Mountain trip with Cerise Hood

Is it really almost spring? With the past two weeks having been freakishly cold (around -10°C/14ºF) I barely noticed. It was also about two weeks ago that I made a short trip to the mountains that was indeed very wintery in character. I better get to reporting without any more delay 🙂

Of course, this will involve a doll…

OK, so I am pretty passionate about dolls, but the trip wasn’t about doll photography exclusively. You see, I love winter, skiing and snow, but there is rarely an opportunity to enjoy any of the above in the city (even though we do have an artificial ski slope in the area, and even despite the cold, it’s not the same without natural snow). I was delighted when my family offered to take me along for a short skiing trip. Even though it only lasted two days, I still greatly enjoyed the rare chance to feast my eyes on snowy landscape.

The above photos were taken on the first day. This location was especially picturesque, and the weather was wonderful. Unfortunately, I did not bring Cerise on that day, and the next day we went to a different spot, and the weather was quite different. It wasn’t quite as magical, but I did my best to get the best out of it. To be fair, backdrop options are still plentiful for a doll so small in a world so big.

I made her coat just before leaving using the free coat pattern from BFashions, except I gave mine a hood and white trim. The idea for it was born thanks to the felt that it was to be made from – as soon as I saw it at the craft store, I imagined a doll sized, sheep-skin-inspired winter coat. And Cerise seemed to me like the right character to brave the cold and climb the mountains.

I attached the faux fur to the edge of the hood using fabric glue, but now I regret it. It made it stiff.  I chose to make a slit in the back to let her hair out. It’s an odd feature, but it works on this scale.

The day that the photos were taken, the doll was in my backpack all afternoon while I was skiing. I was worried about falling and breaking her (and the camera), so covered her in bubble wrap. Luckily, in the end, there weren’t any such dangerous moment at all 🙂

These two are my favourite photos of the day:

I keep saying it, and I will say it again – I am not happy with the colour balance that comes out of my current Panasonic camera. I do try to adjust it in the camera and in GIMP, but it only makes things look even weirder. It’s especially stark in this post, compared to my old Fuji camera, as seen in the landscapes (although in this case the weather played a role as well). I don’t normally use the old one any more because it has far fewer options and its buttons have been used to death and barely respond, but I do miss the colours. I had another Fuji in-between the two, the infamous XF1. After two of it – the original purchase and the replacement – died to the same defect (“lens control error”) year after year I decided to sulkily part ways with Fuji. I loved it otherwise.

If it wasn’t for the unexpected adventure, I wouldn’t have had a chance to take any photos out in the real snow, and it would be a real shame. Even so, I still have a brand new winter outfit for Animators’ dolls that I made that likely won’t see any use this year. I do love a proper, snowy winter, so I hope the next year will be more up to my standards, even in the city.

OK, now I better start thinking about something nice for Easter, spring and general sunshine.

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A Little Yellow Coat

With the arrival of autumn, I developed a taste for warm colours. Combined with the desire to sew something that would complement Cerise Hood’s beauty, a whole set of tiny autumn clothes was brought into being. That, of course, was a few weeks ago, but it has taken this long for my colds to subside and for the weather to stop being wet, muddy, grey and altogether uncooperative.

The coat is based on a fantastic pattern by BFashions – apparently a fellow Polish doll sewist and collector! The blog is in Polish, but the pattern itself is annotated in English and the instructions are well illustrated, so I’m confident that anyone can follow it. It’s easily good enough to be sold on Etsy or so, but the author is kind enough to be sharing it for free – that’s really something to be grateful for  🙂

I have strayed slightly from the original. I used felt and instead of properly hemming anything, I only added a purely decorative stitch at the edges – I find that felt doesn’t really fray.

The dress was also sewn especially for Cerise and intended to go with the coat. If you were to hold it in your hand you would know that it has some shortcomings, but I am satisfied with this creation. I believe that it fits Cerise in colour and style – it accentuates her charm by being girly yet simple and earthy. I really wanted something like this for her.

Given the season, I gave Cerise a scarf. This one – just like the real ones, coincidentally – is nothing but a square of hemmed fabric.The only difference being that this one wasn’t as shamelessly overpriced for what it is.

I had a lot of fun making the bag. It’s based on a free tutorial from http://www.howtoinstructions.org/how-to-make-bag-for-doll-step-by-step-diy-tutorial-instructions/ I had to shrink the pattern to make it the perfect size for EAH. I think I used 70% or 80% of the original size, but unfortunately I don’t really remember. I also skipped the lining. The bag opens and closes  🙂

Finally, the bench is also my creation (but again, not my idea when it comes to the crafting procedure). When you’re taking photos of dolls, almost everything is out of scale, even the blades of grass. It helps to have a prop – like this bench – to reinforce the illusion that the doll is in a world of her own size.

