When a hobby born of genuine passion grows into a business, a very personal touch is added to the quality that can’t be matched by the typical high street shop. This is exactly the kind of magic that Kerri Wainwright brings to her Etsy shop, Toybox of Gore.
She specialises in making terrifying characters out of baby dolls, combining the sweetness and innocence of infancy with some of the most chilling themes in horror history. Beginning with her signature zombabies, she has expanded her range to include more iconic looks from the genre.
Each of her characters has their own back story, guaranteeing that every creepy baby is unique and giving them their own personal and creative touch.
We spoke to Kerri to find out how each new baby comes to life.
Kirstie: How did you get into creating your own trinkets and sculptures?
Kerri: I’ve always enjoyed painting and making things, since I was little. I find it a great stress relief, and so relaxing. The feeling of accomplishment when something is finished is amazing too! Makes you feel so happy and proud. I’d never really sold anything I’d made before. But after making a doll for a friend as a thank you gift, I was encouraged by friends and family to get them out there and try and sell them, so I thought why not? Nothing to lose. Plus I enjoy it so much it doesn’t feel like work.
Kirstie: What are your favourite materials to work with?
Kerri: I love love love working with papier mache! I love being able to create something new just with paper and glue! It helps create some great textures for my zombabies too. I also really enjoy using mouldable plastic, it’s great for any bone and skull parts for my zombabies.
Kirstie: What drew you to the horror genre?
Kerri: I suppose I’ve always enjoyed the darker side of life. Anything scary and creepy has always appealed to me. Monsters and ghouls, whether in books or film, I just love it all. It’s a part of me, and who I am.
Kirstie: What aspects of it would you say are your biggest influences?
Kerri: It started with Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas, I was totally mesmerised by the characters that he’d created. Then when I was a little older I saw A Nightmare on Elm Street for the first time and never looked back!
The special effects make-up used in a lot of the genre is what makes it so great for me! To be able to create monsters is something I’ve always found so fascinating, whether it be special effects make-up, costumes, or sculptured characters, I’m totally in awe of the people who imagine all of these and then go on to create them.
Tom Savini is a great inspiration to me also, in my opinion he’s one of the best at special effects make-up!
Kirstie: What inspired your first ever Zombabies?
Kerri: I love zombies! I have ever since I first saw the film Braindead. It’s a great inspiration for gross and gory zombies. I made a doll as a gift for a friend and I knew it needed to be creepy and gory so I went straight to zombie. When I decided to start my business I’d had so much fun making my first zombie that I couldn’t wait to get started on another. Baby dolls make the cutest zombies and they’re just so much fun to make!
Kirstie: A lot of your work embodies a brilliant juxtaposition between the innocence of childhood and the darkness of horror. What made you want to combine these two seemingly conflicting things?
Kerri: Dolls are kind of creepy; I’ve always thought so, especially the porcelain dolls. I feel there’s nothing creepier than using something so innocent to create a monster, it somehow makes them even scarier because it isn’t necessarily something you would expect. I’ve found that dolls are used quite a bit in horror movies to create a creepy vibe, so it just seemed right to use toys.
Kirstie: What do you like about working with dolls?
Kerri: Everything! I love creating a new little monster! They have so much character to start with and I love helping bring that out more, in a darker way.
Kirstie: You put a lot of detail into your dolls that create a real sense of character. What techniques do you use to give your dolls so much personality?
Kerri: It’s all about the face, and getting as much character into it as possible. I use paints to get the right look that I’m after. There needs to be the right amount of shadow in areas to create a facial expression. Painting takes a long time sometimes but it’s worth it to get it right. The eyes are important too! The eyes in my porcelain dolls really help make them seem alive! They have great glass eyes that shine and twinkle. Then the whole outfit needs to match the personality I’ve created in the face. It’s about creating a full package!
Kirstie: What kind of backstories do you give to your dolls?
Kerri: Each doll has its own story, and I try to go into quite a bit of detail about how they ended up the way they are.
With the Zombabies I try to set the scene by giving the story of when they were bitten and what they might have been like before. My porcelain dolls are all different and I try to make them seem as real as possible.
For example, Belladonna is named the broken bride; she was left at the altar by her beloved and now seeks revenge. It’s just a little bit of fun! I wasn’t intending to give them names or stories initially, but I asked around and it seemed people like them to have their own little personalities.
Kirstie: Your variety of dolls spans a number of subgenres within the horror theme – zombies, clowns and creeping beauties. Do you plan to explore any other styles in the future?
Kerri: Absolutely! I’ve a whole horror film series planned in the near future. I’ll pick between 5 and 10 (depending how carried away I get) of my favourite horror films and other people’s, and use those as inspiration for my dolls. I’m also thinking of doing different dolls for holidays throughout the year too.
Kirstie: What’s your favourite style you’ve done so far?
Kerri: It really is hard to choose between them as I’ve had so much fun with each doll I’ve made so far. But I think my favourites are my Creeping Beauties, in particular Silvana. She has such a great face and it worked really well for the look I was going for.
Kirstie: What do you think is the creepiest thing you’ve ever made?
Kerri: That’s a hard question! But I think I’d have to say Anthrax the Clown so far. His heads on a slight tilt and it’s like he follows you around the room. But I suppose clowns are pretty creepy anyway!
Kirstie: A lot of your pieces go into incredible detail in their gore. What’s the longest you’ve spent working on a single piece?
Kerri: I have spent a lot of time on some, for different reasons. I make all their clothes too and sometimes that can get a little tedious what with them being so small! I would have to say that Belladonna probably took the longest, close to 2 months to fully complete. Mainly because I just wasn’t happy with her face for a long time and so I kept re painting it!
It usually takes 2-3 weeks to fully complete any doll.
Kirstie: Do you have any plans for new places you’ll take your shop in the future?
Kerri: I’m hoping to attend more events in 2018 to have a stall to sell my products. I will be attending the Horror Con UK in May 2018, in Sheffield, which I cannot wait for. I’ve sold there with a friend for the last 2 years and it’s always such a fantastic weekend. I’m also thinking of selling on Facebook Marketplace from next year. Hopefully one day I could actually open my own little store!
Kirstie: Why did you choose Etsy to showcase and sell your creations?
Kerri: I knew about Etsy from a friend and I know that she did really well with her business on there so I thought I’d give it a go! It really is a great site. Pretty simple to use and there are some great help forums if you ever need anything.
Kirstie: Do you have any advice for budding creative entrepreneurs?
Kerri: Don’t doubt it, just do it! You have nothing to lose in setting up your own business. If you enjoy something and it makes you happy, try and make it happen. There is so much great support and advice out there too that you never have to do it alone.