The first steps in making a ball-jointed doll are ideas and planning.
My definition of doll includes any representation of a figure that is articulated; or, lacking articulation, is meant to played with, as a toy.
So called dolls that are static, non-articulated figures, attached to a base, I consider to be figurines, or statuettes. They are usually not meant to be played with. I am sure that such dolls are played with by some people, but for the most part, I do not consider these types of dolls to be toys any more than porcelain figurines, or bronze statuettes.
My ideas for the ball-jointed doll I want to make are based on using the doll as an artist's mannequin or art model, a fashion doll for making doll clothing (sewing, knitting, and crochet), and as an actress in photo stories, or limited animation shorts. I am making a ball-jointed doll because I am interested in a doll that is very poseable.
I also like the idea of the doll being highly customizable, with the ability to change wigs, eyes, and make-up, as desired.
This is my third attempt to complete a ball-jointed doll. I have been working on trying to make a ball-jointed doll for almost a year and a half now. It has been a very enjoyable hobby, so far. I have had to dust off some old craft skills that I learned many years ago, but have not practiced in many years. I have also been learning about some new craft skills that are needed for making a ball-jointed doll, which is a multi-media art form.
The current resin ball-jointed doll craze is not new. The BJD that inspired the artist at Volks, in Japan, in late 1998, or early 1999 to create the first resin Asian BJD, was a French BJD, probably very similar to the one pictured above? From what I understand of the history of contemporary BJDs, Volks was a maker of garage kits, which are made of resin. So making a BJD in resin seems like a natural thing to do, right? They also applied a Japanese aesthetic to their version of a BJD. The Japanese have a very long history of making dolls. The combination of the Japanese aesthetic, and the resin material, makes an ABJD what it is today.
Basically, there are two kinds of ball-jointed dolls. The first kind is known as a One Of A Kind (OOAK) BJD. The other kind is molded and reproductions of the original are cast.
OOAK BJDs are usually modeled in a material that can harden and withstand tensioning. Two of the most popular OOAK BJD materials are air-dry clays such as LaDoll, Premier, or DAS; and polymer clays such as Fimo, Cernit, or Sculpey® Living Doll. The air-drying clays, as the name implies, dry in the air, at room temperature. The polymer clays are heated up in an oven for a certain amount of time to harden.
Molded and cast reproduction dolls are usually modeled by the sculptor as an original, which is then used to make molds. Molds may be rigid or flexible, depending on the material that is to be cast into the molds. The original model may be made using any type of modeling material, including oil-clay, also known as Plastilene, or Plasticine. Another modeling material is sculpture wax. Oil-clays and sculpture wax do not harden, are easily modeled, and are usually modeled over an armature supported by a modeling stand. One advantage to using oil-clay, or sculpture wax to model the original is that these materials are reusable for making many original dolls.
Resin ball-jointed dolls are molded in silicone rubber. If an oil-clay is used to model an original that is going to be molded in silicone rubber, it is important to use a non-sulfur oil-clay. This is because sulfur inhibits the curing of silicone rubber. Silicone rubber molds are used to cast resin because resin does not stick to silicone rubber. Silicone runbber cores are designed as a part of the molds in order to make the resin doll parts hollow. To make bubble-free resin casts, tools such as an air-compressor and pressure pot are used.
Porcelain ball-jointed dolls are molded in plaster. The porcelain is poured into the plaster molds in the form of a liquid called porcelain slip. The plaster mold sucks water from the porcelain slip, which thickens along the walls of the mold. When the porcelain slip reaches the desired thickness, the excess slip is poured from the mold, back into the slip container, leaving a hollow casting. An electric ceramics kiln is a tool needed to fire or bake the porcelain parts so they can be used to make a BJD.
There are also various slips available that do not need a kiln for hardening. For example, I will be using a doll composition slip known as CompoBell CS-1000 to make my BJD. Other brands of doll composition slip include Flumo, or Cool-Cast.
Tensioning is what holds the doll together, and, along with the ball-and-socket joints, allows the doll to be poseable. Round elastic doll cord is the material used for tensioning most resin BJDs. Springs and swivels are also used as tensioning materials, in some porcelain ball-jointed dolls.
Right now, I am starting to put together some resources that I will need to start making a new working drawing for my third attempt at making a ball-jointed doll.
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