DM

Moscow

A Russian artist has become an internet sensation after posting a video showing how he makes his unbelievably realistic hand-painted dolls.

Made from a special type of modelling clay, with glass eyes, French mohair wigs and 13 joints each, Michael Zajkov’s dolls are painstakingly hand-sculpted and are not available to order.

The Moscow-based artist, who studied sculpture at Kuban State University, southern Russia, learnt his craft while working at a puppet theatre and even makes the clothes himself. Despite only making his first doll in 2010, he now posts pictures of the startlingly lifelike dolls on his Instagram page where he has a loyal following of 103,000 fans from all over the world.

As well as photographs of the finished products, Michael often posts short videos giving his fans sneak previews of the production process from inside his studio. There are also images of dolls’ disembodied heads and dismembered limbs lying around. Michael told FEMAIL that the inspiration behind his creations were hyper-realistic dollmakers such as Laura Scattolini from Italy and Anne Mitrani from France. He bases the dolls’ clothing on early twentieth-century fashions, and often works with voile, silk and antique lace. After graduating from university in 2009, he worked with fashion designer Irina Kuzyomina where he learnt to sew dolls’ clothes, as well as a stint at a puppet theatre. 

He made a name for himself after premièring some of his creations at Art Dolls, an international exhibition held in Moscow in 2013. Collectors went wild for the five dolls Michael brought along - Anastasia, Antonina, Zoe, Nina and Xenia - and since then, his popularity has continued to grow.

He said: ‘My dolls are made more realistic than is customary,’ and added that many people who see his pictures think the dolls are ‘creepy’. But he loves seeing ‘the reaction of the audience’ when they see his dolls for the first time.

Michael doesn’t take orders and says his dolls are usually snapped up by collectors. He says his work is inspired by ‘people and paintings’. He is now working on his next project, an exhibition of ‘boy’ dolls which will open at Moscow’s International Doll Salon in March.