Monday, June 21, 2010

Day One (actually, more like Day 5)

My mother and I have decided to start an Etsy business, and this business is to be based on paper dolls (even though neither of us have ever made one before in our lives). We both love paper dolls, though - and love gets you through. After all, that's the theme of 80% of Hollywood movies... and movies never lie.

We know, we know... paper dolls seem a bit antiquated for a 2010 business model. Who collects or plays with paper dolls in the year 2010?(We're hoping at least 5-10 people per month.)

pencil sketch of Alice - Alice in WonderlandThis weekend we sat down with a notebook, mostly because things always feel less daunting if there are pen and paper involved. (We both seem to find neurotic comfort in list making - I'm convinced it's genetic.) It only took us about ten minutes of excitedly talking about it and making wild hand gestures to stumble upon the inevitability that we would soon be selling our paper dolls in retail stores, shipping them overseas, and one day even hand-delivering sets of them to royal families in countries we'd never heard of... and it was at that point that we paused and realized we needed to start with the basics.

After about five minutes of discussing starting up a business, keeping an inventory, designing the products, the start-up costs for supplies and the general logistics of all those things... I looked up and asked my mom, "Can you like... handle all the boring business and money stuff instead of me?"

She nodded amicably, so she is somewhere right now writing out business policies and tracking the costs of our first (rather poorly researched) trip to Hobby Lobby. For my part, I stayed up until 2:00 am sketching out our first dolls - based on one of my favorite stories: Alice in Wonderland.

The first thing I learned about designing articulated (jointed) paper dolls:

This is something easier said than done. In my mind I envisioned drawing some basic overlapping ovals, shoving a metal brad through it, and then watching re-runs on HGTV for the rest of the night. However, unlike a flat sketch that only has to look good as it is... jointed paper dolls have to actually move in a realistic fashion. To be more specific, when you pose their arms and legs by rotating them - it shouldn't look like their elbows and knees are developing compound fractures.

(I don't know about you, but I find the 'prettiness' of paper dolls somewhat diminished by them looking like they've been the victims of medieval torture devices which have snapped all their limbs at odd places. Call me a perfectionist.)

So that took a lot of tracing trial-and-error and about an hour at the light table for just the simple task of making realistic-looking joints that rotated. But I finally fit it together.

light table view of assembled paper doll

The second thing I learned about designing articulated (jointed) paper dolls:

Drawing bigger is easier. I'm not talking about life-size here... but probably twice as large as you expect the finished product to be. This lets you comfortably draw all the details in while working with cut-out pieces. Now that I've fitted it all together, I don't want to have to get my face two inches from the paper to draw stockings on tiny slips of paper.

Sounds obvious to work larger, but after my first attempt, I ended up with tiny little doll pieces (like a veritable flurry of confetti) and they were impossible to work with - much less draw on.

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