Sunday, April 18, 2010

Hair Talk

An Interview with Yatabazah

Dolldom: Who are you? Who is this Yatabazah character that reigns supreme in the world of Bltyhe, Mdvanii, and other very well coiffed dolls?

Dr. Yatabazah:  I'm an actor in films and theater here in Athens, Greece. I studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. While I was preparing for drama school I did the first year of a BA in Architecture in North London University and before that, Art and Design in London Guildhall University. During these two years I was exposed to wonderful things like the work of Le Corbusier, 18th century painters and learning about color, photography and different materials.
Dolldom: How did your passion for creating amazing simulacra of life develop?

Dr. Y: I've always been making things since I was a little boy, mainly toy theaters and puppets and building small sets and sewing costumes for them. I would always use the same cast of puppets but I would re-dress and re-wig every "actor" of mine, to suit their role, worrying every time that I was being fair when casting the leads, not wanting a mutiny in my repertory company, nor a miffed little ingenue walking out on me. I would set up lights and mix sound tracks on cassette tapes and all my plays were grand guignol.

I was obsessed with creating these little self-contained worlds and I would immerse myself in them for hours. I didn't have many friends because I was shy, controlling and competitive, so my only companions were my puppets and my sister who was also my main audience. She would allow me to play with her dolls in secret; she had a European Steffie and a Kissing Barbie doll.

Dolldom: Define your doll and doll hair philosophy.

Dr. Y:  I like all kinds of dolls and I have collected all kinds of different ones over the years. I like a doll with flexibility when it comes to hair. If she's rooted, then I need a fiber that I can do things with without destroying it, and definitely with an in-scale quantity of hair! I will never understand why all these companies now produce dolls with enough hair on their heads to correctly root 4 such dolls.  I'm always thinning out or re-rooting my Neo Blythes' hair whose fiber and amount is usually tragic.

On the other hand, a doll like Mdvanii who was made to wear wigs is infinitely exciting, with endless possibilities and numerous looks. One single doll can be 20 different characters with the use of wigs. That's why one shouldn't delve into collecting each and every doll that comes out, it's so much more rewarding to transform the same, loved doll into a million styles.
Dolldom: In addition to Blythe and Mdvanii, who else gets appointments for treatments in your salon?

Dr. Y: Although my antennas are always erect, studying and investigating all vintage and new dolls, I'm only really working  with Mdvanii and Blythe. They are two very different creatures, Blythe being a hands-on friend and travel companion, whereas Mdvanii is a mysterious, never truly attainable, fragile muse. Both bring me much joy and move me towards creating images and hair fashions, it depends on my biorhythms, which one I lay my hands on at any particular moment. Scale is a factor, some days my hands crave different sizes to work with. Some nights [I mostly work on Mdvanii at night] I can spend hours taming each hair strand on a minuscule Mdvanii flip wig, other days [Blythe is a day muse] I'll dive into clouds of mohair and make big 60s bouffant styles for my big-headed customers.

Dolldom: Divine! We can relate to the passion for the little people. But what’s with the hair fetish?
Dr. Y:  I've always been fascinated by hair, since my days of playing with my sister's poor Steffie, whose hair year by year would become thinner, duller and matted and I would have to come up with new ways to make it pretty.
It made me really enjoy playing with challenging hair that really needed my attention and really fight hard to make it nice. In my quest for that, I years later developed a technique to remove the frizz from vintage Blythe dolls' hair, which I call YataFix and over the years I have repaired about 150 Blythe heads of hair with it.

While still in high school, I found a ponytail of my mother's hair that she had cut off as a teenager and I would secretly cut locks from it, and started experimenting on it, trying oils, heat and the sun to see how human hair reacted. In the end I had used up the entire ponytail but I had learned a few things and had started a life long obsession with this work material.

It was during that time that I happened to watch that short CNN story on Mdvanii that, I guess, changed my life. In my eyes those dolls, their clothes and human hair wigs were of earth shattering, monumental beauty and more so, mystery! I could almost imagine how it would feel touching them, I could almost smell how they must have smelled, a whole, surreal experience with all of my senses, just by seeing a few fleeting images on TV. That same night I cut off all the hair of my sister's bigger dolls and made wigs with them, making the caps from felt and gluing locks on. I think I was 13.
Dolldom: And now you offer Yatabazah Luxury Wigs!  Tell us, where and how are the wigs made? What about materials? What inspires you to create these little masterpieces?

Dr. Y: My line of wigs caters only to a few select dolls; Mdvanii, Blythe and a few dolls that wear size 5 wigs, like Sybarite and Mooqla.  I vehemently only use organic fibers like carefully selected fine European human hair, mohair and yak. I have a strong aversion to synthetic wigs, I never use them and I never make them.

For each wig I make, I approach its construction differently; sometimes after processing the hair to make it pliable, I'll make my own weft before sewing the cap and then dyeing the hair and constructing the wig, all from scratch. Other times and depending on what I'm planning to make, I'll use one of my base wigs that an atelier in the Czech Republic makes to my detailed specifications and with European hair I previously process myself. I will then dye, cut, style and lacquer it. Other wigs might require a hidden construction to build it up to a huge beehive or with added pieces on top or at the back. For some wigs, I'll glue 3-4 strands of hair at a time on a cap. It's always a little adventure making each wig, sometimes very frustrating but very rewarding in the end, like having eaten a great meal or having run a mile. All of the wigs are OOAK.

I love and greatly appreciate and respect the old school of hairdressing and I zealously study every old hairstyling training book I can lay my paws on. Roller set patterns, comb out techniques, old shades of haircolor that no longer are popular [but I adore], symmetries and balancing facial features with hair shapes. I only use vintage 60s hair tools, pins, 100s of different combs, rollers or all sizes and for all types of hair. I also had to make quite a few makeshift hair tools myself, as well as the special hair dryer I use. My workshop is a temple devoted to The Hair Strand. OCD fun!
Doldom: Several of our most elegant denizens wear your wigs and as a consequence have had much fun giving new energy to their looks. Are there plans for a Yatabazah doll?

Dr. Y: For my wig line, I asked the amazing Korean artist Hee, creator of Bambola doll to make me a 3-D version of a character I drew, to use as my wighead for photos. The result, after many trials, was a very interesting character which I vaguely dream of one day working into making a doll of. She would have many wigs of course, possibly flocked, definitely handmade, either in resin or porcelain. Each year I find myself more drawn to dolls that aren't massively produced, the personal touch of an artisans hand, effort and sweat, invests the doll with warmth and a installs special DNA into her.
Dolldom: Finally, who is that wonderful and über fantastic Wilhemina Blythe doll whose video we confess watching more than twenty times on YouTube?

Dr. Y: I’m happy that you like her.  Wilhemina is a doll with a European feel that I created for the annual Blythe contest two years ago.  I was surprised with the popularity of this European style Blythe, which placed third runner up. The year before I had entered in the same contest with "Private Ai-Ai", a mod Blythe who also placed 3rd.

Dolldom: Thank you for your time Dr. Yatabazah. It is a supreme delight knowing that you are taking care of our heads as well as our hearts. We at Dolldom love you to pieces.

Dr. T: It's my pleasure.

To visit Yatabazah's Atelier des Perruques or to inquire about acquiring your own Yatabazah Luxury Wig, click on this lucky link!

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