The modern world is full of wonders and delights thanks to leaps in technology. I was already aware of the rather nifty concept of 3D printing – producing three-dimensional objects in plastic by “printing” layer upon fine layer of plastic to build up a solid shape rather than a flat ink-on-paper image, but other than its use in prototype design and medicine it seemed a gimmick more than anything.
I was wrong – a firm in London has come up with the genius concept that is the world’s first 3D printed doll. Makies. Wow.
I became aware of this via Maxine over on her My Doll Best Friend blog, who was lucky enough to see the range of limited edition pre-made dolls currently being sold in Selfridges London. I think the boy doll, Tesla is my favourite of this range. Be sure and visit her post with many fab photos of the dolls to see the limited editions up close.
What caught my attention more is the fact that the non-iimited edition Makies are “designer” dolls, in that you get to be the designer. Using the software on their website, or the iPhone app (nothing for Android users yet, alas), you use sliders to customise your own doll. You can choose between male and female, and currently four skin tones, the basic white plus a pale-ish pink (strawberry milk), a pale green (pistachio) and a brown-ish hue (cocoa bean), each achieved by adding coloured dye to the white base plastic used – the company hope to offer a wider range of skin tones in the future.
Designing the doll to your own specifications should be familiar to anyone who has customised an avatar on game sites and some social media apps. You pick an eye colour and use sliders to control eye shape, tilt, whether it has wide eyes or more narrowed eyelids, the height and tilt of the eyebrows, whether they are heavy or light… Then there’s the ears, you can have sticky-out ones, or make them pointy – your own green-skinned elf doll, perhaps? And choose the shape of the jaw, the fullness of the cheeks, the way the mouth looks, the amount of variation is amazing.
Once you have the face sorted, its on to wig choice, and then selecting an outfit, with the “doll” appearing in each fashion choice with you able to rotate them a full 360º to check how they look from all angles. You can make as many avatar dolls as you like and save them, or just go straight on to ordering the doll to be made to exactly match your design.
A custom-printed doll with wig and outfit costs £99 including UK delivery and will turn up in a black cardboard tube which looks very smart. It all seems a very slick and well thought-out process, and judging by posts and images on the members board on the site, everyone has been having great fun coming up with new and unique designs. There are vampires, elves, even anime-style characters by virtue of the bright hair colour options on the wigs, the only limit is your imagination.
The dolls themselves are 10″ high and ball-jointed, at knees and elbows, shoulders and hips, even wrists and ankles, making them incredibly poseable. The whole thing snaps together, and the face is snapped onto the head section, with removable eyes. The wig also snaps on, and the online shop sells wigs so you can change the doll’s look as often as you changes its clothes – a wide range of outfits is also available.
The dolls remind me most of the Japanese ball-jointed dolls I’ve been admiring for years, the very expensive Japanese ball-jointed dolls, so this is another level of temptation for me. Makie owners have been posting photos of their dolls on the MakieLab Facebook page if you want to see more examples of what’s possible.
The only caveat to all this wonder is that the dolls come unpainted. I think this is the allure behind the limited edition ones from Selfridges, they have a full “face-up” as it seems to be called, including eyelashes and the like. The base doll you will get, having designed and printed your own, has no detailing on the features, just the plain plastic of the face. They are still very attractive but, well, you rather expect the main features to be accented somewhat.. Given the customising design method this isn’t surprising, I realised after some thought, and reading the forums reveals that new doll owners seem to be having just as much fun doing their own face-ups on the dolls as they did in coming up with its unique look.
The BJD collectors have been doing this face-up stuff for years and so there are plenty of tutorials and products out there, and clever use of quite ordinary art supplies such as watercolour pencil and pastel chalk seem to be the most popular choices. I suspect its a little more challenging than it looks to get a really good result, but a simple bit of colour on lips and brows should be achievable, at least I hope so once I end up ordering my own.
Check out this video to see a full face-up, including the way the Makie doll comes apart so the face section is more like a mask, allowing the paint job to be done without getting colours onto the eyes or wig, or the rest of the doll.
Its good to know all the Makies are produced in the UK and Europe, another bonus when so many companies are out-sourcing manufacture to China these days. All in all I’m lost in wonder and admiration at Makie dolls, just can’t seem to decide on exactly how mine should look. Half the fun is fiddling with those sliders and seeing the result mind, oh and being inspired by other folks’ creations.
UPDATE: June 2017 – it seems Makies are no longer in existence, according to an announcement on their facebook page they have been bought by a US firm, so we’ll just have to wait and see what develops. Read about that here:
All images and screenshots of the design software © MakieLab