Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Kate and Tara by Wildflower Dolls

Today's post will not be a traditional review, but more of a showcase for a special kind of doll that I learned about recently: Wildflower Dolls.  These dolls have handmade, limited edition heads mounted on highly articulated brand name 1/6 scale bodies.  As you know, I am a huge fan of highly articulated doll bodies, but it is the extraordinary faces of the Wildflower Dolls that have enchanted me.

I first heard about Wildflower Dolls from my friend Séverine (the same friend who took the Avengers Black Widow picture).  Séverine was showing me some pictures of her doll collection, and one particular photo of spunky redheaded sisters immediately grabbed my attention.  These sisters caught my eye because they have my favorite kind of unruly red hair, but also because they have facial expressions that brilliantly capture two very different, very playful emotions.  When Séverine told me that her dolls were custom-made, I assumed that their prices would be out of reach.  However, when I visited the Wildflower Dolls Etsy store, I was amazed to learn that these charismatic creations can be custom ordered for under $200.  Better yet, some of the pre-made dolls can be purchased for under $100.  This realization marked the beginning of my own Wildflower Dolls adventure--a process that brought these two beautiful, happy sisters into my home:

Kate #45 (left) and Tara #32 (right) by Wildflower Dolls.
Before I ordered my dolls, I spent about a day and a half carefully looking through the gorgeous pictures of Wildflower Dolls on Flickr.  The Wildflower artist, Andrea, has an amazing album of all the dolls she has made, and even some photos of her creative process.  There are about twenty three unique Wildflower Doll heads, each sculpted in wax clay and then cold-cast in a porcelain-like resin. The heads are made in small editions of 50.  I fell hopelessly in love with at least four of the faces right away, and then grew to love pretty much all of the rest of the characters as I looked through Andrea's pictures again and again.  The range of expressions that Andrea is able to create is simply astonishing.

The danger with the Wildflower Dolls, I'll warn you right now, is that the faces interact so well with one another that it's very, very hard to order just one doll.  I started out by placing a single order, but as you can see from my cover shot...that didn't last long.

But let's start from the beginning.  It was the "Kate" face that first stood out to me from all of Andrea's pictures on Flickr:

Wildflower Dolls "Kate" face.
Kate's serene smile makes me feel happy and calm, and I knew this face would look great if I custom-ordered it with flame-red hair and tons of freckles.  

The hardest decision for me was choosing which 1/6 scale body to use with Kate's head.  Andrea offers an Integrity Dynamite Girl body, an Obitsu body and also Barbie Fashionista and Pivotal bodies.  I was seriously tempted by the Dynamite Girl body, but ended up picking the Pivotal model because I had never seen this particular body in person before.

Andrea is one of the nicest people on earth, and so working with her on this custom order was very fun.  Not only that, but she had my Kate finished before I knew what was happening.  I always assume that custom orders will take (understandably) months to fill, but this doll was on my doorstep within two weeks of when I ordered her.  She came wearing a very simple slip-on dress:

I have her on a Poppy Parker stand, above.  None of my other stands worked for the tall Pivotal body.

Kate's curly red hair is Tibetan lamb's wool, glued on using the trolling method.  The hair is absolutely not meant to be brushed or even manipulated very much (which is hard for me, as you might recall).  Andrea included some scarves and hair clips with Kate that have been really helpful in controlling her fabulous mane.

When Kate is wearing one of the scarves, it's easier to see her face:

Kate's red hair and expressive grin remind me a lot of Nicole Marschollek's Zwergnase child dolls (which I have coveted for ages...), but those are selling for $1,000 these days.  Kate cost me $150.

I should note that the price of the Wildflower Dolls increases as the edition nears an end.  My Kate is number 45 out of an edition of 50.  Because there are so few of these particular heads left, my doll cost more than the average Wildflower Doll.

Kate's face is hand-painted with acrylics.  The texture of the resin in her face is slightly rougher than the smooth plastic of her body.  The style of her painted features is also quite different from anything you'd see in a mass-produced doll.  Like a painted portrait, all of the shading and detail comes together to produce very realistic features:

Kate's freckles are amazing, and I love the high color in her cheeks.  

