Ball Jointed Dolls are a unique type of doll design created to adapt movement while retaining their aesthetics. They fall into a specific category where a ball jointed doll must have a ball and socket, elastic string, and a hollow inner core with replaceable eyes, be anatomically correct, and handcrafted with LaDoll air dry clay. While this is not always the case, ball jointed dolls can be held together by springs and an endoskeleton as well as made by digital software sculpting applications. For the most part, ball jointed dolls are engineered to work with elastic strings and that has stayed relevant.
Today we can see ball jointed dolls not only being created by hand or by digital software and 3D printing, but a combination of both, a hybrid doll. Artists now have a bigger selection of tools to be creative in this medium.
Recasters are the result of people making copies of original handcrafted ball jointed dolls to which they did not create themselves. Any physical object that you own can be copied to create multiple products. This poses a problem and a solution to the doll community as a whole. The ball jointed doll community is an expensive hobby where collectors collect dolls similar to how art collectors collect paintings or sculptures. For someone new to the ball jointed doll community there is an expense to be made to become an owner of a doll. There is a huge selection of companies and products to select from which is great for variety. There are legitimate ball jointed doll companies and there are recasters selling copes of dolls created from these legitimate companies. While dolls can be pricey and range from $200 usd upwards to $1000 usd and more, these recasters will sell these products at a lower value competing with legitimate doll companies.
Creating copies of products from which you did not create and selling them for profit is illegal in the United States. Outside of the United States there are different laws regarding copyrights, trademarks, and more.
Customers or people who purchase recasted dolls may receive the doll at a lower value but also at a lower quality. A recaster is simply creating copies of a product they did not create which means they do not poses the skills that a legitimate company has to create these products. If there is a flaw of some kind the original company can solve these problems with their extensive years of experience creating ball jointed dolls. Not only does the original company have experience but is also familiar with their own products more so than a recaster. Buying recasted dolls destroys the doll community because original doll creators must compete with recasters who sell copied products. If the original company does not increase sales then they can no longer create and produce dolls which means we can not purchase any future dolls. In itself it is destroying the community for ball jointed doll enthusiasts and creating a market where illegal recasted dolls are available.
Can doll companies lower their prices?
The simple answer is no. The long answer is because of the cost of equipment and production costs to make a ball jointed doll a company must take these expenses into account to stay running. When a doll is ready for casting the final product must be bubble free and flawless. A doll has to pass quality standards to ensure a solid and reliable product. You would not want to purchase a doll and have it break after a few days of owning one. Original companies provide customer service to help you with any questions you have with their product. Recasters do not. When you purchase a doll from a recaster there is no quality control. You get what you pay for even if it has a flaw. Keep in mind that these dolls are engineered to be poseable and sustain elastic string tension. Recasters just make copies regardless if the doll works or not as a product.
Dollstown talks about creating original handcrafted dolls in an article: Why Original Handcraft?
After reading this article I understood the situation clearly. It also made me realize that there is much more to the ball jointed doll world as a whole. It is a culture. A culture built around talent, skill, hard work, business, and perseverance. As a doll sculptor I have come to find that it is a culture that needs to be treated with respect. A culture with integrity and value worth fighting for. I will do my best to uphold these standards for all ball jointed dolls that I create and I do not hope but expect other doll crafters to do the same.
Doll company based in China where I met the Sculptor as seen on top right and Manager as seen on top left.
A solution to Ball Jointed doll Creators
Original Ball jointed doll artists can relax now because there is a solution to every problem. Recasters, knock offs, rip offs, copies, and all that junk makes a profit because it is cheap, plain and simple. 3D printing is something that handcrafted doll companies do not want to touch. They have too much pride in handcrafted products. During the panel (as whown in the picture above) someone in the audience asked the company about their thoughts on 3D printing ball jointed dolls. The question was not answered directly and went on to talk about how they believe in handcrafted dolls. However today we have cnc machines, 2D and 3D printers. Using 3D printing does not mean you cannot use a combination of handcraft and 3D. With 3D printing technology we can make copies of anything, so what does this all mean?. It all comes down to the original creator. Copies of products are not just a humans job but also a machines job and to be realistic a machine can create copies faster than a human can produce them by hand. So it all comes down to design.
Two can play the same game
Today it is all about design. If you design a ball jointed doll then 3D print and produce it, what is to stop a recaster from making copies of your own product?. Well that’s the magic in automation. A customer would rather buy a legitimate doll directly from the original creator instead of a recaster simply because of the quality of your doll. A recaster can only produce a copy of a doll that was already made where as an original ball jointed doll artist can produce an original every time with top quality and for a great price that simply makes recasters obsolete. Remember that recasters are not doing anything new here, they are simply making molds and casting an existing doll. That is a skill that a genuine company has experience with when they produce dolls.
A big advantage to 3D is custom dolls made to order. We can now create made to order dolls much faster and customized for the customer. Ball jointed doll artists can now make hybrid ball jointed dolls with the aid of 3D printing. Create, design, and engineer parts for your prototype in 3D software such as 3D coat or zBrush. Cut the workload in half and keep creating handcrafted dolls or go full on and create a complete 3D printed doll. At this pace recasters can’t compete with genuine companies because they would have to wait to get their hands on a genuine doll to start making copies while genuine companies will already be in production and at a lower price point with better quality than a cheap copy. How is this possible? With the help of 3D printing as a doll maker you can focus on the art and aesthetics and leave the engineering to a 3D printer. This method results in faster prototyping because your parts will work straight out of the 3D printer and as a result lower costs and time for a project. With parts like these we have a foundation to work with, there is no need to start from scratch. Simply design your parts, print them,test for flaws, correct mistakes, add some clay, sculpt then go directly to mold making and casting. The parts you see below are endoskeleton parts engineered to allow elastic string to pass through the inside while holding a solid structure enough to add clay for sculpting each part individually. One advantage to this method is that parts can be reused and casted for several projects.
Ball jointed dolls aren’t going anywhere, they are here to stay. There is new sculptors every day, someone is inspired and these people will grow to create great things. Don’t forget that the community of ball jointed dolls exists because we support genuine doll crafters. Every community has its downside and we as people must keep in mind that recasters and recaster supporters are people just like you and me. You can be a supporter of genuine dolls or a supporter of recasters, at the end of the day it is just a hobby. Both communities should treat each other with respect no matter which side you are on. Companies are aware of the situation, they know it happens. It is good to be aware of what surrounds your community and do your research. While you are busy creating drama, we (doll sculptors) are busy creating things from scratch.
What you can do to support genuine BJDs
Often times I see a discussion about recasts and they fail to provide a solution to the problem, they only talk about it and share the information. There are people who are not aware of the negative effects it has on the businesses of ball jointed dolls. There are also people who are aware of recasts and willingly buy recasts regardless of the effects on these genuine companies, the market, and the community. As a doll maker I have provided some insight as a solution to our problem as presented in the image above. This solution brings the aid of 3D technology without sacrificing handcraft.
If you really want to support the genuine artists then buy their work directly from them. Buy dolls directly from the original creator. Talk about their product and make a video reviewing what you have learned. This gives exposure to those companies and in return they create happy customers and continue to produce dolls.
With that being said I present you this video in hopes that you can gain something regarding the situation revolving around recasters and find some humor.
This is only an example of how to treat others on opposing sides being that some are pro recasts and others are not. This does not mean they are the enemy or that we consider recasters enemies, the word “enemy” here is only used in the context of the video.
Please watch starting at 2:24 in video timeline.
May you keep making dolls.
Visit the forum for BJD Makers at https://dollholika.com