WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO CREATE PORCELAIN BALL-JOINTED DOLLS?
My dream has always been to make a porcelain ball-jointed doll (BJD). However, I was so overwhelmed with the process I couldn't do it. Finally, after several years of doll making, practicing sculpting, learning anatomy and mastering my skills, I am ready to give it a shot! I'm not going to walk you through the steps of making a BJD today, but I'll explain what it takes to make one.
I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. I would never promote something I don't truly believe in.
A porcelain ball-jointed doll cannot be made without first making a prototype. I used "La Doll" clay to sculpt my prototype because I have experience working with air-dry clays. Polymer clay is also used by artists, but for me, it's not as forgiving as air-dry clay. It's easy to smooth out the clay surface and even easier to sand or carve once it has dried.
I didn't follow any tutorials just examined other artists' creations. I did not want to copy anyone, but I was so eager to understand how everything worked. I studied the intricate details of ball-jointed dolls and started sculpting my own prototype. It took me more than six months to come up with an idea I liked.
Keeping symmetry, especially with legs and knee joints, and designing the joints were my biggest challenges. It was difficult to maintain the roundness of the joints and match up the sockets for the joints because I sculpted everything by hand, without using any digital design techniques or 3D printing techniques. My next prototype will be made with wooden beads because it would save me a lot of time.
MOLDING THE PLASTER
This is a lengthy step that you should keep in mind whenever you create your prototype. You can use plaster to create porcelain BJD dolls! Making molds with porcelain is important to ensure that the doll has even weight. This is crucial because porcelain is a liquid and too much moisture will change the weight of the doll. As time goes on, this process will become easier because it'll be familiar. My greatest challenge was figuring out how many parts an individual molds needs: it took me a lot of time studying other people's work, their tutorials, and asking for advice from established artists in order to find a solution. Now I'm sharing my knowledge with others by creating tutorials; I'm excited to provide an accessible resource to the BJD arts community in the future.
The hardest part for me was getting my hands dirty. I've torn apart a lot of doll parts and put them back together in the process but it's worth it when you try to make the doll from almost nothing or find cheap doll parts to customize your own dolls. If you want to make the soft fired porcelain, start two cycles of firing, one cycle for about an hour at around 770°F (the other at a few degrees lower) because different brands of porcelain require different temperatures.
When your soft fired pieces are perfect, it's time for a high fire! This is when the porcelain matures completely and turns hard and beautifully translucent. The first few pieces I fired ended up being damaged in the kiln. Some of them deformed during firing, some chipped or developed strange black spots. You should make more doll parts than you actually need just in case.
The glaze is just for the eyes because I prefer the dolls to be unglazed and velvety matte. You will need china paints to paint porcelain dolls. Several layers must be applied to achieve bright colors and maintain the porcelain's translucency. Each layer must be fired in the kiln, so it takes a lot of effort! Some dolls may require up to eight layers. It is so satisfying to see the doll grow more alive with each layer.
When it comes to ball jointed dolls, there's a lot of trial and error involved. There are tons of different combinations you can use to create the perfect tension. To create the perfect tension for YOUR doll, you need to try out different springs, hooks, and swivels. Porcelain dolls can be beautiful for a variety of reasons. One is that they don't lose their tension for years!
MAKE YOUR OWN COSTUME
In my opinion, the costume is what really reveals the character of a porcelain ball-jointed doll. It gives it so much more! Creating costumes for my dolls has always been one of my favorite things. Intricate details, beads, and the most beautiful fabrics tell a story about the doll. In the folds of a costume, a viewer can discover something new to admire for years to come.
I'd be happy to answer your questions about porcelain doll making in the comments! Also, don't forget to subscribe so you don't miss any future posts!