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Welcome to the Burbank dollhouse

May 12, 2004

Ryan Carter

Angel was a 37-inch-tall blond bombshell, but she had flat feet, and

with her gold-glittered white gown and angel wings she looked a

little bit too much the goody two-shoes.

Then came her makeover.

Now she's 42-inch-tall Gothic Alice, with platform boots, black

hair and striped stockings.

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It is amazing what some artistic flair and some plastic clay can

do.

Gothic Alice's body is a Barbie doll -- a "My Size Barbie," to be

exact. Though like many of Lillian Mitchell's creations, she is a

Barbie with a facial.

Mitchell, a Burbank resident, has found a niche in repairing

dolls, designing and creating clothes for them, repainting their

faces with the detail, and re-rooting their hair. The hobby has led

to a business niche -- Barbieville by Lil -- in which devoted

customers are willing to spend more than $500 for a Cher doll,

transformed with lashes and hairdo into a Harley- Davidson-riding

Cher.

Mitchell's home is indeed a dollhouse.

Rooms are filled with stray doll body parts, doll hair and the

toys in various degrees of getting makeovers for adoring collectors

-- most of whom are adults.

"My teenage son has had to explain to his friends before they come

over why dolls with no limbs and naked are all over the place,"

Mitchell said. "He has had to say, 'Well, my mom does this doll thing

...' "

But the "doll thing" has worked for Mitchell, who once toiled in

the information technology field. Her followers pay top dollar for

her reworked creations on e-commerce websites.

Deanna Luper, a collector in Hughson -- near Modesto -- has

purchased at least a dozen dolls from Mitchell.

"She is an extraordinary gown designer for small dolls," she said.

"She also takes so much care in the detail in her work."

It was about four years ago when at a yard sale, she saw a

dilapidated, naked, dirty My Size Barbie sitting in a garage with its

arm chopped off. She bought it and repaired it. She later found that

she could create clothing such as evening gowns for the dolls. It was

only a matter of time before Mitchell, who was inspired by

music-industry fashion, started a website, www.barbieville.com,

touting her hobby and skill.

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