Wednesday, January 2, 2019

"It's a Doll Affair" Kelsey

Custom Kelsey Doll From Carol Linacre

I have had the great pleasure of purchasing a couple of custom Journey Girl dolls from an amazing artist, Carol Linacre.  My most recent purchase was Kelsey.  Carol takes the base doll and does a “face up”, improving upon the dolls facial features, making them look much more realistic.  Carol mostly customizes American Girl dolls, but sometimes does Journey Girls and other brands of dolls, creating beautiful additions to anyone’s collection.  I thought it might be neat to look at Kelsey and the new details that Carol added, just to get an idea of what is possible with the Journey Girls.

Carol does an amazing job of keeping the original feel of the doll intact, while enhancing the dolls features.  I have seen some customizations that add eye liner, eye shadow, and darken the lips a lot.  They are beautiful customs, but I really like the more natural look that Carol does in her customizations.  So let’s see what she did!

Note: Kelsey just had her face customized, the doll is still an Australian release Journey Girls Kelsey, which as many of you know, means her joints are stiff, her legs spread like crazy when she sits, and the vinyl is prone to staining.

Carol wrapped Kelsey up before shipping her to me. 

The outer box fit around the Journey Girls box perfectly, but even so, Carol added a little padding just in case. 

Even covering her face, just to make sure that there were no scuff marks in case the shipping company got rough with the package.

Kelsey has her original Australia meet outfit on, and the purse that comes with the outfit.  Carol added a few bonus items in with her.   

She has a new puppy (I named her Pugly) to take care of and love.

There is a scuff/mark remover with instructions on how to use it.  And then finally a note from Carol with photos of Kelsey after she was finished being customized, along with her Certificate of Authenticity, which has the artist's signature, when Kelsey was finished, and her certification that she is one of a kind. I love that Carol includes the Certificate of Authenticity for two reasons: first it legitimizes the doll as something new/different from the original Journey Girls doll, and two, it has her signature for her work of art, which is very important.

For Kelsey's "Face-up", Carol adds shading to areas that would naturally have shading, for example around the nose, mouth, and upper eye lids.  

There is deeper shading on Kelsey’s mouth than underneath her nose, as the space on her mouth is deeper.   Her lips are a very natural color, but have been enhanced with vertical lines that mimic the skin on our lips.  

There is also slight shading to give the lips a more realistic look, as our lips are not all the same color.

Kelsey’s cheeks are blushed, as is the bridge of her nose, and a little bit of her forehead. Again this mimics the coloring that naturally happens in us as humans.  

The Australian dolls did come with some cheek blushing, but this looks more uniform and is not just on the top of the cheeks.  Around Kelsey’s nose there is shading as well as on her philtrum (that’s the little divot between or nose and lips).

A fuller set of eyebrows helps make Kelsey’s face look more realistic.  Carol changed the arch of the brows to look more realistic, setting them lower on Kelsey's face.  Gone is the high "surprise" arch that many of the Australian Journey Girls originally came with.  

Most of our eyebrows are like this with multiple colors of hair rather than one uniform color. The detail work on these thin hairs is awesome!  I love how the eyebrows arch, and how they feature on Kelsey’s face now that they are fuller.  Plus the color is a closer match to her hair.

I was so happy to see the Australian Kelsey with freckles.  As most of you know, my original Kelsey I customized by adding freckles (and I like to believe that is where Toys R Us got their inspiration to freckle Kelsey - J ).  Carol adds beautiful freckles to more of Kelsey’s face.  

Most of them are on her cheeks, like the original doll, but they are on her nose and up the side of her face also.  I love the non-uniform look of the freckles.  

They are different shapes and colors with no discernable pattern, which is an important piece of making the freckles look more realistic.  The freckles are perfectly imperfect!

Carol does a lot of customization to Kelsey's eyes.  I mentioned that she added shading to the upper lid of the eye, where the eye socket and the upper eye lid meet, creating a more realistic looking eyelid. She has added a line (the same color as Kelsey's eyebrows), almost like eyeliner, on the outer edge of the lower eyelid, accentuating it while also making it look more realistic. 

Below that, fine drawn/painted in eyelashes create a full, realistic look to Kelsey's eyes that was missing from the original.  A small amount of pink was added in the inner corner of the eye (the lacrimal caruncle) to finish the lower lid.  There is a gloss on the lid and the corner for that realistic touch.

