Amaia, a Custom House St. Mina, was my second doll, arriving first as a head and hands in February 2006. Her stats:
CH Event Ai St. Mina version 1 head, on CH old limited Sia body.
Height 58cm, head 8.5 inches, eyes 14-15mm
Original full doll set, including dressed doll and extra head sold for $600.
To order Mina 1 or 2 from Special Line today would be $920
This photo was taken about a week ago, but shows Amaia's head and makeup much as she was when i got her a little over a year ago. Soon i will be removing her face up and giving her a more natural look like Eun-kyeong Lim, who was the model for this doll. She played Mina i the 2004 Korean horror film Inhyeongsa, or Doll Master.
A few things about the movie. YesAsia amusingly points out that if you import a copy, no versions show any English subtitles for the final 5 minutes of the movie. They go on to say that this does not affect overall understanding of the story line. Which might be accurate because the film makes little sense anyway, and while nicely decorated and well acted, isn't the least bit scary or horrific. But it is South Korean and a horror picture, so an American remake from Miramax is supposedly in the works.
There has been hot speculation on doll boards concerning whether Asian ball jointed dolls will be used in the new film, or something more like Chuckie or a vinyl toy. The confusing Doll Master storyline involves the revenge of an abandoned doll and a spooky doll museum where attractive young people are invited to serve as doll models or become dead, whichever comes first. As a horror film i don't recommend Doll Master, but did enjoy the visual style and the old school ghost story touches.
Custom House St. Mina was the first BJD i really fell for, the one i saved and sold collections for, but after finally gathering the cash, she had just sold out. She was an event tie-in to the release of Doll Master, and i believe there were 250 sets with doll , outfit, plus one extra head. There are differing reports of whether each fullset had a Mina 1 and 2 head, or some had two identical heads. Most were shipped with the second head unpainted, but some had two painted faces. Mina 2 has wider eyes and a smiling expression, is very charming but looks less like Mina in the film. Some fullsets were shipped with both heads painted, some were not. CH also released a few versions of the boy doll in Doll Master, Demian.
As a result of the gift heads, Mina heads painted and unpainted began showing up on eBay and Den of Angels last year. Amaia's head and hands came from a nice seller on DoA, who had painted her to resell for her sister. Before she arrived i planned to wipe her face and attempt to reproduce the look of the factory doll, but the paint was so delicate and unusual i decided to live with it for a while. Here you see a Mina as painted by Custom House.
Finding a body for a floating head is one of the inevitable BJD owner adventures, but not one i was planning on before i got Amaia's head. i don't think Custom House dolls are as popular i the US as, say Volks or Luts dolls, and at the time Custom House wasn't selling bodies separately. A limited CH Sia, minus her outfit, was repeatedly offered on eBay with no response. So, i purchased it with the intention of using the body and selling the head, which, minus the dress, was the only thing making her special.
Sia's face was painted by the great doll designer Rollingpumpkin, and eventually i wound up trading the Sia head for a selection of eyes, wigs and clothes. Though i like the sweet Sia, i could only think about a perfect resin match for my Mina head. Since there are two Mina heads for each Mina body, wasn't the only person with body issues. i caught hell for splitting Sia on a Custom House list, which illustrates the tension in this hobby between traditional doll collectors and DIY hobbyists. In my mind, there is a vast difference between an uniquely customized one of a kind doll, and a production doll with a variant faceup and costume. Ironically, after i put Amaia's head on her new body in April 2006, Custom House discontinued the 'old' 60cm bodies for a new design. They had a sell off of the old bodies, and the new owner of my Sia head purchased one to complete her doll.
The first few BJDs i collected were based on esthetic choices made before i'd ever held a resin ball jointed doll. A few years ago i knew i wanted dolls on the large size with realistic sculpts. Lately my eyes linger on some more stylized sculpts, and i've learned to love minis and tinies, this girl still has my heart. But because the St. Mina molds are more realistic than other Custom House heads, they pose some challenges in the wig and posing departments.
It would be fun to see studio photos of her head during design. It seems likely that digital model assistance was used to create such a good likeness, but the downside is how tiny her face is relative to her frame. This makes her seem more naturally proportioned than more juvenile, big-headed dolls. The problem is, in order to fit that tiny face on a standard old CH body, the back of her head needed to be huge to fit over the neck. Without a wig she looks like the the Martin Girl in Mars Attacks!. Many hair styles just don't work on this doll.
On the other hand, her lifelike appearance and compact frame make her great for cosplay, period clothing, and drag. Though her eyes are two sizes smaller than most CH gals her size, she looks great in silicon 'effects' eyes, like the Soom victoriablack and foggy night eyes she's wearing in these photos. Her headcap is secured by a rubber band, usually augmented by masking tape.
Amaia's resin has yellowed some, no more on her head than body. She had a golden tint in her resin which seems to be aging gracefully in spite of rare excursions outdoors.
Old Custom House doll bodies aren't the most articulated or the best posers. Though the wrists and hands are graceful there isn't much range of movement. They do sit and stand attractively, though. And unlike many other fine doll makers, their body sculpts fit in just about any outfit sold as SD/SD13 size. She has curves, but not too many, and therefore has a larger wardrobe than any of my dolls but tinies.
ABJDs aren't for everyone, and the St. Minas are not for all BJD lovers. People tend to hate or love this doll. The movie isn't really very haunting, but the dolls are.
If you fall for St. Mina, you no longer need to franken-dolly to have her. Outside Asia, Custom House has offered a new Special Line, where they will produce a painted and dressed doll for you with any head mold CH has produced. It is comparable in expense to Volks FCS, but with no options for different body styles. But Custom House offers every head they have produced, and an outfit with the order. Like FCS, it's not a bargain, unless it's the only way to have that doll possessing you.