By Margarita Hirapetian

If you’re not familiar with the art of doll customization, you’re definitely missing out. It’s actually a fascinating art form to be involved in, and it has become more and more popular through the years. Still, it may not have appeared on your radar. Let’s change that by getting to know RAW artist VictoryRose, or Victory Farrell, who makes custom dolls but is also well versed in fashion design, mixed media painting, and jewelry making. She’s a versatile artist who uses her creative talents and agile mind to customize dolls and give them a completely unique personality and striking style. One of her most eye-catching and impressive OOAK (one of a kind) pieces is a doll in a beautiful red high-low dress embellished with silk flowers, wearing a pearl and rhinestone crown with winding gold anklets on her feet, big hoop earrings and red eye shadow. That’s a lot of detail, and that’s the very beauty of doll art. You can tell how much work went into it, and you can certainly appreciate it!

From a young age, Victory has been doing something artistic to express herself, thanks in part to the influence of her dad, who is an oil painter, illustrator, writer, and musician. Her grandma and mom were also artistically inclined, as Victory explains, “My grandma was a painter and did the most beautiful calligraphy, and she taught me how to sew. After moving to Cleveland, my mom got into photography and culinary arts. By watching them work in so many different mediums, I started exploring my own creativity. It was hard though because I’ve always butted heads with my art teachers, because I don’t work well creating on someone else’s agenda. Despite that, in high school I found a love for jewelry making, mixed media painting, and graphic design. In college, I studied cosmetology and fashion design. To practice all my skills while keeping waste and production costs down, I got into doll customizing.” Doll customization really does seem like the perfect medium for Victory to practice all of her crafts, as she both paints her doll’s faces, designs their clothing, and makes jewelry for them.

For inspiration, Victory looks to comic books, music, cartoons, or fashion shows. She says, “I even go to the grocery store and walk down the wine aisles and look at the label art. For the dolls I just sit in public areas and people watch and sketch what I see, or I’ll look at other doll artists on Instagram or YouTube.” In fact, there are quite a few doll customization accounts on Instagram and tutorial videos on YouTube that can be both inspiring for creatives and people who simply find themselves interested in the art form. Victory believes that the popularity of these accounts lies in the fact that there is a “lack of creativity and diversity in toy stores and the toy industry all together. Even though there are so many doll customizers we all have a unique voice and art style, and it’s a very supportive community.” 

Victory herself was drawn to doll art because growing up she unfortunately didn’t see many dolls that looked like her. She wanted to change that for other kids that don’t see themselves in the dolls available on the market, many of which are blonde and blue-eyed, and don’t represent the diversity of appearances in the world. She also enjoys the fact that she can use all of her skills when it comes to customizing, albeit on a smaller scale. Victory further hopes that by creating diverse dolls, it will inspire others who see a lack of representation to not be afraid or hesitant when it comes to creating their own art and building a community from it. This is such a noble idea, and yes, it’s absolutely true that there does need to be more diversity not just in the doll and toy market, but in many, many artistic endeavors in general. 

When it comes to the challenges she sometimes faces, Victory says that she has always had trouble creating on someone else’s agenda and experiencing the stress of them not liking it or her grades suffering as a result. Another challenge is actually a blessing in disguise: her poor depth perception and distorted vision. She explains, “I can only really see fuzzy colors, no defined shapes. I also think of it as a blessing because I don’t see the world the same way other people do, so my art reflects that.” Victory also feels rewarded when she sees people resonating with her work and seeing themselves through her art. She elaborates, “This past month I was commissioned to make a F-M trans doll, I loved creating him and giving him a story. By creating that doll I also created visibility and representation, something that I feel is lacking in trans youth. It’s just really rewarding creating dolls that you would never see in stores.”

Looking to the future, Victory wants to create her own line of BJDs (Ball Jointed Dolls) that she has sculpted herself, in addition to being able to make a living creating dolls of all shapes and sizes for kids to resonate with. It’s clear she’s eager to make a difference in the world, and we have no doubt that she will.

See Victory’s beautiful and compelling work by following her Instagram (@victoryrose_creates). Of course you can also purchase tickets to support her at RAW – here’s her RAW profile.