What’s a ball-jointed doll?
“A ball-jointed doll is any doll that is articulated with ball and socket joints. In contemporary usage when referring to modern dolls, and particularly when using the acronyms BJD or ABJD, it usually refers to modern Asian ball-jointed dolls. These are cast in polyurethane synthetic resin, a hard, dense plastic, and the parts strung together with a thick elastic. They are predominantly produced in Japan, South Korea and China… They are made to be easy to customize, by painting, changing the eyes and wig, and so forth. The modern BJD market began with Volks line of Super Dollfie in 1999. Super Dollfie and Dollfie are registered trademarks but are sometimes erroneously used as generic blanket terms to refer to all Asian BJDs regardless of manufacturer.” -wikipedia
To illustrate the mechanics, here’s one of my dolls. She is an “Amber” from “FantasyDoll” (also known as “FDoll”) that I physically modified and dyed but have yet to paint.
I’ve been collecting, painting, and customizing ball-jointed dolls since 2016. These dolls are painted and dressed and can be very stunning/lifelike when completed- which includes the insertion of glass/resin eyes, application of synthetic eyelashes, and construction of wigs.
This is my SWITCH “Holy Soseo” head on a Soom “Supergem” body.
I started to design my own ball-jointed doll in December of 2017, and this project was actually what motivated me to start 3D modeling last fall.
When resin ball-jointed dolls first started to be produced in the 90s, the characters depicted were very young, prepubescent children, usually stated to be around 7 years old, because of this, most early ball-jointed dolls are highly androgynous, with “male” and “female” sculpts differentiated only by the sets of clothing that came with them, and occasionally a small bump to represent a penis or a carved line for vulva. In the last few years, though, “mature” sculpts have dominated the scene. These dolls, unlike their childlike predecessors, are meant to depict adults, and are almost always hyper feminine/masculine. These dolls cannot share clothes, let alone parts- even a “male” leg will be incompatible with a “female” body. While these dolls are beautiful, it is alienating to transgender individuals, whose bodies are often radically different than these depictions.
Dolls are, at their core, articulated sculpture, and there is a long standing tradition of using the medium of sculpture to record human beauty. For that reason, I am creating a doll that captures the beauty I see in myself, as a transmasculine individual, and I see in other, transfeminine individuals, including my fiancee. My doll will have two versions- two chests (one flat and one more full) and two hip pieces, one with external genitalia and one with internal- all pieces interchangeable with each other.
(Specifically, transmaculine internal genitalia, which is quite different from cisgender women in those individuals who, like myself, have taken testosterone replacement therapy. Testosterone causes the clitoris to swell and become remarkably similar to a 1-2in penis)
When sculpting a ball-jointed doll its best to sculpt first and design the joints later. I started on the base shape I want the body to be. There’s a weird seam from using the “symmetry” feature in C4D that’s deforming the face, but my focus is on the body first, then face, the, hollowing, then joints.
So, at this point in the project, I hit a major stumbling block- the COVID-19 crisis. I had a week to vacate my dorm room, and in the process I lost my 1/2 scale model. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem, the print only took a few days, but due to the underlying crisis behind the move, there is now a shortage of photopolymer resin and isopropyl alcohol which is needed to clean prints. I had been imaging presenting my final project as two full scale prints, one of each sex, and was considering decorating them with gold leaf. Now, though, I have to take an entirely different direction. I experimented with creative ways of digital presentation to elevate my project- what I finally decided on is a digital gallery populated by my works, with the two figures as a centerpiece. The resulting space almost feels real, but if you really look you’ll find some things that don’t entirely make sense- like the lack of a visible doorway.
Credits- frames and people included as default content in C4D, hair modified from X