Behind Gentle River – Part II: The Translation

Did you miss Part I?

finalists luncheon In May 2006, the finalists for the CWC Blythe Beauty Contest were announced. After seeing the other entries (and recognizing Cherry Merry), we were honored to be among such amazing Blythe artists. I felt like we had already won – even if we didn’t get a prize, Gentle River was going to “walk” the red carpet in Japan! (Paul contends that he knew all along that we had a winner, Christina and I were always skeptical as we “never win anything.”). We wanted so badly to go to Tokyo to see the show, but just couldn’t get the time or the funds together. Luckily, Christina had planned a trip and would represent us at the show. She got to meet the other finalists and their dolls at a pre-contest luncheon, finally walk our Blythe down the red carpet at the contest and give a presentation in front of the rather intimidating panel of judges! We waited back home for the results. We checked our messages at the crack of dawn the day after the beauty contest and found this in our box from Christina:

Hi Guys,
We won!!!!! I just got back!!!! Its still sinking in, we got the prize money, the trophy, the 5th Anniversary doll each and our doll is going to be made!!!!*L*

certificate trophy and nametag christina with the judges I was completely shocked, Paul was proud for being right (;) ), and we were both bouncing around and cackling like crazy fools. (It still seems a bit surreal when I think about it).

After celebrating for a bit, we started thinking about the production doll. We figured, “okay, they have the Blythe we made, they’ll just look at her and make the production decisions based on her.” Not so! From June 2006 up until now, we have been working back and forth with CWC on all the tiny details of Gentle River!

radiant / superior First was the decision of what headmold to use. Radiant mold hadn’t even been seen by the public yet and they needed a decision from us quickly. We were sent a box of dolls to choose from – an SBL, a Darling Diva (white skinned RBL) makeup prototype, and a normal skinned RBL head. We all fell in love with the more Kennery face and quickly decided that Gentle River should be RBL.

One big detail that we knew right away would be very different from our custom was her hair style – sausage curls would be impossible to create at the factory. We looked at all past Blythes with cute curly hair and decided on something between Candy Carnival and Fancy Pansy’s styles. Long bangs with short, at the shoulder curls. We also got to choose which style of fringe – fanned out and thick like Tweedly do, or wispy and thatched like Velvet Minuet. We of course chose chunky fan-bangs since that’s what the original Gentle River has.

Original Gentle River wears red and white striped socks with oxblood maryjanes (Paul handpainted the original ones with tiny gold buckles). As everyone knows, Blythe’s legs stain very easily, so CWC is cautious about using dark colors on the legs – especially red. In order to keep the red stockings, they needed a liner, thus making her feet too big for normal sized maryjanes to stay on (they were going to use the standard licca MJs, which we love). Instead, alternative footwear had to be designed. We decided upon tall hiking boots, somewhat similar to Doc Martens, but different enough to make them look at home in an enchanted forest.

The big impact pieces of River’s outfit are undoubtedly her crocheted hat and applique’d overcoat. We all pushed as hard as we could to have these pieces come out as true to Sar Sar and Christina’s original pieces, but the layered dress took a big hit in production. The issue of staining came up again on the sleeves of her dress, which are red and white polka dot. Matching the fabrics used on the original dress also posed a big challenge – Christina mixes so many wonderful fabrics together that in the end, after changing all the fabrics for production, this piece changed the most. We were all impressed though, by the embroidery and crochet samples CWC produced of the other pieces.

petite In Gentle River’s story, she has a pet deer named Lemon Butter. Producing a pet to go along with her would have exceeded the budget, so CWC offered to produce Lemon Butter as a Petite Blythe. We felt like we were back at square-one designing a new doll! we passed a ton of ideas back and forth – from the normal deer head + fur suit, to sculpted plush outfit with faux hind legs, to a little girl in a dress and deer hood. We had to be careful not to make her look too much like the other animal-suited petites (and there have been so many!) You’ll just have to wait and see what we all agreed upon…

