@dollsahoy, @natalunasans, and I met last weekend for doll geekery! Continue reading A weekend at Andrea’s house, 07/04-07/07/2019: general photos
Went to an exhibit of miniatures at the Fleming Museum in Burlington, VT on March 31st. I couldn’t take pictures of the items on loan from other places, but I did take some pics of things from the Fleming’s collection. Ishi came along to provide scale. Continue reading Exhibit of miniatures at Fleming Museum, 03/31/2019
Just out of curiosity, I ran through the current list of BJDs who bug me [that is, BJDs that live in my universe, as opposed to fictional universes like Me and my Muses or Zombieville] to see who was oldest and who was newest. Judgment of their ages is complicated by the fact that several of them were inresinated in other forms before their current ones. Thus the characters may be old, though the doll forms representing them may be younger. This comparison of my BJDs’ ages calculates from their current inresinations only, though information about past forms is included in brackets.
This comparison also uses the date on which the doll arrived to me in the mail as its birthday, except in the case of hybrid dolls. For hybrids, I use the arrival date of the doll’s head as its birthday. The only exception to this is Polly, whose head, an Elfdoll Doona Kathlen faceplate, lay around, unused, until I saw Asleep Eidolon’s 1:6 scale mature mermaids and ordered one for her body. Because I made up the character only when I had the body, I count the arrival of the Asleep Eidolon body as Polly’s birthday.
So, from oldest to newest, here are the BJDs who bug me:
1. Sardonix: [Version 1 arrived January, 2005. Sold December, 2005.] Version 2 arrived January 24, 2007.
2. Araminthe: Arrived February 7, 2011.
3. Jujube: Arrived December, 2011.
4. Flower: Arrived March 19, 2012.
5. Mellifer: Arrived June 22, 2012.
6. Jareth: [Version 1 arrived February 9, 2006. Sold in summer, 2009.] Version 2 arrived October 15, 2012.
7. Timonium: Arrived February 27, 2013.
8. Yamarrah: Arrived July 13, 2013.
9. Polly: Arrived March, 2014.
10. Thalia: Arrived November 5, 2014.
11. Dorothy: [Version 1 arrived March, 2011. Sold August, 2012.] Version 2 arrived September 29, 2015.
12. Jeff: Arrived September 29, 2015.
13. Delmar: Arrived October 13, 2015.
14. Honorine: Arrived October, 2015.
15. Submit: [Version 1 arrived March, 2007. Sold May, 2007. Version 2 arrived November, 2007. Disassembled November, 2015.] Version 3 arrived November 9, 2015.
16. Never the Less: Arrived December, 2015.
17. Touralyn: Arrived December 12, 2015.
18. Fritillaria: Arrived December, 2015.
If calculated by age of characters, BJDs who bug me would be, in order from oldest to youngest: Jareth [of course!], Sardonix, Submit, Araminthe, Dorothy, Jujube, Flower, Mellifer, Timonium, Yamarrah, Polly, Thalia, Jeff, Delmar, Honorine, Never the Less, Touralyn, Fritillaria. If Jareth, a character who existed long before his BJD form, is excluded, the oldest character first inresinated as a BJD that bugs me is Sardonix. She’s also my oldest BJD by a long shot — soon approaching her 9th [!] birthday, while the next oldest, Araminthe, will only be 5 at the beginning of next year.
My current crop of BJDs who bug me does not reflect the entire length of my interest in this type of doll, though. I got my first, Zephque, a Customhouse Gene, in May, 2004 [and sold him in November, 2005]. My interest in BJDs thus goes back more than a decade.
- Barbie Girl by Aqua. Witty, catchy, and slyly addressing the Madonna/whore dichotomy! What more could you ask for?
- Coin Operated Boy by the Dresden Dolls. Overwrought, but still insightful and memorable, especially with plinky-plonky piano. Also Brian Viglione is really hot.
- Close to You by the Carpenters. Because of the scene in Mirrormask [linked in song title] in which those clockwork gynoids dollify Helena to the tune. Get away from me with your creepy Objectification Dust [TM], robots!
- Fake Plastic Trees by Radiohead. Metaphorical dolls. Close enough.
- China Girl by David Bowie. Double entendre dolls with more Objectification Dust and bonus racism!
