Saturday, June 26, 2010

BJD 101: Ball Jointed Dolls For Beginners

I'm going to deviate away from Lolita a bit with this post and do a little bit of talking about ball jointed dolls, or BJDs (sometimes abbreviated as ABJD which means "Asian ball jointed doll")

Before I start with this post, let me make it clear that you do not need a BJD to be a Lolita. Some people who are new to both BJDs and Lolita who seem to think it is a requirement, but it's really not. It's just a hobby that overlaps nicely with Lolita, as BJDs are cute, fancy, and are pretty much the perfect person to twin with. If you are interested in dressing up your BJDs in Lolita, check out this post for some places to buy Lolita clothes for dolls. I am not making this post because I am claiming you need a BJD to be called a Lolita, I am making it because many Lolitas are interested in getting one, and I just really like them myself and have been collecting them for a few years. This may seem like a lot of info to take in if you are a BJD newbie, but hey, BJDs are a big investment, I think it's worth spending a few minutes learning about them before you buy one.

Okay! Now that that's out of the way, onto the dolls! First thing's first and that is:

Proper terminology
Much like how Lolita's don't approve of using the term "Gothic Lolita" to cover every style of Lolita, BJD enthusiasts don't usually call all BJDs "Dollfies". "Dollfie" is a brand specific name, referring to various different types of dolls produced by the Volks company. Despite this, we still use the terms SD (which stands for Super Dollfie) to mean a BJD of about 60cm and MSD (Mini Super Dollfie) to mean a BJD of about 44cm. It really isn't a big deal if you call BJDs "Dollfies" it's just a bit confusing if you are talking about a BJD that isn't actually from Volks. The BJD hobby has even more terms and abbreviations than Lolita, nearly every doll company, of which there are hundreds, has one and I certainly won't be going over each and every one of them in this post! But there are a handful that you really should know.

Face-up: The paint job on the face. Even if your doll isn't going to be wearing "makeup" your doll will still need a faceup to give the head mold realistic details such as natural blushing, defined shadows, and eyebrows.
Resin: What BJDs are made of. It's like a very hard, dense plastic.
SD: Short for "Super Dollfie" which, as I said above is a specific brand of doll, but the abbreviation is also used to refer to dolls that are around 60cm in height, or the size of Super Dollfies.
MSD: Short for "Mini Super Dollfie", the smaller version of Volk's Dollfies, it is also used to denote the dolls approximate height, MSD being around 44cm tall.

