AGATTI GUARVO

Date of review: 05/05/15

INTRODUCTION

aGatti doll is Russian-based artist Natalia Chechushkova.  She is a clothes-designer by trade and has a formidable array
of skills. She makes miniature props, wigs, hats and shoes, all with scrupulous attention to detail.  Her perfectionist
approach extends to her doll-making.  She is a self-taught sculptor and has diligently researched anatomy and
engineering, embarking on her first sculpted doll in 2011. 

She appreciates the human form; its mechanical brilliance, its strength and its sensual allure.  Whilst she appreciates
realism, she seeks to beyond this and create an ideal human form.  However, she values dolls not just as beautiful
objects, but as something to handle, manipulate and play with.  She therefore takes the engineering of an articulated
doll seriously. 

In terms of her commercial doll-making, Natalia has plans.  She wants to create the Avengers in doll form, based on
their film incarnations.  The current body was designed for Loki.  She has clustered Thor, Steve Rogers and Nick Fury as
another body type and Tony Stark, Bruce Banner and Clint Barton as a third type.  She also has designs on the Hulk. 
She has recently shown work on a female body and what appears to be a small, fantasy figure.

SUMMARY

This doll is the aGatti Guarvo head sculpt on the mCC swivel body.  It is a urethane resin, elastic-strung doll (called a
ball-jointed doll).  It is 47.5 cm in height, so roughly 1:4 scale, given than Tom Hiddleston, its model, is an impressive
1.87cm. 

VITAL STATISTICS

Height: 47.7 cm
Head: 14.8 cm (5.8 inches)
Neck: 9.5 cm
Eye size: 6 mm
Chest: 22.5 cm
Waist: 18.8 cm
Hip: 19.5 cm
Shoulder width: 12.5 cm
Arm length (shoulder to wrist): 17cm
Leg length (hip to ankle): 27cm
Feet Length: 7.5 cm
Feet Width: 2.5 cm

ORDERING

The first pre-order of dolls with the mCC body was in July 2014.  Heads on offer were Loki, Guarvo and Ilya. The second
pre-order was in December 2014.  Head sculpts offered were Ilya, Guarvo and Daniele (a cat).  The next pre-order is
due in June 2015.  So, currently, order periods are every six months and there has been one limited head per run (Loki
and Daniele).

The doll is available in Numbers 1, 2 and 3 resins, being a creamy white, a peachy pink skin and a mid-brown
respectively. 

Heads and bodies can be ordered separately.  The heads use a faceplate system, attached by magnets.  They are sold
as a full set of faceplate and head back.  As well as the relaxed hands supplied with the doll, there are two optional
sets available: fist hands and holding hands.  The holding hands have an articulated thumb, which is ingenious.  Hands
are attached to the wrists by magnets.

Price is $450 for head and body, with option hands being an additional $30 per pair.  For an artist doll, this is
reasonable. 

With the winter 2014 pre-order, Natalia included handmade eyes with the human heads and beautifully handmade
underpants.  She also included eye putty, which was a nice gesture.

Ordering has been time-limited, being open for a month.  After the close of the pre-order period, it took two months for
the dolls to be professionally cast, finished and sent out.  This is respectable, particularly given that there is one
person doing the finishing and distribution.

Pre-orders have been advertised via the aGatti blog (first release) and flickr (second release).  This is not ideal as it
limits her pool of potential customers to those who have a flickr account or follow her blog.  Perhaps this will be
reviewed as demand for her work increases.  A company website would be a welcome addition.

Payment was via Paypal and there were no issues with money going through.  Layaway was available.

CUSTOMER SERVICE

Communication from my order was via flickr mail.  Messages were always friendly and relatively prompt.  Natalia is not a
native English speaker and coped well with the sort of odd questions I threw at her.  She was also very accommodating
and I get the impression that she wants to give the very best product to her customers. 

PACKAGING

The doll was double boxed in a shipping carton and plain, brown card doll box.  Not luxurious, but I personally donít need
fancy boxes to help me enjoy my doll.  It was well protected in foam cut outs.  It would take a particularly belligerent
handler to damage that in transit.

AESTHETICS

The style is on the far end of the realistic end of the spectrum.  The proportion is classical, with approximately eight
head heights making the full body height. 

The body is beautifully wrought.  Musculature is well observed and executed and the proportions off the limbs and body
cohere with the classical model.  Overall, the silhouette is harmonious and is of a slim but well defined male body. 
There is an extraordinary attention to detail in the sculpting, with veins and nails being depicted with care.

 
Flexibility

He is able to sit unsupported, with legs stretched out.  This was relatively easy to achieve and is largely thanks to the
mobility joints in the thighs, which allow a decent amount of bend at the hips.

In terms of flexion at joints, he is able to achieve full flexion at knees and elbows, but needs some weight to keep it
there.  Without help, flexion is about 70 degrees, which is more than satisfactory.
The Guarvo head sculpt is stunning in its realism.  Again, all proportions are realistic and owe nothing to the large-
eyed, soft faced stylisation of traditional commercial ball-jointed dolls from Asia.  It is by far the most realistic BJD head
I have so far seen. 
The doll is an awkward size, being bigger than most 1:4 scale ball-jointed dolls, but smaller than 1:3 scale dolls.  This
will make it difficult to clothe off-the-peg.  In terms of style and scale, the closest of the existing BJDs are the Souldoll
Vito range, Batchixís 51cm boys and Soomís Idealian 51 dolls.  In vital statistics, he is also similar to Volks SD10 size. 
However, these are all taller than the aGatti and clothing him will be a challenge.

