If you’re mystified by the world of Ball-Jointed Dolls (BJD), let me help you understand about the hobby with this simple guide. You’ll find out how you can buy your first BJD, and what you need to consider when buying one, as well as an explanation of some of the terminology used by doll owners. I’ll share how I make clothes for my BJD – as every doll needs some lovely outfits!
What is a Ball-Jointed Doll?
A Ball-Jointed Doll is basically a doll that has ball and socket joints, joined with string/ elastic. They are made from resin. Doll companies have different face types called ‘molds’. There are different size dolls, ranging from over 70cm down to under 15cm. The different size dolls fit into scale categories from the larger scale 1/3 dolls, to the 1/12 scale tiny dolls. Body types range from adult dolls through to children/ toddler proportions. My Pukifee and Dollzone Cherry BJD both fall in the ‘tiny’ category and have toddler/ small child proportions, which is what I love about them. The size or style doll you buy depends on what type of character you want to create with your doll. You can even get rabbits, cats and or mythical creatures – all ball jointed and very cute! What I love about them is how poseable and expressive the dolls are and how you can easily customise your doll into a unique character; simply by changing eyes, wigs and outfits.
Where to buy a BJD
You can either go to the doll manufacturer directly or through a distributer. It depends where you are in the world and whether you would save on shipping using a distributer. I decided to go directly to Dollfairyland to order my doll as there very limited distributers in the UK. You’ll have to be patient as dolls can take up to 6 months to arrive. This is because they make the dolls to order. I would avoid ‘marketplaces’ like Ebay, as there is no guarantee over the quality or whether a doll is authentic or not. If you hear the term ‘recast’ it refers to a doll which has been created using an authentic doll for the mold, without the permission of the original company. If you want to be part of an online BJD community like Den of Angels, it’s worth knowing that they won’t accept owners of recast dolls. Pro-artist is another term that is used to support authentic original dolls. If you see a new BJD for sale and it seems cheap, then it will almost certainly be a recast.
After entering the world of Ball-Jointed Dolls with my first doll, a Dollzone Cherry, I have got completely hooked and ordered another BJD for Christmas this year. The new arrival turned up in March after a five month wait. She is a Dollfairyland Pukifee Ena which I ordered directly from Dollfairyland. I would have loved the ‘full package’ which comes with a gorgeous outfit, but they were sadly all sold out. I ordered the basic doll and a sleeping face then waited patiently for her to arrive.
What else do I need to know?
The best part about getting a new doll is opening the box and meeting them for the first time! Our doll was carefully nestled in a box, which opened up like a book. She came with a Certificate of Authenticity, instructions on how to move the joints safely and how to re-thread the elastic. Her hands and feet are attached with magnets, so she can be customised with different hands or feet. She also has magnetic points on her body which allows ‘magical items’ to be attached (e.g. horns, wings, tail). I also ordered some shoes which are adorable. I’m going to try and make some shoes and boots so if I have any success then I’ll share them here!
When you buy a BJD you have the option to have a ‘face up’ or a blank face. ‘Face up’ is the term used for all of the dolls facial features and make up – e.g. eyebrows, colour on the lips, eyelashes etc. If you order a blank face then be prepared to do the ‘face up’ yourself or commission a face up artist to do it for you. There are lots of talented artists who will lovingly make up your doll (have a look on Instagram using #bjdfaceupartist). I decided for a second time, to try a face up myself. It’s not for the faint hearted but there are plenty of tutorials on YouTube and advice on the Den of Angels forum. I’m not going to share how I did my face up, as I don’t think I’m qualified to give advice yet! The eyebrows and eyelashes are the hardest part as you have to try and make them symmetrical. My theory is that human faces are rarely completely symmetrical so a little wonkiness is ok!
Your doll will come with eyes, secured in the head using putty. You can buy new eyes on Etsy or from doll distributers, the eye colour can make a big difference to how your doll looks.
Doll wigs come in all shapes, sizes and styles. You can either buy a wig or try making one. Making wigs isn’t easy – I’ve tried! I ordered two wigs for my doll – one mohair (the pale pink) and the other synthetic (brown with a fringe). Mohair wigs are either leather or ‘wefted’ (sew into a long line) and sewn onto a wig cap. You can also make or buy wigs from fur fabric. There are also methods of making wigs using brushed out wool. If you are new to BJDs I would recommend ordering a wig when you buy your doll, then you know it will fit. You can also buy silicon wig caps which help wigs stay in place on the doll’s head.
As you may have gathered from this Blog, sewing for dolls is my thing! It’s one of the main reasons that I conspired with my daughter to get another BJD. However, if you don’t like sewing then you can buy handmade doll clothes from sellers on Etsy or Instagram. I ordered several adorable Pukifee outfits from Etsy sellers.
The first outfit I’ve made is a t-shirt and denim dungaree dress. The pattern I used is from Requiem Art Designs and is the Easy Overalls clothes pattern for 16cm tiny BJD. It was relatively easy to sew – I did it all by hand as it find it easier for tiny clothes. I added the ‘Don’t be afraid to be great’ logo to the t-shirt using iron on fabric transfers. I’m looking forward to making more cute tiny outfits.
I hope you’ve found my simple guide to BJDs useful! For more doll fun follow me on Instagram @galaxiadollsClaire x