BJD basics
If you collect BJDs you pretty much never stop learning about them, there are always new sculpts and companies coming out and just so many different techniques for customizing your doll, but there are some basic things you should know about BJDs before you are ready to take the plunge
  • BJDs are expensive. This is something everyone is aware of XD The first time you find out how much one of these dolls cost, you kind of do a double take. The average larger BJD, which is about 60cm (or 24") will, on average, set you back about $500, smaller BJDs of about 44cm (or 17") will cost about $300. Of course, just like everything, there are some that are cheaper, and some that are more expensive. It is possible to find a large BJD for around $300 on the second hand market, but, at the same time, there are some BJDs that will cost several thousand dollars.
  • BJDs are not like Barbies. That is to say, unless you buy a full set, which are usually limited editions and very pricey, you are not going to be able to just pop one in your shopping cart, open it up when you get home and immediately be able to play with it. Most BJDs are sold nude and unpainted without even eyeballs or wigs. You're going to have to buy all that, as well as clothes separately. On average, if you are looking to get a hold of good quality accessories (and you should, you are already spending a ton of money on a doll, there's no reason why it should wear dresses made out of old socks), you're going to be spending around $100 for all the basic stuff you need for your doll.
  • You get what you pay for. As Lolitas, we know this very well. Just like with frilly dresses, sometimes prices can be too good to be true. There are bootleg BJD sellers out there, and this is no where near acceptable as it is with clothes knock-offs, bootleg BJDs are often made out of very fragile and sometimes toxic resin. You're still going to be spending hundreds of dollars, even on a bootleg BJD, but it's most likely going to be made out of completely garbage materials that are very likely to break or even make you sick. As long as you do a bit of research about what company you plan on buying from, and try to avoid buying from auction sites, you're most likely not going to accidentally end up with a bootleg. Besides obvious bootlegs, there are a few companies who produce very cheap dolls. While a cheap doll may sound like a good idea for beginners who don't know if they are ready to drop big bucks on one doll, remember, that you are still getting what you pay for. Some cheap dolls have a certain "look" about them that is from a sculptor not being very talented. The eyes might be too far apart, the facial proportions might seem a little "off", or the doll might pose very poorly. A lot of cheaper doll companies seem like they are just jumping on the bandwagon and trying to make a few quick bucks by pumping out very rough dolls, and that's not really going to lead to very attractive dolls, certainly not something you would want to drop a couple hundred bucks on. But, of course, not all cheaper BJDs are "ugly", it's all a matter of personal taste. I'm just saying don't limit yourself to a very low budget, because you might not like your options. If all you can afford at the moment is something from a company you feel looks a little weird, or isn't the kind of doll you want, keep saving up. Only $100 more can usually buy you a doll from a whole new level of quality. I hope this doesn't come off as sounding BJD-elitist XD but it's true that you shouldn't buy something of lesser quality just for the sake of having it.
How to find the perfect doll for you
I, of course, can't tell you what the perfect doll for you is, I couldn't even begin to give you recommendations without knowing what it is you are looking for, but I can show you where to go to educate yourself on all the different kinds of dolls out there. The first step would be to join Den of Angels, DoA is a massive BJD forum and it's going to have, somewhere on it, pretty much everything you need to know about BJDs and choosing the one for you. Once you have signed up for DoA I would suggest lurking the Gallery or Database sections of the forum and just do some window shopping for a while, soon enough you'll start coming across dolls that you like. Do a bit of searching for more of the same sculpt owned by different people. You may find yourself loving one person's doll only to find out that what was really doing it for you was all in the photography and the way it was customized. You'll soon come to realize that the same sculpt can look dramatically different depending on what the owners do to it.

Once you have a vague idea of what kind of doll you want there are a few questions to ask yourself before you take the plunge, especially if you are on a tight budget.

  • What is my spending limit? One of the most important questions is how much you are willing to spend on a doll. Don't cut your budget short, if you don't think you can only afford a very small amount, start saving up now and try to surpass that goal, because like I said before, you get what you pay for. Don't forget to think about things like clothes, wigs, shoes, and eyes for the doll. You might actually want to consider buying the little things before you even get the doll, so it's not going to be sitting around naked, bald, and eyeball-less for a while. Having a few pieces of doll accessories around, before you even have a doll, is a good reason to save up faster! Be careful though, because not all clothes will fit all dolls, just doing a little bit of researching or asking will save you time and money.
  • What size do I want? There are a few sizes you can pick from, all the way from little BJDs that are hardly more than 10cm tall to ones that are a whopping 90cm. The typical sizes though are about 44cm and around 60cm, so those are the sizes you're going to have the easiest time buying clothes, shoes, and wigs for.
  • How much work am I willing to put into the doll? BJDs are very customizable, and that's often half the fun in owning one, but if you don't feel like you are up to the task of doing things like face-ups, body blushing, or modding the doll, it's best to either pay the company you bought the doll from to do the aesthetic work, or to find someone on DoA who you can commission to do it for you. In addition to aesthetic work, there are other things to consider like eye color, eyeball type (glass, acrylic, or silicone!?), wigs, clothes, shoes, and accessories. Unless you are already skilled at sewing small things and doing delicate paint jobs I would advise against going gung-ho for your first doll and doing everything yourself. If it's your first doll, spoil it a little bit by buying it with a face-up and buying a nice set of clothes for it to wear in case you discover that you are not so good at working on such a small scale.
  • What kind of character do I want? It's always best to have an idea of what kind of doll you what before you buy one! Do you want your doll to be sweet and innocent or sultry and seductive? Because obviously some molds are going to be better than others for certain looks. A baby faced doll with big innocent eyes is going to look a bit weird in a PVC dominatrix outfit. If you fall in love with a certain sculpt that doesn't quite fit the character you have in mind, try to find a look that works with the sculpt instead of forcing a look on your doll that just doesn't suit it.