- Rent by the Pet Shop Boys. Willfully trying to confuse money and possession with love and acceptance and, on occasion, succeeding in this self-delusion.
- Columbine by David Bowie. The first 1:40 of this mournful video, which is apparently part of a pantomime, Pierrot in Turquoise, that David Bowie created and starred in around 1967. Mimes have always reminded me of dolls.
- Toy Soldier by David Bowie. Another song from the same era as Columbine. It’s like a nursery rhyme mashed up with Velvet Underground’s Venus in Furs, from which he lifted most of the chorus. The result is as funny, disturbing, and downright weird as you would expect.
- Under My Thumb by the Rolling Stones. We’re not dealing with Objectification Dust here, folks. We’re dealing with Objectification Cement.
- More to come.
I didn’t really know the lyrics to Aqua’s dance hit Barbie Girl until today when I watched the video. Both the lyrics and the video crack me up. I love the way that the main verses make repeated obvious reference to sexual activities, like undressing, kissing, touching, even blatant “hanky panky,” but the chorus insists that Barbie and Ken’s main activity is partying. Yeah right…the video demonstrates that Rene Dif’s Ken is trying to get into Lene Nystrom’s Barbie’s pants.
I also like Nystrom’s delivery. She sings in a simpering falsetto that accentuates the non-sexual aspect of all the proposed activities. In fact, her Barbie seems more interested in stereotypes of romantic love [“You can touch / You can play / If you say / I’m always yours”] and has very little awareness of the double entendres of her lines. The closest she comes is when she says, “I can act like a star / I can beg on my knees,” whereupon she looks over her sunglasses with an expression that could possibly be knowing or conspiratorial if her character weren’t so blithely uninterested in sexual objectification for the rest of the video. Ken’s the one rolling his eyes and winking at the audience, while Barbie is busy petting the dog, roller skating, and thinking of true love. She’s illustrating the interpretation of doll qua child’s toy, and he’s illustrating doll qua sex toy. Of course, the whole song’s constant emphasis on contrafactuality [“Imagination / Life is your creation,” “…In a fantasy world,” “I can act like a star”] points out that both concepts of dolls are overheated stereotypes created by heterosexual dudes who are not interested in relating to actual, real, complex women, so it’s a sly critique masquerading as a poppy dance hit.
I like smart songs about dolls!
Either this is a scale problem, or the bed is the perfect size!
Check out Mari Shimizu’s ball-jointed doll masterpieces, including a doll with the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil planted in her chest, a doll with a ribcage infested with imp-like nightmares, a doll whose eviscerated torso has become a shrine to angels, conjoined twins with carven frames as of stained glass windows that look into their chests, and more. More on Facebook.
I particularly like the insistence on the core of the doll as another canvas, as well as the way so many of the dolls are spilling their guts and/or housing other dolls within them. The tension between the aesthetized, pacified child figures and the painful violence implicit in their opening charges them, I think, with a dynamism that enhances the sense that they’re alive. As much as I’m not a fan of Christian symbolism, the references to and postures of saints and crucifixion add an interesting dimension, inviting the viewer to frankly consider the grotesqueries, pain, and torture that Christianity has glossed over and miraculized in the formation of its origin story hagiography.
I also just like BJDs with large, round, ball-shaped joints [part of the reason for my continuing interest in DollMore’s Trinity line]. They hearken back to the rounded joints of late 19th-century bebe dolls. To me, they make the dolls seem both more antique and more weighty.
The topic of recast BJDs continues to provoke heated discussion; witness the entire Tumblr devoted to pro- and anti-recast people slagging each other under the cloak of anonymity. The creativity with which pro-recast persons justify their unfair and illegal actions boggles the mind.
I used to think they were a cheatin’ BJD co. because, back in the days when double-jointed bodies were rare, one of theirs strongly resembled that of Volks Yukinojo. For some reason, I decided that the similarity mean plagiarism and cast the company into metaphorical outer darkness. Not sure why, though, as it’s pretty clear to me now that there was no proof of copying [as in the Dollshe/Dollmore debacle], but just a structural resemblance. So anyway, I have lifted my personal ban on their stuff.
