The name “Ball-Jointed Doll” is fairly self-explanatory, right? Artists and engineers are always looking for ways to improve their work. As technology changes, redefining the name of a particular art form has been necessary as possibilities have increased. “Ball-jointed doll” may not have worked in the past, but it will in simpler times.
Collectors are using new terms such as subdivisions, sub-genres, and microlabels. The definition of each term is unclear often times, and since collectors use these terms often the definitions of many need to be consolidated in order for other collectors to have a reference point.
This post will also include images of different joints from different companies while providing names for the joint types. These are frequently used names and descriptions, to my knowledge. This post is not complete, I’ve been collecting bjd dolls for almost a decade now and in all that time I’ve seen many discussions (and arguments) about what ball-jointed doll joints are. So this is my discussion!
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Historically, articulated dolls were made with ceramic parts and composite for the ball joints. These dolls were also strung with elastic to give them mobility while keeping major tension and stress off the joints. Recent advancements in technology have led to more affordable, durable materials that allow computer animators to capture the experience of such a doll in digital footage.
One of the main features in ball-jointed dolls is that their joints look more like a ball.
Dolls have been around for a long time. The most common types are made of different materials such as leather, cloth, fur and wood.
One of the challenges of making a toy is that it has to be made in round shapes. This requires hinges or pins to create joints, which then have at least 4 or 8 points where they can move. As a result, most toys have at least 4-8 points of articulation, though some have as many as 10.
Doll customization used to be limited to hands, faces, and feet. However as time progressed, dolls were able to have their heads, hands, and feet molded from the original manufacturer. The molds not only enabled true customization but also helped decrease production costs for the artist.
I am a very rare collectible doll whose movements are more natural than hinges and pins. With the ball-joints, it is faster and easier to produce dolls with round shapes and so they can be easily mass-produced.
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Ball-jointed doll collectors are an opinionated, unforgiving group who is against knockoffs and replicas. There are rules for what is considered to be a ball-jointed doll and these definitions vary from person to person depending on the resources they read.
As high-end dolls, there are several artists and long-time club members that establish definitions of BJD. With the globalization of the web and quick idea integration, there are some developments that the print and traditional groups can't keep up with.
Den of Angels is the authority on what counts for a BJD, and their guidelines are a point of contention with other groups.
DOA is notoriously strict and selective, but remains a useful resource for companies researching or if you are looking for rare dolls.
DOLLS Magazine provides categories for different types of dolls, so you can find what you need faster.
Ball-jointed dolls have existed for a long time. They are simple, traditional dolls with plain definitions.
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There are strict definitions of what constitutes a toy or ball-jointed doll, such as whether the doll is strung with elastic.
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The most BJD have 13 points of articulation (shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, ankles, and neck/head). Dollmore has a limited range of movement because of the ankle and wrist joints.
Dolls can be customized to have different hair, making them even more desirable. The most basic customization is choosing wigs, eyes, and outfits. Most BJD come without any hair on them. Impldoll and SIO2 are notable exceptions because they have hair that is made of resin.
The eyes are the most customizable part of these dolls, with options such as glass or plastic. The eyes can be whatever the user chooses and there are many species of eyes to choose from.
Many doll models, like Barbie and Bratz dolls, are not able to use the stringing system for BJD.
Ball-jointed dolls are often produced in plastic rather than ceramic, as the brittle material is still popular. However, it can be difficult to craft a resin doll; this is even more true with 3-D printed models.
Most manufacturers employ a hard, tough plastic. The company Hujoo were well known for dolls made from ABS. In 2020, the company stopped production. Jun Planning Ai dolls are also made from ABS and are not considered on topic by Den of Angels because they are not resin dolls.
New product developments such as sculpted or cast hair, sculpted or paintable eyes, and an action figure-like engineering were integrated into various BJD models and are accepted in all forums.
The engineering involved in the creation of articulated toys feed back into doll design and contribute to a doll’s Poseability. A popular collectors concern with single-jointed dolls is their inability to sit up on their own. Double joints help dolls mimic natural poses better.
The Cap joint bends like a ball joint, but with a specially shaped cap to give it extra mobility. This is technically only 1.5 joints long and is best suitable for aesthetic reasons. With the cap system, clothing will have an easier time folding on the body.
Dolls have an additional joint that lets them turn their legs or curl into a ball. This can be used for better pose.
The classic BJD doll is disqualified from being a classic if it has joints apart from ball joints. This includes other types of joints, such as cap or peanut joint. Nonetheless, these dolls still qualify as BJDs. Various collectors have different expectations for their dolls, and this engineering is always changing according to their desires. For example, some collectors can decide which body the doll should have based on their preference for the look and aesthetics. On the other hand, many newcomers or younger bjd collectors are focused on natural poses and therefore prefer bodies with more joints and visual seams.
Some collectors are focused on articulation and mobility whereas others prioritize the aesthetic appearance of their ball-jointed dolls. I happen to be in the latter category and all of my dolls have double joints. This is because they interact with the outside world more often than classic ones. The play style of a collector refers to how much wear a doll may endure and how a collector dresses or stages the doll.