You might have already heard about Tree Change Dolls – reclaimed dolls with a more realistic makeover – but I only recently stumbled upon the work of Sonja Singh. She takes previously-loved dolls with unnatural, overly made up painted faces and turns them into natural looking dolls!
Here’s an example of the incredible transformation:
The makeunders are quite labor intensive: Sonja first removes the painted faces, cleans and sometimes repairs the dolls, re-styles the hair (sometimes actually thinning out unnaturally thick hair), repaints more realistic faces, and then her Mom knits and sews wholesome garments. Sonja even makes new shoes and accessories for the dolls, which are more eco-friendly than their former plastic duds. In her pursuit of realism and authenticity, she even adds skin imperfections to her dolls and mixes up a natural looking shade of white for the eyes.
Unsurprisingly, every time she lists a batch of these transformed dolls in her Etsy shop, she sells out immediately!
Because, as she points out, she isn’t the first person to re-paint the faces on dolls, she generously shares videos of her process. That’s right – even though she relies on these dolls to make a living, she shows others how to do it themselves! She has a video tutorial for how to remove painted faces from dolls, another video sharing tips for restyling doll hair, and even a video that demonstrates how she re-paints more natural faces on her dolls.
Sonja is a feminist inspiration because not only is she working to change the way children grow to understand social constructions of beauty, she doesn’t safeguard her techniques and instead encourages individual people to give dolls makeunders themselves. As an avid thrifter and lover of second-hand finds, that these dolls are reclaimed and repaired makes me love this enterprise even more. Even though I wear and enjoy makeup myself, I think it’s such a good idea for little girls to get to see dolls that look natural and imperfect – the way we do in reality.
The next time I hit the thrifts, I’m keeping my eyes peeled for an obnoxiously overdone doll to breathe new life into for one of the littles in my family, although I definitely do not posses the face painting skills Sonja has mastered!
Reading her story and pouring over photos of her incredible doll makeovers just made my day because it’s just so amazing to read about people changing the world with their talent. I see feminist implications for her work, and I feel inspired and uplifted. I wanted to pass on the good vibes in case you hadn’t heard of Tree Change Dolls either!