I also used to think that Dollzone only produced cheap, ugly, second-rate products because…well… In the early days, Dollzone dolls did indeed cost less than their non-Chinese counterparts, and I, as well as others, automatically assumed that Chinese manufacture meant an inferior product. Nope. I also used to think that they were ugly because they did not appeal to me aesthetically. All the sculpts had an unfortunate combination of large pointy chins, large pointy noses, short philtrums and long straight mouths. They all looked very similar and thus boring to me.
Now, though, Dollzone’s sculpting has become softer and more androgynous [ref. Raymond, who looks very Soom-like to me, which is probably why I like him]. They have also ventured into experimental territory with human/flower hybrid dolls, and, more recently, human-faced bats. Beyond that, they have a greater range of facial features and body types, so I believe I’m justified in saying that their sculpting has improved and matured.
Dollzone seems to have gone through the same type of development that Impldoll [erstwhile purveyors of some truly inept sculpting] is experiencing.
Janna found the entire run of the Twilight Zone for me on Hulu last right. From what I can tell, it’s all available on Hulu regular too, so I don’t have to pay for it. Anyway, I watched Living Doll again, which I happily analyzed yesterday, and I found the key lines of dialogue:
Erich lights a match, trying to burn Talky Tina.
Talky Tina: Oooh!
Erich: You have feelings?
Talky Tina: Doesn’t everything?
As I noted in yesterday’s mini essay, the whole episode centers around the conflicts between Annabelle, Annabelle’s biological daughter Christie and Annabelle’s husband/Christie’s stepdad Erich. Annabelle and Christie both love Erich, but he doesn’t love them. He resents Annabelle for being infertile, as he is, and he resents Christie for not being his biological child. He also finds threatening the closeness, love and tenderness between mother and daughter, an example of what he wants, but can’t have. But, despite his snappish demeanor, he maintains a facade of affection, at least in the beginning.
The introduction of Talky Tina destroys Erich’s ruse, however. He loses his temper at Annabelle and Christie, suspecting them of using Talky Tina to mess with his head. He mocks Annabelle’s emotional insights about his anger and his need to see a psychiatrist, and he flat-out yells at Christie that he’s not her daddy. In other words, he rejects Annabelle and Christie’s emotions and focuses solely on his feelings of anger, hurt and loneliness. Talky Tina’s assertion that "everything" has feelings thus counters Erich’s selfish assumption that only his emotions matter. Ironically, she proves more insightful, expressive and moving [pun intended] than Erich, whose own doubts and misery render him cold, inflexible, rigid and unfeeling — all traits that one usually associates with dolls.
The more I think about it, the more I become convinced that Talky Tina kills Erich in much the same way that a woman in a relationship with an abusive man may eventually kill the man out of self-defense. I firmly believe that Erich would have escalated his violence against Christie, not just yelling at her, shoving her and mocking her, if Christie had not used Talky Tina to intervene. Talky Tina kills Erich so that he won’t kill Christie first.
As awesome as I think Talky Tina is [especially as an actual talking doll!], all my sympathies lie with Christie. She loves her mommy, and her mommy loves her. She just wishes that Daddy would love her the way that Mommy does. But her Daddy keeps hurting her, her mommy and her doll. She starts to realize that Daddy doesn’t love anybody. She thinks maybe Daddy could even hate her. Maybe Daddy is going to kill her! What can Christie do? She’s only a little girl, and she’s so scared. Maybe her friend Talky Tina can help. After all, Christie loves Talky Tina, and Talky Tina loves her; Christie knows because Talky Tina says so….
I’ve long been a fan of the Twilight Zone, though I own none of it on DVD. I especially like any episodes that have to do with story characters, dolls, puppets, ventriloquist’s dummies, mannequins, robots, computers and other inanimate objects becoming alive. [Of course I do!] I also like stories where the protagonists discover that they are dreaming or that they are being mind-controlled or that they are inanimate objects. [Of course I do!] The Twilight Zone provides hours of entertainment on these themes, and I haven’t seen all the episodes in these two categories, though I have vague goals at some point of compiling a list of them.
The iconic Twilight Zone doll is, of course, Talky Tina. She appears in The Living Doll, a one-hour episode from 1963, as the murderous antagonist to anxiety-ridden father Erich [played by Telly Savalas]. The insecure and tempestuous Erich has a hangup about his and his wife’s infertility, which prompted them to adopt daughter Christie. He channels his hostility toward his wife and daughter into Talky Tina, who obligingly reflects his hatred right back at him. Erich and Talky Tina try to destroy each other, but Erich dies when he trips over Talky Tina, who gets the last word [literally].
