Russian-Canadian dollmaker Marina Bychkova is famous for sculpting highly realistic porcelain dolls. Her creations are not only anatomically correct, they’re also soul-stirringly ethereal enough to make the viewer curious about their stories. It’s no wonder they’re so sought after by doll connoisseurs across the world. Bychkova’s dolls sell for tens of thousands of dollars each, with the most expensive one fetching a whopping $76,500 on eBay.
The Enchanted Bychkova Dolls are mostly nudes, carrying pensive, mysterious, even sad expressions, as though truly affected by life and destiny. The delicate beauties draw attention with their soulful eyes and sensual lips, with many fans claiming they could spend hours staring at them. The dolls are ball-jointed, which means they can be photographed in various poses that invoke a range of emotions within the viewer.
Bychkova, who was born in Novokuznetsk city in 1997, started making dolls at the age of six, driven by the fact that she couldn’t play with the beautiful dolls that only existed in her imagination. She practiced the artform incessantly until she was finally able to bring her dream dolls into existence. One thing that sets her dolls apart is the absence of glass eyes. Instead, she hand-paints the eyes on each doll, making them truly one-of-a-kind. Each doll takes her anywhere between 150 to 300 painstaking hours to complete.
“The reason I love making dolls is because it’s such a multidisciplinary art form,” Bychkova wrote on her website. “I’m not content working in just one medium such as painting or sculpture, and dolls offer me a very diverse and satisfying tactile experience. To create a doll, I get to do it all: sculpture, industrial design, painting, engraving, mold-making, drawing, metalwork, fashion, and jewelry design. I want it all, or nothing!”
While Bychkova’s dolls are most notable for their fine craftsmanship, they also carry layers of social, psychoanalytic and feminist references – ideas that Bychkova was exposed to as a student at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Vancouver. One of her most striking creations is a tribute to breast cancer patients – it depicts a young girl with a bejeweled bald head and a removable pair of breasts. Bychkova also uses her craft to re-interpret fairy tales. Through her Beauty and the Beast doll she tries to explore the Stockholm Syndrome, while the Snow White and Prince Charming dolls touches upon themes of necrophilia.
The story of The Princess and the Pea had a strong impact on her, given that she suffered from scoliosis of the spine since childhood and was forced to sleep on hard surfaces without mattresses. “It is impossible to describe how insulted I felt when I first read the fairy tale The Princess and the Pea, which tells of a spoiled girl who requires as many mattresses as possible to be able to sleep,” Bychkova wrote. So she explored the possibility of the princess suffering from hemophilia through her Princess and the Pea project, depicting a young doll in tears, unable to come into contact with anything that’s not soft.
“In order to deal with the sheer unfairness of it, I began to imagine the Princess had a medical condition herself, such as hemophilia, a disorder that impairs the body’s ability to clot blood. In my version, her disease made it lethal to sleep on anything but the softest stack of mattresses, because if she came into contact with anything even remotely hard she would bleed to death.”
“Looking at The Princess and the Pea this way put things into perspective and helped me to overcome my own self-pity.”
I recommend you watch this three part video of an enchanted doll coming together in the hands of Marina Bychkova, to really get an idea of the painstaking work that goes into every one of her creations.
Photos © Marina Bychkova/Enchanted Dolls