Audition 2.0

If you’ve been following this blog throughout the years, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I’m a big horror movie fan. Back in my teaching days, my work friend/science teacher and I would compile lists of all the horror movies we think the other would enjoy. Some eighth graders found the list and my 50 minute intensive art clinic became a discussion session of horror movies. Let me tell you, you will not enjoy a horror movie more unless the plot of it is described to you by a 13-year-old in under 30 seconds.

Takashi Miike’s “Audition” was on the list given to me. I often find Japanese horror movies to be a bit disconcerting. The gore, the jump scares, the storylines, the villain…etc., are always exceptional. But as the Japanese as a race are exceptionally introspective and that reflects in every aspect of their culture, including horror movies, they are often slow with deep philosophical component to it, which is fine, of course, but sometimes you just want a dash of Michael Myers efficiency in your movie and then go on with your life, you know? I hadn’t liked “Audition” at first, but I’m glad I stuck it out and it quickly became one of my go-to films when someone asks for a recommendation. I liked it so much that I had painted a set of the film’s villain very early on in my career as a matryoshka artist. It sat in my drawer until a fan of the film took it off my hands…and asked me to paint an extended version.

My painting style has evolved over the years so I decided to re-paint Asami, the villain/heroine again. I did maintain the original style for the extended version, just so it would match the original set.

The original “Audition” set painted in 2011 featuring Asami as the torturer, the demure ingenue, and as a child where things in her life decidedly went downhill after enrolling in a ballet class.
The 2021 version.

The extended set was a little difficult to make, both mentally and physically. In the film Asami kept a giant sack in her home, which later revealed to be a man missing a couple of important parts of his body. I was asked to create the actual sack, the man inside, and the hapless dog which sadly was also mutilated by Asami. I had a bit of an issue with making the dog because I’d just acquired a cat/sweatshop mascot who had been abandoned and, judging by his behaviour, I guess he’d also been abused. I’d also recently caught a little boy hitting him and had not been in the best frame of mind to depict animal abuse of any kind (don’t worry, I’d gone straight to the boy’s mother and tattled the heck out of her son and subsequently made the kid cry). But I understand that the dog’s demise was part of the film and the actual dog had not been hurt in the making of it. Still, it was a hard one to paint. The sack relied heavily on the draping created with plaster bandages so I was working against time as it does dry rather quickly.

In the movie, someone told the lead character that they found a dead body plus extra body parts. That line always freaked me out so I decided to make those extra body parts, which were three fingers, an ear, and a tongue. When we finally meet the man in the sack, you can see he’s missing a couple of digits, an ear, and a tongue.

Everything went well because I’d established a safeguarding system when I make itty bitty little things. Wouldn’t you know it, as soon as I finished the final stages and set it aside to dry, I managed the knock over the entire tray containing the dolls and body parts. The fingers were so small that I lost one and began to panic straight away because it was A) 3 AM and I hadn’t slept in the past 32 hours and was eager to go to bed and B) it had taken me 2 days to get the finger sculpted, cured, and painted and I wasn’t about to go through it again. Luckily my new sweatshop mascot sashayed in at the moment and seemed to know what I was looking for and made a beeline for my supply cart. Wouldn’t you know it, the finger had rolled right down there! Whew. Crisis averted. I do like to think the cat had helped me locate the finger, but in reality, he probably wanted me to move the cart because he likes to sleep on the mat right on top of it.


Music has always been a big part of my life, mostly due to the fact that quite a few members of my family are musicians. I did grow up listening to classical and eventually became a huge musical theatre nerd, so I am grateful to my brother for introducing me to more contemporary music although that particular era was already deemed as “classic rock” by the time I got around to it. It doesn’t matter anyway, because as long as there’s something that jives with my soul while I’m painting, I’m happy.

In these trying times, I rely on music more than ever. The sheer amount of work confronting me each night, compounded by what’s going on in the world today plus some personal issues, I begin every work night singing while getting my work station ready. It’s a little ritual that I find which keeps me sane.