Another major design choice that was hindered by a future Blythe release was River’s gorgeous burgundy haircolor. We were informed that we couldn’t get the haircolor we wanted because of the Ultimate Tour Blythe that would be released right before River. We had to decide between something much browner and something much redder. Just for a little suspense, I’ll let you guess which one we chose. πŸ˜‰

river proto lip shape riverproto eyechip and lash sample next to our makeup prototype chips
Since original River was an SBL, we had to create a prototype head to show her makeup colors, and so that they could create a lip stencil for the final doll (holy cow, as the girl who “just paints lips” this was probably my favorite part.) That was the most stressful lip paint I have ever done! You can tell my hand was shaking. Paul also had to re-cast some of her eyechips, since we only made a limited amount of chips for our custom.

Everyone at CWC and Team Sibley were pushing for the finished doll to be reasonably priced. Since the original custom had such a large ensemble and crocheted pieces, we knew we would have to scale things back but keep the most impactful items we could. The original parts list included: dress, pinafore, coat (all with embroidery and appliques), bra, bloomers, lined stockings (red stripes would stain) maryjane shoes, hiking boots, dress-form, crocheted hat, silk tophat, purse, doll with custom chips and glittery pull-ring. If they had gone ahead and included all this stuff, the doll would have had to retail at over 20,000 yen and CWC would have taken a loss.
a decision was quickly reached to eliminate the less important items like the dress form, extra tophat, mary jane shoes and fancy underwear (such a shame too, gentle river’s original underwear hasn’t ever been seen!).

teaparty box silhouette box critters box

When we started working on our contest doll, I had wanted to make an official looking Blythe box to send along with our contest doll to show that we had put thought in to a final product, but we ran out of time and had to ditch that plan. We were so pleased when CWC gave us the opportunity to design the box art for Gentle River. They basically told us to send them some ideas and they would use them if they liked them, and if we couldn’t make it work, they would design one of their standard cute boxes. We fully took advantage of their offer and made a very elaborate pitch with 3d models. They ended up liking the design and we got to lay out the final box. (we got to work with the blythe box template with the picture of the kid choking on the small parts on the back and everything). I can’t show you the finished art, but you can see three sketches that Christina drew when we were planning it out. You can probably tell by the design of this website which one we ended up going with. It’s a darn good looking box if I do say so myself.

There were a handful of details to work out that we hadn’t even imagined they would ask our opinion on – stand color, trading card picture and text, how she should be posed in the box, whether her eyes should have holograms or fancy pupils, eyelash style, tattoos, box style… It’a amazing how many details have to be worked out for a single Blythe doll! You’ll just have to wait and see what we chose…

Gentle River has been announced for the end of May this year, and will cost approximately 18,690 yen.

I speak for everyone on my team when I say that this past year has absolutely opened up my eyes to the way modern Blythes are made. It is so easy as a consumer to say that you aren’t happy with a product, but to work so closely with all the minute details changes my perspective completely. It was tricky enough getting the four of us to all agree on every aspect of the doll when we had very few limitations. Factor in a whole company of creative people, Factory equipment, international marketing considerations, deadlines, budget, licensing (fabric and such), staining, and every other issue that might pop up… what I’m getting at is that it’s amazing that CWC produces Blythes with the frequency that they do!
I just want to say for the record that the success of this doll has no financial impact on anyone on Team Sibley, so this article is not at all a sales pitch. We haven’t yet seen the final Production sample (we’re supposed to see her this week, and are expecting nothing less than a beautiful doll) so anything could happen. We hope you like her and the little details that went into her conception, but we understand that everyone likes different things and that no production doll is going to make everyone happy. I know I will probably buy two GR’s – one to keep in the box and one to customize just the way I like her.

We’ve already prepared ourselves to not take anything said about the final doll personally. Give her your best shot!

31 responses to “Behind Gentle River – Part II: The Translation”

  1. heidi

    Wow. This is a fascinating glimpse into what really goes into designing a doll. I hope the myriad of whiners out there realize that you can’t have a spectacular doll with lots of goodies, and still keep the price low. I can’t wait to read more! And of course, see Gentle River in person…

  2. Jenny

    I am SO excited!! What an exciting project…yay yay yay!

