It’s only been a couple of days since PUDDLE ended and I haven’t quite convinced myself that it’s really over. I keep thinking soon I’ll see the people I got to meet and hang out with again, even though we’ve all gone home now. It’s all still surreal being back in the real world!
I’m not going to rehash all of PUDDLE for you for a couple reasons: first, the schedule is much the same each year, and I did a pretty thorough breakdown last year, so I don’t feel as if it’s strictly necessary to repeat that for this year’s. Second, I’m sure I won’t be the only one posting about it, so definitely take a look at some other dolly blogs while you’re browsing around!
As I mentioned previously in my prep posts, our PUDDLE journey began on Thursday as we made a seven hour drive from southwestern Missouri where we live to central Illinois where my parents live. I had thought that I would be working Thursday and then making the drive after my shift, getting us there incredibly late, but I was actually lucky enough to get the day off, which was wonderful because it meant we could travel during the day instead of at night. It was also nice because it meant we got to eat dinner with my parents and then go visit the camp I used to work at and say hello to some of my former coworkers. It was really nice!
Friday morning we got up relatively early and made the drive to Chicago (or Elk Grove, really). We’d done a bit of research in advance and had plans to get on the 11:26 bus from near the hotel and take public transit downtown to see the Bean. Katelynn (my roommate and tag-along friend who came to the convention with me to save me from social anxiety) has seen it a couple of times, but despite the fact I grew up in Illinois and have been to Chicago many times, it’s not something I’d ever done. Unfortunately, we got stuck in construction and instead of getting there in plenty of time, we reached the hotel at about 11:28. We then decided to take the next bus at about 12:15, but that one failed to show up on time, even though the bus system’s website claimed it had stopped at the stop when it was supposed to. We gave up at around 12:30 and decided to call it quits on the Bean. Funnily enough, the bus passed us as we were walking back to the hotel and I think she might have picked us up, but at that point we were pretty frustrated about it and I was worried that the buses would be late in the afternoon as well and we’d miss the Mitsuwa hangout, so we didn’t try it.
Instead, we ended up spending part of the afternoon at Mitsuwa as well. This was great for me as it meant I got some browsing time when there weren’t a bunch of people I wanted to chat with around, and I got bubble tea, which is one of my favorite things and was really great for calming down my frustration. I bought a couple of volumes of manga in Japanese during this time, as well as a cup girl miniature like the ones I was collecting while in Japan. (I ended up with the series’ special model, a silver bikini Fuchiko, but oddly mine was missing one of her legs entirely. It’s weird, but it kinda makes her unique!)
I’m glad Katelynn convinced me to bring Marty with me to PUDDLE this year; I think she’s the most recognizable of my dolls. It was great when, while sitting in the lobby during initial hangouts, somebody from the forums recognized her and we got to meet each other as a result! I knew that there were going to be several people from the forums here this year from long distances and I was really excited to meet them, but sometimes my shyness gets in the way, so it was really nice to have Marty as a bit of an icebreaker and to get to know them!
Despite my shyness, I feel like in general I did a much better job of socializing with people and stuff. I didn’t feel awkward and weird sitting in the lobby waiting for somebody to talk to me this year; instead I was talking with everybody and hanging out, meeting old friends and new ones! It was great and I didn’t feel out of place at all!
It was also pretty nice to be able to be a driver to Mitsuwa this year instead of a rider. We had one other person in our car and we bonded over Yuri on Ice, which Katelynn and I only started watching that Wednesday and had only seen two episodes at that point but were already starting to fall in love with. I about made myself sick wolfing down katsudon; it’s not often I get to have real, delicious Japanese food and I love every chance I get but I just couldn’t eat the whole thing! I explored the grocery store in Mitsuwa in the evening, which was really great because I was able to get some things that I can’t get my hands on as easily at home. I also got a black sesame milkshake, because I love sesame, and that also didn’t get entirely eaten by me because I should not have considered eating. Our new friend who rode over with us got us all Yuri on Ice blind bags from the bookstore to commemorate our bonding over pork cutlet bowls; I came home with a Yuri Plisetsky pin, which made me really happy because so far he’s my favorite! (As I’m editing this post a few days after I wrote this paragraph, I can assure you that even after finishing season one and becoming probably even more obsessed with this show, Yurio is definitely always going to be my favorite!)