I agreed straight away to a recent request because A) it is a band I’ll be painting and B) it is a band I’ve never really listened to and is keen to get on top of. When the buyer sent me photos of the band members, I knew I was going to have a great time making this set. Just days before I received the request, I was looking longingly at some wigs, lamenting how I don’t have the time to make a real doll with fabric clothes and actual hair. I was enthralled by the weft of crinkled hair and wished really hard that I would get a chance in the near future to work with it and lo and behold! My wish came true!

The members of Melvins (clockwise from top: King Buzzo, Dale Crover, Jeff Pinkus, and Steven Shane McDonald)

In the past I have only really worked with wool or crepe for hair, never synthetic doll hair so it took me a while to figure out how to apply it. I could watch some YouTube videos but didn’t have time to hunt down a real one although I’m sure I could benefit from the tutelage. It did necessitate a trip to K-Mart’s lady’s intimates department for some hosiery, though, and I also walked out with a bunch of things I didn’t really need so it’s not a complete loss! Now I have all 23 Melvins albums to listen to as we sit and wait the fate of the world to be decided.

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!

This year has been tough for a lot of us but somehow we made it, with actual hope on the horizon. I started making this set last year but had to put it on hold due to a family crisis. Perhaps it’s a good thing this set got delayed because whilst working on it this year, I have found a new vendor that I adore, a way to fashion corkscrew curls without screaming in frustration, and a fresh approach to time management that gave me energy to do everything I needed and still spend time with loved ones. I wish you all the joyous of all joyous year to come.

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!

My best friend from high school Fadi is someone who, if you are to meet him for “a drink or two,” you better clear all the events from that day on your calendar because you will NOT get anything else done. He’s the kind of friend you ring up when you want some adventure without having to pack a suitcase because adventures find him. He’s the kind of friend who is so into living in the moment that he sucks you into his world and you end up doing or seeing things you will not otherwise experience. He’s the kind of friend who, if you are to “just go out for a quick walk,” will end up bringing you to places unexpected and meeting a celebrity (whom he almost always knows) or two along the way.

On one of those adventures, Fadi and I discovered a brand new nightclub on 6th below 30 and made a tour of it. I immediately decided it’s not a place for me since it was much too glitzy for my taste and also I just wanted a $5 beer at my favourite Irish pub. Fadi, whose senses were much keener than mine, immediately sussed out this was no ordinary nightclub/bar and dragged me further inside where we were swallowed by incredibly tall and good looking women all dressed to the nines. And then we realised these glamazons were all men. I have always been quite comfortable with my overall appearance even though I don’t wear make up, I live in jeans and tees and my art school days during the Age of Grunge had allowed me to get away with chained wallets, plaid shirts, paint-covered pants and pass my unwashed locks off as fashionable. But I did feel incredibly inferior to these amazing looking women, or, er, men, who put in the extra effort to achieve supermodel looks. And what’s more, they’re all sooo nice. We stayed and talked to a few of them, turned down drinks (they went from about $15 to $50 a pop and you know those queens need to save every dollar for makeup from Patricia Field). I have nothing but fondness and admiration for drag queens, so I was thrilled to bits when a request came asking me to paint a set of them for Christmas.

I have never seen RuPaul’s Drag Race but it looked like fun. When the pictures came in I literally gasped and cursed my bad luck for having this project presented to me so close to Christmas but quickly decided to do something about my workload so I could really focus on this set.

It looked challenging at first glance, but after breaking it all down, it wasn’t all that bad.

Biggest doll to smallest: RuPaul, Sharon Needles, Alaska, Sasha Velour, BenDeLaCreme, Jinkx Monsoon as Little Edie, Alyssa Edwards, and Bianca Del Rio.

The best part of this set is hunting down all the supplies needed for the “extras” such as finding the right shade of wool for the wigs, looking for the right size rings to fashion them into earrings for RuPaul, etc.

I decided to go a step further by creating a removable wig so one of the dolls can do this:

It is also around this time that we have officially adopted a stray cat. He’d been around ever since we moved in a year and a half ago and he decided he wanted to live with us. Since he has also gone feral after being abandoned, there were a lot of trust issues. Eventually he came round and wanted to be a permanent part of our little family, giving us very little choice in the matter. As I work late into the night, he often sat with me in my sweatshop and, being a long haired puss, he would often leave in the mornings covered in all manners of glitter, sequin, and later on, fibre I used for the wigs. Maybe there’ll be a new feline version of Drag Race soon and I can enter my new cat. After all, he already has a reverse ombre thing going with his tail.

