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Archive for June 8th, 2010

The Doll House

This is me, surrounded by all of my friend's dolls.

From top left (clockwise): Satoru (black hair), Eden (brown hair), Aubrey (behind my head), Toshiya (black hair), Mikoto (on my shoulder), Leslie with Wisp on his lap, Yukio, and Yasuo.

Yukio steals the show.

Okay, so I’ve mentioned BJDs once or twice on here, and I figured that since I have one in the banner and all, I should explain what they are and how they apply to my life.

Ball-Jointed Dolls, also known as Asian Ball-Jointed Dolls (because most of the companies that produce them are in China, Japan, Taiwan and Korea), are a growing hobby in the US, especially among young, female anime fans. Most of the people I know, either personally or online, are female, and almost all between 21 and 35. BJDs come in all shapes and sizes, but the three main groups are SD (58-70 cm), MSD (43-47 cm) and tiny (anything smaller than 43 cm). Generally SD dolls are modeled after adults, whereas MSDs are either modeled after young adults or children, and tinies can be modeled after babies, toddlers, small children, adults, or even anthropomorphic animals. Different people like different kinds of dolls, for instance I’ve never had the slightest desire to get a child doll, all of the dolls I own or intend to buy are modeled after teenagers or older. There are also quite a few different companies to choose from, with different styles of doll available (dolls are individually sculpted by an artist, then a mold is made to produce the doll for buyers, but they are generally not mass-produced, each doll is produced as it is ordered), ranging from extremely non-realistic (huge anime eyes/anthropomorphic dolls/etc) to very realistic (sometimes dolls in photos have been mistaken for real people). It is an expensive hobby, as the hand-crafted nature of the dolls, as well as dealing with an exchange rate and overseas shipping, tends to drive the price up quite a bit. SD sized dolls can range from $400 to $1000, although most tend to be in the $500 range. MSDs are cheaper, ranging from $200-300, and tinies are generally between $100 and $150. There are also limited edition dolls, which cost more and often include extra features the regular dolls don’t have. The dolls have blank faces and are bald, you can switch out their eyes and buy wigs for them of many different types and sizes, and you can either pay for the company to paint their face or do it yourself (or pay someone else to do it). They are extremely customizable in this way, and many times I’ve seen two of the same doll and not recognized them as such because of how differently the owners modified them.

Doll hobbyists also collect them for a variety of reasons. The doll community tends to be a haven for creative people of all types, from writers to photographers to visual artists to fiber artists, and many people enjoy getting dolls for creative endeavors. Many writers enjoy getting dolls that are physical manifestations of characters from their stories. Artists have fun painting the dolls and modifying them (scars, tattoos, etc) to create powerful visuals. Photographers, obviously, can pose the dolls in tons of different ways, and take photo shoots with one or multiple dolls. Fiber artists like to sew, crochet or knit clothes and accessories for their dolls. There’s also an interesting amount of overlap between doll hobbyists and people with social anxiety. I have known people who will barely say a peep to a stranger start talking to dozens of people they don’t know when at a doll meet (a pre-arranged event where people bring their dolls and engage in shop talk). Many people who have trouble connecting to real people use the dolls as substitutes for real relationships, sometimes to an unhealthy extent, but also sometimes as a form of therapy, which helps them become more comfortable interacting with real people.

As for me, I got into the hobby because of my best friend. She became enamored of them and started collecting them several years ago, and now has about eight or so, if I remember correctly, all different shapes and sizes. I warned her not to tempt me with them, as I have a tendency to fall rather head over heels for beautiful things of any type, and she did her best, but eventually I succumbed. I didn’t have the money to get my own doll for quite a while, but she ended up giving me one of hers that she had fallen out of love with (because of their high prices, some dolls actually sell quite well on the secondary market, and many people sell or trade dolls that they didn’t end up liking as much as they expected, sometimes when they’re brand new). I then asked for another doll for my birthday (both of them MSD size) and then managed to save up enough money between December 09 and April of this year and bought myself a third doll (second hand) who is SD sized. He is not pictured here because I sent him off to get his face painted by a friend of mine (she’s very nicely doing it for free, which I very much appreciate). Once he’s back, though, expect a picture of him every once in a while. I’m actually selling the MSD dolls to pay some bills, but I will not be selling the SD, as I’ve grown attached to him.

All the dolls pictured above actually belong to my friend Casey, who has been in the hobby longer than either myself or my best friend. I suggested this photo idea mostly because I am amused by dolls piled on people (or on other dolls, even).

I fully expect that some people will find this creepy. I don’t care. I also expect a lot of people to go “you spend $500 on a doll?!” and the only answer I have for that is, some people spend way more than that on cars that don’t work, just so they can spend thousands more to buy parts to hopefully make said car work at some point. *Pointedly looks at one of her cousins* Compared to that, I don’t think my hobby is that unreasonably priced. I am, however, well aware that they are luxury items. I also don’t do things like spend my rent money on a new doll (although I have been tempted, but I have a little thing called “common sense” that keeps me from doing so). Lastly, I do actually make money off of dolls. I knit and sell items for them to other doll owners, custom made to fit their dolls, and many other doll hobbyists sell hand made clothes, furniture, or do custom face painting for money.

If you want to know more, here is a great guide to the world of BJDs, written in comic style. It’s not totally complete, but it includes a lot of the finer points of how to buy dolls, what to look for, etc etc. For now, I’m going to go and hang out with my friend some more. More tomorrow, as always!

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