The resin is shiny and smooth and takes pastel evenly with minimal prepping.  The seams have been removed prior to
shipping.  This was perfectly executed with my Number 2 resin doll.  However, the tan doll I saw had light marks where
the seams had been sanded.  This is a known problem when sanding dark resins and might be a problem for some. 
However, Natalia might well be prepare to forgo seam sanding if you would rather have seams than light areas.

The Number Two resin is close to Vollks compatible normal skin.  Number One resin looks similar to standard cream
whites.

ENGINEERING

In terms of the aesthetics of the engineering, it is always difficult to maintain the harmony of the form and still allow
effective articulation.  Natalia has largely achieved this.  The single, high torso joint, just beneath the chest, is
discreet and the mobility joint of the upper thigh doesnít offend.  The double joints of the elbow and knee are rather
more intrusive, breaking the line of the arms and legs somewhat.

The following articulation tests are all done with the doll straight out of the box.  There are many things that can be
done to help with stability, such as restringing, sueding joints and wiring limbs. 

Stability

He is able to stand unaided, but this requires care.  The resin is shiny and the hips and lower legs want to slide out of
place.  There are front stops at the knee, shaped to fit the shape of the knee cap.  This means the lower leg needs to
be positioned with precision for it to lock fully.  When it is locked, it is stable.  However, there are no lateral stops,
which means that the lower leg can swing out slightly below the knee. This affects standing stability.

Out of the box, he is unable to stand with weight on one leg, in a contraposto position.  This is largely because of the
slippery and unstable lower leg.  However, once the resin has been sprayed with matt, acrylic sealant and the friction
in the joints has been increased, he is able to do this, with care.  Hot glue sueding to the hip joint was also useful.

He is able to raise his arm to 90 degrees and keep it there.  However, it will not hold at any other angle.  Again, with
spraying and sueding of the shoulder joint, he is able to maintain a range of angles, so this is recommended.
Crunch isn't stellar.  This is largely because of the lack of a low torso joint.  Two part torsos just canít slouch the way
three part torsos can.  However, forward movement of the upper body is decent and should help him get into a good
range of positions.
Lateral flexion of the torso is excellent.  As much as anyone could want there, again retaining a smooth line along the
body.
Twist is almost non-existent, due to the shaping of the mid torso.  This is common and the only company that have
countered this to any credible extent is Fairyland, who are acknowledged masters of engineering.  A twist of some sort
can be achieved by lifting the upper torso clear of lower and leaning it back.  Whilst this does look natural, it is also
rather tortured.
THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR

The shiny resin was the main issue for me, in terms of aesthetics and its impact on stability.  I recommend spraying the
body with matt sealant to increase friction in the joints, sueding the ones with the heaviest amount of use.

Another issue I encountered was when restringing.  The hands and feet don't have hooks, with the elastic being
threaded through resin channels at the wrist and ankle.  This is not unusual in itself.  However, it does mean that you
need to string from the feet and hands up, which can be fiddly.  Because of this, I generally add hooks to the feet and
ankles to make life easier.  However, the sockets at the ankles and wrists here are too narrow to accommodate even
the smallest hooks.  The second issue is that the channels in the legs and arms are too narrow to be able to pull
knotted elastic through.  This means that the bare ends of the elastic need to be threaded up through each body part
before being knotted at the neck.  This is laborious and could be eased by drilling wider channels in the limbs.

Another thing to look out for are the hands.  Magnetic hands have advantages for dressing and swapping over option
hands. However, they also tend to flip off if flexed.  The aGatti hands are no exception.  I also found both hand
magnets fell out with moderate playing.  However, these were easy to reattach with a spot of superglue.

SUMMARY

This is a formidable early doll from a self-taught sculptor.  In terms of engineering, it has its strengths and its
weaknesses.  Overall, however,  it can hold its own against most of the commercial ball-jointed dolls out there.  The
aesthetics are where this doll excels.  It is groundbreaking, particularly in the head sculpts.  The move towards realism
was led by Iplehouse.  However, they continue to retain a level of idealism in facial proportion and finish that means
the dolls still look like dolls.  aGatti dolls look like real people.  That will be a step too far for some, but it represents the
next step towards ball-jointed realism and I, personally, embrace it.

This is an artist to watch and I look forward to seeing what other creations she offers to the world.
Head flexion is very impressive.  It has a wide range of motion backwards, forwards and to the side.  The trade off is
that the line between head and neck can look somewhat strained.  However, I am happy to pay this price as head
position is where much of the expressiveness of dolls is found.
Legs have a mobility joint, meaning they can be rotated freely. Arms donít, limiting their positioning somewhat.

Wrist flexion is rather disappointing. He can achieve perhaps 20 degrees down and 10 degrees up.  This is helped
somewhat by sealant spraying. Ankle flexion is better, with about 30 degrees either way.

I tend to prefer three part torsos, for the sake of flexibility.  However, these can be notoriously unstable.  Also, the
additional torso joint breaks up the line of the lower abdomen.  The two part torso is therefore a more generally popular
choice.

The singe torso joint here is effective.  The backbend is very impressive, with a good degree of stability.  There is
slight gaping if the upper torso is pushed back to its full extent, but this is minimal and it retains a smooth line along
the body
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