One artist has found a creative way to highlight the ridiculous hyper-sexed image of popular girls' dolls.
Tasmanian artist Sonia Singh repairs and recycles broken and discarded dolls, taking off their make-up and giving them a new lease of life with some hand-knitted clothes and a clean-cut image. What started as a “fun hobby” for Sonia after being made redundant has become the global phenomenon that is ‘Tree Change Dolls‘, a brand which is earning her extensive media coverage and fans all over the world.
Sonia explains: “I began finding unwanted and discarded fashion dolls in the tip shops, op shops and second-hand markets of southern Tasmania. I grew up playing with second-hand toys and I thought I could upcycle the dolls and turn them from discarded plastic waste to a unique toy children might like to play with, in the same way I had played with dolls in the outdoors and had great adventures as a child.”
She began removing the painted eye make-up (usually from Bratz dolls, although Barbies, Monster High etc are recycled too), and Sonia’s mum offered to help by knitting new clothes. “Now we work together on the Tree Change Dolls,” Sonia says. “I also started repairing the dolls by making new feet when they were missing. I also fixed the hair by brushing, trimming and styling the hair.”
Sonia’s partner, John, encouraged her to start a blog, and Tree Change Dolls went viral. “Within days I was getting journalists from all over the world wanting to talk and thousands of messages from people wanting to by dolls,” Sonia explains. “I seem to have triggered a global conversation about the suitability and style of some children’s toys.”
This was a total accident. “It was never my intention to make a particular statement about these dolls,” Sonia admits. She simply loves playing with them and has done since she was a child. She doesn’t use the word feminist, either (her partner jokes he’s more feminist than Sonia)- but whether she likes it or not, her hobby has tapped into something much bigger. Tree Change Dolls are a creative way of protesting against the hyper-sexualization of the toy market; a return to the good, old-fashioned clean-cut image of a little girl’s playmate.
In the video above from SBS2 Australia, Sonia says she has been overwhelmed by the reaction to her work. Because the demand for her hand-made dolls is so high, she has kindly chosen to share her skills with other people who would like to do the same thing.
“I am encouraging people to upcycle their own dolls and I hope to remain creative, to collaborate with other creative people, to help get children involved in making their own toys and to work towards helping everybody to look again with fresh eyes at the things we buy and the things we throw out without thinking twice,” she says.
So what about the future? Could Sonia’s creations start a revolution? “I’m not a doll manufacturer and I don’t want to be,” says Sonia. “But if what I have done does influences the big toy companies out there and make them rethink the kind of dolls they’re putting on the market, I don’t think it would be a bad thing at all.”
Check out Sonia’s blog here, with these some handy tips for anyone who wants to follow in her footsteps and upcycle their dolls. You can also browse her Etsy shop if you prefer to buy the dolls ready-made.
This article (How To Be An Accidental Activist: Turning Bratz Dolls Into Wholesome Little Girls) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to the author and TrueActivist.com.