Last year, when we were in a different hotel, we didn’t stick around for a whole lot of the evening tea party on Friday. This year I stayed for pretty much all of it (Katelynn was there for some before taking off to go enjoy the pool). I brought down four of the six custom dolls I had made for the event to try and sell: Josefin (the “Blue Skater” Dal I’ve been working on off and on since last PUDDLE), Deer Boy and Skunk Girl, and Stevonnie. It was really amazing to show them off and to hear everybody’s kind words about them! I really enjoyed looking at all the things other people brought out to sell or trade, too! I held on to my money for the most part since I knew I was probably going to want to spend a lot of it on Saturday, and I’ll admit I regretted it after a couple of dolls I really liked got away from me, but it was still really neat to see everything. I did buy one dress from someone, a Licca dress in the pastel colors I have such a soft spot for, but other than that I did what I could to hold off until PUDDLE proper.
Much to my surprise and excitement, though, I did find homes for Deer Boy and Skunk Girl Friday night! And they ended up sticking together, which I had honestly been hoping for. It definitely was a boost in confidence for me and has really helped to encourage me to continue to customize!
I headed back to the room to sleep once things started to die down, because I wanted plenty of energy for Saturday. Apparently my body had other plans because I woke up for nearly an hour and a half in the middle of the night, but I guess you don’t get to decide when that happens, right?
I had made myself a shirt to wear at PUDDLE this year, with “Make Dolls Not War” on the front of it. I was already a little bit disappointed with it because my freezer paper stenciling doesn’t seem to ever want to work right for me anymore, but it was still super frustrating when I managed to spill coffee all over my right shoulder on it despite barely sloshing it at all! Luckily it was just the right size to cover with my PUDDLE name badge, so instead of using the lanyard I just commandeered one of the pins they had given us to pin it in place over the stain. Honestly, it gave me a lot more room to maneuver anyway.
One of the changes they made this year was the introduction of table hosts. Instead of putting all the pressure on TrueFan and her volunteers to get all the tables decorated, each table host decorated their own table to fit the tea party theme. We picked a table we liked for the decorations and it happened to be hosted by a forum member, which was really exciting. She really went all out with cutesy tea party themed items!
One of the things that was most fun for me this year was just being a little more comfortable with everything. I didn’t feel like I was guessing about what was happening when or anything like that, and I wasn’t quite as shy about putting myself out there, so I was able to be friendly and help out first-timers and things like that, plus there were people all over the room that I knew to some extent.
You may recall from my PUDDLE post last year that I brought my DSLR, but forgot my SD card, so all the photos I took on it the first half of the day before I realized my mistake were lost. The good news is I remembered to bring my SD card this year! The bad news is, I managed to bump the setting it was on so for the first couple hours the pictures I took were just black. Then, when I finally got it set properly, only about one in five photos was clear enough to even consider posting, so unfortunately, I still don’t have a whole lot of photos, but there’s a few more than last year!
I did not participate in the Dress Like Your Doll contest this year, because I was focusing on my customs and things. My favorite entry happened to be the one that won, a young lady who dyed her hair to match her Akemi’s and made the two of them matching shirts with each other’s faces on them. It was clever and made me smile!
I’ll be interested to see how this year’s group photo turned out; there were so many of us that instead of taking one single photo the photographer took several of smaller groups which are going to be edited together. It’ll be interesting to see what comes of it!
Katelynn and I didn’t stray far for lunch. We had talked about going back to Mitsuwa just because I love it so much but we were worried we wouldn’t get back in time for some of the afternoon things, so we ate across the street from the hotel. I ended up heading back to the convention while Katelynn got some rest. I probably could have used it but I was having too much fun!
I did buy a couple things from the vendors this year. I had brought my two Isul girls, Jayni and Sophie, in hopes of finding them female bodies this year. In Sophie’s case, CornflowerBlue had been kind enough to bring along her 24cm new obitsus for us to see in person, and I decided I liked it enough to go with that one. (It helped that she had her Souji Okita on the 24cm too, which meant I got a really great idea of how Sophie would look!) I did buy Jayni a new body, though, from Sakura’s Blossoms. I got her a small bust 27cm soft bust type, which is what I kind of always figured I’d get her. It does have the magnets in the feet, but with her head’s weight they’re not really super useful. I also got Marty a new shirt- Mota de Algodon was selling a shirt with Marty McFly on the front of it, and since Marty is partially named after Marty McFly I just had to have it for her! There were tons of other cute things I would have loved to buy but I knew I wanted to buy a doll this year so I was trying hard to hold off. I got lots of business cards to find them later, though!
