I love putting out a call for submissions because I get bombarded with some of the coolest stuff in response! It seems that dolls and plush toys are in abundance this season, including the sweet duo pictured above, created by Layla Rei. Layla's no stranger to creating dolls; her deviantART gallery has dozens upon dozens of delightful, whimsical creations.
It's the tiny little details that makes them so utterly charming. The button eyes remind me of Coraline, and come on -- how could you not love that goblin and those goggles? But here's the kicker behind all of this: Leyla doesn't play WoW. Instead, she created these dolls and others for her sister who does play. For someone who doesn't play the game, Leyla's got a wonderful grasp of the whimsical feel of Warcraft ... and she was more than happy to sit down and chat with us about her delightful creations.
World of WarCrafts: Hi, Layla! Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started with crafting.
Layla Rei: Well, my name is Julianne Taylor, but my gaming/online persona is Layla Rei. I was brought up with games and art/crafts, so of course I would grow up making gaming-inspired crafts. I come from two very artistic and supportive parents. Really, my whole family has an artistic flair about them. I tend to love to try new types of crafts, which makes me a jack of all trades ... but a master of none. I use to go through cycles where one month I might be into drawing/painting ... then sewing ... then maybe chain mail, but lately I've stuck to making dolls.
I use to make costume wings for adults for cosplay, and I've made costumes for cons I've gone to and even for a lot of the people that attended my pirate wedding! I've done a little bit of art in college but most of what I do is self-taught. I've always have been making something -- some of my early memories are of my dad teaching me how to do watercolor trees and thinking back I was a little young to be trying to make skillful trees like he wanted!
You've said that you don't play WoW -- so how did you get the idea for the dolls?
As a gamer, you make this character and you play it through it levels and you get attached to it. You think of a story that goes with it. You might draw it or commission someone to draw it for you. It becomes a hero, maybe. I started out with making my Layla Rei doll -- though in the MMO that I play, she wears more clothes!
My mom is one of my biggest fans and loves little Layla and suggested I make my sister her character for a gift. Since then, every gift to my sister has been a WoW doll because she loves them. I have a list of her characters, and when it's time for a present, I pick off that list. I'm one of those people that rather make presents then buy them for people, because that just makes it unique and what better gift than to make my sister's character come to life.
They're certainly really good likenesses of WoW models and adorable, to boot! Did you use any sort of references, like screenshots or model viewers or anything like that?
Thank you! They are adorable! I prefer to use screenshots, especially if they are using an emote, because that just gives me more of an idea of their personality but I have used sketches people have drawn. One of my friends just described his character over Skype with me, and I was able to make him a doll. I got a pattern from a craft shop and studied it. It wasn't what I wanted, but I wanted to learn how to make my own. Why cut there ... why sew it that way? I played around with scrap fabric until I was able to come up with my own pattern that expressed how I wanted the doll to look. From playing around, I've made about four to five different patterns for different sizes and body types. I make patterns for all the outfits I make because I never know if I might do something similar on another doll.
Do you create them by hand or with a machine? How do you go about putting them all together?
I sew them both by hand and machine. There's some parts that are too small to use my machine, so I hand sew on those parts. I got this used Elna sewing machine from a garage sale and I love it so much! At first I was nervous about learning to use an old machine (I was used to using the newer styles) but it's awesome. Best $25 I ever spent.
So when I decide to make a doll (let's say one of my sister's), I spend some time looking at the picture and planning in my head how I'm going to do the layers and in what order. I cut out the base color, which in most cases is the skin color. I iron on fusible interfacing to the parts I have cut out for the basic doll shape. This makes it more sturdy and easier to sew.
Now at this point is where my planning comes in. Some of the costume pieces I will sew on before I assemble the the doll. For instance, the basic boot will get sewn to the foot pieces before it becomes a 3-D foot. Then I assemble the doll together, stuff it with poly fiber, and sew up the stuffing holes. At that point, the doll is alive to me!
Then I start making the clothes, attaching things like horns and wings and such ... and I usually do the hair last. WoW dolls take me a while because their costumes have so much detail in them. So they usually take about two to three days of work. I use a lot of different fabrics, felts, buttons, yarns, and craft foams. I like to walk around the crafts stores and get inspired. The biggest challenge is probably the figuring out the layers of the costume. WoW has a lot of armor, and that's kinda hard sometimes to translate into cute, button-eyed dolls. So the first step where I stare at the drawing/screenshot is the hardest part. I have to figure out what details I'm going to use and what I can skip. After that, it just seems to come together!
My sister and my cousins would love me to join the WoW community, and I might. I do love some of the costumes I have seen. We will just have to wait and see!
Any advice for those who would like to try their hand at crafting?
Well, I could give tips on how to sew or what fabrics to use, but I'm going to go the corny route. I hear and see a lot of people give reasons why they don't get into this or that type of craft. A lot of it has to do with doubt: "Oh, I could never do as good as that person," or "I wouldn't know where to start." And I say ... "Just try it!" Play around with it, and don't worry about what the result is. When I was making my first doll, I really didn't have a clue what she was going to look like. I just started making her and changing things 'til I was happy with it. If sewing is something you want to get into, then go buy some scrap fabrics and play around with it.
The other advice I would have to say is befriend a creative person. You can learn a lot by watching someone or even for them to inspire you. Some of my best ideas have been inspired from just hanging out and talking with one of my other crafting buddies. Now reading this, you might say, "That's easy for you to say, since you're very creative." Well, just like in games where we all start out newbies, you start out a beginner and just learn to get better with practice and the support of others!
Thanks so much for sending in the submission, Leyla -- let us know if you make any more adorable projects! And who knows, maybe we'll see you playing WoW some day, too.
If you'd like to see more of Layla Rei's whimsical creations, you can find them all on her gallery at DeviantART.
World of WarCrafts spotlights art and creativity by WoW players, including arts and crafts, fan art, WoW-themed recipes, comics, cosplay, music and fan fiction. Show us how you express yourself by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with your not-for-profit, WoW-inspired creations.