The Living Doll represents the Twilight Zone at its best: a creepy, compelling character study with all the tight plotting and drama of the best short stories. I especially love the ambiguity of Talky Tina. Sure, she says, "My name is Talky Tina, and I’m going to kill you," so we’re supposed to think that Erich dies due to the doll. But it’s also possible that Erich kills himself out of his inability to actually love his family, in that his rage at his wife and daughter obsesses him when conveniently encapsulated in the form of the doll. His increasing absorption with killing the doll estranges him from his family and, ultimately, proves his undoing.
Alternatively, Talky Tina may be Christie’s defender. Christie loves Talky Tina, who also loves her ["My name is Talky Tina, and I love you!"]. They’re devoted to each other. Christie, at whom Erich yells, "I’m not your daddy!", knows on some level that her father despises and rejects her — so much so, in fact, that he initially suspects Christie of messing with his head by making Talky Tina say murderous things. I’m sure that Christie fears her father’s verbal abuse and perhaps even fears that he will kill her in the gruesome ways he tries to kill her doll. It’s possible that Christie activates Talky Tina with her positive love for the doll and her negative fear of her dad so that she can neutralize the threat of Erich and finally, for once in her life, be safe.
Or hell — maybe it’s just an evil doll.
Ever since I heard that Bif Bang Pow did a limited edition Talky Tina doll, I’ve kind of wanted one. I suppose that technically she’s a "prop replica," but I say she’s a doll — and a pretty cool one at that. BBP accurately replicates her in terms of size, sculpt and outfit. She’s also entirely in greyscale, just as she appears to viewers in the original episode, which makes her extra unnerving. She has much of the articulation of the original, and she has wind-ups in her back that make her talk! [What would a Talky Tina doll be without a talking function?] Overall she looks partly cute and partly uncanny — her level of cuteness depending on how much you can stomach the stylized look of 18-inch child playline dolls, her uncanniness highlighted by her lack of color. But it’s her talking function that rockets her into the upper echelons of awesomeness because then you can no longer deny that you are in the presence of one of the original pop-culture killer dolls.
Talky Tinas appear regularly on Ebay for between $150.00 and $200.00. Oh the temptation…
Burlington City Arts hosts revolving exhibits of local artists’ work in the halls of my office building. Down in the basement there are currently some fascinating mixed media pieces by Katherine Taylor-McBroom. I found the architectural collages less interesting than these 3-D collages incorporating 1:12 scale dollhouse pieces, public domain photos and illustrations. Her use of reversed and/or mirrored elements combine with a desaturated palette to give these works a haunting, dreamlike atmosphere.
Unfortunately, the light down there was very poor, so I was not able to do justice to these pieces in my photos, which often washed out. Photocopied figures peek out of windows and lurk behind working doors. The layered nature of the work practically invites peering and poking, while also evoking a palimpsest and/or layers of memory. Brilliant stuff.
Continue reading Katherine Taylor-McBroom’s collaged, reflection-like dollhouses
While I was finishing up the Great Diary Scanning Project, I discovered a diary entry from April 29, 2004, when I was first learning about and coveting BJDs:
April 19, 2004
I spent much of the weekend on the ‘Net, paging through sites of BJDs. I reconfirmed that CH [CustomHouse] Gene is the most beautiful doll in the world and that I really want it. I also finally articulated what makes me uncomfortable about BJDs….
Physically, BJDs [speaking about the majority here] look prepubescent. Their heads take up a large part of their body proportions similar to the way that a baby’s proportions do. They also have eyes that are large for their faces the way that a child’s eyes are. Finally, the girls have no breast development, the boys comically small dicks. They look like kid dolls.
At the same time, BJDs also seem adolescent and adult. They have luxuriant wigs, the hair on which could never be so thick or full on an actual child. Only a teenager has time to grow the waist-length hair popular with these dolls. BJDs’ swappable eyes recall vanity contact lenses that teens or young adults use to look cool. As the final point, every BJD’s facial paint scheme — called by the age-neutral term "paint ops" when discussing action figs, is called "makeup" or "faceup." Makeup is associated with teens and adults more than children. Hmm, maybe they’re teenaged dolls. [Volks actually has a line of Super Dollfies called SD13 which is supposed to have a "more mature body," but that just convinces me that the default bodies were LESS mature and therefore childlike.]