We also had a lot of fun at the “free” tables- the take it leave it table as well as the crafts table. I got a couple of more casual dresses for Nevada and a new wig for Jayni more along the lines of what I’d always wanted for her, and we had fun making tiny fascinator hats out of felt and feathers for our girls!
This year there was a PUDDLE cake, and it was delicious! It was a fun way to celebrate the 10th anniversary, and like I said, it was really good cake too!
Last year, when I bough Marty her new body, I hadn’t planned ahead enough to pack supplies to rebody her. I had gotten lucky because my dad had most of what I needed at home, so we were able to get her fixed up Saturday night, but I had wished I could have gotten her on her new body quicker, so this year I came somewhat prepared, with my screwdrivers, glue, and teflon tape. Unfortunately, I didn’t think ahead enough to also bring a dremel to sand down the peg, so I wasn’t quite as equipped as I would have liked. Fortunately, one of the vendors, Denise’s Dolls, had a dremel with them and was kind enough to help me out on Saturday evening, so Jayni did get her body during the trip after all. She did end up bald for the rest of PUDDLE though since I wanted to give her wig a fabric softener treatment before putting it on her. Plus, having my screwdriver and glue and things came in handy as I was able to share them with other people putting dolls together!
I entered several of the raffles this year; there were just so many things that were super cute! Lots of lovely doll clothes and other things. I was really hoping to win one of the dolls in the special raffle prizes (weren’t we all?!), specifically having put in tickets for the Omocha Crush custom and the KuddlePuss Kustoms doll. I didn’t win either of those, but I did win something I didn’t expect to come home with: an outfit set from DarlingClover! I’ve been drooling over her stuff since I saw it last year and probably would have bought a skirt if I hadn’t won this raffle, but it’s super exciting to have a whole outfit! Seriously, her stuff is incredibly well-made and detailed, so I highly recommend you check her out! Katelynn also won a raffle for a doll dress, which was impressive because she only had one raffle ticket (her gift bag didn’t have one for some reason, so she only had an icebreaker ticket).
And of course, the highlight of the afternoon: the customs contests! It’s no secret that I had three dolls made for the contests, but who they were has been a secret until now. My modified entry was Taeyang Lie Ren from RWBY, a Maguna with a modified faceup and completely original wig and clothes that I put a lot of work into and really love. (He’s also the only doll I made with the intention of keeping this year, and I hope to commission a Nora to go with him eventually!) My two full customs entries were chosen to go along with the tea party theme, and are characters from one of my favorite anime/manga series: Tamaki and Haruhi Fujioka from Ouran High School Host Club. Tamaki is a Taeyang Alberic who was completely sanded and repainted, and Haruhi is my third Isul girl, made from a MIO kit and rebodied onto a 25cm (female) obitsu. I’ll have more about my customization processes on each of them as well as my non-contest custom dolls in separate posts soon, so keep an eye out for when I link to those here!
There were soooo many great customs this year, both in modified and in full customs, as well as a few cute mini’s entries and two really great custom outfits. (I think I’ll enter that contest next year; I’ve already got a great idea for it!) It was almost impossible for me to pick a favorite, so I know the judges had to have had a hard time too! In full customs, I was partial to Juniper, a doll with gorgeous sky blue yarn hair who I never got a non-blurry picture of, sadly. I also really loved the mime-inspired dolls, the multi-armed blue Dal, the Pullip with intricate drawings all over her body, and a sweet little pastel pink girl you’ll hear more about later. My favorite modified doll was the little rainbow girl.
I didn’t win any contests this year, but it was completely understandable with all the great entries, and I’m not at all disappointed! It just inspires me to try even harder next year, and I’ve already got some great ideas going for that! Congratulations again to all the winners! I didn’t do the greatest job remembering who won each contest, I’m sad to say, but I know they were all deserved!
