Tom Sawyer, 13.4 inches.
Fashion and fantasy BJD artist Alena Amicus (Elena Kochurova’s professional name) won an Industry’s Choice award in the Teen/Adult Doll category in last year’s Dolls Awards of Excellence. Late last year, the Russian artist and her husband were able to move to Great Britain. Alena is continuing her dollmaking and working on new designs as they both settle into their new home. She recently took time to talk to DOLLS magazine about her work:
DOLLS: How did you get into the business of creating dolls?
Alena Amicus: I was selling cars in my 28th year and couldn’t even dream about an art career. After having a hard two-year recovery from surgery on my lungs, I decided to change my whole life and moved to Bali, an island in Indonesia. I met my guru Pranoto there — a famous Indonesian artist — and he became my teacher for more than two years. He taught me how to see the world through my canvas and brush. I drew many random people who came to our model drawing sessions, as well as nature and animals, and I felt that this made me come alive.
After returning home, I was filled with desire to create something special and to use my new skills in different ways. It took me a long time trying different arts — illustrations for books, personal portraits by commission, 3D drawings of fish and frogs in layers of transparent resin — but nothing could fascinate me for a long time, until I saw a video with a ball-jointed doll on YouTube. It made me get up, buy some clay, and start working on my first (ugly) doll. That was about four years ago, and I feel myself on the right path now.
DOLLS: What are some of your favorite creations?
Alena: This is a tricky question — I am truly proud of almost all my projects. It’s as difficult a choosing a favorite among your children. If we talk about fullset projects, I can distinguish Jazzman — he is one of the most detailed and strong character dolls I’ve ever created. I think Samurai, with the face of my favorite Japanese actor Hiroyuki Sanada, is one of my best dolls. I have my own Tom Sawyer, which I’ll never sell, because he is my lovely little boy.
All my projects are dedicated to different remarkable parts of my life and to bright emotions I’ve felt about movies, books, music, or people.
DOLLS: How has your big move affected your dollmaking and your future plans?
Alena: The last couple of years were difficult for the whole world because of COVID-19 and then the awful war. At the beginning of 2022, I was terrified and frustrated — it seemed that the world was ending. My inspiration is in love and freedom — no artist should be involved in aggression. Moving to Great Britain was hard, but I’ve never doubted this choice. A new island (Bali being the first) has called me after seven months of working on my Global Talent visa. My husband and I are here now, and we are working hard on current orders.
My moving hasn’t affected my inspiration, only made it stronger! Great Britain makes me feel needed and valued as an artist. I am working on a new male doll and have a plan for a new girl also. My favorite part in dolly art is the development of joints. I think joints are as important a part in dolls as the main sculpt. I feel energy buzzing through me when I work on new joints, testing them and making a figure move. After my new dolls are born, I am going to make them come alive with the make-up, wigs, and clothes — I never know exactly what character will appear at the end.
I am also planning to organize an exhibition in collaboration with my good friend and great photographer Polina Plotnikova. I also have a desire to start visiting model life drawing sessions again and trying classic portrait art as a hobby. One of my current dreams is to participate in the British reality TV show Portrait Artist of the Year one day.
DOLLS: Are there specific designs you’re planning for the future that you can tell us about?
Alena: I was thinking about trying a new artistic style. Usually I create human-like dolls, keeping real proportions. The new step in dollmaking I’m considering would be to try to make a stylized doll, adding some unusual features which could make it different from my main projects. So, I want to add some more creative parts to my regular work — but let’s not make God laugh at my plans!
DOLLS: How do you like to spend your free time?
Alena: I have my small family — my husband and a cat. We love simple things — good movies, walks near the ocean, nice food and talks, meeting our friends. We are working hard now to finish all current orders and planning to travel in Great Britain in summer. I am always truly involved in creating my dolls, so I can’t say for sure what other hobbies I have. Creating new dolls is always at the back of my mind, whatever I do. Even upcoming portrait sessions — I don’t separate the process of painting a real human and sculpting a doll inside my head.
The world has changed for many people and for me. I am at the beginning of something new, and I believe that it is for good. I am praying for peace and want to believe that my art can unite people. The addiction to creating dolls has been moving me for many years; it gave me energy to take new steps, recover from depression, and go forward. I am very grateful to DOLLS magazine for the opportunity to participate in the wonderful challenge and to get an award. This helped me present evidence of my artistic success in applying for my visa to Great Britain.