The same ambiguity about how to relate to BJDs as characters appears among BJD owners. Lots of them refer to the arrival of the doll as its "birthday," giving the impression that it was born recently and is therefore a young child. And then you even get a few people calling their BJDs [as the Volks Web site — "Choose what kind of daughter you would like to have" — encourages] their kids. That’s just too weird for me.
The overwhelming majority of BJD owners put their BJDs’ ages in the mid- to late teens and have them act selfish, willful, mischievous — like very stereotypical teenagers. BJD owners also usually sexualize their dolls with fetish wear, shirtless modelling and/or photostories about lust, infatuation and sex. Since the dolls are objects and they are frequently endowed with sexual meanings, I think they’re sex objects.
Here is my problem — it’s a child-shaped sex object. I don’t care if you say that it houses a teenaged character. It’s still a child-shaped sex object that exaggerates and stylizes the youth-like features of the object [big eyes, "pure skin" — actually a type of Volks resin for the BJDs, lack of secondary sex characteristics], so that the youth-like features become salient and attractive. There’s a pederastic tinge to BJD ownership when I think of it this way.
I love the ambiguity of the dolls, even though it makes me uncomfortable. They have human-like shapes, but their huge eyes and overall small size make them seem like stereotypical faeries or some sort of non-human creatures. Due to purposely ill-defined sex characteristics, they look very ambiguous and androgynous. Their pre- to post-adolescent age range somehow unfixes them from the aging process so they seem outside of time or age, therefore assignable to any time or age one wants to assign them to.
An incomplete glossary of selected terms from the BJD subculture, assuming that the reader at least knows what a BJD is:
Adoption: the process of buying a BJD on the secondary market. Some people use an extended metaphor of their BJDs as children.
Blushing/Brushing: application of chalk pastels and/or acrylic paint to a BJD’s body to represent variations in skin tone. Called "blushing" when applied to a doll’s head, but "body blushing" when applied elsewhere.
Bonding: emotional attachment that an owner ostensibly develops to a BJD.
Boy/Girl: a BJD, depending on the assigned sex of the doll, almost always used with possessive pronouns [e.g., "My girl looks so cute holding your boy!"] as part of the BJD:child metaphor.
Dolly diet: restriction of BJD-related purchases, usually because one has recently overspent.
Event head: a limited edition head issued by a BJD company as part of a sales event.
Faceup: hand-painted blushing, eyebrows and lips on a BJD’s head. Term seems to be a combination of "face" + "makeup."
Fullset: a limited edition BJD sold with a particular faceup, eyes, wig, outfit and sometimes accessories. Also used as an adjective, as in, "I’m selling her with the fullset dress and bonnet, but keeping the shoes."
Group order: a business transaction headed by an organizer who combines many small orders into a single large one, takes orders for participants, then submits all the orders as a single large purchase to the doll company. Item prices factor in a base price, a percentage of shipping from the doll company to the organizer, then shipping and handling from organizer to partner. The organizer collects payment, places the order, receives the items, then ships them to participants.
Grail doll: the one particular BJD that someone really wants, but often has difficulty acquiring because of limited edition, scarcity, expense, etc.
Heel feet: BJD feet sculpted with toes flexed up so that a doll can wear high heels. Sometimes sculpted as a single piece with the calf to eschew ankle joints and add stability.
KIPS: small silicone discs used by Volks in a BJD’s joint sockets to help the doll pose better. A type of sueding.
Mod: either a truncation of "modify" or "modification." To make change to a BJD, usually through the addition of sculpting epoxy putty or through the use of sandpaper and other subtractive tools, or the change itself.
MSC: Mister Super Clear, a Japanese spray used to seal a faceup or body blushing.
MSD: Mini Super Dollfie, the line of ~40cm, 1:4 scale BJDs created by Volks. As the first commercially available BJDs of this size, they have also become the standard by which other dolls are measured. Thus MSD also refers more generically to the size of the doll, i.e., 40cm and 1:4 scale. Sellers of BJD clothes, accessories or props may refer to things as "MSD" or "MSD size," which does not necessarily imply any association with Volks MSDs.
