How to become a OOAK doll restorer

How to become a OOAK doll restorer

This alternative job fits the bill for:

  • Part time jobs
  • Most exciting jobs in the world
  • Unusual jobs
  • Student jobs – Do it for your CV!
  • Jobs that let you have piercings

Meet DollyD, the mastermind behind Dollytopia OOAK doll restoration. Her workshop is stuffed with vintage and modern barbies rerooted with blue punk hair and customised with alternative clothes and accessories…

Name: DollyD (Suzi!)

Career title: Doll Restorer/OOAK creations for Vintage (& Modern) Dolls


How did you end up in this job? What were the roots of your love for what you do?

It started as a hobby, when I had kidney failure and was too ill to work, now it has taken over my life! I used to collect dolls about 15 years ago, and thought it would be a good interest to start up again – but with a difference, in that I could alter the way the dolls looked, so that I was the only person who had a doll like it, an OOAK (one-of-a-kind doll). The someone saw one of my dolls, and wanted to buy one…and so it all began!

Are dolls just for little girls?

NO WAY!! Dolls are for everyone, young, old, male and female. I know lots of men and women who collect dolls of all sorts.

You perform OOAK (one of a kind) doll services. Since this become popular enough to get its own acronym, do you think OOAK dolls are a proper, genuine movement that’s here to stay?

Absolutely! I know many collectors, who have now sold off their doll collections to concentrate on just the OOAK dolls.

What kind of repair services do you get asked to do on dolls, and what kind of dolls do you handle? Is your approach classic and tradionalist, or more alternative?

At DollyTopia I get asked to reroot hair, eyelashes and to either repaint faces, or to retouch the lips/eyes. The dolls I deal with are Sindy, Pippa, Vintage Barbie and My Scene dolls. I have recently been asked to repaint Blythe. I have created a Medieval Sindy OOAK, but other than that, my creations tend to be alternative, with Fantasy colour hair, and they usually have a theme to them.

What does your workshop look like?

Erm…a mess! It’s a small bedroom, with dolls everywhere! Boxes of dolls, doll clothes, doll hair, paints, laptop, desk/table, and shelves full of the dolls I collect: Mod barbie, Blythe & Sindy. There are even dolls on the windowsill that belong to other people… they have green ears (from the old earrings used on dolls in the 60/70s, they have OXY10 on them!).

Do you make outfits for dolls? And do you customise doll faces, like Blythe doll craftgirls do?

I do make basic outfits; I recently started to get more adventurous, but prefer to make accessories (belts, stockings, etc). I am customizing a Blythe right now! I am in the middle of sandmatting her face, and then I will repaint her. I want to reroot her, but can’t make up my mind whether to use Mohair for her hair or not.

Do you have any dolls yourself? What are they like?

I have LOTS of Mod Barbies; some are original, some I have restored, and a few I have customized as I have more than one of that particular doll. I’m always changing their clothes about! I have a few Sindy dolls, 1 Pippa doll, 1 Blythe (at the moment, but I definately want more!), 2 Fleurs and a lot of boxed dolls, some very rare. They are all dressed in nice clothes and all have nice hair 🙂

Do you need any special skills? And will the job make you cash-rich?

Hmm….I think you need patience to reroot, and a steady hand to repaint. I guess being an artist would have its advantage! But I haven’t any real skills at all, just lots of practice. Cash rich? Maybe, if you get good enough at it 🙂

What are the pros and cons of OOAK doll restoration?

I love to see the doll when she is finished, she always looks completely different. That’s the best part. The downside can be when you can’t get something right – the hair, or the eyes. Also, there are still a lot of people who think doll collecting is for children. I get that a lot! Being told to grow up!

What are the bestest and worstest moments you’ve had so far as an OOAK doll restorer?

Bestest is when I get compliments, especially from other OOAK doll creators who are very well-known, or they buy from me! Thats a buzz!

The worstest… is when you just about finish the reroot and the head splits… or the eyelashes, and the eye splits… grrrrrrrrr… that’s SO annoying.

Do you get to wear a sexy uniform?

Haha! I wonder what the dolls would make of that??!! I guess I could if I wanted to, it isn’t like they could laugh at me, is it! Usually I’m in jeans and T-shirt with Timberland boots 🙂

Danger factor?

Needles! I have lots of needles for their hair, I am forever stabbing myself with them.

Do you meet fit, clever, solvent blokes in your line of work?

Only Ken, but he is a bit quiet, and I have a feeling he prefers Barbie to me 🙁

What would you say to anybody interested in being an OOAK doll restorer?

You need to be VERY VERY good at OOAK dolls to make any serious money from it. Its taken me ages to get known, and Im not even that well know, but I hope to be! It takes a LOT of practice, and a lot of time. Its the sort of thing, that if you wanted to do it as a career, it will take a fairly long time. Probably better for it to be a hobby at first, and go from there.

Show DollyD your love by visiting and marvelling at her pretty dolls…