Last week, as I was writing the first post on the Greenwoman doll/mascot, I was also learning a little about our doll’s creator, Bee Hale. When I told her I’d be writing two more posts about the process of creating this doll, I asked if I might share a little about her and her life. I asked a few questions: how she got into creating dolls, what it’s like to live in Cornwall—and if her real name is Bee!
Bee and her Mini-Me
One of the first things I noticed when I looked at Bee’s Etsy site, Bee Real Dolls, was that Bee was from Truro, England. Truro, I discovered, was in Cornwall. I’d heard of Cornwall, the rugged southwestern tip of England, with it’s wild moorland, hundreds of beaches and towering cliffs, and, maybe most famously to some of us, the home of the legendary King Arthur. So romantic! I’ve not had the privilege to visit (it’s on my list of dream vacation destinations), but my daughter Zora has. She attended graduate school in Dublin where she met her Irish husband, and during their courtship they took a trip to Cornwall. You see, Zora grew up with plenty of mythology, fairy tales, and legends, and she really wanted to see the birthplace of King Arthur, Tintagel Castle.
When I learned Bee was from Truro, I asked Zora if she’d visited there. “No, we wanted to but didn’t have time.” Then she added, “You know that’s the town in Poldark.”
(Ah, PBS Masterpiece‘s Poldark—the riveting story of Ross Poldark, a redcoat who returns to Cornwall after the American Revolutionary War. I loved that show! Maybe If I wasn’t so distracted by the dashing, I-will-fight-for-my-people Ross Poldark, the name Truro might have stuck with me. Alas, it did not. But I digress.)
Zora loved Cornwall. She was surprised and delighted by the mystical vibe, telling me, “There’s a lot of hippie/Earth worshipper stuff there.”
What a perfect place to create the Greenwoman doll!
I visited Bee’s Facebook page and saw more of her artistry. She’s created dozens of one-of-a-kind dolls, including a custom Prince, Spock, Daenerys Targarian, John Snow, and a David Bowie. She also up-cycles secondhand dolls and says she enjoys using all her skills (sculpting, painting, and creating clothing and accessories) in one project. She says it’s “pure delight working on my dolls as their individual characters come to life,” and that she loves transforming “these little discarded toys, from head to toe, into the true and REAL beauties they deserve to be.”
On May 5th Bee wrote:
“I’ve made a start on the body tattoo and the doll’s face, still needs a few more layers on both to make them pop.
The little bra and skirt also made, pictured next to the doll. How short do you want the skirt? I’ve made it to come above the knee but can take it shorter.”
Wow, I thought, lovely. I was so pleased by how it was coming along, but . . . there was a problem. Her expression wasn’t the fun-loving smile I was thinking of. When this doll’s out on her Instagram adventures, I want her to look like she’s having a great time!
Within minutes I’d figured out how this happened. Bee had created her exactly like the logo, with a serious expression.
Bee hadn’t been able to read my mind.
I saw that I’d failed in describing what I wanted with the tattoos as well. While Bee had beautifully recreated Mike’s design, I was imagining colorful filled-in tattoos, like the Pict images in the last post. I hadn’t shared that information with Bee either, and she’d drawn outlines, exactly as in the logo.
Oh, no, I thought, I really messed up!
I sent her a longish letter telling her about my mistakes and apologizing, asking if she could make changes, telling her I’d be happy to pay extra. We also decided we’d prefer a little shorter skirt, mid-thigh.
Bee wrote back within an hour:
“Hi, yes, this is the early stages so can make those alterations. Giving her a smile and raising her brows slightly and was going to ask you about adding shading to the tattoo, so good to know that I can do that.”
She said she’d soon get to the questions I’d sent her too.
“I’m excited working on this project with you, it’s right up my street.”
(So cute! It’s “right up my alley” in America.)
I breathed a sigh of relief and sent her a couple of images of tattoos, just to be clear this time.
Two days later, Bee sent me a message sharing a little about her life:
My actual name is Rebecca but everyone, including my family, calls me Bee. I didn’t like Becs or Becky so chose Bee when I started a new hairdressing job with someone else who worked there called Rebecca. So ever since, Bee has stuck, besides it suits me and I adore Bees, even if I am allergic to their stings.
I am also a freelance hairdresser specializing in vintage hair for weddings. [That business is called Beehave Hair. Adorable!—S.K.] Thank goodness for my doll business right now, keeping me in pocket whilst this lock down is in place ^>^
Here’s my FB shop page link if you’re interested- www.facebook.com/www.beehavehair.vpweb.co.uk/
As far as my dolls and art, I’ve always incorporated some form of art in my life, from making glass panels, stained glass, drawing comic books, sculpting, painting and the list goes on . . .
As a young girl, I have always felt that I could not relate to the dolls I was given to play with, so I would end up making my own using Plasticine or clay. In my creative works, later on in life, I have added clay to fashion dolls to enlarge them in my “Barb Plus More” art projects in 1996. I was part of quite a few art installations in London with my pieces—I would cast their reliefs onto walls in plaster or mold them into silicon rubber to make fuller figured dolls. These projects focused on the subject of the “Body Beautiful” and what was accepted in the world we live in.
So in 2015 a new movement to repaint dolls to be more suitable for young girls hit the circuit, which I jumped on with gusto. I got a big mention in Bored Panda and coverage on our West country ITV news and in the papers. I haven’t looked back since, my business is growing and growing, with inquiries everyday. Most of them become commissions, so busy busy Bee ^.^
I’ve been living here in beautiful Cornwall for seven years now, had to break away from the smoke of London. We love it here, so lucky, we can actually see the sea from our window, facing east, so the sunsets are amazing every day.
I’ll go a head and start filling in the tattoos with shading using greens and browns. I’ll update you with pics over the next few days. ^.^
I loved learning about Bee Hale! How lucky we are to be able to do this project!
I’m looking forward to the next step.