NSFW/NWS: not safe for work/not work safe. These labels appear on shots of BJDs with visible nipples and/or genitalia that, it is assumed, may not be prudent to view at one’s workplace.
OC: original character or a BJD representation thereof, in implicit contrast to the many BJD representations of fictional characters from other media.
Recast: an illegally duplicated BJD, often much lower in price than the legitimate original. Recasts may be literal recasts, i.e., products of unauthorized use of official molds, or copies achieved by reverse-engineering a mold from an existing legitimate BJD.
Reshelling: deciding that a different type of BJD would make a better representation of a character [often an OC] than the doll one currently has, selling the current shell and buying a new one.
SD: Super Dollfie, the line of 60cm, 1:3 scale BJDs created by Volks. As the first commercially available BJDs of this size, they have also become the standard by which other dolls are measured. Thus SD also refers more generically to the size of the doll, i.e., 60cm and 1:3 scale. Sellers of BJD clothes, accessories or props may refer to things as "SD" or "SD size," which does not necessarily imply any association with Volks SDs.
Shell: a BJD representation of a fictional character, often an OC.
Sleeping head: a BJD head with fully or partly closed eyes. Fully closed eyes do not require the use of eyeballs and may not even have sockets, while partly closed eyes have sockets and can use eyeballs. There is no standard terminology for sleeping heads. One company’s "sleeping" [e.g., Fairyland] is another company’s "romantic" [Soom], "reminisce" [Elfdoll], "slack afternoon" [Dollshe], etc.
Split: a type of group order where an organizer advertises that they want to buy a doll, but only for certain parts. The remaining parts are then available for split partners to purchase. Group order procedures then follow. Also the act of selling parts of a doll separately on the secondary market.
Sueding: the addition of some type of grippy material to a BJD’s joint balls and/or sockets to help the doll hold poses better. Materials include suede, hot glue and KIPS discs.
Yellowing: the discoloration of a resin BJD when exposed to sunlight. May be counteracted to some degree by stabilizers that keep the resin pigmentation from changing too much, the addition of UV resistance to resin, coating the BJD with MSC or another sealant or just keeping the doll in the dark, but is ultimately inevitable.
Kerri Pajutee’s 1:12 and 1:6 scale miniature animal sculptures [largely of dogs and cats] are amazing. She sculpts base forms with polymer clay and then flocks them with artificial fiber attached with Aileen’s Tacky Glue. I can tell that she has such affection for the subjects she sculpts.
I bet her custom miniatures cost thousands of dollars. :'(
I am here to report that there is apparently very little information online about the AG Minis room box sets, previously mentioned in my Operation Rainbow Barf entry. The fan site American Girl Playthings, which covers a range of AG toys, has a page about AG Minis, detailing the names, contents, prices and appearances of various sets, but there’s no information about scale, issue date, variations or any of that sort of stuff that enthusiasts like to geek out over. The American Girl Wikia wiki has even less information and no pictures at all. Sure, there are some detailed photos on Flickr and Ebay, but there’s no central collection of minutiae and photos. It’s very disappointing. 🙁
While I was on Craigslist last night, posting my DVDs for sale, I made the mistake of searching for "barbie" and then "doll" in the sale section. I came across an AG Minis Groovy Room room box, used, but in great condition and well-furnished. Seller’s picture is below.
BJD Text Confessions anonymous bigot sez:
I hate MD Jinas like Kyoyaxl has. Fucking learn the difference between a girl and a boy.
For those of you who do not speak BJD code, the submitter is saying that they dislike the Jina headsculpt by Migidoll when styled by doll owners like DOA member Kyoyaxl.
Migidoll bills Jina as a "girl," but that doesn’t mean much in the BJD world. Just because a company bills a head as "male" or "female" doesn’t mean that doll fiends will abide by those distinctions. The majority of BJD heads demonstrate a distinctly androgynous aesthetic that doesn’t swing in a stereotypically masculine or feminine direction. Ergo, there’s a lot of putting "female" heads on "male" bodies [and significantly less putting "male" heads on "female" bodies, the way that I did with my Frank BJD].
There’s also a lot of dressing "male" dolls in "women’s" clothes [and significantly less dressing "female" dolls in "men’s" clothes].