  3. Carmen/Hobbit

    I am in awe. Thanks for sharing this with us!
    Perhaps buying 2 isn’t a bad idea!

  4. Melissa Hicks

    Thank you so much for this! It is so interesting and has really made me think more about the whole Blythe business. Can’t wait to see her!

  5. Helena

    I am so excited. πŸ™‚ First the sneaky promo sketch, then this post.. eeee!

  6. Kat

    An absolutely fascinating read — thank you so much for sharing the process.
    I’m so so happy for all of you!!!

  7. Samantha

    I have never been this excited over a doll!
    I cannot wait to have her in my hands.
    You guys did amazing work.
    Hooray for everyone!

  8. poopychun

    wow this is just TOO COOL πŸ˜€ I’m really enjoying these entries, thanks so much for sharing with us the making of! πŸ˜€

  9. Paula

    I absolutely cannot wait for GR to come out! I’m in awe of everything that’s gone into creating her, and love that you’ve shared the *behind the scenes* for all of us to read!

  10. Robbin

    I am SO excited. The more I hear about her the better and better she sounds. I of course WANT her no … NEED πŸ˜‰ her badly but also I may have to buy my very first petite now! This whole thing is just too cool.

  11. ghislaine

    This is so cool! I am really loving these behind the scene updates. It does seem amazing how CWC produces so many dolls when there is so much work that goes behind the production of just one doll. Pretty cool stuff! I am glad that you guys are sharing your experience here. I hope I can get my hands on one of them somehow but I have a feeling she will be very popular :).

  12. Livbug

    Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful experience. I’ve been a fan even BEFORE she won the contest. Congratulations on all your hard work. It is so inspiring to see creativity being recognized.

    I really hope I could be one of the fortunate ones to get this doll. I’m going to have to start my GR stakeout mission.

    I look forward to more Team Sibley creations and stories. πŸ™‚

  13. Tiffany

    Fantastic Reading! Gorgeous box sketches. Very exciting! Can’t wait to see her! πŸ™‚

  14. Denise

    I enjoyed reading this!! Thanks for sharing! I’m so excited and can’t wait to see her real pics! It’s amazing how many decisions have to be made and how many effort and thinking goes for the making of one doll. I’m sure I’ll love her, the original girl shows how creative and talented the people who made her are. I’m looking forward to seeing her! ^__^

  15. Kelly (kittenfantastico76/Simple Curiosity)

    I am so so so SO excited for you all! It’s amazing to know how much goes into a Blythe doll being made – I can imagine how hard CWC works on their concepts but to know they are pleasing not only your team but in some ways the masses, since we all watch your creative team work on a daily basis through and flickr, I can only imagine how much pressure CWC feels in making sure this doll is not only ultimately what you all want her to be, but also to live up to all of what your fans hope she’ll be.

    I think it’s great that they were so careful to check out each detail that you all had for skin discoloration etc. And as much as it pains me to see her hair won’t be a red-ish brown like Ultimate Tour (because it’s a great color) I’m very excited to see the color you all did choose. I think she’s going to be a true winner and I can’t wait to find out about ordering info and or when or where I can get my hands on her… I am really looking forward to her!!!


  16. piccadilly_here

    You must be so proud! It’s all so exciting! I bet I can guess which box design you went with, though they are al wonderful. I just cannot wait to get my hands on Gentle River and her Petite deery pal. πŸ˜€

  17. glitterbat

    These articles are so interesting – I had no idea there was so much behind the scenes work… I bet you must be thrilled to be so involved with the production! I mean, winning & having her produced is amazing enough, but to be involved right down to the box designs? Sheesh! πŸ˜€

    I’m beyond excited about the release of Gentle River – I can’t wait to see her!

