all-black alien eyes (unfortunately).
Now I'll switch over and show you some pictures of the digital Makie I decided to make real. She's actually the first character I ever made--an elf, named Glythia after my Dungeons and Dragons character. And yes...I'm that geeky.
Notice that I designed her on August 17th, 2012.
|The fairy outfit isn't for sale, or I would have bought that.|
I changed her outfit and tweaked her face and fussed over her hair for a whole year. Her final incarnation has Strawberry Milk skin and is wearing a limited edition orange dress, matching orange shoes, and a black cape.
She has a little bit of a smile and very wide green eyes. I chose the short red "Tiger" wig for her.
Custom Makies cost 99 pounds (~150 dollars). There seem to be a number of different deals in terms of what extras you get with that price. Glythia came with everything I had her wearing in her picture (dress, cape, wig and shoes), but I think that is because she's an older design and you got more for your money a year ago. If I design a Makie today, and want her to be wearing everything Glythia has, I can give her a dress and a wig in the design stage (the orange dress isn't available here anymore), but there's no option for shoes or extra outfit items like the cape:
|This doll would cost $150 as is.|
So, I have to add the cape and the shoes separately, which is another $36.
If I understand this correctly, to get a Makie, a wig, a dress, a cape and a pair of shoes would cost about $190 alone, so over $200 with international shipping. I seem to have gotten a really good deal on my doll.
A few weeks after I placed my order, I visited the site and saw that this picture had been stealthily added to my gallery!
Finally made real!
I knew from lurking around the Makie Me website for the last year that Glythia was not going to look exactly like her digital self. None of the Makies look exactly like their pictures. However, after gazing at my cartoon Glythia for so long, it was a bit of a shock to see her as a real doll. I wasn't instantly thrilled with how she came out. Specifically, I found myself wishing I'd given her a bigger smile. Despite that slight regret, I was thrilled that she was finally on her way to the United States!
After a few chipper, entertaining emails from Makie Me, updating me on Glythia's progress, she arrived on my doorstep. She came in a sturdy plastic bubble envelope with these two packages inside:
|A black cardboard poster tube and a black envelope.|
Both the tube and the envelope have colorful Makie stickers on them:
The cardboard tube has a white plastic lid on each end. These lids can easily be removed to peek inside:
I can see Glythia's huge elf ears in there! That's exciting! I was surprised to see that there's no bubble wrap or any other kind of protective packing, though. It's kind-of amazing that the ears aren't broken.
There were a few rolls of paper in the tube with my doll. The first is a certificate of authenticity:
It's weird because the "made real" date on the certificate doesn't match the date on the website:
The second roll of paper was a poster with a lot of great information about the doll:
This "Crash Course in Makies Maintenance, Care and Love" describes how the Makie body does and doesn't come apart, how to clean it (it's dishwasher safe!), and how to swap eyes and make other modifications. It looks like all of the joints come apart except for the knees and elbows.
Because I was surprised by the lack of bubble wrap in my Makie's packaging, this part of the poster was consoling:
It explains that while Makies feel like porcelain, they are made out of plastic, so they're tougher than they look. Tough as boots, apparently.
Next, I slid out Glythia herself. She came tied to a black cardboard support:
That first glimpse of her face was a little freaky...
|ALIEN INVASION! RUN!!|
The shoe box is made out of black corrugated cardboard and has a sticker that says, "here are some shoes." It's so polite!
|Thank you for the shoes!|
Here's Glythia on her cardboard stretcher. She's tied on there with a golden ribbon and is wearing her limited edition orange dress (no cape):
I'm surprised that she's right up against black cardboard--there doesn't seem to be any concern about color transfer--or maybe it doesn't matter since you can just pop her in the dishwasher?
Here she is standing on her own two feet:
My first impression was that she is very lightweight. She doesn't feel cheap, but she doesn't feel like porcelain to me at all. I think she has the soft, light, almost fuzzy feel of balsa wood.
In terms of her appearance, my first reactions were that her head is much larger than it looked online, and her body is much shorter and stockier. Also, her eyes are huge and really beautiful.
She is a very, very strange-looking doll:
Her limited edition orange dress is actually quite simple, and clearly handmade, with a beautiful woven fabric that reminds me of ginkgo leaves:
The dress is a basic sheath with two tucks in the front of the bodice and a velcro closure with a single metal snap at the top.
