Ball-jointed dolls, or BJDs, have been growing in popularity over the past few years, particularly among those already into creative hobbies. But what exactly is this kind of doll? And what makes it so special?
First things first: BJDs may look like porcelain, but they’re actually made of synthetic resin—a type of plastic that’s opaque yet features a translucent quality similar to porcelain. The resin used to produce BJDs tend to be expensive and the work that goes into casting the doll also comes with a hefty price, which is part of why the dolls carry such a high price tag. Although they are technically made of plastic, BJDs can crack like porcelain. However, they’re much stronger than that.
BJDs are held together by elastic strings. This tension together with their ball joints allow them to get into a variety of poses. BJDs can vary in the way their joints work. Some dolls can hold all kinds of acrobatic positions while others with more simple joints sacrifice mobility for the sake of attention to sculpting each part.
Speaking of attention of detail, the main thing that sets BJDs apart from all other kinds of dolls is that they were sculpted to be photogenic in whatever stage of undress and whether they’re photographed from the front or the back. BJD bodies feature a variety of accurate anatomic details, from gentle collarbones on adolescent girls to even delicate veins on the hands of adult men. Sculpted muscles, from deltoids to abs, are also a common sight on various dolls.
To add to this attention to detail, all BJD faces are hand-painted. Depending on the artist behind the work, the faces can vary from cutesy and anime-like to austere and realistic. If the owner ever decides that their doll could use a new look, they could easily have the painted face wiped off and replaced. Other customizations BJD owners can do include swapping the eyes and changing the wig on the doll. As with their bodies and faces, everything that goes on to a BJD often features a particular attention to detail.
Different Kinds for Different Folk
Although BJDs are considered one type of doll, there’s an incredible variety available for collectors to explore. This is due to a wide array of companies based in Japan, Korea, and China, among others, all producing dolls in their own aesthetics. With such an array to choose from, collectors of all kinds can certainly find a doll to match their exacting tastes.
BJDs also come in various heights. The industry’s “standards” however are 70cm, 60cm, 43cm, and 27cm. Dolls that fall into those heights often are easy to find clothes and shoes for. However, there are also other dolls that fall into the middle or are much smaller or bigger than these standards. Depending on the company, BJDs may also vary in build or shape. Some can be broad and muscular, like superheroes, while others can be petite and bony, following an “art doll” aesthetic.
Dolls may also vary in cost. As BJD collecting really is an expensive hobby, there is really no such thing as a cheap doll. However, there are particular brands that offer beautiful, original dolls for a price people might find more reasonable. To make the most out of this hobby though, it’s important to research as much as possible before making a purchase. Sometimes, it’s better to work harder towards a doll you truly want rather than to settle for your second best choice.
The BJD Community Around the World and in the Philippines
Collecting BJDs is something that could be enjoyed alone, just like Gunpla building or collecting Nendoroids and Figmas. However, the BJD culture is unique in the sense that over the years, people who’ve been collecting the dolls have slowly come together to create communities. In these communities, doll collectors do photoshoots with their dolls; buy, sell, and barter handmade goods for the dolls; and make new friends with like-minded people who are always looking to explore different ways to enjoy the hobby.
Internationally, most doll owners interact through Den of Angels, which is the online hub for doll owners all over the world. But aside from that, some groups of doll owners have created local groups for a tighter community.
ManikaManila, the Philippines’ premier BJD community, is one such example of a tight-knit local community. As with many local communities, members plan together to have meets for taking photos or simply socializing. The forums on which the members communicate online offer more localized advice on topics such as where to find the right materials for painting a doll’s face. Once a year, the community gathers together for a big sale event where the community’s artisans put their works out on display. But above all the meetings and the information a local community provides, the biggest benefit to being part of one is all the friendships forged with other members.
If you find yourself interested in the doll hobby and want to learn more before taking the plunge, it may be worth it to join a local community like ManikaManila. It’s no problem if you don’t have a doll yet. Getting to know the community and seeing all the different dolls in person goes a long way to helping you make a decision. Who knows? You might find some great friends worth keeping even outside of doll collecting! (✿◠‿◠)
The ManikaManila Tiangge will be held on August 23, 2014
at the Balesin & Boracay Rooms, 6/F Alphaland Southgate Tower from 1-8PM.
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