Incidentally, there are also a notable minority of breast removals ["girl to boy mods"] on "female dolls," as well as penis additions ["hermaphrodite mods"] on "female dolls" too.
All of this is to say that sex and gender presentation can be very fluid in the BJD world. And some BJD fiends, like our anonymous gender-policing bigot, are going to resist that fluidity kicking and screaming. Meanwhile, the rest of us are going to continue genderfucking while innocently asking, "And which differences, pray tell, are you speaking of?" :p
In general thematic order, rather than strict chronological order:
1. Like dolls in general.
2. Learn about BJDs.
3. Research BJDs obsessively.
4. Select BJD.
5. Save up for BJD.
6. Purchase BJD.
7. Wait with impatience for BJD.
8. Debox in ecstasy.
9. Repeat steps 4 through 8 ad infinitum.
10. Wire limbs.
11. Paint own faceups.
12. Perform minor subtractive mods with X-acto.
13. Make hybrid.
14. Design clothing and wigs; commission others to make.
15. Design and perform additive mods with Aves Apoxie Sculpt.
16. Digitally sculpt own BJD head; use established doll company for some internal modeling and casting services.
What does the future hold?
Digitally sculpt own BJD body; use established doll company for casting services.
Manually sculpt own BJD head; use established doll company etc.
Manually sculpt own BJD body; use established doll company etc.
An alarming percentage of BJD enthusiasts end up making either their own original BJD heads, bodies or whole dolls. With Jareth 2.0, I guess I can definitively say that I, too, now belong to the alarming percentage.
Yes [sigh], I have become a dollmaker.
I know I've pissed and moaned about this before, but it irritates me to no end that the Asian BJD aesthetic requires fanatical devotion to every single detail.
God forbid you use your acrylics, watercolor pencils and brush-applied matte varnish to create a schematic, suggestive faceup. Nope nope nope! You have to go through this nitpicky, time-consuming process of waiting for appropriate temperature and humidity, spraying everything with extra super special sealant imported from Japan, then letting it dry, then applying a few brush daubs of delicately shaved pastel, letting it dry, etc., etc., etc.
While you're at it, you should be doing the eyebrows individual hair by individual hair with an expensive, microscopic brush…same with lines in the lips.
Let's say you want to mod your BJD: thin the neck, let's say. You can't just scrape it down to size with an X-acto, plop the head on and call it a day. What were you thinking?!! You have to smooth your rough shaping down with a series of successively finer sandpapers until no one can tell that you've done any work on the doll. We do not accept jerry-rigged solutions constructed with sweat and hot glue. We demand perfection in all areas.
Oh yeah, and if you want to make a hybrid BJD of a body from one company and a head from another and jointed hands, say, from a third, we'll be watching to make sure that you follow the correct protocols. First you have to ask online about proportions and fit because we can't have your doll being aesthetically offensive. We'll let you know if your proposed hybrid looks good enough.
Just as important as the proportionality of your hybrid is the hallowed concept of resin matching. You need to find out the relative colors of your hybrid parts. If your desired parts don't match perfectly in tone, you have two options. First, you can choose other options that do provide a perfect match. Second, you can do body blushing, which is like a faceup for non-facial parts [see excruciating process above], so that no one can ever tell that the hybrid parts were originally different colors. We do not allow BJD hybrids with "paper white" heads, "fresh white" hands and "beauty white" bodies to exist without their colors being evened out. Too many shades of white make us implode.
Guess what? My faceups involve no super special Japanese spray sealant whatsoever and, instead, lots of watercolor pencils, Prismacolors, acrylics and improvised tools [Q-tips, X-acto blades, toothpicks] to direct the pigment. Sometimes I haven't even bothered to seal the heads before scribbling directly on the resin. And then… I don't even wait for paint to dry. I use — wait for it! — a hair dryer.
My mods avoid sandpaper. I prefer instead to do exactly as much hacking with a craft knife or saw as is necessary to make the mod functional. It doesn't have to look nice; it just has to work.
As for resin matching, I don't really care. I mean, once I put a WS Elfdoll Kathlen head on an NS Soom Uyoo body [=Absinthe], and the world didn't end! Later, I stuck some NS Dikadoll jointed hands on an Angelsdoll massive girl in "Volks compatible normal" [=Janvier Jett], and the planet remained on its axis! Shortly after that, I decided to stick a rose grey Iplehouse Luna head on a B&G Dolls grey body [=Lura eventually], and the sky did not fall!