Along with the shading on the upper lids, Carol adds another set of eyelashes, but not the same type as are already on Kelsey.  These ones are auburn, like her hair, creating a much more natural look, especially when they are mixed with the black eyelashes already on the doll.  

The addition of the new lashes really draws you in to Kelsey's beautiful green eyes (new for this release of Kelsey).

It looks like all of the custom work was then sealed so that it stays on Kelsey's face.  That being said, I don't know that I would give Kelsey to an 8 year old.  More likely an adult collector or a child in 
their teens.  And since the joints can be touchy, you wouldn't want to break them on such a wonderful doll.

I love this iteration of Kelsey!  The details that Carol added to her are amazing!  They accentuate the beautiful facial features of the Journey Girls dolls and really bring out the eye color in Kelsey. I love the addition of realistic freckles and eyelashes. It is amazing how different these things make Kelsey look!  

At about 3x the cost of a normal Journey Girls doll, customized dolls aren't for everyone.  For me, the cost was completely worth it.  My "It's a Doll Affair" Kelsey is worth every penny.

For more information on Carol's awesome work check out her webpage or follow her on Instagram @itsadollaffair

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Meredith: Journey Girl's in Japan

Reviewing the New Japan Release Meredith Doll

Amidst all of the sadness (and some anger) of Toys R Us closing due to bankruptcy, it was rumored that the Journey Girls may get a second life.  I believed, as did many others, that this meant another company would buy the rights to the Journey Girls brand from Toys R Us as part of the bankruptcy deal, then sell then in their store/online.  The investors at TRU had other ideas though.  They ended up filing to keep the Journey Girls (along with Imaginarium, Fast Lane, and a few other intellectual property rights) and sell the toys themselves to companies.   This has made it so that they Journey Girls live on, but in a limited way at this time.

Journey Girls can be found at Kroger owned stores around the country.  From what I have found online, they sell last years Australian release dolls, and the new Super Fashion Pack, but only in store, nothing online.  Shopko has two dolls from last years release (Kyla, and Mikaella), the new Dana and Meredith doll, and the Super Fashion Pack, both in stores and online.  Right now, there is no information as to if more of the dolls will show up on shelves.  Hopefully they will.  Keep an eye on the Facebook page and on Instagram for news.

For this new release Meredith comes in a cornflower blue sweater, with a black plaid faux long sleeve shirt underneath. She is wearing a knee-length black leather skirt, black and gray loafers, and has a bright yellow hand bag.  Meredith is the same doll as the Australian release, just with new clothes.

That means that she comes with the same issues as last years dolls.  Her joints are tight to the point that they are hard to move.  And knowing how the joints work, it makes me nervous to move them when they stick, because the plastic rod that holds the joint together is liable to break.  My Meredith's head and right arm are extremely bad.  Her left arm is okay.  You can lessen the likelihood of the joint breaking by slowly moving it up and down.  You will feel the joint pop into resting places as you do this.  Keep moving it until those pops are less noticeable.  If you hear clicking when you move the joint, that is a bad sign.  The joint could already be breaking.  Again, very cautiously move the joint back and forth to help make it less vulnerable to breaking.

Before Toys R Us changed to the new face molds, the Journey Girls sat decently.  They had the typical 18" doll issue of spreading their legs very wide to stay upright, but it was close to how American Girls and Our Generation dolls sat.  The newer dolls are just a few degrees from doing the splits completely.  And Meredith won't sit at all unless you put her arms back.

This is due to where the leg joints are placed in the cloth body, and the fact that the Journey Girls have not butts.  American Girls and Our Generation dolls have the legs further forward, and then have stuffing in the back.  Journey Girls legs are more in the middle of the doll, so when they are moved for the doll to sit, she can't really do it without some help.

The last rant I have is about the vinyl.   I don't know if the vinyl has changed since the Journey Girls were released.  What I do know is that outfits stain the Journey Girls dolls and don't stain other brands of dolls.  Even after washing outfits I have still found stain marks on my dolls.  Some of the worst stains were on the dolls when I bought them (like Chavonne) There have also been issues with discolored spots in the vinyl(my very 1st Kelsey has this issue).

On to the review of Meredith's outfit.

Meredith comes wearing a bright cornflower blue sweater with cuffs, a collar, and an untucked bottom of a checked shirt.  A tight weave and a polyester fabric make the sweater kind of flat.  This is definitely not a heavy wool sweater.  I personally really like this color.

