A few people have asked me lately about my custom doll boxes, and why I make them. All of dolls without exception comes with its own handmade box, I started this concept with the first doll and have been doing it ever since. The reason I do this is because usually when you customize a Blythe doll; the alterations mean that it’s often hard to get them back into the original Takara box, the other reason is that I mostly put a viewing window in the front of the box, this gives the customer the option of showing her off without getting her dusty.
I know of very few doll makers who ALWAYS put their dolls in custom boxes and for me it’s a bit sad that people assume collectors have cabinets, and/or want to constantly dust their dolls off. The boxes, a good one, will take a custom seal end boxes day to make easily and so I think this may be a reason most makers don’t include them.
If they did they would have to add this to their already inflated prices.
So when I say custom boxes what do I mean? Do I take an old shoe box and slap some paint on it?
No way, they are all made from offcuts/scraps of used cardboard and other recycled materials and made from the ground up. This is why no two boxes are the same, they are not perfectly square or true and this is part of the appeal.
I start with the base, usually 12-14 inches by 5-6 inches, then the sides and ends, glue them together with UHU or something similar. I do exactly the same with the lid making sure it’s slightly bigger of course to slip over the base. It’s a good idea to cut the window now as trying to do it once it’s glued can shake it around and break the sides off.
Once everything is glued it is left to set, then the finish has to be decided. I sometimes cover in thick wall lining paper, or thin tissue paper soaked on PVA. It depends on the customer and the doll too, I tend to use a thick lining paper that would normally use for lining walls before decorating for the most part.
Reason being is that it is absorbent and won’t buckle when it’s painted, you can use a single big sheet and mitre it around the box or what I do is use scraps and them glue them down with PVA glue. The main thing is to never puts the ends of the paper scraps on the edges of the box or the corners; they will just peel off or rip. Always put the centre of the paper scrap on the edges of the box and glue them outward away from the edges, this will cover the gaps between the joins in the cardboard, and also add strength when the glue is dried.
A good way of giving a box an antique look is to brush coffee or tea into the paper after it is dried on the box. 3-4 layers of cold tea or coffee brushed into the paper will give a nice deep amber colour. You can do this with any water based paint, diluted well it should give a faint stain in the paper rather than coating it in thick paint.
To finish off I always seal the box with wax, just pour hot wax onto the paper and smear it with the back of a hot spoon. The hotter the spoon the deeper the wax will penetrate the paper, but will also burn the paper and turn it darker. You need to experiment then choose your preferred look.