And here are the real queens:

Sharon Needles
Sasha Velour
Jinkx Monsoon as Little Edie
Alyssa Edwards
Bianca Del Rio

A Family Portrait

For the past few months I’d been slowly working on a family portrait for a very special lady. She is celebrating the big 6-0 and I was tasked to paint a set of dolls of her and her family. Her friend thought it would be fun to put in 60 elements that represents her, an iSpy sort of situation. As someone who likes to be on all kinds of conspiracy (good ones, mind you), I was down.

The family are all Warriors fans. This reminded me of the time I had to paint a baseball team, twice, but at least there are a ton of varieties to the outfits!

Even the animals got in on the action!
Not the cat, though. I kind of have a cat now and I can see how difficult it is to wrangle one into a costume.

I don’t really sketch out any of my ideas unless it’s absolutely necessary. Luckily I was left to my own devices after given the brief because I had absolutely no plans as to what I was going to do with the iSpy doll until I sat down each night to work on it. It was almost like putting a puzzle piece together and all my previous leanings, such as writing teeny tiny letters, or making this crazy free writing journal, had given me the skills to work within the confines of the doll and get everything, all 60 elements, down.

As you can see, this is a highly personal project and I got to know this lady quite well despite not knowing her at all! Hey, anyone who works in a zoo, loves CSN, Joan Baez, lived in NYC, interacted with a chimp, and rode horses are definitely people I’d want to know!

Santa Selena

Okay, as far as I know, Selena Quintanilla-Perez hadn’t been canonized, but she might as well have been (there is a Selena Day in Texas, however). What an incredible life this singer has led. 23 is too short a life to live, but the legacy she’s left behind is aspirational and spectacular. 

Selena in various outfits from her Astrodome performances.

I was asked to paint this set and I immediately cleared a spot in my schedule for it. It took an ungodly amount of time to get it finished as it kept getting pushed back to the after after after hours of my work day. Then, at 3 AM, when all is quiet, I sit down with Selena to work on her costumes or beading and think about what a magnificent musician she was and what she had to do to get to the top and it rounded a usually hectic day up very nicely. 

The request is for the first Selena to have real hair. I’ve never made one of this particular nature before and had to think about it for a while, as I am not a wigmaker. I love requests like this since it exposes me to different materials although I had to consult Luba from Handcrafted Gifts for the type of spinning fibre which most resembles human hair. This exercise has given me the courage to make several more wigs for subsequent sets!

And, just for fun, I made a little microphone in case someone wants to sing along to any of Selena’s hit songs!

Top That!

I’ve always referred to the 1989 debacle “Teen Witch” as “Top That” because of the epic cheese rap off between the lead’s BFF Polly and the Vanilla Ice wannabe in the middle of a deserted suburban neighbourhood. The movie, when I first watched on TV, was met with sheer disbelief due to the out-of-nowhere musical numbers, the fact that it never made it known if it was a comedy or a drama or even a straight up musical! It was so bad, and vaguely uncomfortable to watch but that’s most adolescent-hood isn’t it? I can’t even look at pictures of me from that era without shuddering a little.

Teen Witch cast featuring (clockwise from the biggest doll) Louise, Madame Serena, Hunky Boy Brad, the Mr. Weaver VooDoo doll, Richie, Top That guy (I’m sure he has a name in the movie but…) and Polly.

I have been wanting to paint this set for a very long time, and finally got to it after having a session with a tarot card reader. She was someone who had helped me out with a few issues in the past but this time I’d just wanted to see how she was doing because she was undergoing a serious operation. As always, we always ended up chatting before and after the session and “Teen Witch” came up because she had just been on a podcast discussing this very movie. She encouraged me to go ahead and paint it, which naturally took a while to get to but I wanted to make it happen this time as it would be a gift for her for having to go through such an ordeal.