It brings Meredith's eye color out really well.  The black and white checked shirt under the sweater looks like it is a separate shirt.  Unfortunately that is not the case.  Sewn into the sweater, the shirt is really only the cuffs collar and the untucked end of the short.  It would have been awesome to have the shirt separate from the sweater.  This design makes it much easier to dress the doll as you don't have to hold the shirt sleeve as the sweater goes on.  As with most Journey Girls tops, this one Velcros in the back, only opening 3/4 of the way down.

Meaning you have to slide the sweater up Meredith's legs.  Inside the sweater is a layer of white fabric, protecting the vinyl from the bright blue pigment. The length on this top is perfect and the fit is great!

The black "leather" skirt is knee length on Meredith.  Although the skirt will rise up higher, especially after you sit her down.  When Meredith sits down the skirt becomes a micro skirt as Meredith's spread out legs pushes the skirt up higher on her body.

The "leather" skirt is made of three pieces of fabric, a middle "V" section with two pieces that wrap around to the back on either side.  On the back of the skirt a one inch slit at the top makes it easier to get the skirt on.  Velcro on the slit holds the skirt up.

There is a second layer of black fabric under the leather.  It is shorter than the leather skirt, so you don't see it at first.  The skirt's fabric is thick, strong, and really nice.  Even though it is does not fit Meredith well when she sits, this skirt is still awesome!

Journey Girls have come with the same types of shoes for awhile, but this year most of the shoes are brand new designs.

Meredith comes with black loafer style shoes, which is a new design.  There is grey on the tongue of the loafer, but nothing much else distinguishing on it.  Like most of the plastic shoes that Journey Girls makes, these loafers go on easily.

I love this design and I'm glad to see a different shoe other than the dress flats that we were getting for so many years!

Meredith's purse is a bright yellow, leather, handbag.  The straps aren't quite long enough to go around her shoulder, but they will fit around her wrist.

At the top of the purse a piece of Velcro keeps the purse closed.  A small "heart" charm hangs from the handle, made of the same leather as the bag.  This purse is made really well.

The leather itself is very nice, but so are the seams and the design.  I do wish it could be worn around the shoulder, but it looks lovely on Meredith's wrist, bringing a pop of color to the outfit!

A few years back Journey Girls started to release their dolls with underwear.  Yay!  It wasn't the best a matter of fact it was kind of awful.  Last year with the Australian release two underwear accessory packs were available, both of them were made really well.  Meredith comes with better undies than we've seen in the past.

They are made of a stretchy cotton, rather than the stiff cotton that the old ones were made of.  These underwear actually fit on the doll's waist and legs, compared to the old ones that were baggy.  A nice unexpected surprise

All ratings are out of 10

Value 8 – The design of this outfit is good.  Having a sweater over a long sleeve shirt is a great look, but I wish that it really was a sweater over a shirt.  Compared to Dana's new outfit, Meredith's seems like it is missing some accessories.  That being said, the skirt is made extremely well, the new shoes are really cute, and the accent purse is made really well.  I am not fully including the doll in this review number, as the doll would bring the outfit down to a 5 or 6.  These joints are just not good!

Fitment 8 – Perfect fit for the clothes when Meredith is standing, but sit her down and the skirt covers nothing.  That really isn't the fault of the clothes designer, as the skirt is about the right width if Meredith's legs bent straight out when she sat, it really is the design of the doll.  The skirt could be a bit looser on the bottom to accommodate the leg spread though. 

Versatility 8 – Again, if the top was actually two pieces this would get a higher rating, but since it is one piece, there isn't as much that you can do with it.  The black leather skirt has huge potential to be used with many different types of outfits.  As do the shoes.  They are great for school outfits, casual outfits, they go with jeans or skirts.  Good job with the shoes!  And an accent purse is always welcome!

Cuteness 7 –  Not my favorite outfit, especially in this release (oh I hope they release Ilee!!!).  But it is cute.  I especially love how much it brings out the color in Meredith's eyes.  The skirt and shoes are my favorite part of the outfit.  I feel like the top could be all sorts of different things and it would still work for this outfit.  Maybe a Japanese sports team jersey, since Meredith is the sporty girl.

Overall 8 – It is better than other release outfits.  Every release there are outfits that really stand out is great and others that feel like the design team says, "well we need a few more outfits, what can we piece together?".   That's what this outfit feels like.  It has no vibe specific to Japan, nothing that says this is obviously Meredith's outfit, nothing that stands out as extraordinary.  It's a good outfit, just nothing outstanding.   If you don't love it, wait on buying the doll.  Hopefully the other dolls will be released early 2019 and we can get some of the other outfits!