HOW DO YOU CREATE A BJD PROTOTYPE?
Many people wonder how one can create something so beautiful as that ball-jointed porcelain beauty? A fully posable and moving doll made entirely by hand! Incredible, isn't it? So let's take a look at the very first step in the process of creating porcelain ball-jointed dolls - the prototype and what you need to make one!
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You will need a few materials and patience. Creating a BJD prototype is a very exhausting process. If you're a beginner, expect to spend months designing, sculpting, and sanding your prototype.
The first is CLAY
You need to decide which clay you'd like to use – air-dry or polymer clay? I personally like air-dry clay because it's so easy to sculpt, smooth out the surface, carve, or sand. Although polymer clay is stronger, it can be a pain to sand and adjust.
It's very easy to work with and smooths out evenly with a little bit of water. "La Doll" is very lightweight so it's ideal for delicate dolls. Because most of my dolls are just a little taller than 30cm, it is very important to me to achieve a realistic look on such a small scale. It sands almost to a shiny finish.
"Premier" - it's very similar to "La Doll" but a little bit smoother and creamy. If whiteness is a priority for you, I use "Premier" for doll faces or tiny details like fingers and toes. You can use a damp brush instead of a metal tool to sculpt with Premier. The package is slightly smaller than "La Doll" so keep that in mind when buying! This lets you smooth out hard-to-get places like nostrils and eye corners.
"Creative Paperclay" - the first high-quality air-dry clay I have ever tried and loved. It is ideal for sculpting dolls and other projects. It is lightweight and easy to use. Unlike "La Doll", "Creative Paperclay" is less delicate, so I would recommend it for sculpting dolls larger than eight inches in size. On a small scale, fibres are more visible and harder to smooth out.
SCULPTING TOOLS OF GOOD QUALITY
If you're sculpting a BJD, you can't use normal fingers. All your work will be distorted and out of proportions because of the many curves that exist in these designs. That's why I love using metal wax carvers to do finer detail jobs. If you have this set, it contains very fine needles, tiny spatulas, carving tools, and other useful tips. I'm not trying to use them all at once since I need variety for different tasks. But it's good to have a selection just in case - like when working with hard-to-reach areas like the nose or eyes on any BJD sculpture. However, because of the high quality clay I use, tiny watercolour brushes are also helpful!
PAPER FOR SANDING
Make sure that you have medium, fine and very fine sand paper with you if you want to move the doll smoothly! Medium (or coarse if your doll is very rough) sand paper will remove the imperfections and fine sand paper will smooth it out. It's a long and tedious process but it has to be done! Don't be surprised if it takes a few days, sand through imperfections and wear a mask. There will be quite a lot of nasty dust in the air.
When your doll is smooth and every joint fits in its socket like it should, you're ready to prime. As I mentioned before, the surface of dried clay is soft, so you'll want to protect it with some primer. I love using Mr. Surfacer 1000 because it fills in any dents or seal any fibers that might have been left from sanding. After a few layers of the stuff, my BJD prototype is ready for plaster molds or painting!
It's really important to have a blueprint before you start sculpting a doll. Think about things like the height of your doll, what body proportions it should have and where joints should be. If you're making a ball-jointed porcelain doll, remember to make your prototype bigger because porcelain shrinks in the kiln!
A PERFECT JOINT REQUIRES THE RIGHT GEAR
The design for the jointing system was really hard for me at the beginning, but I found that the two main techniques actually made it a lot easier. If you have a Dremel tool, using already fully round wooden beads is a great option. I did that for some of the joints like hip and knee joints. For gaps and cavities needed for movement, you can chisel them with your Dremel tool. You can also make all the joints from air-dry clay and shape them with plastic template of circles. Here's a blog post with a tutorial!
Here you'll find photos from behind the scenes, news about upcoming dolls, and articles about porcelain ball-jointed dolls. Join me there!