*Kommern section: new pictures and Vintage Fun Fair - scroll down in the Kommern section
*Cologne section: Mustard museum
*Praetorium/Roman Cologne and Melaten Cemetery - scroll down in the Cologne section.
*Coming up: Playmo Convention 2009 Wolfsburg (Playmo Convention section - duh!); EL-DE-Haus Cologne (Gestapo prison)
KB at Nibelung Hall, Koenigswinter
KB in the Castle Garden, Erlangen (AD Medieval Mood)
Goldie at the Groov yacht harbor, Cologne Zuendorf (Takara All Gold In One)
Blythe was produced by Kenner in the USA for only one year: 1972. She was inspired by the big-eyed melancholy characters that were popular in art and kitsch at the time. Like most fashion dolls that have a different body shape than Barbie, she was soon discontinued and remained a quirky footnote in doll history until the mid-1990s.
In 1997, New York photographer Gina Garan fell in love with Blythe and started to carry at least one doll along with her wherever she went to take pictures. (Early roots of the Travel Blythe Clan ;-) ) Her photographs were exhibited at a big Japanese department store, Parco, which then used Blythe as a virtual model for their sales promotions.
A photo book was published as well - the first of several. Shortly after, Sony used Blythe as a model in a worldwide advertising campaign. Suddenly, Blythe was in demand again - and more popular than ever. Takara issued the first reproduction Blythes and got big name designers to design special one of a kind dolls to be auctioned for charity.
Blythe is not necessarily a doll that appeals to you at first sight. I remember seeing the first Takara reproduction - Mondrian - announced in an issue of Hobby Japan magazine in early 2001 and thinking: "Oh my god, what the heck is that - only the Japanese could come up with something like that!" Several months later, I came across a copy of Barbie Bazaar which happened to have a feature on Blythe and learned more about her background. The article featured many pictures of the original Kenner Blythes. And somehow, I started falling in love with her - her face and her quirky proportions began to haunt me and at some point, I realized I no longer thought she was bizarre - she was cute.
But it wasn´t until Takara´s Rosy Red was released with her striking similarity to Wednesday Addams as played by Christina Ricci that I caved and ordered one. To my surprise, even Lars liked her. ... The rest is history, as the saying goes.
Today, the Blythe gang have firmly established themselves as the resident travel dolls. I´ve tried to take a different doll occasionally but it just doesn´t feel the same (though Pullips come a close second). Blythe´s unusual looks somehow make it easy to take pictures of her anywhere without feeling self-conscious or embarrassed. In fact, when we took Rosy to Italy, people actually asked to have their picture taken with her!
Rouge on the beach in Antalya (Takara Rouge et Noir)
Blythe´s unique proportions make her look like a species of her own rather than a small-scale human. This lets you get away with a lot that would look "wrong" with other dolls.
All Blythes are not equal
By now, there are five different Blythe types (not counting the Petite version) in existence: The earliest, of course, is the original Kenner Blythe. Takara has issued three different Blythe sculpts so far: the one for the first two generations of reproduction Blythes, the "superior" and the "radiance" sculpt. Takara produces modern interpretations of Blythe rather than authentic replicas, and has issued different skin tones as well as a wide range of hair colors.
In 2004, Ashton Drake Galleries in the USA got the license to produce their own series of reproduction Blythes for the American market. They are faithful reproductions of the original outfits and hairstyles but also use a new head sculpt that is slightly different from both the Kenner original and all Takara sculpts.
No reproduction so far has used the original 1970s head mold, which seems to have been lost. Takara´s Radiance sculpt is the most similar to the Kenner sculpt so far. "Neo Blythe" is the common term for all modern Blythes as opposed to "Vintage" (Kenner).
Soon after launching their full-size Blythe replicas, Takara also introduced a smaller version: Petite Blythe is 11cm/4". The first ones were keyring charms with hardly any articulation, the newer versions have become increasingly poseable. Some Petite Blythes are small versions of full size Takara Blythes, others are unique designs.
In addition to that, there have also been several lines of Blythe trading figures and Blythe Kubrick figures.
There are also several Blythe clones around.
While the first ones, Little Big Eyes, made in 2001 by an American company, did look decidedly different from Blythe, but shared the eye-changing mechanism, recently (around 2009) a number of clones that are a lot more similar has appeared: CCE (Color Changing Eyes ), Ba(r)saak and Blybe, plus the JC/Jecci 5 dolls given away by a Chinese store as customer promotion (sleep eyes only). There is also a Japanese clone named Icy which looks as different from Blythe as LBE does.
Pullips, Mattel´s Diva Starz and Beauty Cuties and Sekiguchi´s Coco all share the big head/small body characteristics with Blythe, but are so different in overall looks I don´t count them as clones.