If you’d like a doll bench of your own, grab some popsicle sticks and follow this great tutorial on YouTube. However, my bench is double the width of that in the video – if you’d like yours to be wider as well, you’ll need to glue together two sticks (trimmed on one side to remove the rounded end) for each plank.

Going to the park in December I wasn’t expecting dried leaves and grass, but I guess I shouldn’t be thinking about this too hard and just be glad that nature let me catch up on autumn themed photos. Hopefully there will yet be time for winter sessions too.

Finally, my favourite photo from the set:

See you in winter themed posts  🙂

 

 

EAH Basic Cerise Hood: A review

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Some time ago I bough the basic release of Cerise Hood. Before I managed to write a review, the autumn sun lured me out for an outdoor photo session. Now the time has come to finally give this doll a closer look!

Here is Cerise still in her box. This is the now retired style of Ever After High boxes (though, as you can see, it still possible to find them in shops and online). The box strikes me as rather spacious – I am pretty sure two dolls could fit in there if necessary. It seems that in the doll industry the size of the box is more related to the price point and quality than to the amount of space actually required to contain the toy – if that’s true, it seems that we are to expect pretty good things from this one:

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Here is the back of the box with some information about the character, in this case, in Polish and Czech. There is also a drawing of Cerise – it is rather pretty and it accurately represents the doll’s clothes and accessories. It is only perhaps a little odd that the style is different from that seen in the webisodes.

If you peek through the keyhole (which in this one case is OK  :)) you can see the doll’s stand tucked in a separate compartment of the box. Despite this subtle hint, doll stands still get thrown away with the box by unsuspecting parents – at least so I heard.

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You would also be alerted to check the box for a stand if you read the list of contents on the base of the box. This section of the packaging also informs us that the doll was made in China in 2013.

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People don’t usually like their toys to have been made in China, but in this case, I specifically sought out a “made in China” version. Basic Cerise Hood has had three slightly different releases so far, and this one is my favorite because of something about its face-up. However, its “made in Indonesia” counterpart also has many fans.

Even the side of the box has a little something special: it resembles the  spine of a book, complete with a picture of Cerise. I would certainly like to own a book of fairy tales with such lovely details! Thanks to the ornate ‘spines’ these boxes stack very nicely on shelves (but, unfortunately, I only have one to stack).

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Finally, the ‘aerial’ view. Just one look from this angle is enough to know there is trouble coming: glue leakage.

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I noticed the stain back in the shop, but I thought it was the same mostly harmless substance as the one that held Bunny Blanc’s hair in shape. Unfortunately, it’s not. The stain was a harbinger of the infamous “glue head” problem that affects certain Ever After High and Monster High dolls. In short, these dolls’ heads are filled with glue which seeps out over time, giving the hair a greasy look. It can apparently also stain fabric which remains in contact for a long time. I haven’t been able to wash it off any way I tried. This is definitely a big minus.

In the box, the doll had a section of her hair tied in something of a braid. I thought it looked nice, but I had to take the rubber bands off because they seemed to be… melting into the hair? It sounds quite unlikely for merely 3-year-old rubber bands, but somehow, perhaps through contact with the glue, they were unusually sticky.

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Time to free the free-spirited Hood. Here she is out of the box, with all her additional accessories: a key-shaped brushed (with rather few ‘bristles’), a doll stand and her basket. Her hair has been washed at this point, as you may be able to tell by the appearance of her bangs.

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Let’s have a look at her face first:

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Cerise has a warm complexion. Grey dominates in her eye make-up and is also the colour of her irises. Grey and silver accents also echo throughout her outfit. Despite being so monochrome, her eyes look bright, if rather serene in expression. Her lips are a nude shade of pink whitch fits her natural beauty. The lower lip has three silver dots which imitate reflections. I think it’s an odd way of painting lip highlights, but I quickly stopped noticing them anyway.

Nearly all basic releases of EAH dolls wear knee-length dresses, but Cerise is instead wearing a shirt or a tunic. The top is finished with a ruffle. It blends in fine colour-wise, but I  feel like it doesn’t match the outfit in its style. So I have a theory about its origin: Could it be that it’s been added to add more consistency between the outfits of the basics, and perhaps add more girly charm?

