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Dolls Talks with Illustrator Jennifer Vallez

Updated: Dec 28, 2023

When I came across the US illustrator Jennifer Vallez, I could not believe my own eyes... Her art was just perfect: the illustrations looked almost effortless, but so detailed and skillfully drawn, so fresh, stylish and very different! I immediately joined a large audience of Jennifer's followers on Instagram, but then to my big surprise and delight she started collecting dolls!... It was too tempting not to ask her for an interview!

- Hello!

Hi! I am Jennifer Vallez. I am an artist, wife, mom of two girls and proud small business owner. I hustled hard for over 18 years as an art director in the advertising world. When my eldest Sophie was 2, I was inspired to start a little girl’s clothing line. I grew that brand, Sophie & Lili (named after my great grandmothers) on nights and weekends for over a decade. I left my full-time gig and created my joy. Now I spend my time creating art and products that shine a light on inspirational humans and causes that I believe in and love.

Fashion illustrator Jennifer Vallez

- You are exceptionally talented artist and illustrator. Have you always had an interest in art or did you have other career plans whilst growing up?

Thank you. Yes, my dad was an art teacher at one point in his life and always supported/fostered my love of drawing, painting and art supplies. My brother and I went to camps and schools that specialized in the arts. I knew I wanted to do something with art since I was really young. When I was about 10-11, I discovered fashion illustration and slowly filled countless sketchbooks. I wound up going to FIT for Fashion Design.

fashion art illustration drawing by Jennifer Valez

- What is your favourite piece of work in your portfolio?

I have worked on so many fun projects. I would say the one thing I am most proud of is my collection of soft fabric dolls that I designed and licensed with North American Bear Co.

- How do you overcome a creative block if it ever happens?

I try to go to museums, walk around a city, travel...the past year was so hard because of covid. I felt very uninspired and locked in.

- Tell me about your new doll hobby and how it all started?

I was born in 1971. Thinking back, I have always loved dolls. I was obsessed with dollhouse miniatures and my Fisher Price A-Frame dollhouse. I would spend hours making tiny food out of clay for my dollhouse family. I loved my Mandy and Jenny dolls, Barbies, Cabbage Patch Kid, Strawberry Shortcake dolls, etc. Now my office is filled with the soft fabric dolls that I have been sewing for the past few years. A year or so ago I discovered Silkstone dolls and had to have a few. I was lucky to get them when they were still being sold by Mattel. It wasn’t until early this year that I started to scour FB Marketplace, Ebay & Etsy for more. It’s a real rabbit hole. I love the vintage reproductions too.

Barbie doll collection belonging to Jennifer Vallez

- I have noticed that some of your illustrations now feature Barbie dolls. Shall we expect some new exciting Barbie-themed products?

I don’t think I will be making too many more Barbie drawings. I am not sure the interest is there from my customers. :)

- You have a large audience of over 140K followers. Did you take them by surprise with your new doll illustrations? What was their reaction?

I don’t think everyone gets it or cares :) I did receive a bunch of orders when I posted but sometimes after you post something, it can become out of sight/out of mind.

fashion doll illustration by Jennifer Vallez

- What advice would you give to someone who is new to doll illustration? What is the best way to educate yourself to get better?

I wouldn’t consider myself a doll illustrator but if you have an interest in the style of my art, I would recommend figure drawing (live - drawing nude models) and/or lessons in Fashion Illustration. My 14-year-old has a couple of books that teach you fashion style proportions and techniques. After you are comfortable with the basics, then try to to develop your own style. I say this like it is easy?! I have been drawing for years. It takes time and practice.

- How big is your doll collection now?

I believe I have about 40 Barbies? I have ONE Fashion Integrity doll being delivered soon. I hope I don’t get hooked :)

- You have recently posted a picture of some of your dolls and asked the question: how many is too many? What is your answer to this question?

HAHA! Hmmm...I don’t like too much clutter, so I hope I can stop myself before it looks like a hoarder's collection. I am trying to be super selective at this point. Every time I look I see a new doll that I have never seen before. Help! ;)

Silkstone Barbie Pink

- How do you store your dolls? Are they on display?

I have most unboxed and on display in my art studio. I use acrylic shelving, so it looks less cluttered. The few boxed ones I have are on shelves too.

- Do you have a mini-me doll?

No. Not yet!

- Have you ever looked at dolls as a good investment?

Yes, they are but honestly, I want to enjoy them and look at them. Dress them. I don’t have any that are too precious or too valuable. My friend gave me some vintage dolls and one or two may be worth a little, but they are displayed too. I have two daughters that love Barbie and they will hopefully keep my dolls when I am gone.

Vintage Barbie Dolls - collection of Jennifer Vallez

- What’s next on your dolls wish list?

Oh boy...I have a list on my iPhone. Everyone does, right? :)

Fashion Editor Silkstone

AA Anniversary Silkstone

2016 Silkstone Convention Barbie

Sleepytime Gal Repro

Busy Talking Steffie

PJ Free Moving Barbie

- As someone who’s just started collecting dolls, what advice would you give to those who are tempted to re-discover their childhood hobby but are hesitant to start collecting dolls as they are not sure how they will be perceived by their friends and family?

If they make you happy and you can afford to collect some, go for it. My mom has Gene dolls & my grandmother collected Shirley Temple dolls. I remember how happy the dolls made them. Also do your research so you don’t get ripped off.

Silkstone Barbie Dolls in outfits made of fabric designed by Jennifer vallez

- Unbox or not unbox? (& Why?)

Personally, I like to “play” with my dolls and re-dress them, move them around my studio. I feel like displaying dolls in boxes looks a little sad. No offense to anyone that does this! I understand they want to retain their value.

- Any links, social media profiles you would like to share with readers, so they can find out more about you?

@ sophieandlili

@ jennifervallez_personal

-Thank you, Jennifer, for the chat and opportunity to admire your art and doll collection!

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Jennifer Vallez.

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