Zhao Yuhao, known as Yan Wuhao in the world of doll customization, is a man in his early 30s who has mastered the art of doll customization. With his bag of tools, which includes a utility knife and a palette, he can turn a sun-tanned and horse-legged doll with pink hair into a golden-braided girl riding a Siberian husky with a certain panache. He adds bells and whistles to common or less desirable dolls, which then become the envy of toy lovers.
According to Zhao, the process of doll customization begins with dissolving the glue with boiling water, after which the doll is dismantled into parts. The remodeling, lacquering, and hand painting process then begins. The end result is a stunning transformation of the doll whose hooves give way to paws.
Designer toys have gained immense popularity in China, and legions of young Chinese are fixated on collecting the whole series of such toys through the repetitive purchase of “blind boxes” where the contents are a mystery. As a result, many people end up with duplicates, creating a niche in the market that requires Zhao’s talent.
Zhao’s unique skill set has allowed him to become widely known in the world of doll customization, and he has a loyal following of clients who seek his expertise to create one-of-a-kind dolls. Zhao’s work not only transforms the appearance of the dolls, but it also gives them a new character and personality.
With his artistic abilities and passion for doll customization, Zhao has found a way to turn a childhood hobby into a full-time profession. His dolls have become highly sought after by collectors, and he has gained a reputation as one of the best in the business.
In addition to being a talented artist, Zhao is also a savvy entrepreneur. He has expanded his business by creating his own line of designer toys, which have become highly popular in China. His success is a testament to his creativity, hard work, and dedication to his craft.
Zhao Yuhao’s doll customization skills have captured the attention of toy lovers in China. His ability to transform common or less desirable dolls into unique works of art has made him a highly sought-after artist in the world of doll customization. With his entrepreneurial spirit and artistic talent, Zhao is sure to continue making waves in the industry for years to come.
Zhao Yuhao, also known as Yan Wuhao in the doll customization world, hails from Chengdu, the capital of Southwest China’s Sichuan province. He began his journey into doll customization because of his love for purchasing blind boxes. This idea originated in Japan during the 1980s, where customers would pay a fixed price and test their luck for items such as digital cameras and luxury jewelry. In recent years, blind boxes have become a hotbed for toys and collectibles. Designers strive for their creations to go viral and become mass-produced figures in the market.
One of the major players in collectible toys, Pop Mart, discovered Hong Kong designer Kenny Wong in 2016. They signed a deal to get exclusive rights to mass-produce and sell the green-eyed and golden-haired doll, Molly, through approved channels. The initial batch of Molly blind boxes sold out immediately, creating a frenzy in the market. Following in Pop Mart’s footsteps, other shops also began selling creative dolls in the blind box market, such as the Little Amber series by designers Ivy and Miki and the sharp-toothed and erect-eared Labubu by designer Kasing Lung.
Market research company Qianzhan Intelligence estimated that the blind box market was worth 7.4 billion yuan ($1.05 billion) in 2019. It is projected that this figure could reach 30 billion yuan by 2024. As a result, the market has created a niche for talented artists like Zhao. With the popularity of blind boxes, collectors often end up with duplicates. Zhao’s expertise in doll customization allows him to add bells and whistles to common or less desirable dolls, transforming them into one-of-a-kind collectibles that are the envy of toy lovers.
Zhao’s process begins by dissolving the glue with boiling water, causing the doll to be dismantled into parts. He then starts the remodeling, lacquering, and hand painting process. The result is a stunning transformation of the doll, with hooves becoming paws and mundane features becoming unique and interesting. Zhao’s creativity and skill have gained him recognition in the doll customization world, and his work has been sought after by collectors around the globe.
Blind boxes have created a lucrative market for collectible toys, with the blind box market estimated to reach 30 billion yuan by 2024. Designers strive to create viral sensations that can become mass-produced figures in the market. With duplicates a common occurrence in blind box collecting, talented artists like Zhao Yuhao have found a niche in the market through doll customization. By adding his unique touches to common or less desirable dolls, Zhao has gained recognition and admiration from toy lovers around the world.
In 2019, Zhao, a Chengdu native and industrial design graduate from Jiangnan University, found himself in possession of three identical “white bone demon” doll figures from the “Molly Journey to the West” blind box series. “Talking about the chances,” Zhao recalls, “it felt hard to keep them and worse to discard them.”
Inspired by the Japanese animation he had watched, Zhao decided to give the dolls a new look by applying new elements that would give them a fresh lease of life. Drawing inspiration from the Chinese animation “Big Fish & Begonia,” he created a transparent fish model that exuded a dreamlike quality. For a butterfly model, Zhao applied transparent crystal connection poles to make it appear as though it were in mid-flight.
Zhao’s resourcefulness not only enabled him to make stunning changes to the toys but also create novel concepts or storylines for them. Through his innovative techniques, he has found a way to express himself.
For Zhao, toy customization has become a passion that has allowed him to showcase his creativity and ingenuity. It’s an art form that requires him to dismantle the toys, redesign them, lacquer them, and then hand paint them. The process requires a utility knife, a palette, and boiling water to dissolve the glue that binds the toy’s parts.
With his artistic touch, Zhao transforms common and undesirable toys into the envy of toy lovers. The popularity of designer toys has created a niche market that is in need of his talent. The blind box market, worth 7.4 billion yuan ($1.05 billion) in 2019, according to Qianzhan Intelligence, is predicted to grow to 30 billion yuan by 2024.