Kate's head is mounted onto the Pivotal body with a gasket that retains a very good range of movement.  The painted color of Kate's head also matches her body very well:

Before Kate had even been shipped to me, I found myself hoping for another Wildflower Doll to go with her.  

I chose the "Tara" face to be Kate's dark-haired, fun-loving (slightly goofy) younger sister:

Tara also has a Pivotal body.  She is number 32 out of 50, so her price was lower than Kate's at $115.  
Tara came wearing a slip-on outfit in a turquoise color that lights up her blue side-glancing eyes:

I asked Andrea to paint Tara's blue-grey eyes so that they are looking in the opposite direction as Kate's.

I thought Tara would be a great companion for Kate because while Kate's smile is knowing and warm, Tara's grin has a mischievous sparkle.

I also asked for Tara to have fewer freckles than Kate, and Andrea did a great job with this.  Tara's freckles are more subtle than Kate's, but equally realistic.  I also love the detailed painting in Tara's mouth.  Teeth are notoriously hard to recreate, and these teeth are amazing:

Tara's face also reminds me of the uninhibited, toothy-grins of the Zwergnase dolls.

This doll's expression is downright contagious.  Every time I look at her, I find myself smiling.

She's certainly joyful in pictures, but she's even more of a delight in person.

Before I show off these happy sisters a little more, I want to take a moment to examine the Barbie Pivotal body in some detail.  

Here's Kate next to one of the new articulated Barbie "Style" dolls.  As an aside, I find it a real shame that this highly articulated body is so rare in the Barbie aisle this year.

Barbie Pivotal body (left) and articulated Fashionista body (right).
The first thing I noticed is that the Fashionista body on the Style doll is shorter than Kate's Pivotal body.  The Poppy Parker stand is too tall for the Style doll:

She's floating.
I put both dolls into some boots so that they could balance upright and keep their relative heights:

The Pivotal body is slightly taller and more slender than the Fashionista body:  

A good way to tell these bodies apart if you're looking at them individually is that the Fashionista body has molded underwear but the Pivotal body does not.

Most of the difference in height between these two comes from their thighs: the Pivotal thighs are much longer and thinner.

Both dolls have an upper torso joint that allows forward and backward movement:

And also side-to-side movement:

They have almost identical arm articulation, and the same shape to their hands:

The Pivotal body has elastic-banded hip joints while the Fashionista body has a plastic peg and socket style.  The Pivotal body can do fantastic side-to-side splits, while the Fashionista body can't even come close:

Elastic joints carry the risk of stretching and deteriorating over time, but for now, this jointing gives Kate great hip flexibility.

Both bodies can do full front-to-back splits:

And both can kneel well--on one or both knees:

Both bodies can sit on the ground:

However the Pivotal legs are so long that Kate looks a little spidery sitting in this particular chair:

One thing that the Pivotal body can't do very gracefully is sit with both legs tucked off to one side.  The Fashionista body does this nicely, but Kate can't keep both of her knees on the ground:

For another reference, here's Kate next to a Barbie Basic doll (left) and an Integrity ITBE basic doll (right):

Barbie Basic, Barbie Pivotal, Integrity ITBE.
I always assumed (somewhat naively) that all Barbie dolls could share clothes with one another perfectly, despite their specific articulation or body style.  This is not the case.  While Kate can wear the Barbie Style outfit, the fit is far from perfect:

The boots are tight, but can be forced onto Kate's feet.  

The tops are too short on Kate (the tank top is not supposed to be cropped that much) but the sleeve length is decent:

The pants do not pull up all of the way (because of the long thighs) and they are baggy through the hips and at the back of the waist:

If you visit the Wildflower Dolls Flickr site, you'll notice that Andrea often has her dolls dressed in cozy-looking sweaters of various styles.  I wanted to create a similar look for Kate and Tara, so I searched high and low for sweaters that would be nice enough for these sisters.  

I happened upon another wonderful Etsy store, Angharad Gruffyd, that carries beautifully-knitted, in-scale doll sweaters (and regular-sized knitwear, too!).  The owner of this store, Cecilia, is a complete gem and was amazingly helpful in getting me the perfect garments for my girls.  I ordered a cream-colored cardigan for Kate, and Cecilia was wise enough to know that for the Pivotal body, I would need more length in the body and sleeves than what she had in stock.  So, she knit me this gorgeous sweater...for $18.

