I am a freelance writer and diversional therapist, living in Brisbane's North West. I write for Weekend Notes, Must do Brisbane and Starts at Sixty. Visit my blogs at babybloomin.wordpress.com and brisbanetripster.wordpress.com.
Published April 24th 2015
Tree Change Dolls get a second chance
The Tree Change gang. Image created and copyright held by Sonia Singh
We hear many stories about people making sea changes and tree changes, but this is a story about a tree change with a difference.
In a private home in Hobart, Tasmania something rather wonderful is happening. Sonia Singh, scientist, artist and illustrator has become an accidental success. Sonia was made redundant from her position as a science communicator with CSIRO in September 2014 and found herself with time to enjoy a life long passion - playing with dolls. With a shy laugh she says she was embarrassed to be playing with dolls at the age of 34 but that she and her sister grew up playing with secondhand dolls and home-made toys and her love of dolls has endured.
Ready for the outdoors. Image created and copyright held by Sonia Singh
Sonia began scouring tip shops, op shops and second hand stores in southern Tasmania, buying unloved and unwanted dolls for bargain basement prices. Her plan? She had the idea of giving these dolls a second chance at life by giving each one of them a "make under". The results are amazing. Many, but not all of the dolls that Sonia has saved are Bratz dolls. She transforms these high-fashion, highly made-up, mass produced and artificial looking dolls into beautiful, childlike and down to earth personalities who appear to be all set to enjoy life in the great outdoors.
The Tree Change Dolls are dressed by Sonia's Mum. Image created and copyright held by Sonia Singh
The make under process begins with the clean up. All make up is removed using nail polish containing acetone and any leftover smudge marks are removed with eucalyptus oil. Sonia works her artist's magic and creates new faces and characteristics and sometimes alters the skin tone. If needed, the dolls' hair is cut, shaped and restyled to give them a more natural look.
Next comes the wardrobe. Sonia's Mum is an expert knitter and seamstress and now makes the clothes for the Tree Change Dolls. And what a great job she does! No two dolls have the same outfit, their clothes are all individual and styled to make them appear childlike.
The artist's talents don't end there. She repairs and makes new feet for her upcycled creations. She also models shoes and boots for these dolls, using a product known as Oogoo. This is a fiddly and time consuming task, but the results speak for themselves.
New shoes are part of the Tree Change treatment. Image created and copyright held by Sonia Singh
Sonia has undertaken this creative journey because (aside from her obvious passion for dolls) she is aware of the toys her own daughter plays with - and naturally she prefers her Mum's dolls to any other. Yes, Sonia loves dolls but she also likes the idea of recycling, repairing, upcycling and giving things a second chance. Much time and patience goes into the Tree Change Dolls - they are certainly a labour of love. Of her work, Sonia's husband, John says, "She's just so nice to them - she's really nice to them."
Both Sonia and John are overwhelmed at the attention that the Tree Change Dolls are attracting. They have recently been on an American morning TV program and made it into a Spanish newspaper. It seems fair to say that these pint sized characters have become a global sensation and the unique dolls are in demand. At no point has Sonia considered becoming a manufacturer. Neither has she intended to make any statement about the mass produced dolls available in stores today. She says, however, "If my dolls make the big toy companies rethink the type of dolls they're putting out there, I don't think that'd be a bad thing at all."
Wow, what a difference! Image created and copyright held by Sonia Singh
Each month, Sonia auctions one of her Tree Change Dolls on eBay, with all profits made being donated to charity. A recent auction resulted in a price tag of $1,600 AUS!
So what happens now? Sonia says she can only make so many dolls at a time. Starting with only 12 dolls, it seems she now has her hands full. She hopes to make this a small creative business and encourages others to upcycle their own dolls. You'll find videos on the Tree Change Dolls, their creation and their journey on YouTube. If you'd like to see Sonia at work, click here.
So what do the kids think of Sonia's dolls? One little girl said, "They're much nicer to play with. They look more like us and our friends."
Sonia sums up her passion for dolls by simply saying, "Playing with dolls is the best fun in the world."
Playing with dolls is just fun! Image created and copyright held by Sonia Singh