There are a few little sewing mistakes, which is frustrating for a $17 dress:
Glythia has 13 points of articulation. All of her joints are ball-and-socket:
She has a short, athletic torso that seems oddly realistic given her enormous head and exaggerated facial features. She doesn't have the super-skinny body that other large-headed dolls like La Dee Da, Cutie Pops and Pullip have.
She has an area on her back that looks like a battery compartment:
The Makie poster explains that this compartment is, in fact, designed to hold batteries so that you can insert electronic mods into the doll's head:
This excerpt mentions a "Lilypad Arduino," which I had never heard of before. It's a small programmable computer that can sense environmental inputs and react with lights or sound. It's meant for making interactive clothing, but I suppose that the size makes it great for use in dolls, too.
The neck is hollow to accommodate wires coming down from the head:
|Ultimate nerd doll.|
Here's the lower part of the battery compartment:
The battery compartment cover has Glythia's unique identification code:
The body color is not uniform. Glythia's torso, for example, is very pale, while her limbs have more of the Strawberry Milk color in them. This ends up looking pretty good, I think. It looks like a natural tanning pattern or artistic shading:
3D printers work by applying lots of very thin layers of plastic on top of each other. If you look closely at some areas of Glythia's body, you can see these tiny layers. I think these lines are what make me think of wood grain when I hold this doll:
Glythia's head must be sanded, because the printing lines are not visible on her face:
Glythia is so pale, it is tricky to see the texture of her face in photographs. Her head is smoother than her limbs, but it still has some roughness:
Glythia's green eyes are amazing. I am tempted to purchase more of these eyes just to see if the other colors are as interesting.
Up close, the detail in her eyes reminds me of chloroplasts (the organelle in a plant that is responsible for photosynthesis):
|Real chloroplasts (through a microscope).|
Here's a closer look at one of Glythia's cool elf ears:
The Makie poster describes how the top of the doll's head can be removed and the eyes can be swapped. It seems very simple:
Sure enough, the head pops right off (I'll admit that I got a little nervous that the thin plastic would break...but it didn't):
The eye mechanism reminds me of my MiM doll. The eyes are attached to a clip that snaps in and out. It looks very simple to use. Glythia's unique identifier is carved into the eye mechanism, too:
Glythia's head has a great range of motion, thanks to her ball-jointed neck:
This doll poses like a dream. She is very well-balanced and can strike a huge range of poses. She can stand on her own for ages and not fall down. She's rock solid.
She seems very pale and bare with no wig and no clothes, but it's the best way to see her joints in action:
I'll show you a bunch of pictures of what she can do. She has a few irritating limitations which I'll point out as I go, but for the most part I am absolutely thrilled with her articulation.
She can kneel, but her knee joints don't bend past 90 degrees, so she needs a bit of weight tipped back over her feet to prevent her from falling forwards.
In fact, all of her limb joints bend to about 90 degrees and then stop. This is good enough for most poses, but I occasionally wish she could bend her elbows and knees a bit more.
If her legs are moved straight out to the sides, she can only get about this far with a side-to-side split:
With her hip joints rotated upwards, she can do a full split:
She can't quite do a front-to-back split with her hips all of the way flat on the ground, but she gets pretty close.
Here you can see how her hips and knees make nice right angles:
She sits well in a chair and has some rotation in her legs so that she can keep her knees together. The leg rotation does not come from the knee joint as it does in Monster High dolls, but rather from rotation at the hip. The knees and elbows do not rotate at all--they act more like hinge joints. The shoulders, wrists, ankles, hips and neck have full rotational movement.
She is balanced so well that she can stand on one foot. In this pictures she is leaning up against a wall...
But here she's flying solo:
She sits nicely on a flat surface, and also at the edge of a table. She would be a fun little desk companion at work, I think, as long as you weren't worried about scaring away your colleagues.
Here's a closer look at some of her ball joints:
If you look at her hand up close, you can see those printer layers again:
Here's Glythia's body disassembled--everything comes apart really easily, except for the elbow and knees joints:
This is the ball of the neck joint (hollow to accommodate wires):
These are the arms:
The upper arms and upper legs have hollow cylindrical centers that are filled with white rubber plugs. I am not sure what purpose they serve:
Here are the legs:
Here's the knee joint up close. It is a ball and socket joint, but it does not have any rotational movement:
I have some slight concerns about how all of these joints might loosen over time. A leg fell off once when I was posing Glythia, but other than that the connections seem tight.