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Even so, Cerise is different from many of her Ever after High friends, in that her personality and her colour-scheme are less ‘cute’ and less princess-like. I had assumed that her plaid design was an expression her modest, down-to-earth style, but only until I went shopping recently – red plaid is everywhere! Intentionally or not, Cerise is being quite fashionable 🙂 (Also, it seems that it’s a good season for cosplaying as her. Only, you know… don’t go overboard :))

The sleeves of the tunic are tight-fitting, which means that the doll’s hands have to be removed to change the outfit. We have the manufacturer’s blessing to do so, but I still feel as if I’m ‘hurting’ the joints and I am worried about them becoming worn and loose.

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Her leggings are grey/silver, with what appears to be snake leather texture. Given her connection with the forest, they could just as well be tree bark imitation. Rebel-esque or forest-inspired, they fit the doll quite well.

Perhaps her most iconic item of clothing is the red cape with hood. It is by no means plain red, though:

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The cape is adorned with an intricate, borderline scary, fascinating design in the shape of branches and leaves.

It has a slit in the back to let the doll’s hair out (but I like it tucked inside the cape more anyway).

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You can also notice here that the hair has subtle highlights. This variance in colour gives the hair a more realistic appearance.

After removing the doll from the box, I washed the cape with warm water, tea-tree oil (as suggested on doll forums) and large amounts of dish-washing liquid. When it dried, I tried leaving in some cornstarch to absorb the grease. Neither of this techniques work to completely remove the stain. Welp. (Unfortunately, it’s more obvious in person)

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On the positive side, the cape’s clasp is very nicely detailed, and that can’t be taken away  🙂 I am only a little surprised how richly adorned it is for a humble Riding Hood. Perhaps this line of fairy-tale characters has richer history and a richer bank account than I had expected.

I am very tempted to paint these gems.

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Cerise’s detailed accessories do not end here. Consider her jewelry:

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The ring is very much in keeping with the style of cape clasp, and surprisingly well sculpted.

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The bracelet is something a little different. It too has decorations which can be interpreted as jewels, but overall it looks like black leather bracelet with straps. I like to imagine that the previous pieces are family heirlooms, but this one is Cerise’s own touch as a Rebel.

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The belt is most certainly (make-believe) leather. The style is more informal and more natural, but the details are no-less pleasing to the eye:cerises-belt

The back has little pegs for fastening:

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It sits snugly at the narrowest part of her waist, but it doesn’t get in the way of the stand.

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The doll is wearing brown leather boots that go well with the belt:

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Despite the compulsory high wedge, these are possibly the most reasonable shoes I have seen in EAH dolls. The colour is natural, the sculpt is rich but not overdesigned. They do not scream “Little Red Riding Hood”, which means they are perfect for sharing with other dolls. I am very pleased with them. There are a few details which could be painted in, but they look very good as they are.

Finally, Cerise Hood’s basket:

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They did a good job with this piece as well. There is so much going on: cute bows, intricate jeweled ornaments, a rustic napkin, wicker texture and even fur-like trim that I hadn’t noticed until right now. All these things come together without overwhelming the eye. It doesn’t open, though – I guess you can’t have everything, and with fashion accessories, functionality is the first thing to go.

Now let’s consider some physical features of the doll. If you have watched the webisodes, you may be wondering about the doll’s ears. Well, they are slightly pointy, but that’s all:

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Ashlynn’s ears for comparison:

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While we’re at that, notice how greasy the hair is near the ‘scalp’. Stringy, sticky, suspiciously shiny. And this is all post-washing. Fortunately, the greasiness does not show on the top layer of the hair as much.

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It seems that this dolls fingernails are more pointy than the average ones, but again, the difference is negligible. Here are Cerise’s fingers:

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And Ashlynn’s fingers:

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Definitely more noticeable is the height difference. Here are three of my Ever After High dolls, each a different height:

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Ever After Height

Bunny Blanc is the shortest one. Her thigh pieces and her calf pieces are unique to her (between these three that is). Ashlynn Ella and Cerise Hood share the same thigh length, but Cerise’s calves are longer, giving her the extra overall height.

Bunny Blanc was my first doll. Her body proportions looked perfectly normal to me. When I bought Ashlynn she seemed unreasonably tall. And now that I bough Cerise and she is even taller, I do think it’s freakishly excessive. It doesn’t show as much when she is dressed in leggings and high boots.

Cerise, as all the other dolls above, is fully articulated Ever After High style – wrists, elbows, and knees all  bend and rotate at the joints, arms rotate back to front and lift up to the sides, legs at the hips bend so that the doll can sit as on a chair, they also go slightly to the outside (so she could, for example, ride a horse). Some of Cerise’s joints are a bit more loose than in the other dolls: her right arm, for example, has trouble supporting the weight of her basket, but it still keeps poses on it’s own.

