JJ Buch – doll artist interview – part two

Q. Did you play with paper dolls as a kid? Do you have a favorite vintage paper doll that still makes you smile?

JJ Bush's doll, Vanessa, Latin dancerA. Yes, yes… the Ginghams little girls from the 70s, and Betsy McCalls from my Grandmother’s magazines. I made a paperdoll of my Grandmother in her honor, it is called “Amazing Grace”.

I was a tiny tot–not even two, they said–when I sat on her kitchen linoleum and made a paper coatdress for my doll out of the waxy paper liner from a cereal box. It was primitive, a basic rectangular shape with two carefully torn holes for the doll’s arms to go through. I know, it’s not exactly a paper doll per se, but I think it counts.

Q. What’s the most rewarding part of being in the paper art doll business?

A. The responses! Sometimes as an artist I think, “Well, I wonder if my art is as good as they told me it was?”

You know people won’t say it’s awful even if it is, so I wonder…Am I really a good artist?

The responses to my art have been overwhelming, just beautiful! I’ve made friends and they make me feel like making more art. Even if it never gets me famous or rich…even if I die a pauper, I made someone smile! I made them love me! That’s really all it is.

Q. If someone wants to pursue this as a career direction, what’s your best advice? What are the best books to read, if any?

A. First, go to eBay. Look at all the types of paperdolls there are, what sells commonly, and what is considered “rare”.

Realize that there are stupid people who won’t recognize true art but will pay ridiculous sums for things that can be easily mass-produced and resold on auction sites.

Then realize that one day you may be one of those stupid people because you’ll pay a million dollars for a tattered old stained copy of a Ginghams girls paperdoll booklet. Heh heh.

Then notice what the original artists’ works are going for; it may be exciting or depressing. I felt both.

You may notice other things selling by the same artists in other categories, such as art or books or jewelry. This is common because it’s very very rare to make enough money creating paperdolls alone, without a side business to help support it.

Most paper doll artists, serious ones, also make things to be sold at paper doll conventions, paper doll parties, and online at their websites. They have newsletters and fan-based groups to help support their promotions. They give programs or speeches at doll clubs.

Some famous paper doll artists are collectors or experts in related fields, such as regular dolls or dollhouse miniatures.

The really savvy artist will make use of all these things together to bring new viewers to their work.

Here are some important points:

  1. Make a website. Title it with the word(s) “paperdoll” in it, and submit it to the major search engines.
  2. Join several webrings to bring traffic to your website.
  3. Begin a list of contacts and send them updates on your latest works, life, everything! Let them get to know you.
  4. Also start a paper doll collecting group in your area. This helps with networking and keeps you busy!

From there it’s up to you. I wish you the best of luck!

Aisling’s note: JJ has generously shared one of her fun paper dolls, here. Right-click on that link to save it to your hard drive, and then print it at 200 pixels/inch. (216kb) To use it at a larger size, I recommend using VectorMagic.com to vectorize the image, then adjust it to the size you want.

Be sure to look for JJ’s websites for more of her paper dolls and related art. As of mid-2015, I don’t have a current link for her work. If you do, please leave the link in a comment, below. Thanks!

The following links were part of the original 2005 article. They may not be current.

JJ on Webring (2005)

 

 

 

 

$1 Download Paper Dolls by JJ Complete Catalog w/ Viewable Thumbnails http://www.angelfire.com/fang/jjspds/thumbs

Owner of “Portrait Paperdolls” To join, send an email to: portraitpaperdolls-subscribe@smartgroups.com

Owner of “Ephemera Restoration” To Join, send an email to: ephemera-restoration-subscribe@smartgroups.com

JJ Buch – doll artist interview – part one

JJ Bush holding a small paper doll (older photo)In January 2005, I had the great good fortune to interview paper doll artist JJ Buch.

She’s one of my idols, because her art has a very clear “voice” and her concepts are consistently innovative and often delightfully witty.

