Here at Anouk central we were absolutely thrilled when we were contacted by Kimberly Allen Bengali. She is an experienced designer that has shifted her attention and talents to dolls and their environments. Kimberly has a brand new concept for creating a flexible and versatile living space for your favourite doll.
With a brief set by me, she more than rose to the challenge of creating a room that fitted in with Anouk's aesthetic and time period. The detail is just exquisite:
|So many details and little touches. A glorious colour scheme!|
|Exquisite mountable portraits of series 2 Anouk in Japan dolls|
I'm so grateful to Kimberly for her hard work in creating such a lovely room. I will post a more extensive blog entry when the series 3 dolls are ready, to showcase this marvellous room in more detail. For now, an interview with the wonderful designer who created all this.
How did you get into doll furniture making?
I began making doll furniture because I wanted to offer designer furniture and dollhouses that doll enthusiasts of all ages could get excited about. I had seen enough of what was offered "out there" in the stores and I knew there was a need for truly beautiful spaces for dolls. I also wanted to share my vision with doll enthusiast that they should be able to design their own doll rooms in a way that reflected their own personal style and personality. I believe that those who play with, or collect dolls, are very artistic and imaginative by nature; that is what draws them to the world of make-believe. The doll furniture I saw in the stores was plastic, usually pink, and completely unrealistic. It certainly wasn't going to satisfy the creative types out there who were passionate about their dolls! So I set out to offer something that would not only satisfy them, but inspire creativity and self-expression.
I learned to love interior design as a child, while playing with a dollhouse my mom made me and my sisters. I found great satisfaction in the process of decorating the rooms, playing in them and then re-decorating them again. I want to bring that joy to others. Creativity brings joy!
What dolls do you collect?
I have a very small collection of dolls. My focus has always been about the rooms where dolls live. But I have two beautiful Blythe dolls, one of which is an amazing custom collaboration doll made by three outstanding artists in the Blythe world. I won her at a Blythe-Con in San Francisco last year. I also have some classic Barbie dolls. I am excited to be adding two Anouk dolls to my collection. I've only seen pictures of them and can't wait to get them in my hands because I find their style extremely inspiring. I make my best doll rooms when I have a special muse I'm designing for!
What are my influences or favourite styles?
I absolutely love art! Whether it's a painting, a photograph, a sculpture, or even a musical composition, if the piece moves me, I can be deeply influenced by it. Sometimes I cry when I listen to music, sometimes it's when I look at a beautiful painting. I'm so bad about it that it's become a family joke. But, the point is, I get extremely inspired by the creativity of "the Masters" and that truly influences me and my designs. In no way can I compare myself to those "Greats" that I admire, but they certainly influence me! Once, I created an entire doll room around a favourite painting called "Dancer with Castanets", by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. The colours and textures in the subject's costume were exquisite, the dancers skin was milky and supple; her curves were so lovely. I designed the room as if I knew her personally. And to be honest, I secretly wanted to be her. :) She was inspiring and because of that, I poured my heart and soul into that room. Right now, there's a painting by Pablo Picasso that I am itching to design a room around. It will be more modern that the Renoir room!
When it comes to design styles, I find it hard to pin myself down to one specific style that I love more than others. In fact, the more I learn about design, the more difficult it is to choose a favourite style. They are all so amazing in their own way. Learning about furniture and understanding the reason why a certain era favoured curved lines, while another stuck with simple straight lines, makes me appreciate the styles for where they came from, what the designers were thinking at the time and mostly, how people lived.
Please explain your process of manufacture and design
When designing a custom room, I start by having a consultation with my client to determine exactly the type of space they hope for. When we talk, we go over eras and styles they love, which helps me determine what style of furniture to build. I ask questions about colour preferences, how they want the room to feel; cozy and welcoming or ultra-modern and cool. The doll's "personality" is really important to understand. What is her imaginary life like? Is she a hopelessly romantic, traditional girl, or is she modern, spunky and unpredictable. Is she a city girl or does she favour a slower pace of life? Does she play sports? Does she love to visit the art museum? They more I know about the doll's lifestyle and personality, the better prepared I am to make a room where the doll looks right at home and that the doll collector will absolutely love!
As you know, when I designed the room for Anouk, I listened very carefully to you, Nav. You wanted a certain look, using specific colours and styles. I listened to what you said, did some research of my own, and then, using what I know about design, I ran with it. But, I didn't do it without checking in with you regularly to see if you were happy with where it was headed, right? The room turned out well because we communicated along the way. When designing a room, one really needs to understand the person who will live there and what will make them happy. I think aAnouk will be happy in her new room, thanks to your helping me to see her for the smart, modern, independent girl she is!
What attracted you to offer your services for Anouk?
For a long time, I watched posts about Anouk on Facebook. Each time I saw her in my feed, I found myself more and more drawn to her unique style. I also found it fascinating to watch what the fans said and to see the pictures they so generously shared with each other of their own Anouk dolls. Their enthusiasm was contagious! Up to that point, I really hadn't stepped into the world of the doll collectors because I was more focused on the rooms and interior design. But I was inspired by these Anouk pictures I kept seeing and by her fans! I longed to get involved, and for me, the obvious choice was by creating a room especially for her.
What does the future hold?
I definitely see myself doing custom rooms for doll collectors for a long time to come because the creative process is so satisfying to me! I have other directions I am going, as well. I feel very strongly about getting people into the creative process because I believe it brings people a great deal of joy to make something they can be proud of. With that in mind, I have been designing do-it-yourself kits for doll rooms. With these easy rooms, doll enthusiasts have a hand in all the fun parts of design without having to build a house or furniture, and they can do it one simple room at a time. I have a few test kits out and I am getting a lot of rave reviews from moms and daughters alike! They love being able to paint the walls in colors of their choice, then add stencil borders, if they like, choose fabrics for easy no-sew curtains and pillows, select art work, create floral arrangements, etc. It's basically a blank slate and that is super fun because they can take it in any direction they choose.
We all love to express who we are and I hope to really take that concept into the dollhouse world by offering structures, furniture, and accessories along with some very simple instructional decor how-to videos to help the designer along with the project. I really want to spotlight my client's doll rooms for the world to see by showcasing the projects online and giving the creator a chance to shine! I think this will really inspire creativity and help them feel happy and accomplished! People just get so awesome when they tap into their creativity! Wouldn't you agree, Nav?
I hope to help that process by offering a way for them to see how clever they can be when they use their imagination!
As yo see Kimberly has a lot of ideas and you will be hearing more from her in the future no doubt! As for me, I am just dying to get my series 3 dolls here, so I can start to play and post some lovely pics for us all to enjoy! Stay tuned :-)