Here's Glythia all put back together again:
|Whoa. I think I just had an out-of-body experience.|
Glythia informed me about halfway through the review that she has a black smudge on her foot:
|You see it there, Emily? Can you fix that?|
I figured that this would be a good time to test the washable nature of Makies. I wasn't quite brave enough to put Glyth in the dishwasher, but I did scrub her foot with Dawn dish soap and an abrasive scrubbing sponge.
It took a bit of effort (more scrubbing than I expected) but the spot did come off:
The "Tiger" synthetic wig that came with Glythia is of decent quality. It's not super-soft, but it is thick and has a nice cloth wig cap and a pretty red color.
It doesn't have an obvious style when you first get it on...
But it can be tamed into something that looks reasonable. It's hard to control all of the stray hairs with this style though.
Glythia can tuck this hair behind her large ears to help keep it under control:
Here she is back in her orange dress with her wig on.
The shoes that I chose for Glythia are 3D printed orange pumps. These come with a whole new pair of feet:
I pulled off the old feet to get ready for the new ones.
Here's the exposed ball side of the foot joint:
At first, the two styles of foot didn't look that different to me:
On closer inspection, though, I realized that the extra foot has a more defined arch:
Here's Glythia's original flat foot inside of the shoe:
And the extra foot that came with the shoe:
The thin strap of this shoe is made out of the same hard plastic as the doll. It seems like it could be really fragile, and at first I was nervous to bend it around too much. Because that strap is so thin, though, it has a fair amount of bend to it, making it more resilient than I expected.
Glythia stands very well in her shoes, too:
The cape that I ordered for Glythia came inside of a wax paper envelope with another Makie sticker. This is what was inside of that black envelope I showed at the beginning.
The cape is black velour. It photographs strangely, but it's actually pitch black with a true red collar:
The cape is nicely made. The cape and the collar are both double-layered and carefully sewn.
Here's a comparison of my digital Glythia, and the real Glythia--fully dressed:
The likeness is better than I originally thought. It's definitely the doll I designed.
The cape was a great addition in the digital world, but I don't think I'll use it much on the actual doll. The deep black color makes Glythia look way too pale.
Glythia's clothes restrict her awesome posing, but here she is doing her best to model her orange dress and shoes:
So, at this point I was starting to get used to the way Glythia looks. Especially with her wig in place, she doesn't look quite as much like an alien as I originally thought:
|An alien, Emily? Really? That's harsh.|
But...then I took off her wig and introduced her to some of the doll gang, and she started to look a little funny again in comparison:
|Monster High, Bratzillaz, Makie, Liv, Ever After High.|
She's significantly shorter than most of my play dolls, and her torso is much thicker. She comes closest to a Liv doll's body proportions, and some of the Liv clothes fit pretty well. Here's Glythia in Hayden's dress from the Hayden's House set:
The dress has a nice loose cut and allows Glythia to move around a lot:
Some of the other Liv styles, like this tight-fitting Liv Brites dress, don't work as well.
It doesn't quite close in the back:
Glythia's torso size is more similar to some of my larger play dolls, like Moxie Teenz and City Girls:
The pants on these larger dolls are way too long for Glythia, but the tops make cute little dresses. In this next picture, she's wearing a City Girl top and, just for fun, I tried a MiM wig on her. The wig is a little big, but could be held on with some moleskin or a few rubber bands:
Here's Glythia in my other MiM wig--I like this one even better:
Here she is in a Moxie Teenz shirt:
Glythia's head circumference is 7 inches, so she'd probably wear size 7 wigs. My MSD size 8-9 wigs are too big.
Here's Glythia with some dolls that I think of as being 10 inches tall:
|Pinkie Cooper (Pepper), Makie, Cutie Pops Candi.|
In reality, Pinkie Cooper is actually more like 8.5 inches tall, and while Glythia is advertised as being 10 inches tall, she's more like 9.5 inches. Cutie Pops are 10.5 inches tall.
|Oh, thank goodness. You're even stranger than I am.|
The best clothing fit I found is actually not from a doll I even thought about putting in the lineups with Glythia. Only Hearts Club clothes fit pretty well. This Only Hearts Club sweatsuit fits, and allows Glythia to practice some of her moves:
Glythia's removable hands were very convenient for trying on all of these different clothes. She wouldn't have been able to fit her large hands into some outfits, like this Disney Store Cinderella dress, if her hands had been permanently attached:
Another thing I was aware of as I tried on clothes was that while this doll's limbs feel smooth to the touch in most areas, they do have some rough patches that can snag on clothes and make dressing a little frustrating.
