In Arthur Saint-Léon’s originally choreographed ballet Coppélia (with ballet libretto by Saint-Léon and Charles Nuitter, and music by Léo Delibes), the macabre character created by E.T.A. Hoffmann (in Der Sandmann, The Sandman; and Die Puppe, The Doll) in Doctor Coppélius was turned into one who was sentimental yet comedic (albeit in a somewhat pathetic kind of way) – he made the doll Coppélia so life-like, he fell for her (a la Pygmalion) hard, he wanted to give her life. The closest he got, however, was making hearts – one heart, in particular: that of the main male character Franz – flutter with love, proving the greatness of his invention, which, many thought, was real, meaning, obviously, that he was THAT good.
Alas, the biggest lesson supposed to be derived from the story is on the truth of love – Franz, who was engaged to be married, in the first place, realized the follies of his ways and returned to his fiancée Swanilda. What is not often (if at all) mentioned is the artistry, the focus on coming up with something good that Doctor Coppélius, in his own way, represented (the story was, after all, said to have inspired Charles Babbage – the oft-cited/attributed inventor of the computer) with his making of something what may be seen as trivial, a doll
And it is in this that Filipino dollmaker Oliver dela Rosa Ocampo shares an affinity.
“I started making these dolls early this year (2009), around January,” Ocampo recalls. “I was playing around with pieces of felt cloth one lazy Sunday, and came up with small pillow dolls (plushies). I posted (their) photos in my Facebook account, and some friends inquired about them – one even told me that it could make for a great Valentine’s Day gift.”
Early on, of course, “I had no intentions of selling them or making them for profit. When I made my first dolls, it never really crossed my mind that I could sell my creations. I gave them away as gifts to close friends,” Ocampo says. “The ‘business’ idea came when I saw the voodoo dolls being sold in Session Road (Baguio City) during the Panagbenga Festival. The dolls are plain and boring, and are quite expensive. I thought maybe if I could make better looking dolls, I could sell them for profit.”
So Ocampo experimented on various designs and materials to come up with his version of a voodoo doll.
“I added accessories, I designed the packaging, and then I posted the photos on the Internet. A few days later, people started to inquire about them and I got my first orders. I even have people asking if I could display some of my dolls in their shops,” he says.
From then on, the dollmaking business was on.
Interestingly, Ocampo did not – and still do not – belong to the artistic field, as would be surmised considering his chosen field of interest.
“I’ve been with the training and development field for five years now, and I’m currently working in a business process outsourcing (BPO) company in Baguio City,” says Ocampo, who, nonetheless, has extensive background in design and advertising.
His work experiences are as varied as his, err, materials used for dollmaking, however, having been a part-time radio announcer, a telesales representative, a mainframe programmer, a freelance Web and graphic designer, and an I.T. assistant – perhaps reflective of his educational background, since Ocampo is a graduate of Computer Programming in Business Systems from STI College in 1996, while also having an undergraduate Bachelor of Arts Major in English from Baliuag University and CAP College Foundation Inc. in 1994.
“My family is very supportive of this venture. I even have my Mom help out in making some of the dolls. My Dad was the one who taught me how to use the sewing machine, in case I intend to use it for future projects. Most of my friends and co-workers buy my dolls and are really excited about them. They are the ones telling their other friends and friends of friends about my dolls,” Ocampo says of the support system he has that helped – and still helps – his entry in the field easier.
Thus, the challenge for Ocampo is not confronting homophobia, i.e. facing the erroneous association of dolls (much more dollmaking) with effeminacy, but in delivering the quality of dolls he wants. “Since my dolls are all hand-stitched, I have to limit the number of orders I get. This is very crucial to maintain the quality of the dolls that I create. And that means I cannot take in huge volumes of requests at a particular time,” he says.
There are also the expenses incurred to ensure high quality of goods. “Felt cloth is very expensive, but in order to maintain the required look of certain dolls, I do not substitute other fabric over felt cloth, however costly,” Ocampo says. “Divisoria is still the best place to get the materials that I need, so whenever I deliver orders to Manila, I take the opportunity to go there and purchase as much materials as I can.”
As far as marketing is concerned, “thanks to the Internet, I can easily reach people not just here in the Philippines, but also abroad. Word of mouth is very important, that’s why I am very critical about the quality of my dolls.”
Ocampo is already looking forward to, one day, owning his own doll shop in Baguio City – all the while offering workshops on, yes, dollmaking. For now, Ocampo’s dolls “are marketed mostly via Facebook and my Web site where I get majority of the orders. In Manila, my sister sells them in a small shop in BF Resort, Parañaque. If you’re in Baguio City, you may find them in Locus Cafe in Nevada Square. You can also check out my dolls during my weekend workshops at Cordillera Coffee in SM City Baguio,” Ocampo says.
The dollmaker is happy to have found dollmaking as a, well, call. “Aside from the profit, designing and creating these dolls help me de-stress. It also allows me to enjoy my passion for design. Whenever there are orders, I make it a point to schedule the deliveries so as not to interfere with my work. That means I get to keep my job and earn extra from the dolls,” Ocampo says.
And with that, Doctor Coppélius’ spirit (the jovial one, if it exists at all) lives on in the Philippines, as the focus on making dolls that moves, really touches people continues.
For more information about Oliver Makes Dolls, call (+63) 9296807986 ; email firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit olivermakesdolls.co.nr.