What about Obitsus?
Obitsus are great! I finally got one of my own and I just love her and am really looking forward to adding more to my collection. But, Obitsus are not BJDs, even though they share a similar aesthetic, and they even make 60cm Obitsus. When it comes right down to it, they are not made of resin or ball-jointed, so they are in an entirely different hobby, a hobby that I am not too familiar with. But, they are still very similar to BJDs in that you typically buy Obitsus nude and without a face or hair (actually, you usually buy them without a head!) and you go about customizing them yourself. But in the case of Obitsus, they are much cheaper than BJDs, around $30, but this is because they are much smaller, about Barbie size, and are made of a much less expensive material, vinyl. But they are a perfect hobby if you really are interested in the painting, dressing up, and posing aspect of BJDs. If you want to learn more about Obitsus, check out this page, it has just about everything you need to know!

I am using the word "Obitsu" to mean any of the small, poseable, action figure-like dolls,t because that is the company you see the most, but there are a few other companies that make similar types of dolls.

What about Blythes, Pullips, and other dolls with great big heads?
Just like Obitsu, Blythes, Pullips, and other similar dolls are another great hobby to get into if you want to customize, dress up, and pose cute dolls. For these kind of dolls you can usually more often find them sold in full sets, I actually don't think Blythes or Pullips are sold as nude dolls. They are also a bit more expensive than Obitsus, running around $100. I know even less about these kinds of dolls than I do Obitsus! I actually am looking to buy my first Pullip sometime soon, I've been really eyeing their h.NAOTO collaborations.

Contrary to popular belief, BJD owners do not look down on other kinds of doll owners, and Obitsus, Blythes, Pullips, and others, are not seen as "less than BJDs" they are simply a completely different kind of doll that not all BJD owners might be familiar with.

My Own Dolls
I have quite a few dolls of my own! I am the proud owner of 11 BJDs, 1 Obitsu, and 2 Hujoos, who are almost all dressed up in either Lolita, Dandy, or other fancy frills. I don't take too many photos of them, but I'd like to share a few with you now. Click for larger pictures.

This is my little Hujoo. Hujoos are like a weird combo between Pullips or some other big headed vinyl doll and a BJD. Hujoos are tiny little vinyl dolls, 24cm high, but they are ball-jointed. They are not everyone's cup of tea because they have such big goofy looking heads. I love them though, I think their expressions are so unique and full of character!

This girl is Alma, one of my MSD sized dolls. She is another girl with a rather unique look, she's from a now defunct head sculpt company called Plastic Flower, her head sculpt is Ma-u, and if you couldn't tell from her little horn, she's a unicorn girl.

Alma has a sister named Bathsheba, from the same company, a sleepy eyed Nia. Bathsheba is the only closed-eye head I have, it's kind of nice not having to buy eyeballs for a doll XD Alma and Bath are kept dressed in white with pale wigs. Bath, because of her sleepy sculpt, is usually kept in one of a couple fancy bloomers pajamas.

This girl was my first BJD, her name is Max and she's had quite a few looks, I usually keep her in pastels, with long pink hair, but recently I've changed her to a more natural look.

This girl is my Alice in Labyrinth Chloe named Asiadeh. She is another girl with a unique look, I love her heavy eyelids and big pouty lips. I'm just a sucker for melancholy dolls!


Well, I hope you didn't mind this little foray into blogging about dolls. I had been getting a few questions from Lolitas about BJDs, so I figured that would be a good excuse to ramble about it for a little bit!

32 comments:

  1. Not into dolls.. to expensive.. but NICE pictures of your dolls!

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  2. Thank you! I'm not very good at photographs of scenes, so I tend to take "artsy" closeups XD

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  3. Strawberry PockyJune 26, 2010 at 2:45 PM

    Talk more about dolls, PLEASE! A___A
    I was very interested in obitsus, especially

    I liked and linked this post (but my blog is in portuguese), and also loved your pictures *3*

    Kisses!~

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  4. Aghh, this post has really made me want to get one of those dolls, haha!
    The photos of your dolls are very cute by the way!