Here’s the interview*, on two pages:

Q. How did you get started with paper dolls?

A. In 1998, after receiving the grim news that I would never bear any children of my own, I was surfing the net for distraction. I happened upon the OPDAG (Original Paper Doll Artists Guild) website and saw all the inspiring paper dolls and artists there…I said to myself, “I can do that”, and made my first official paper doll.

The doll got rave reviews from my friends so I made another, then another, and now I have over 100 sets under my wing.

Q. What inspires you? Why paper dolls… instead of some other medium?

A. Emotions and anything that draws them out…the news, counter culture issues, the black market, tragedies and also victories of science and, yes, even religion. But moreso spiritual things than religious ones.

I feel more inspired by caves and tunnels and falling down gorgeous old architecture than I do cathedrals, but gorgeous stained glass does take my breath away.

It’s only things of beauty that are already perfect, that don’t seem to stir my creative urge as do things more carnal and dark.

I do love children, I feel very protective of all children. I do not think all of my paperdolls and art are appropriate for the little ones. But I do nevertheless make dolls of all ages and wages, heh heh.

By that, I mean dolls representing all incomes and ethnicities.

Also big women and voluptuous, even figures with overflowing flesh and aged to perfection…real life and unreal expectations: both the holy and the hideous, the innocent and the ones who’ve “seen it all, kid.”

Paperdolls are low cost to make, so no boundaries there. I made the first one out of a church flyer taped to my front door, a placemat from the local IHOP, and ink pens my husband brought home from work. Snip, snip… voila!

Q. If you were stranded on a desert island and could only take the bare minimum of supplies to make paper dolls… what would you consider “essentials”?

A. Scissors; it’s very tedious to tear out the dolls by hand. I suppose one could use berry juice and a stick to draw them on dried palm leaves…

Q. How long does it take you to create one of your fabulous doll sheets?

A. Ooo, a black-and-white one-pager only takes an hour or two. But to finish it out and make it flawless, I use a computer graphics program and I scan it with a scanner. I print it out with a good quality printer, and make back-up files on a CD.

To make a custom one-page 8 1/2 x 11″ full color paperdoll plus, say, 2 outfits and the background accessories, I can do it all in a week, or a few days if the pay is good.

Q. Do you sit down and the ideas flood your creativity, or is it something where you get the basics down, and then you add a little here & there as it occurs to you, until it’s done?

A. No, I am always thinking of things and they all go into a mental kitchen where there are always things cooking up in various stages of ready to finish.

The new ideas always go on a back burner to simmer UNLESS it is something for a paid commission or a publication.

Then, it gets a front burner and I move all the other pots full of ideas back, to make room.

Money definitely gets a paperdoll moved to the front and it will get done first!

I am a starving artist but do not intend to remain that way; I have a husband and 3 fat dogs to feed, after all.

Q. What would you tell someone who wants to find their own creative “voice” in paper art dolls?

A. Hahah! Don’t go into it without a job, or someone who is willing to support you financially and emotionally because the money that does come, has to pay for materials and postage and to pay the bills… to cut back on when the water won’t come out the faucet, the electricity won’t make the lights bright, the mortgage holder is going to come take the house away, and you’re so sick of ramen noodles you could throw up.

NOW! If–after all that–you don’t care to make a living with them, and just want to enjoy making them for fun and for love? It’s beautiful…you just keep drawing them and coloring until you realize one day, “Hey! My paperdoll art is really good! I like it… No I LOVE it!” And there you go.

I really like the first 10 dolls I made, before I saw all the other artists’ work.

Your own ingenious designs are always more authentic and more… BETTER… than after you’ve been influenced too much by other opinions.

Finding your own voice, is just not listening too much to the other voices. and let me tell you I am bipolar (manic-depressive) so I know all about other voices, Ha hah!

* Aisling’s note: When I interviewed JJ via email, she replied in mostly lower-case. I wanted to leave it like that, because I generally write in lower-case, myself.

But, to make this more readable for website visitors — and with very mixed feelings about doing this — I edited it into a more traditional format.

But, be assured that JJ’s unique “voice” in emails is just as clear as it is in her art; it’s another reason why I admire her tremendously!