The stitches are tiny and perfect on this cardigan.  I couldn't find anything else even remotely like this online--especially for the price.

The neutral cream color is a great contrast to Kate's bright hair:

Kate wearing her sweater from Angharad Gruffyd.
Here are some profile shots that I didn't show earlier.  You can see that Kate has pierced ears, and a slightly different expression on each side of her face:

For Tara, I custom-ordered a blue cable knit sweater (with a long torso and sleeves).  This one also cost $18.

This sweater has to be pulled over Tara's head, which made me worry a bit about her hair.  I refuse to ruin yet another curly-haired doll's hair.  Fortunately, there's a small, unobtrusive slit in the collar that makes it pretty easy to get this sweater on and off without frizzing Tara's curls.

It did help to tie Tara's hair back as I was dressing and undressing her.  This tamed hairstyle also gives me a chance to show you a clearer view of her delightful face:

I do prefer this doll with her hair left to roam free, though:

Tara in her Angharad Gruffyd sweater.

I ordered a third, pre-made sweater from Angharad Gruffyd just because it was so beautiful.  This sweater was made to fit a Barbie Basic body--not the long-armed Pivotal body.  I still wanted to show you the gorgeous workmanship, and how nice this coral color looks on Tara:

I don't like to dress and undress the Wildflower girls too much, but I did take a minute to try Tara's sweater on Kate:

This looks great on her, but the contrast of the red hair and bright blue sweater is a lot to take in!

I also tried Kate's sweater on Tara:

She looks fabulous in this (and knows it...) but the cream color is not a good match for her technicolor personality:

Here are the girls back in the sweaters that were made for them:

Within seconds of being in each other's presence, these two create an energy that is difficult to contain.  Tara is constantly telling stories punctuated by her infectious giggles...

And will quickly get so carried away that she's unintentionally hamming it up for the camera:

Tara can embarrass herself with this spontaneous behavior, but Kate is always quick to comfort her...

...and will then tell her own silly story to make Tara feel comfortable again:

These two sisters showed me that they are up for anything, so I decided to take them on a short hike up a nearby mountain:

Both girls enjoyed the last glimpses of fall coloring...

...and the picturesque rock, moss and lichen landscape that dotted the top of the mountain:

And, of course, after they had explored everything and were relaxing on the summit...the stories and giggling started right up again:

Bottom line?  I have not enjoyed a doll purchase this much in a long while.  These dolls speak to so many of the things that make doll collecting special for me.  First of all, the process of ordering these two custom-made, one-of-a-kind works of art was fun, effortless, and more affordable than I expected.  Second, having these sisters in my house is a more uplifting experience than I ever could have predicted.  Kate and Tara radiate so much happiness, it's impossible not to smile along with them.  For collectors who admire expressive, artistically-rendered characters, Wildflower Dolls offers a remarkable (and addictive) range of options.  I expect that in the near future Andrea's wait list will be longer and her prices will be higher, but in the meantime, there's a golden opportunity to get a unique and wonderful custom doll for a steal of a price.


  1. Przeczytałam Twój post i obejrzałam zdjęcia z największą przyjemnością! Te dwie siostry są najmilszym dziełem sztuki, jaki udało mi się zobaczyć! Nie sposób się nie uśmiechać, kiedy spoglądasz na tak śliczne, radosne twarze! Dziękuję za opis i pozdrawiam Cię serdecznie!

  2. Oh my gosh, they are total gems! So, cute! I might just get one for myself. Hey Emily, do you know where you got those jeans and sweaters they're so cute!

  3. Oh Wow These are absolutely wonderful! I'm so excited to see such a unique artistic doll. Their faces are so full of character. Thanks so much for showcasing these! They have the thing I look for in a doll: pose-ability, uniqueness and character. I'm thrilled they're so affordable (especially for for a creation so artistic and OOAK). I'm sure one or more will be coming home with me.

  4. Thank you for sharing these - I'd never heard of this artist before, but their work is gorgeous. It's amazing how expressive and alive those faces are!

