Customizer Spotlite: Helter Skelter

Your name: Helter Skelter
Your Legal Name: Sarah Atkinson
Your Website:

How did you get involved in Super Dollfies and customizing them?
I found out about BJDs accidentally. I came across a photo of one on Google and I had to research it. I bought one, after agonizing over it for months, and one day, I decided I needed to change his faceup. After that, I started doing faceups for my friends, and eventually, the other dolls I bought.

What do you do best?
I think I do a natural look best.

What Inspires You?
A face with unique features, a beautiful photograph, poems, and a powerful passage in a book are all things that have inspired me in my faceup work.

What do you want people to think when they look at your Customizations?
I want people to think about “who” the doll is, and more importantly, who the owner is. What makes them tick as a person, what makes them interesting?

What do you hope to accomplish in the next 5 years?

I’d love to have the head I’m currently sculpting be finished, cast, and selling and to kick off my own line of dolls. It might be a pipe dream, but for now, that’s what I’d like to do.

What sorts of things do you enjoy the most about your designs/customizations?
I love bringing a “character” out in the doll. I think my designs are unique and sometimes quirky, even if I’m just doing a natural faceup.

Other than yourself, who are your favorite doll customizers?

Other than myself? I’m not even close to being one of my favorites. Some of the people I admire are SDink, Nabarro, REEpaint, just to name a few. I don’t know if they all count as customizers per se, but hey, I like their work. A lot.

What’s the Best thing about customizing your own dolls?
I can take risks and get a little crazy if I want.

What’s the most difficult thing about doing customizations (your mods, face-ups, tats, etc) and altering them?
The most difficult thing has got to be the time it takes. You definitely have to be a patient person. It’s not easy when you have other time-consuming hobbies or work.

What type of dolls do you enjoy customizing (male/female/brands)?
I really enjoy working on male dolls the most. I don’t have any brand preferences, but I definitely prefer larger dolls with more realistic features. If there’s something unusual about the face you don’t often find on doll heads (aquiline nose, a goofy grin, really wide jaw) so much the better!

What is your favorite style to create?
I don’t know if I have a specific style that’s my favorite, but I love the more realistic looks. Not natural, exactly, but just something that looks like you might see it on a real face somewhere.

Who would you love to collaborate with?

Oh gosh. Realistically? I have no idea. I’m sort of new on the scene, so if anyone wanted to collaborate with me, I’d feel honored.

Why choose doll customizing as a form of Self Expression?
For me, it’s so much more fun. I think it’s because customizing dolls rolls so many of the things I like to do artistically into one. Painting, drawing, photography, and even sculpting. It’s all right there.

How long does it take from start to finish on a typical doll to create and complete?
That depends on what I’m doing. For a faceup, if you take out all the pauses between drying times and weather, probably about 12 hours. I’ve been sculpting this head of mine for several months now. I am only working on it occasionally, so that could be why.

How do you like to work best with a custom order for a client? With total freedom to create your vision, or do you like some feedback/interchange with a client who might have an idea or theme they would like to see realized?
I like to check with the client first before I do anything. Usually, even if the client just wants me to do my own thing, I ask them if they have a general idea they’d like for me to stick to. I ask for descriptors like “girly” or “dark” or “natural.” I like to experiment with things for my dolls, like lace and geometric designs and tattoos, and I know that won’t appeal to everyone. I love it when the client comes to me with a character to create and they tell me how the character needs to look, but also some of their motivation and history. It helps get some of their unique personality into the face.

What have been your favorite projects you’ve done thus far?
I’ve done some really neat tattoos for people. There was a cemetery tattoo that was pretty awesome.

What sets your doll customizations apart from all the others?
I think when it comes down to it, we all have our own styles. I feel I have a style that focuses a lot on the natural shapes of the face and things like light and shadow play. Also, being relatively new and not as highly in-demand as some other customizers, I can say my services are relatively “affordable” for someone who wants a nice faceup on a budget.

Are there any sort of projects you’ve been hoping to work on but just haven’t gotten around to it?
I really want to work on a doll of mine who will be covered in tattoos. I haven’t actually gotten him his permanent body, so I keep putting it off until I can afford it. I’ve been so inspired for so long to work on him. It’s killing me. I really need to get that body.

What was the most challenging thing you have ever done thus far?
So far, I think it’s been modding one of my guys’ bodies. I wanted the body to be relatively slender, plus the body had a pretty serious case of moobs. I think you know what I mean. So, I went out and bought a rotary tool and took it to the resin. I completely reshaped his chest, flattened his stomach, and slimmed down his legs. I had never worked with a Dremel before, but I knew I had to do it to get what I wanted, and you don’t learn to do something without practicing. He came out really nicely, so I’m relieved.

How has your style evolved over time, and where do you see it going in the future?
I think my style has become more refined through practice. I do a lot of different things, so I don’t know if I have a very identifiable style, but I do see my work as being very organic in most cases.

Describe your perfect client. Do you like to get a lot of direction, or just be given a general mood, or do you like to see visual examples?
My perfect client is someone who is willing to sit down and take the time to answer questions about what they want. Either they know what they want from me and they communicate it either by descriptions or pictures, or they know the general mood and style they want. If they’d like me to “do my own thing” and don’t want to give me any guidelines at all, they must understand they might get something they may not expect. Maybe they don’t know what they want, but they know what they do not want, and they tell me exactly what it is they don’t want. I just don’t want to be left in the dark and have a client then tell me what I’m planning isn’t what they were expecting. That’s why I always prefer to talk with clients a bit and send sketches before doing anything, because I want to make sure they love what I do for them.

Of all the face-ups/customizations you’ve done, do any stand out to you in particular? Howso?
I’m really liking this Soom Coquina I’m working on, but she hasn’t gone back to her owner yet, so I can’t say much. I just liked the realism behind the concept of the work. It’s an interesting faceup without being something off the wall. Not that anything’s wrong with off the wall. It’s just nice to see the mundane made special.

Second half of this interview will get published in a bit.

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