The problem with making dolls from the 80s era are the hairstyles. They are always so voluminous and don’t usually translate well painted on, so I decided, even though my wig-making skills are still sub-par, I should give it a shot. Creating Louise’s hair happened at 2 AM one night after one too many cups of coffee and pain tablets the day I got a cortisone shot on my shoulder so I was a bit cranked to the max, so to speak, fuelled also by the most exciting chapters in Ruth Ware’s One By One on audio. When the dust cleared, there were wisps of hair everywhere, coffee splotches here and there, and me nursing only a few injuries from felting needle related accidents. Still, I wonder if I could ever Top That night.

The Mr. Weaver VooDoo doll. He was a disgusting teacher so this action by Louise the Teen Witch was just.

The Wolf of Wharf Street

Happy Halloween! I am swamped as always this time of year and hadn’t originally planned on doing a Bob’s Burgers Halloween set but I had mistakenly ordered a tiny set of three dolls and decided it shouldn’t take too much time to knock them out after after after hours.

This year features only the Belcher kids in their costumes from season 8’s episode Wolf of Wharf Street where Tina is dressed as “Mom-bie” (a zombie Linda), Gene as a bunch of grapes, and Louise as Anton Chigurh from “No Country for Old Man.” She is so cool. For years I’ve been trying to talk my niece into dressing as a shirime, which is an easy enough costume to make (a body suit and a big styrofoam ball cut in half) but so far no joy. Louise would’ve been all over it!

A shirime is, as far as I know, is a step above a flasher. As you see no naughty bits are really on display as the “winking brown eye” is an actual eye but those who were flashed by a shirime find it upsetting all the same.

Okay. I never said I was a good aunt.

Mini Addams Family

Due to the descending diminutiveness of nesting dolls, I don’t often offer the option of mini sets past six dolls. I did, however, for the Addams Family set because I had been able to procure a smaller sized set of 7 dolls in the past and knew I had one more of those left in my arsenal. Unfortunately, when I went into my supply bin to unearth what I am convinced now is a mythical product because I couldn’t locate it, I spiraled into a mad panic. Now, panicking is not allowed in my sweatshop for more than 2 minutes at a time so I got my act together and quickly pulled out all my bins and attempted to Frankenstein a mini set. “Frankensteining” is a term I use to put together a set of dolls using loose ones sitting at the bottom of these bins. In the past I have successfully put together many sets using this method and the belt sander so I was hoping to do the same here.
The only problem is that in order to put together a set of 7 dolls with this method, the last two dolls had to be extremely tiny, the girth approximate to the other ones, the descending height not incongruous, and that they all fit together. I was so relieved to have found two extremely tiny, specks, really, dolls for the last in the set. The best one is just a hair too big for the sixth doll so I got to work with my Dremel, which died as soon as I turned it on. I had no choice but to use Husband’s one, which is plugged into a coil of messy cords out in the garage. A minute later the speck of a doll skittered out of my hands and promptly disappeared. I conducted a half hearted search and knew exactly how people who were tasked to find a needle in a haystack felt before giving up and went to examine the second and last speck doll.
It was a little tinier than the one I lost, but I was confident I could successfully paint Wednesday Addams on it. Just in case, I made a tiny barrier in my work space and hardly breathed at all whilst painting her. Between painting she is kept in a sealed jar, just in case. I’ve learned my lesson.
So here it is, the set that I’ve painted many times before but made me think a lot about eye and mental health nonetheless.

The Vampires of Staten Island

I have to admit I was a bit trepidatious when I heard there was a TV version of “What We Do in the Shadows” in development. I watched the first episode filled with that very same trepidation. By the very end, I was hooked. I was glad there’s an entirely new cast of characters for the TV series instead of trying to get someone to fill the bloody fangs from the movie. Due to the recent global events, I had forgotten all about season two until someone emailed me and asked me if I could paint a doll modelled after the lone female vampire in the cast. Intrigued, I watched a couple of clips recommended and all my recent troubles were forgotten. Yes, it was this show that had pulled me out of some serious funk. After I painted the Nadja doll, I decided to give the cast a whirl. It took about an eon to finish it since I was only able to paint it at the end of very long work nights but it was worth it!

The guy playing Nandor, Kayvan Novak, is an uber hottie under all that hair and beard! He’s like the English’s version of Jason Momoa. Apart from Matt Berry I don’t know anyone in the cast (except for Mark Porksch, who had a brief cameo in “Corporate”) and I must admit I find all of them delightful.