Tom FanArt

A portrait doll of Tom Hugo

by Karina Brandt, independant Danish artist

I have been a dollmaker for many years, more than half my life to be exact. I sculpt in polymer clay, but I also paint on vinyl and silicone. Mostly I paint on vinyl. Making portrait dolls is only a tiny corner of my production, usually requested by parents or grandparents.

But this past summer, I suddenly came across a doll with a facial expression looking like we saw Fred in a public photo around 8 years old and I just had to make the doll.

A couple of months back, I found a head matching what I imagined Tom PERHAPS might have looked like as a child. With help from Tom’s mum, I managed to find the closest match to hair and eyes, and after around 150 hours of work and a lot of late nights/early mornings, I can now present to you, Tiny Tom, for which I have both been called “sick” and “dangerous” for making… don’t really know what that’s all about but hey, artists often have to be called a lot of bad things from envious people!

Notice head shape, eye shape, shape of lips – chin.. Don’t think it can get any closer. And look at the colour of the eyes in top pictures… close enough match? I would say so.
“Shao” – an Asian vinyl kit sculpted and produced by the talented Dutch artist, Adrie Stoete. Meassuring 62cm
After cleaning the vinyl for any oily residue, drying and preparing, I spent around 50 hours on painting, layer after layer, of very thin Genesis Heat set oil paints. A paint curing in the oven at 130 degrees precicely. One degree below and the paint doesn’t cure, a few degrees over and the vinyl will start releasing toxic fumes, so using a stabile oven thermometer is essential in this art.
Usually, I would use mohair for rooting the heads of the dolls. But for some reason, straight WHITE mohair is next to impossible to get hold of, it is sold out in seconds whenever it’s available. Mohair is, by nature, curled or wavy, and any straight mohair has been through a straightening process. So when I need straight white hair, I chose alpaca. It is sold in bunches of fleece and fibers – the fleece is good for nothing when it comes to rooting doll hair, way too frizzy and breakable. So I spend some hours sorting out between fibers and fleece, before being able to start rooting. Alpace is the animal hair which comes the closest to human baby hair.
The rooting process has started. Just for show, he got these beautiful icey-blue temporary acrylic eyes in, while waiting for mouthblown glass eyes from Lauschaer in Germany to arrive
Around 20 hours into the rooting job. using a very sharp felting needle with barbs going downwards – imagine what this does to your finger when you once in a while poke your finger instead of the doll head… Ouch…
Around 50 hours of rooting. Getting closer to the final result. The correct eyes from Germany have also arrived.
And the assecoires – pacifiers with “Proud VolKEiiNO” and “Tom” printed on. Beautiful Baby Denmark is the name of my doll business.
The T-shirt, “Proud small VolKEiiNO” has arrived too.
The feling needle gauge 38 with 3 sharp barbs I use for inserting 1-2 hairs at the time. After around 100 hours of work, the hair is about done now.
And he is done. Of course, he doesn’t look exactly like Tom did as a child, that would require a digitally modifying of the vinyl moulds, but I think any KEiiNO fan see the resemblance.
Most dolls created here, unless they are playborns or discount dolls, get a pacifier with their own name on along with a few other little things which often pleases the new owners.
Of course Tiny Tom is also a proud VolKEiiNO, just like the rest of us.
The “Rolling exhibition” since it’s a great way of showing people what these dolls are, explain what they are used for, like therapy dolls for Alzheimer’s patients, therapy dolls for childless people, people with PTSD, or mentally and emotionally challenged people… so many good things these dolls carry with them. If only people would be open and non-judgemental instead of judgemental and mean, they would understand how much good these dolls have the potential of doing to a lot of people who are not well.
Giving people the chance to see, touch and sometimes hold these dolls, giving them “the experience of the day”, is something I treasure. Living in a small town on a small island, there is not many here who don’t know who I am, when I come pushing my “company van” in front of me, and many come to see “who is with you today” and for some people who come – I am the only contact they will have that day. It brings them an uplift.
I know some people see me as crazy, sick, deprived and a lot worse – but is being judgmental and telling a person things like this to her face, not even more sick and deprived?
At least it tells a lot more about such a person’s personality than it does about me as an artist and as an empath who sees how these dolls bring joy into some people’s lives, and no matter how much I will be judged, I will never stop giving people this.

For me, personally, making these dolls is the creative outlet next to my day job, and it has taken years of trials and errors to achieve the quality I bring out today. People underestimate the value of art and the years of practice and the costs of trial and error and time put into it. Creating KEiiNO as dolls has been fun, a real challenge, and I hope to be able to create Alexandra too.

I mostly sell dolls, but a few stay in my own collection as models for the baby- and toddler clothes designs I create. In the meantime, they sit on shelves for decoration.

If you would like to read and understand more about the concept of “reborn dolls” here is a link to a very good article about how it all began in 1999.

Wishing you all a really nice day, and please give a thought to the people you may judge – you only know the tip of the iceberg – not what lies underneath the surface.