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  5. The last doll is absolutely perfect.
    I think BJDs are so beautiful, but I would never want to own one because I would be too jealous of it XD.

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  6. Yve/Freaky Little thingsJune 27, 2010 at 4:00 AM

    I own BJDs and Blythe's, I've had Pullips and Hujoos too AND (eeek) Tonner's in the past. I just love dolls, and if you love dolls and love to make things personal bu customizing then you will never regret saving up for a BJD :o)

    PS: So want and AIL Chloe, she's my fave of their sculpts

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  7. Thanks for sharing! I love BJDs. I have an Angelic Pretty Pullip that I treasure and would like to have more.
    http://andreanicolebaker.blogspot.com/2009/12/dal-maretti-angelic-pretty-lolita-doll.html

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  8. To be honest, dolls usually scare me a bit. But I have to admit that some BJDs are really cute!

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  9. This was such in interesting post! Really I didnt think I would be interested since I cant offord them and have never been all that interested but I read the whole thing. Its really cool how customizable they are and even though my friends mother is a doll maker I still learned a lot. Hmmm maybe ill ask my friends mom to help me make my own! Your personal dolls are adorible as well I liked the first unicorn girl and the girl with heavy lids and a big pout the best!

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  10. Oh wow XD Your dolls are so gorgeous! I wish I had one. But I'm too lazy to deviate some of my time into taking care of a BJD and I know that these dolls need to be handled with lots of love, time and care. In the meantime I shall be contact with gawking and drooling at others' BJDs. I'll be looking forward to some more photos in the future. It'd be so cool to have a mini-me when I'm lolita-ing XD

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  11. Thanks so much for writing this! I've recently become interested in BJDs, and this article answered quite a few questions I had but hadn't found answers to anywhere else!

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  12. Thank you for this post! I've always loved looking at BJDs, I think they are beautiful (as proved by your lovely photos) but I've never gotten into them myself as I already have one expensive hobby in lolita, I don't need another :D But seeing your mention of Obitsu, I hadn't heard of these before but I'm very tempted by them as I could have a beautiful doll without destroying my bank account any more than it already is!!

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  13. This dools might be cute, but I think they'Re really scary!! ^-^;;

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  14. So I really adore BJDs but I just can't bring myself to spend the cash on them esp if you have to like....get them painted and stuff, lol. I saw tons of em at Volks when I was in Japan but could never decide which I liked best. I think the Dream of Doll stuff is lovely and I would love one of their dolls but maaan the cash lol.... I got a Pullip for now which cost about $120 but it was the Innocent World Pullip with the little matching coat and umbrella set. Maybe someday I will have the balls and the cash to buy a BJD ? xD

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  15. I heart dolls big time. I wish I could afford a BJD and it's on my someday list. I do have four Pullips (two were gifts otherwise if the $400 to buy the 4 Pullips would almost be enough for a SD). My favorite is Adsiltia an H. Naoto collaboration. I have a Cornice that I got on ebay for $60 that I want to customize. Anyway, what I wanted to say was that this post was really helpful. I think it can be intimidating to get into these hobbies without guidance. I would love to see more about your BJDs and their closets!

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  16. This is a few weeks old, but I'd been oggling BJDs for some time, and because of your post, finally ordered one! A Ringdoll Lily, expected to arrive next month ^_^ thanks for such a great intro post to them!

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  17. Thank you sooooo much. This will help me a lot

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  18. Your dolls are terribly lovely! BJDs are awesome. I have an F-16 SD13 Volks girl and we both wear lolita. Thanks for writing this amazing blog, it's been such a great help to me, and I reccomend it to all my friends who are interested in wearing lolita.

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  19. SOOO expensive. I really really love ball jointed dolls but I could never afford one!! D:

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  20. I own a BJD who's name is Sonali and brought by my aunt.
    She's Cute. But I don't know much about choosing and face-up, becuase when I received her, she was fully completed and clothed

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  21. I AM SORRY I said she was clothed. My aunt bought it completed but nude.
    I clothed her with some denim trousers and a a blue top that I made immediately after.

