Tree Change Dolls: Recycling, restyling and reusing discarded dolls

Tree Change Dolls: Recycling, restyling and reusing discarded dolls

By-Nidhi Kumari

Playing with dolls is a part of growing up years, we grow up with that tiny toy, we sleep and we wake up with that cute little thing. And as always once we have played enough, we tend to throw or forget that most important possession into the bin or leave it to stock up the store room.

These used dolls that are otherwise considered useless by many make way for ‘Tree change dolls’. The brainchild behind, ‘Tree Change Dolls’, Sonia Singh, loved dolls in her childhood and her liking for dolls inspired her to upscale the old, used dolls into a new one. Recently, Sonia Singh was awarded with the Etsy Design Award for this innovative project. Indus Age caught with the ‘Tree Change Dolls’ inventor, Sonia Singh where she tells us about her project, the challenges she faced, her thought on Bratz dolls and  a lot more. Excerpts:

DollsDolls are a part of a child’s growing up years, and once used it is discarded or thrown away. You decided to recycle and reuse those discarded dolls. How did you come up with this innovative idea?

When I lost my job late last year due to government funding cuts, I decided to spend some of my free time on developing a creative project that involved ‘upcycling’. Because I loved dolls as a child, I decided to try to upcycle the discarded fashion dolls I would find at my local ‘tip shop’ (salvage store attached to the rubbish dump.) I chose to give these little fashion dolls a ‘makeunder’ and restyle them into the type of dolls I would have loved to play with as a child, dolls that reflected my values and way of life.

What was the thought behind the name, ‘Tree Change Dolls’?

My trade mark name reflects the term ‘tree change’ which is used to describe a move away from the city to lead a slower paced life, more in tune with nature. I thought the name was quite appropriate to my dolls.

 What all preparations you make to transform a reused doll in to a new one?

Each Tree Change Doll takes a lot of time and care to create. Each one is created from a second-hand doll and transformed into a unique one-of-a-kind doll. I clean the original doll and remove the factory paint from the face. I paint a new face in my style that I hope reflects that of a real little child. I try to give each doll a unique face and character. I wash, brush, trim and restyle each doll’s hair. My mum sews and knits all the doll clothes which I use to dress each doll in a unique outfit. I also hand craft new shoes or feet for the dolls using a technique I have invented myself. I love to photograph my dolls playing outside in natural environments.

When you had started with the process, were there any challenges before you?

I have never re-painted dolls before so there were many challenges. I experimented with how to remove the factory paint from the dolls and experimented with the style of painting a new face to acheive the look I wanted for my dolls.

One of the biggest challenges was coming up with a way to make new feet and shoes for these dolls which originally have snap-on high heel feet. I experimented with different methods and products until I came up with something I was happy with.

‘Tree Change Dolls’ are completely different from the Bratz dolls that have enhanced body structure with excessive make up and style. What would you like to say on that?

I am simply using discarded plastic dolls as a starting point to create my own unique dolls in a style that appeals to me. I want my dolls to reflect the spirit of real children, happy to be playing and having adventures in the natural world.

Do you think, ‘Tree Change Dolls’ pose a threat to the Bratz dolls that are there in the market?

At this point all my Tree Change Dolls are hand-styled, recycled dolls. They take a lot of time and care to create. I can only create a very limited number of dolls, so they are certainly not posing any kind of threat to manufactured dolls.

You are a proud recipient of the ‘The Etsy Design Award’ for recycling, reusing and restyling discarded dolls, competing among 52 finalists. What would you like to say?

I have to thank all my supporters who voted for me as the Community Choice Award Recipient. It is thanks to all their support that I will be travelling to New York to visit the Etsy Headquarters as part of my prize. I’m very excited!

Your Etsy store selling recycled dolls is quite popular. What do you think draws people towards the ‘Tree Change Dolls’?

While people have been re-painting and re-styling dolls for many years, I came up with the original concept of restyling dolls in a down-to-Earth way, giving them a ‘makeunder’ as I call it. I want my dolls to reflect the style of real children ready for adventure in the outside world.

What are your future plans with, ‘Tree Change Dolls’?

My Tree Change Dolls business and my Etsy shop has taken off on a scale that I am still coming to terms with it. I want to make the most of all the opportunities that have opened for me, but at the same time my priority is my family. I want to give my 2 year old daughter the time and attention she deserves and the relaxed childhood I believe a ‘tree change’ lifestyle is all about!



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