I settled on dressing Glythia in Liv doll shorts and a green Only Hearts Club top. The shirt is short, but it has a cute crop-top look, and I enjoy all of the green. I think Glythia might be related to my mossy friend, Oscar. Outside in the woods, Glythia's pale face is much easier to photograph...and her eyes are vibrant:
The Makie poster mentions that Makies can be painted with makeup or acrylic paint.
I decided to put a little color on Glythia's wide mouth. I used acrylic paints, diluted with a lot of water so that I didn't get an overdone look with one brush stroke. Here's Glythia with her lips painted:
I was hoping that the extra color would make her photograph better but she still looks very washed-out in her pictures:
I took her outside to her mossy tree stump to try and capture the real color of her new face paint. Maybe I'll try some blush next?
Bottom line? Wow. This is an unusual, spectacular doll. I have never had a doll buying experience quite like this, nor have I ever seen a doll that looks, feels and moves quite like a Makie. Of all the dolls I have owned, I suppose Glythia is most similar to a Fairyland Little Fee resin BJD. However, Glythia is not strung, so she poses better than many resin dolls, and she's very lightweight in comparison. She's also more user-friendly than most resin BJDs. You don't have to know how to string elastic, you don't have to keep her out of sunlight, you don't have to use putty to keep her eyes in place, and you don't have to worry about breakage or dirt. She goes in the dishwasher, for goodness sake! Glythia is missing the ethereal, heart-melting beauty or cuteness that many Asian BJD faces offer. Her face takes some getting used to, but I think her incredible repertoire of poses gives her more than enough personality to make up for her unusual face.
These little dolls are excellent character companions. They are portable, posable and durable, and would be really cute on display at a desk or lurking in various locations throughout the house. For that purpose, an exaggerated face might be more fun, but Glythia manages to get plenty of giggles and groans for her straight-faced antics...doing yoga on the piano, popping up next to the breakfast cereal, contemplating a formidable pile of homework, or inviting herself along for a car ride:
The process of designing Glythia was great. Even after a year, I still enjoy stopping by the Makie website and creating a new character. I would love to be able to order another real doll some day. I wish I could pay less and order a doll with no clothes, though. I think this was an option a few months ago, but it doesn't seem to be anymore. The clothes don't add much to the doll and in fact, the orange dress I chose seriously restricts Glythia's movement--which is one of her best features. Plenty of other (less expensive) doll clothes work just fine, and sewing unique outfits for a Makie would probably be very rewarding.
|Glyth with another Only Hearts Club top and the same Liv shorts.|
I like Glythia more and more each day, but I think it's still too soon for me to pass a final judgement on her. The most exciting thing about Makies is how customizable they are--even after they've gone to print. I have only just gotten started exploring these options. A full face-up would transform Glythia's pale, slightly blank face into something much more dynamic. A funky, colorful wig would add a lot to her personality, too. I am even tempted by the idea of making her interactive with a programmable computer chip...then she could be lurking near the breakfast cereal and actually say something when one of my teenagers showed up to eat.
The creativity and ingenuity in this company is amazing. The dolls offer a wonderful way for people to express themselves. When I browse the photographs of completed Makies on the website, I am fascinated by how customers have conveyed their own individual styles so effectively with the simple tools and accessories that are available. I am starting to realize that, while I had some initial regrets about Glythia's mild expression, the face I designed reflects one side of my personality in an unexpectedly accurate way. Glythia's calm, slightly worried appearance mirrors the side of me that is cautious and overly analytical. There's a scatterbrained, goofy side to me too, though, and I will do my best to capture that with my next Makie.
I really want the small London-based MakieWorld company to succeed, and I am happy to see that they have grown and expanded over the past year. One barrier that concerns me is that the dolls are too expensive to be purchased on a whim right now. The price is understandable--Makies are not mass-produced, and they're all one-of-a-kind and beautifully articulated. However, if they were closer to the $60-$80 range, more people would cave to the temptation of seeing their own personal design come to life.
As for me, I am so glad that I finally caved to this particular temptation...even with the hefty price tag. Glythia has been such a fun project so far, and she is by no means complete. More than that, though, when I look at Glythia, I feel like I am looking into the future. This kind of custom-printed doll could quickly become the norm, and Makie did it first. I feel ecstatic to have this ground-breaking, charismatic creature in my collection.