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  22. Aw gee. I've just been reminded about how much I want one. I went on a hunt for one that can look kinda like me and I found a place where I could get a custom one that's actually black. I wasn't even sure if anyone made them. And for $487. That's a normal price, right? ^_^ Aw man. I'm already imaginary dressing her up in all sorts of cute clothes.

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  23. :D Wow really!? That's awesome! I just googled Ringdoll Lily to see what she looks like, and I must say, she is completely darling! I would love to see pictures of her when you get her.

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  24. I love BJDs!  I'm actually trying to learn to make them myself.  I love doing crafty things like this and I want a doll that's 100% my own.  I'm planning on making one of Kamijo from Versailles to carry with me when I wear the Lolita outfit I made to promote them at conventions.  A Hizaki one would be nice too.

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  25.  Obitsu's are not ball jointed, hence, they are not BJDs. They have a screw system and an internal plastic skeleton. The only part of them that is remotely ball-joint like is their hands and feet, but that just allows for an up and down movement, they don't even have the ball-joint socket thing going on, it's actually a plastic rod that just goes in a hole. They're very similar in design to a very flexible action figure.

    I have never heard that Obitsu made the Dollfies for Volks, and I can't seem to find any evidence online that says they did? The two different companies release dolls that are pretty different, in terms of mechanics/joints/etc. But I could be wrong? I just have never ever heard of that and honestly don't even see the similarities in design between the two.

    The 60cm dollfie dreams and obitsus are "grandfathered" into the hobby (well DOA at least XD) because they share a similar aesthetic, and way back when DOA first started most people who couldn't afford a BJD bought Obitsus/DDs.

    I hope this doesn't seem rude, but I consider myself part of both the BJD hobby and the Obitsu hobby and they're just not the same thing, even though the hobbies overlap sometime. When you get right down to it, Obitsus are made of a different material, requiring a completely different system of modding, and they are built vastly different from BJDs, requiring a different system of upkeep. Lolita is a fashion, and much more fluid than something like a particular type of doll that a particular company releases, so it's sort of silly to compare the two.

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  26. Rozen_maiden_fanJune 21, 2012 at 6:34 PM

    Obitsu are not BJDs.

    infact they are. DoA gives the deffinsition of what they think are BJDs. Dollfies are considered BJDs but are made just like obitsus.

    Why? Because Obitsu made the dollfies for volks. But then volks started to make there own. Wich is why the 60cm dollfies and obitsus are 'grandfathered in' to the BJD hobby. While they are not made of resin, some can have ball-joints.

    BJDs I think is whatever you see fit. Like lolita. Its gonna be your own style in some way. A BJD doesn't need to be MADE of resin. as long as it has ball joints. like in the name.

    I have 4 BJDs by the way. None are obitsus as well.

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  27. My Obitsu is 40cm and cost $300...She is still considered a BJD by all BJD venders and the BJD community...But does not have an elastic band holding her together...

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  28. Yes, i like BJD Dolls, the price is really expensive in local stores, but at smalltao the price is soo good!! 

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  29. yup. This is true as far as cons go to.

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  30. After you know a lot about bjds, you tend to say things like, "Only $200, that's cheap!?!"

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  31. BJDs are how I got into Lolita! I only have one (a Yo-SD), but my interests in them eventually led to me wanting to find out more about the fashion. About what you said about Obitsu... I personally disagree, I believe just because they aren't strung and are not made of resin doesn't make their ball joints any less... well, ball jointed. However, that and Dollfie Dreams is a much debated topic in the BJD community; some consider them BJDs, others don't. To each his own, I suppose.

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  32. I love BJDs. However, instead of buying a base, I heard that somewhere there is a master class for making BJD bases from Flumo cast plastic. I think it might be cheaper to buy that cast plastic, then see a tutorial for making a base, then implement it (make a base), then try to do next steps like you do with aftermarket (bought) bases. If I would have a lil sis or a daughter, for us, making base on our own would be much better rather than buying a ready base.
    Then, "playing with it"? I once wanted to scream "NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! THEY ARE JUST FOR COLLECTING!!!!!" when I'll see so. However, I think the best toy is the hobby, thus the one you made on your own.
    But still, I think that you don't even have to have or collect BJDs to be a loli.

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