Wrapping back to the pink custom girl I fell in love with. As I mentioned before, I had always planned to buy a doll this year, probably a custom. I’d had my eyes on some of Doll Angel’s customs, but my favorites got snatched up Friday evening and early Saturday so I kind of missed out (which is okay, because I’m planning to commission her anyway soon!) Then I saw this lovely girl and knew that if her creator was selling her, she was the one I wanted. Timing was perfect, too- I was picking my dolls back up off the customs tables and walking by when I heard her customizer telling someone else she was hoping to sell her. I must admit I kind of swooped in because I just had to have her! She did end up coming home with me and I’m absolutely in love with her. I think I’m going to call her Circe. And by a lucky fluke, we figured out after the fact that the customizer and I are fellow forum members. I had been so excited that I hadn’t gotten her name at PUDDLE, but I knew all along that the doll reminded me of somebody’s work. As soon as I saw that ShortyBoo had been at PUDDLE, I knew whose work Circe reminded me of (and about that time she saw my picture of Circe at the dinner Saturday evening and made the same connection I did!) So that made me happy to be able to identify who made her after all and find out it was someone I’d talked to some online already.
Since we were staying in the convention hotel this year and not trying to get back to my parents’ house on Saturday evening, we were able to stay for the dinner and lobby hangout Saturday evening. This ended up being a ton of fun, as we got to know even more people we hadn’t really interacted too much with yet. My new girl, Circe, came to dinner with me, and then it was mainly the dolls I was trying to sell and Jayni whose body was getting worked on in the lobby with me that evening. It was fun to hang out, relax a bit and just chat about doll stuff and other things. I’ll admit by this point, I was thoroughly exhausted; being introverted and spending an entire weekend socializing can be incredibly draining, but I was drained in a good way and didn’t want to stop hanging out!
I’ve mentioned several times that Katelynn comes along with me not because she’s a doll person, but for moral support for me. She actually did have two dolls, both EAH, and brought one of them with her this year because I convinced her she should (somewhat of a shameless plug on my part; she brought the Sailor Mercury custom I made her for her birthday a couple years ago). Well, Saturday night, she ended up with another doll, a Shibajuku Girls doll that somebody else was trying to get rid of. (I’ll admit these dolls really creep me out. I know it seems weird that I can be all about Pullips but the big vacant eyes on these give me the heebie jeebies, but there you go.) She also was admiring a Tomoe Mami someone was selling and I was trying hard to convince her to buy it (my not-so-secret ulterior motive in bringing her along is trying to get her hooked too) but the price was just a bit higher than she was willing to go, so no luck.
Saturday afternoon someone posted in the PUDDLE Facebook group who wasn’t able to come to PUDDLE, but lived nearby and was getting ready to move across the country, so was trying to get rid of some doll stuff/other things via a garage sale thing on Sunday morning. I’m a sucker for a good deal, so before we headed back south Sunday morning we stopped by. And here’s where I get to do my victory dance, because Katelynn is now a Pullip owner! She came away with two Pullips and a bait head. I also picked up a bait head I’m excited to work on. It’s kinda funny that Katelynn came out of PUDDLE with more new dolls than I did, but I’m not going to complain any, both because I’m beyond happy with what I did come home with, and because I love that I’ve “infected” Katelynn.
Our drive home was LOOOONG. I was beyond exhausted at this point because I’m super introverted and doing nothing but socializing with people I don’t know super well, no matter how fun, is super draining for me. The good news was that we were able to break it up some- We did the drive from Chicago to my parent’s house first, stopping there to eat lunch with them, then we did the longer drive home in three smaller chunks, with Katelynn taking over driving the middle chunk so I could get a much-needed nap. We finally got home at 9:15ish.
I still feel like I’m behind on sleep but I wouldn’t trade it for the world! I’m not 100% if I’ll be able to come to PUDDLE next year; I’m planning to go to Japan for a couple of weeks next year and depending on timing PUDDLE may just not be feasible. I do hope things will work out, though, and if I do come I’m toying with the idea of buying a vendor’s table. We’ll just have to see how things come along.
I haven’t posted all my pictures from PUDDLE here (or, you know, the ones that actually turned out) for sake of space and not spamming you, but feel free to see the rest of them here if you’d like! Keep an eye out for the posts about my customization processes on the seven dolls I brought with me!