Zhao’s passion for blind box toys has led him to create one-of-a-kind dolls that reflect his love for animation and his talent as a designer. His passion for the art of toy customization has led him to create unique and memorable works of art that capture the imaginations of collectors and enthusiasts alike.
Zhao Yuhao, also known as Yan Wuhao in the world of doll customization, has gained fame for his talent in transforming common dolls into unique pieces of art. With a bag of tools, including a utility knife and palette, Zhao disassembles and rebuilds dolls into new forms that captivate toy lovers. His expertise is born out of a personal affection for buying blind boxes, a popular toy concept originating in Japan during the 1980s. In recent years, the blind box market has exploded in China, with designers vying for the chance for their work to become viral.
Zhao graduated from Jiangnan University in Jiangsu province, where he studied industrial design. Drawing inspiration from Japanese animations and the stories of his followers, he has created novel concepts and storylines for the dolls he renovates. For instance, he remodeled a figure holding a kite into one tied by a rope, becoming a kite itself, to represent the choice between drifting with the flow or beating a path of one’s choice when tied to the rope of fate.
Zhao has turned to his followers for inspiration. Once, he was inspired by a fan who shared how she tackled minor childhood depression through art. He transformed a doll’s lower body into a horse stuck in a painting, with half of the doll’s face painted gray to show the duality of humanity. People have to face the complex world outside and look at themselves from within to draw strength for personal growth.
According to Zhao, creative ideas are paramount in doll renovation. “The idea has to come first, and technology and appearance can be optimized later,” he says. His experience as the chair of his university’s games community and his passion for playing Honor of Kings has influenced his active imagination and commitment to his interest in remodeling dolls.
Zhao’s ingenious maneuvers have resulted in more than 100 renovated dolls, most of which have been displayed on his Xiaohongshu social media account, earning him rave reviews from his 480,000 followers. He has transformed dolls holding kites into kites themselves and turned dolls into transparent fish and butterflies mid-flight.
With the craze for designer toys ranging from pop art-inspired figurines to mini archaeological treasures, legions of young Chinese are fixated on collecting the whole series of such toys. Repetitive purchases of “blind boxes,” where the contents are a mystery, have led to many people ending up with duplicates, creating a niche in the market in need of Zhao’s talent.
In 2019, Zhao received three identical “white bone demon” doll figures from “the Molly Journey to the West” series in blind boxes he acquired. He found it hard to keep or discard them and decided to give each a unique look. His designs have not only made stunning changes to the toys but also created novel concepts and storylines for them. “It has since become a way for me to express myself,” Zhao says.
Zhao, a Chengdu-based industrial designer with a passion for blind boxes, has made a name for himself by taking unwanted and repetitive toys and transforming them into works of art. Drawing inspiration from Japanese anime and animation, Zhao has developed innovative concepts and storylines that have not only improved the appearance of the toys but have also given them a new lease on life. Zhao’s background in industrial design has enabled him to incorporate new elements into the figures, such as transparent fish models and crystal connection poles, which give them a dreamlike quality.
Zhao has also turned to his followers for inspiration, creating dolls based on stories they share with him. He has even taken inspiration from the artwork of famous artists such as Pablo Picasso, incorporating the duality of humanity into his dolls. To Zhao, the idea is the most crucial part of the creative process, and the technology and appearance can be optimized later.
Thanks to his growing following on social media, Zhao has caught the attention of toy brands such as Pop Mart, and he has signed a contract with them. This cooperation has increased the chances of his work becoming a series, which will make it easier for him to connect with his fans.
Despite his success in the doll customization industry, Zhao does not rely on it for a living. Instead, he uses it as a diversion to better focus on his more serious design business. After a busy day at work, he returns home to his “doll house,” where he enjoys beautiful moments and recharges his batteries, allowing him to give his full attention to his formal design job.
While doll renovation has gained popularity among artists, it is still considered a gray area in the world of art. However, Zhao’s work has caught the attention of both his followers and toy brands, proving that there is a place for it in the art world.
Zhao’s skills have continued to improve, allowing him to catch the attention of toy brands such as Pop Mart. This cooperation has increased the chances of his work becoming a series, which will make it easier for him to connect with his fans. Despite his achievements in the doll customization industry, Zhao does not rely on it for a living. Instead, he uses it as a diversion to better focus on his more serious design business. After a busy day at work, he returns home to his “doll house,” where he enjoys beautiful moments and recharges his batteries, allowing him to give his full attention to his formal design job.
Zhao’s work has caught the attention of many, including his fans, who have come to understand the value of less desirable toys. His unique vision and innovative ideas have transformed these toys into works of art, proving that there is a place for doll renovation in the art world. Although it is still considered a gray area, Zhao’s success has demonstrated that there is a growing interest in this industry, and it is only a matter of time before it becomes a more widely recognized art form.
Zhao is aware of the dangers of copyright infringement and has made it clear on his social media accounts that he is against any copycat or commercial applications of his work. His extensive experience in IP derivative design has given him a strong legal sense when it comes to copyright issues.
According to Zhao, using someone else’s intellectual property for personal gain is a clear infringement of copyright law. He warns against using a popular IP to make money without obtaining proper authorization. By doing so, one runs the risk of facing legal consequences.
Despite the risks, Zhao continues to create his own unique designs without infringing on any copyrights. He finds inspiration in a variety of sources and strives to make his work stand out through his original concepts and innovative design choices.
By remaining mindful of copyright laws and avoiding any commercial applications of his work, Zhao is able to pursue his passion for doll renovation without compromising his principles. His dedication to his craft and his respect for intellectual property have earned him a reputation as a talented and ethical artist in the industry.