  18. glamourfae

    I really love reading all of these GR stories! It’s so cool to get an inside scoop of how the dolls are made. I can’t wait for GR to come out! I just hope she doesn’t get bought up super fast leading her price to sky rocket. I’m trying to refrain from buying any doll stuff just so I can buy her!

    And those box designs are incredible! One of the reasons I wanted NF so badly was because of her incredible box. Looks like this box won’t help me to stay away from GR!

  19. Leah

    This so facinating! I am really enjoying reading River’s story as it unfolds.

  20. RockyMountainRoz

    thanks so much for sharing this information! congratulations to Team Sibley! You must be thrilled beyond belief! I am excited for you! What a tremendous experience!I think we are all looking forward to Gentle River’s debut!

  21. J*me

    You know, after reading all the things that go on behind the scene of producing Gentle River, even if someone were not to like her (but serious, who wouldn’t?!), they should still get her to show their support for CWC and the amazing effort that they put in to create her. Plus, it’ll be such an amazing boost for future consumer/Blythe enthusiast and CWC collaborations!

    I can’t wait for the end of May now!! πŸ˜€


    Congratulations to the whole team. What a conglomeration of effort with all of you creative people in Team Sibley and CWC.

    As everyone has mentioned thanks so much for giving us a REAL insight into how a doll is made and all of the minute decisions that have to be made and agreed upon before the doll comes to fruition. And the explanation of why custommade features such as sausage curls cannot be reproduced on mass ( wiping tears from eyes in this case! LOL).
    Gentle River we welcome you xxx

  23. Gabriela

    What a truly amazing accomplishment for Team Sibley! Then again, when you put a group of incredibly talented and creative folks together like you guys—–wonderful things happen!!! I am SOOOO excited to see the gorgeous girl come to life. It is so interesting to know what goes into the making of a new girl—so much detail, decisions and many parameters that all need to be carefully aligned. Thank you for sharing this will all of us and most of all a HUGE CONGRATULATIONS to you all!!!!! I can’t wait to meet Gentle River!

  24. snoopygirl

    you really really really should be working for them! I have never been this excited about a release … EVER!

  25. Tracy

    Oh god my heart beats a bit quicker whenever I read about her. I know I’ll never be able to afford one but I just wanted to let you guys know she is BEAUTIFUL and inspiring!

  26. Candice

    I feel so touching when I read this article. It’s so amazing, like the power of your team to make this doll done! CONGRATULATIONS to all of you! And I hope Gentle River will be in my home soon!

  27. Marilyn

    What an incredible journey Team Sibley has been on, and how proud you must be to see your hard work and dedication yield these amazing results! I think everyone should read this article, if only to gain insight into the painstaking decision-making process that helped Gentle River become a reality, as well as gain an appreciation for the effort that CWC put into reproducing Gentle River as close to the original as possible!!
    Congratulations to all of you on creating this perfectly gorgeous doll!!! πŸ™‚

  28. Star

    What a wonderful article!! Congratulations to Team Sibley!! Gentle River is absolutely stunning and will be the most special Blythe ever because she was created by such wonderful artists! Thank you for all your hard work and dedication to the Blythe community!

  29. Behind Gentle River - Part I: The Contest at Puchi Collective

    […] As we waited for the announcement of the finalists, we realized that the “no-head-opening” rule that seemed like such an obstacle was actually a great thing. The doll we had in our hands was nearly factory-perfect. The limitation forced us to really fine-tune our techniques. Now that RBL is out, it’s not such a big deal, but having a custom that isn’t all chopped up and re-assembled at the scalpline makes such a huge difference in the finished product. Continue reading  Part II: Gentle River – Stock Blythe by Melissa March 28th, 2007 in Team Sibley […]

  30. Eduardo Avila

    Amazing article, I really enjoyed it. I have to say that Gentle River is my favourite Blythe by far,you did a wonderful job guys. She make me think of PJ Harvey (I don’t know why). Congratulations πŸ˜€

  31. » Gentle River

    […] Read all about the conception of the original doll here and the production of the Limited Edition Gentle River Doll at Puchicollective […]

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