Art doll

Q&A with vintage doll lover Cole Eugene

When it comes to his hobbies, Cole Eugene is a lover of all things vintage. Going by the name “KitschyFlower”, it is a vintage dealer whose items range from clothing and homewares to dolls and toys. The whimsical child of antique dealers, he also uses his vintage passions by restoring vintage toys and making custom dolls. I had the chance to sit down with him to discuss the birth of his vintage passions, the ins and outs of his hobbies, and where he draws his inspiration from.

Quotes have been edited for clarity.

When did you discover your love for crafts, antiques and vintage toys?

Fairly young in life. Both of my parents owned antique shops; my dad still does it in the Marietta area, so growing up around vintage has impacted every part of my life. And how did I get started making dolls? I’ve always loved dolls and always wanted to put my designs in 3D, so I finally did about three and a half to four years ago.

How often do you go looking for new vintage goodies?

Honestly, weekly. I always search online and go to thrift stores in person at least two or three times a week, so quite frequently. I like to go to different places, different places. It makes me leave the house because I’m a bit of a hermit, so I’m grateful for that. I also venture outside my area for shopping. I like to go on day trips. I’m going to Tennessee one day, Alabama the next. If it takes less than three hours to get there, I will.

You sell a little vintage fashion, but the majority of your Etsy shop inventory and Instagram posts are vintage toys and dolls. Would it be safe to say that this is your primary focus when it comes to collecting vintage items?

I would definitely say so. Of course, I love vintage fashion. I’ve been wearing vintage clothes since I was 14 or 15. I really like 70s and 60s clothes, anything super shiny and funky – although I’m not a big fan of 80s fashion, which is definitely it, but it’s just not the same, like… I’m not going to make leggings, I’m sorry! I also love the 20s. It’s just really hard to find past clothes, really, I’d say the 50s. So when you do, you have to grab it. But thanks to Instagram, I’ve found a little niche in the doll community, and it’s been really fun.

How did you find other vintage doll collectors to collaborate with?

Especially through Instagram! At the time, it was via Tumblr. There were some really cool artists and doll collectors there, but the community wasn’t really big compared to what it is now on Instagram. Also sort of through TikTok, but it’s still a newer app. It’s funny, I do a lot of media for TikTok, but I don’t really use it because I just know it’s super addictive. I have to use it a bit, to get ideas and see what’s popular, but I’m not going to sit there and scroll for hours; I feel like my brain is going to mush.

Speaking of TikTok, you have 12.2k followers on the app. When did you start using TikTok as a medium and what was your first video to actually come out?

I started TikTok last March, so almost a year. My most popular video is where I make a custom Shelley Duvall doll. Shelley Duvall has always been such a light in my life. I have always liked his films. On Tumblr, I reblogged it. She’s always been someone, or an image, that just brings me happiness. It was wonderful to make her a creation and to have such a positive response. What nice comments, it’s wonderful.

Many of your TikToks tend to be very educational. How many searches typically go to one of these videos?

Maybe an hour to three hours depending on what it is. I have a blackboard on which I write facts. So it can take maybe six hours in total with research, shooting and editing. But it’s really fun and people seem to like them.

Similarly, when you remake a vintage doll or toy, how long does it take?

This can take anywhere from two days to two weeks, depending on the project. The ones I’ve done more recently have taken longer because I’ve done more detail: clothes and accessories, stuff like that. But if I wanted to make a really simple one, I could probably pull one out in a day.

Do you sew the clothes and style the hair yourself?

Yes, most of the time I get vintage fabric for clothes. I’m super inspired by this kind of psychedelic look, so they fit perfectly. Many sellers on Etsy create custom sewing patterns for doll clothes and they’re usually pretty cheap, but I usually do it by hand. Being a pre-fashion major helped with that.

And yes, I style the hair myself. I’ve been to the big hives recently, so I’ve been doing them a lot on dolls. I love doing my own hair and hair in general, but it’s more fun doing it on an object rather than a person because it’s less nerve-wracking. Sometimes I use human hair on the dolls. I have a few friends that I’ve bought hair from, which has been really cool to make them custom dolls and “mini-me’s”. As a licensed cosmetologist, I use my hairdressing degree a bit, so it’s always nice. I dabbled in this and that and what I’m doing now is bringing it all together: fashion, hairdressing, sculpture. It’s pretty awesome!

Where do you find your inspiration?

I can kind of find them anywhere. It really depends on the day and what I’m watching. Often I can find my inspiration in vintage decorating catalogs combined with knowledge of current trends. I also like Twiggy! I always think about her makeup and her style. Anything kitsch [I love] turn things that are a bit ugly and make them look cute.

Where can people find you?

@kitschyflower on Instagram, KitschyFlower on Etsy and @kitschyflowers on TikTok.