Artist Wendy Tsao spent the last 8 years handmaking over 700 unique “softies” (a.k.a. plush toys) from children’s drawings and inspiring others to learn the craft. But a few months ago, she started to feel “stifled” and wanted to try something new. So after seeing Tasmanian artist Sonia Singh’s Tree Change Dolls (upcycled Bratz dolls she repaints, makes-under, and down-styles), Wendy decided to give Bratz doll refurbishing a go and found it creatively satisfying. That’s when she had the idea to revamp each of her “new” creations to resemble a real-life role model, rendering an empowered collection of what she calls Mighty dolls.
To make each of her repainted dolls, including the newest and Mighty-est members of her fold, Wendy starts with a pre-owned Bratz doll. She washes each with hot water and soap to de-Bratz-ify them, ending up with a “clean” slate from which to create. She then changes their hair and dresses them in new clothes, a process which she says brings back memories of forgotten childhood play. “I enjoy designing their clothes and knitting their little tops, and I like seeing their personalities emerge as I paint their faces,” Wendy writes on her site.
Among her Mighty dolls, the faces that have emerged so far are those of 5 living legends: Roberta Bondar, Canada’s first female astronaut and the first neurologist in space; Dr. Jane Goodall, famed primatologist, conservationist, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, and United Nations Messenger of Peace; Waris Dirie, model, author, and social activist; J.K. Rowling, British novelist best known for the Harry Potter series; Malala Yousafzai, Pakistani school girl turned brave crusader, girls’ education activist, author, and the youngest ever Noble Peace Prize laureate.
Due to the overwhelmingly positive response Wendy has received to her Mighty dolls project in just the last two weeks, she already put plans in motion to sell them on eBay with each giving back to a specified charity. In fact, two of her Mighty dolls are available for bidding now: The Roberta Bondar Mighty Doll (30% of the proceeds will be donated to the Roberta Bondar Foundation) and The Waris Dirie Mighty Doll (30% of the proceeds will be donated to the Desert Flower Foundation).
But based on Wendy’s production plans, be forewarned that her Mighty dolls will be hard to come by. As she notes, “All the dolls I make are one-of-a-kind and cannot be reproduced.” She adds, “I will be continuing to make other inspiring figure dolls, but I will not be making more than one of them at a time.”