Nora is a doll customizer from Russia and uses Nora the Owl as for professional circumstances. She has an amazing talent at making the tiniest details look life-like. You can reach her at nora_the_owl on instagram fawn over their works, like we do.
Hello Nora. Thank you for taking this interview. Could you please describe to our readers what you do?
I am a doll customizer, one can say, I turn ordinary things into something unique! That’s why the result of my work is usually called “ooak” which stands for “one of a kind”.
In simple terms: I take old dolls, wipe off their faces, remove their hair in order to have just a bare base of a doll. Then I draw new faces, create new hairstyles, new clothing and *boom* I have an original character!
That sounds amazing! So, where do you draw inspiration for your works from?
Inspiration can come from absolutely any direction, I can never predict it. Everything inspires: people, inanimate objects, music. But most often it happens when I find a good place in my town, or a song I can’t stop listening to. This happened with my first doll, Summer, I listened to “It feels like summer” by Childish Gambino all the time while creating her. She turned out very calming and cute. One day I was walking in an abandoned amusement park near my house, it was evening and those old and rusty constructions looked so scary but amazing. Nobody was around; it felt like I was in a post-apocalyptic world. This led to the creation of Hevard, he’s not my best character, but I had a lot of fun with him.
Are there any materials you like to use in particular? Are there any that you would rather not use?
Oh yes, there are not many ways for customizing dolls, most people use the same materials, I am no exception. For drawing faces we use watercolor pencils, acrylic or gouache paints, pastels, glossy varnish for eyes and lips, but the most important part is MSC or “Mister super clear”. It is some kind of spray can varnish. It gives any surface paper-like texture and makes it possible for pencils to draw on vinyl, rubber or plastic. These materials are the main, all others are optional. For example, I would love to get some apoxie clay, but I can’t find any in Russia yet.
As for not using any material, I would not use MSC if there was anything else with the same effect, it is very toxic, you have to wear a gas mask every time you use it.
Modifications take a while, be it the wait time for drying, shrinking heads, or waiting or things to arrive. What do you like to do in the meantime?
I’m very impatient, so I hate waiting. I always try to make good use of my free time: if I’m waiting for a head to shrink I will work on clothing, if I’m waiting for paint to dry I will work on accessories etc. Everything changes when I have to wait for a little time, MSC dries in 30 minutes, I know that I can’t do anything useful in that time, so I will just relax: draw something, watch other customizers do their projects on youtube, or have a cup of tea.
How do you choose what to work on next?
I love my mom’s words “the doll creates itself”: it’s not like I have a solid picture of how my character will look, I do have some ideas, but everything can change in the process. I have a little stock box with dolls and ideas for every single one of them. I like to look through that box and sometimes I just feel like working with a particular doll, so I will take her out and “let the process begin”!
How do you decide which dolls you would use? Is there any brand you like in particular?
Usually I use old, second hand dolls, because no one will play with them anymore, it feels like I give them a second chance. There are like three internet stores which sell such dolls, I will just browse their catalogues searching for something interesting. Right now I prefer Monster High dolls: they have a huge variety of skin tones and face molds, very good articulation, interesting sculpts on their bodies (like scales or fur) and rather big heads which makes it easier to draw their faces. I haven’t had any chance to work with other dolls yet, but I have some plans for the future!
Which would be your favourite work by you?
Oh, I can’t tell that I have one favorite doll: they all are unique and I love them for the emotions they gave me while I had been working. However, one doll really stands out for me. Her name is Hain, I made her for a collaboration started by my favorite creator Katherine from “Dollightful”. The topic was anything tropical. I love creating my own worlds and origin stories for my dolls, sometimes I share them, sometimes not. That time I created a doll in a tribal setting. The main part is: after the collaboration I thanked Katherine in comments of her instagram post, and she actually answered, said that I did a good job and she even subscribed to my account. I was so excited, that felt like a dream, so now Hain is a special girl for me.
Interviewer’s note: This beautiful picture of Hain attached in this interview is provided to us by curtsy of Nora.
What do you do if you get stuck somewhere?
It doesn’t happen often, but it makes me feel bad every time. But I never give up on a doll! Sometimes I try to bite more than I can chew: I have huge plans for a doll, but in the process I see that my skills are not enough yet, so I try to find other ways to accomplish my ambitions. There were a few times I could not finish the project because it was too difficult, so I just started from scratch and created another character. There always are other options!
Have you ever fallen out of love for your project? What did/would you do?
I’m really glad that this had never happened to me, I’m always glad to finish the work. I feel like this has never happened because I cannot finish the project until I feel like it is perfect: I will try and make mistakes and remake some parts over and over and over again. It is rather exhausting, but in the end I’m glad with the result and even mistakes do not upset me.
Q10. If you had a chance to be on someone’s shoulder to observe their work, who would that be and what would they be working on?
It would definitely be Katherine from “Dollightful” or Alex from “Enchanterium”. The thing is: I’m really bad at sewing, but those girls are professional, they create such cute and detailed outfits, that it just blows my mind! I would love to see their work in person to understand how they are able to do such amazing things.
Would you like to give any shout-outs?
There are so many people who inspired me, they did so much for me, but they don’t even know about that. It all started with Russian doll collector Natasha from “BersReview”, she showed me how precious dolls are and introduced me to doll customizing. Katherine from “Dollightful” taught me a lot of things and showed that mistakes are never a problem. Hextian and his dolls are just on another level, I really want to be able to draw faces as detailed as he does. I am really thankful to those people, they gave me this passion and it feels so great to see that I still have so much to learn and try!
Interviewer’s note: The accounts in shout-out are hyperlinked to the respective profiles.
Anything you would like to tell our audience?
I am not professional by any means, I make a lot of mistakes, and sometimes I don’t even feel like working with a doll, but there is nothing wrong with that! And I feel like someone really needs to hear this: it’s okay not to be good at what you are doing as long as the process makes you happy! I wish you all to find your passion in life, and never give up on that. Be yourself and everything will be possible!
Unverbalise is ever the more grateful for this interview from Nora. We hope to continue to bring in more amazing people to our platform to inspire our readers, so don’t forget to subscribe to our site and share the word around.