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!
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