  5. These two are fantastic, and I have to say that Tara really makes me smile too, her facial expression is so appealing and her smile so infectious! I love that they can wear some Barbie fashions too.....they're a great addition to your dolly collection and I hope to see them again in the future on here :)
    Hugs Sharon in Spain x

  6. I had never seen these dolls before. They are amazing! They look so lifelike and happy. I love them!

  7. I recently found these dolls too on Flickr through a wonderful photostory by a fellow collector. I too fell in love with the dolls and will eventually own one, but need time to decide what I want! These dolls are truly a work of art!

  8. They're amazing! Love how she sculpted the smiles. I think I like Tara the best (i'm trying to figure out which actress she reminds me of). For a handmade head + body that's not terribly expensive actually. Personally I think the pivotal body looks a bit spindly for these largish heads - maybe an Obitsu would look more proportional?

  9. Check this out.
    Sorry totally off topic.
    But Kate really reminds me of Merida from Brave. I wonder if any Disney store dresses 14'' or 12'' fit her?
    She would be a great Merdia!
    - Arieta

    1. Actually, thinking about it now, the Disney store 12'' Merida dress would fit her, though a little short. But this is Merida, not Cinderella, so she could probably get away with it.

      I know about that picture, right! Every time I look at Molly I burst into giggles. Cute ;D

  10. Wow, this is the first I've ever seen of these dolls. They look like real little tiny people...amazing :)

  11. Wow, I'm amazed at how many different expressions you were able to portray! Your sisters are beautiful! Thanks for sharing- they make me feel happy just looking at them! :) Amanda

  12. Fantastic dolls! They are so happy and full of life.
    I love the outfits you have dressed them in too. (I actually went and bought a couple of the sweaters as well!)

  13. Amazing dolls, it rare to see dolls with great face on them. Kate reminds me of Merida!

  14. Awwww I was so looking forward to this review, and it's perfect :D I'm so happy that you also love the Wildflowers and that get some more attention now:)
    You're girls are so beautiful, and now I also want a Tara to my Rosie, Lulu and Kate :D (I also want Misty and Fawn and a Flapper-style Lulu, haha)

    It's also great to see the girls on a different body than an Obitsu.
    And the clothes are sooo beautiful.

    About the comments who were asking about Merida... I tried the Merida (Disney Store) outfit on my Wildflower Rosie (Obitsu Body) and it looks great:





  15. Tara completely looks like Maggie Gyllenhaal :)

    Thank you so so much for showing us these, i must have one! Fingers crossed she's not too overwhelmed with orders! ;) Soooo amazing

    1. I agree about Tara! And Kate resembles Kate Blanchett!

  16. After a difficult day, your review and these beautiful dolls finally brought a smile to my face! I'm in awe <3 thank you so much for sharing!

  17. Just confirmed my Custom, i am SO excited! :)

  18. they're both cute but i just love tara's face

  19. Omg! I am in love! I want one of these girls, they're just so adorable. I think I would have mine put on the DG boy or the fashionista body. Only because it seems like the current barbie clothes don't fit well on the piviotal muse bodies. Thanks for sharing these amazing! Gems

  20. those expressions are amazing! (although I find the redhead a bit scary)

  21. I think I saw some of the Wildflower Dolls over on Miskatonicnick's Flickr stream. Didn't know what to make of them then. Your girls are totally adorable and I admire the creativity of the artist. Thanks for the thorough background info. A great review as always.

  22. Is anybody else reminded of Kyle from South Park when you see Kate's hair? LOL :P

  23. Wonderful review of your fabulous dolls! I love my Wildflowers - they're incredibly fun to play with. They're so expressive and they interact beautifully. Congratulations on your lovely dolls - and thank you for such an enjoyable post!

  24. These are quite cute!

    I've been thinking on it for days, because Kate looked like someone, and I finally figured it out: Tori Amos, the singer. Especially when she has curly hair.

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  26. These dolls are absolutely gorgeous! But for some reason, my family thinks they look creepy. Sigh.

  27. This comment has been removed by the author.

  28. kate reminds me of ms. frizzle.

  29. OMG, I think I need a "Tara" in my collection and perhaps a Sister for her, as well! I fell in love with these girls from Flickr and now I want a few so they interact with other girls. She is Fabulous xx