I've always wanted to make a porcelain ball-jointed doll (BJD). However, I was unable to complete the task because I was so overwhelmed by it. I finally have the courage to at least give it a shot after a few years of making dolls, practicing sculpting, learning about anatomy, and mastering my skills! I won't go over each step of making a BJD with you today, but I will show you how to make a porcelain ball-jointed doll.
PRODUCING A PROTOTYPE
Before making a porcelain ball-jointed doll, you must first create a prototype. I used "La Doll" clay to sculpt my prototype due to my previous work with air-dry clays. Although polymer clay is used by many artists, I find it less forgiving than air-dry clay. When the clay is dry, it's easy to sand or carve "La Doll" and easy to smooth out the surface. I simply looked at the work of other artists instead of following any tutorials. I was so eager to learn how everything worked, even though I didn't want to imitate anyone. I have begun sculpting my own prototype after examining the intricate details of numerous ball-jointed dolls. I had to work on something for more than six months before I was satisfied with it. Maintaining symmetry, particularly with components like legs and knee joints, and designing the joints were my biggest challenges. It was difficult to maintain the roundness of the joints and match the sockets for them because I sculpted everything by hand without using any digital design or 3D printing methods. I would try using wooden beads or something similar for my next prototype because it would save a lot of time. Making the plaster molds is also a very time-consuming step. It's time to make some plaster molds once you have your prototype ready. Because porcelain is a liquid, you need this part to make a porcelain ball-jointed doll because plaster keeps doll parts hollow by absorbing moisture. I have labored for close to two months to complete the set of my molds. Because I'm already accustomed to the procedure, I'm sure it will go more quickly the next time. Finding out how many parts a mold needs was one of the biggest challenges. It was extremely helpful to browse Pinterest and observe how other artists solved the parting tasks. Because there aren't many tutorials for porcelain BJD dolls and not all of them are relevant to my sculpt, I've spent a lot of time studying other people's work. As a result, I am already working toward producing some BJD tutorials in the near future in order to impart my expertise on the community of doll artists.
The most exciting part for me was FIRING THE PORCELAIN.
It's so thrilling to finally feel and see the translucent and luxurious white porcelain, even though I've broken quite a few doll parts along the way. The porcelain must be fired twice before being painted. Because the temperatures can vary depending on the porcelain brand you select, this technique is referred to as "soft fire" and "high fire" in the community of doll makers. The raw porcelain must be soft fired because this is the only way to get rid of seams and other flaws, smooth out rough spots, and make your doll as perfect as possible. The porcelain is still quite brittle at this point. However, avoiding the dust and sanding it with water is really nice! It's time for a high fire when your soft-fired pieces are just right! The porcelain matures completely at this point, becoming brittle and stunningly translucent. At first, at the kiln, I damaged a few pieces. During the firing process, some of them deformed, chipped, or developed strange black spots. In the event that something goes wrong, it is best to make more doll parts than you actually need.
PAINTING THE PORCELAIN
Because I like my dolls to be velvety matte and unglazed, I'm only using glaze for the eyes. China paints are required to paint a porcelain doll. It takes a lot of layers to get bright colors and keep the porcelain transparent. It takes a lot of work to fire each layer in the kiln! China paint may require six to eight layers on some dolls. However, it is so satisfying to observe that the doll appears more and more alive with each layer.
STRINGING THE DOLL
Elastics or steel springs are typically used to string ball-jointed dolls. It's a complicated process that takes a few days of trial and error to figure out the right balance of tension and structure for your doll. There is no one-size-fits-all mechanism that would be effective due to the fact that each doll is unique. To determine which springs, hooks, and swivels work best for YOUR doll, you must experiment. Porcelain dolls pose beautifully due to the strong steel springs and leather lining for the joints. They are able to hold various poses and maintain their tension for years. Making costumes is a completely optional step. If you want to make a porcelain ball-jointed doll, I think the costume is what makes the doll who it is. It contributes so much more! I've always enjoyed dressing up my dolls. Your doll's story is told in fine embroidery, beads, and the finest fabrics. The doll can be explored for years by the viewer, who will still discover something new to admire in the costume's folds.