Now, for the conclusions:

Strong points:

  • pretty face sculpt and paint
  • unique and detailed outfit design
  • outfit composed of separate, interchangeable pieces
  • numerous intricate accessories
  • doll stand included
  • pretty hair colour
  • poseable
  • visually pleasing packaging

Weak points:

  • permanently stained cape
  • greasy hair
  • slightly loose joints
  • a little lanky  🙂

As in the case of many other dolls, the design is great, but the execution detracts somewhat from the final product. I expect the manufacturer to address the problems in future releases, but meanwhile, this is still a doll worth having and fully capable of giving lots of enjoyment to children and collectors alike – in short, I’m glad to have it.

Golden leaves, Cerise Hood

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I am pleased to introduce Cerise Hood, my third Ever After High doll, in our first photo session together 🙂

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One day, when I was just beginning to discover the Ever After High brand, I was browsing through online auctions, only to see a Cerise Hood doll for the first time. At that point I didn’t understand  who would want a Little Red Riding Hood junior, when you could instead have one of the glamorous daughters of the famous princesses? But that was before I discovered the webisodes 🙂 (be forewarned, the intro plays straight away  :))

I immediately liked Cerise’s personality in the series, and the desire to own the doll soon followed.

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Cerise Hood is of course the daughter of the Little Red Riding Hood. The Little Red Riding Hood and who else, you might ask? In fact, you should ask, or better still, find out in the webisodes 🙂

Even despite the outward resemblance to her fairtytale predecessor, it is unlikely that Cerise’s story will mirror that of her mother, given that she counts herself among the Rebels. Not even the webisodes paint a clear picture of where she is headed. And that’s surprisingly intriguing.

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Being a Rebel means you get to take a bite of grandma’s lunch 🙂

(I simply must mention that this mossy stump was fantastic 🙂 I’ve noticed that some people make themed beds for their EAH dolls, however, nature has taken care of this one for me.)

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In Mattel’s own words: “Cloaked in mystery”

When I say that it was Cerise’s show personality that enticed me to buy the doll, it is by no means an indirect way of saying that Cerise is lacking visually. She is, however, a little different from other more ‘princessy’ characters, and perhaps does require a second, closer look. Her colour scheme – unique to her and preserved throughout different releases – is not one I’m used to seeing in play dolls.

In the series, miss Hood is swift and agile, has a talent for sports, and she seems to feel at home in the woods – often in solitude. But she is sweet too. I feel like a lot of this is well reflected in the doll, which to me makes it worth having over ones I used to think more attractive. Her voice in the show is also adorable, but the doll has so far refused to speak 🙂

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Cerise making her way through the thorns and branches. All in a day’s work for a Little Red Riding Hood.

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I can’t think of a doll more fitting for this autumn landscape 🙂
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Yes, it’s my third ‘aerial’ shot of a doll on this blog. It would appear I’m partial to these.

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The above photo is a variation of the one opening this post. I like them both because I feel like they capture Cerise’s character – mysterious and, in all the relative simplicity of her outward appearance – somehow alluring.

There is also a little inspiration story behind these two photos. One day I was walking through my city and I saw something that looked like a professional photo session in progress. The person being photographed was a young man in a hoodie, sitting on the stairs outside a building, his head bowed down, arms rested on his knees. This image stuck in my mind and became my inspiration for when I got to photograph my own little hooded model soon after.

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Many of these photos are very contrasty, especially compared to the previous ones with Ashlynn. My reasonable side makes me wonder if not excessively so, but at the same time something about the colours excites me.

The autumn forest is a beautiful photo set, but I also brought my own tiny leaves to make sure that Cerise looks like a Little Red Riding Hood and not one of the seven dwarfs in comparison to her surroundings. I made them from painted tissue paper using a leaf-shaped punch. I have long wanted to have one, and have finally found it, just in time!

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This unintentionally looks like “Lunch Atop a Skyscraper” 🙂

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Once again I couldn’t decide between two versions of a photo. I definitely prefer the lighting in the one above, but the second one seems to have a better composition?

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The signature Cerise Hood is a very intriguing doll, and much remains to be said about it, its clothes and accessories, and, when time is right, I will. An unexpected sunny day in the midst of deep grey autumn lured me out of my home with Cerise in my hand, but my focus was to enjoy the light, the landscape and the doll’s charm, more so than to gather proper review material. I intend to put together a separate in-depth review which will show the doll from a more ‘technical’ side – strengths, flaws and details.

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I’m hoping there will be more sunny days this October, and if not… at least we have our dolls to cheer us up 🙂