Last week I came across an article with information that I'd anticipated hearing for nearly 2 years.  Over 18 months ago on the London grapevine I heard about a new doll making process taking place in our very own East London. A group of people had got together in Bethnal Green, I'd heard (although it turns out their current HQ is at Liverpool Street) and were making dolls out of printing nylon powder and it was going to change doll making forever.

Doll making has been the work of the Chinese factories for about three decades now.  Spain was the heart of the doll industry in the 1970's, employing thousands of factory workers and shipping dolls all over the world.  At about that time Chinese labourers went to work in Spain in the factories and learned the processes for making vinyl dolls.  With their knowledge they returned home, set up factories and toy businesses in the West became their customers. To hear that dolls were being made in London was SO EXCITING and to finally read about them last week and see photos of the first dolls made from a pioneering new technique was fantastic!

The article I was reading was Selfridges Opens Permanent Toy Department, in the online magazine Progressive Preschool, of interest because London Selfridges is such a high end department store and only twenty minutes from home.

"Located on the store's fourth floor, the new department includes over 2,500 products from over 40 brands, .... and the world’s first 3D printed dolls, Makies".

Printed 3D dolls: Makies, had arrived.  I went to Selfridges two days later to take a look at the dolls and find out what I could.

There are two offerings:  Four limited edition Makie dolls exclusive to Selfridges; and, dolls that you can digitally create whilst in Selfridges. These are then posted to your address approximately three weeks later.

The four limited edition dolls were displayed in a perspex casing, against the silhouettes of recognisable London sites, all adding to the urban and edgy feel of the dolls. Above the casing were shelves with the four dolls packed in boxes, ready to buy.

 


(Ada, Hopper and Tesla from the left above.)

There are many options for own specification Makie dolls, for example wide, narrow, long or short noses, choice of skin colour, fullness of face, eye, hair colour/type, clothing and much more. If you don't want to design a doll in the store you can design one online and that is the doll you will receive complete with certification. What I like about the limited edition dolls is that they alone come with their faces painted already whereas the ones you create come as blank canvases.

How much are the Makies?  The limited edition dolls of which there are 1000 of each Makie doll: Ada, Tesla, Curie and Hopper cost £199 and the Makie dolls that can be commissioned cost £99.
A few dolls, not the limited edition dolls, but those that demonstrating the dolls that can be made to a customer's specification were high up (apologies for the poor photo, I took it into the light).

This is Ada, my favourite.  I was able to hold her and have a little play.  She's gorgeously posable. 

 

She is 10" tall, has a full plastic body, joints at the ankles, knees, tops of legs, shoulders, elbows, wrists and her head tilts.  Her back is hollow, for 'packs' of various sorts to be put in.  The cavity is intended for now for the LilyPad Arduino to be fitted to make the doll into a talking doll.  The eyes can be moved from side to side from inside the head too, but I didn't see exactly how easily this would work. Her hair is a good quality densely woven black wig. Her skin, well it's definitely hard, matt plastic with a fine 'print' grain on it. It's not really like porcelain (I've read it is), it's not cold or very smooth like porcelain.  It's like matt plastic with a fabric grainy texture. To me Ada is like a glue hardened cloth doll with a matt grainy texture.

How do you print a doll? The 3D printing machine uses powdered plastic instead of ink on paper.  The laser melts the powdered plastic and layer after layer is added to make the 3D doll shape. It's not just dolls they use these machines for, the dolls shoes and glasses are also made on the machine. The glasses seem very flimsy but actually they're made from tough nylon so won't break as easy as most materials.

 

The Makie company consists of 10 people doing everything to bring these dolls from concept to production.  If the dolls become very popular more people will need to be recruited.
The company has big plans for what they'd like to make, from doll make up so that you can paint their faces, to clothing, even doll houses. The dolls I saw had holes in their ears ready for earrings!

Ada is a computer nerd and a fashion geek:

Each of the four limited edition dolls has its own personality and is essentially a pre-released game character launched ahead of the Makies game coming later this year.

Here's Hopper, she knows about fashion and couture:


She has the most wonderful eyes, don't you think?
Here's Tesla, he tells you the gossip and gives you hints (in the game):

Curie has superpowers and is connected with plants and animals:

 
I have to admit that I really like these dolls, for the older child or adult.  They feel great quality with good imaginative play value potential.  Not only that but they are the world's first printed 3D dolls and they are made in London. I am waiting to hear of a good pre-Christmas offer to buy mine!