It's mind-blowing, isn't it? It's almost like there's another aesthetic option besides that of the minutiae-obsessed, anal-retentive facsimile of reality.
Look who I found in a box in my closet today! These are Verity [left] and Kami [right], two Groovy Girl dolls by Manhattan Toy. [Incidentally, they are sitting on a sofa made for 1:6 scale figs by Andrea. It's made out of a tissue box.]
Anyway, Manhattan Toy launched the Groovy Girls line in 1998. They are a series of 13" plush, unarticulated girls and boys that are supposed to be between 9 and 13. Every single doll has its own unique name, skin tone, hair color, hair style, embroidered facial expression and outfit. Goorvy Girls' outfits characteristically feature bright colors, large patterns and a cheerfully flagrant disregard for coordination.
Groovy Girls are clearly made with love and attention to detail. Look at the different shapes of Verity and Kami's mouths, noses and eyes. Look at the pale pink undertones in Verity's skin as compared to the light brown undertones in Kami's. Look at the slight blushing at the ends of Verity's smile. Look at the "dyed red" sections of Verity's hair and the dark brown [but not black] yarn ringlets selected for Kami's. Finally, please note that Verity has three silver studs in one ear. While Groovy Girls are definitely mass-produced toys, each one is clearly designed as an individual character with her own personality and her own style. I can tell that the Manhattan Toy designers have fun thinking up designs for new Groovy Girls. ^_^
Continue reading Manhattan Toy Groovy Girls: Verity and Kami
Sellers on the DOA marketplace who say, “Please add 4% for Paypal fees.” No, you add it. Price your items to compensate for the fees. You’re not supposed to blatantly ask buyers to cover your damn fees. Suck it up as a cost of doing business.
I also really dislike sellers on the marketplace who specify that buyers should send payments as “personal.” No, I will not send you a personal payment. If I do so, I forfeit my buyer protection and my ability to make a claim and possibly get a refund if we have a problem transaction. I know you’re trying to avoid fees [again], but I mistrust anyone whose business practices make it easier for them to abscond with my money.
[No, I’m not outraged right now.]
Doll clothing with out-of-scale buttons. I see this a lot on clothes for 1:3 scale BJDs [i.e., ~60cm or 2 feet tall]. Makers of doll clothes will go to incredible lengths to replicate and scale down all the details of, say, a shirt or a jacket, and then WHAMMO! They’ll completely spoil the whole effect by using 1:1 scale buttons [suitable for human clothes] as fasteners.
And they’re not doing it for a purposeful aesthetic effect either. This is serious, unfunky clothing that they’re making, insofar as doll clothes can be serious. It’s especially hilarious when you’re looking at suits for BJDs: “Oh I like the structure of this jacket. The detail on the lining makes it look almost GOOD GRAVY WHO PUT BUTTONS THE SIZE OF SAUCERS ON THE CUFFS???”
In-scale buttons exist! I know this because I see them with some regularity on 1:6 scale clothes. I know they exist for 1:3 scale clothes as well, but I’m not sure why they aren’t used very much by makers of doll clothes in 1:3 scale.
I mean, surely, if you can be arsed to put in-scale zipper flies and functioning pockets on your denim dolly jeans, you can put freakin’ in-scale buttons on your dolly shirts, right?
You know what…while I’m pissing and moaning about BJD stuff, let me get this off my chest. Asian BJD companies can now officially stop with the Alice in Wonderland [sic] special edition dolls and/or outfits. Way too many doll studios have done or are doing something with this concept. Boooooooring.
If Asian BJD companies want some non-Alice concepts, I can supply some. Let’s try the Chinese zodiac, the months of the year [not the same as the non-Chinese zodiac, more of a personification theme], celestial bodies [again not the non-Chinese zodiac, more of a personification theme], fairy tales, seasons [mud season!], weather, trees/flowers, the Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan, ceremonial dress from different cultures, the Major Arcana of a Tarot deck, medieval Western European character types [king, queen, knight, damsel, jester, maid, serf, etc.], characters from famous ballets, et hoc genus omne. Some of these concepts have already been appropriated by some companies, but I think they still have a lot of life in them.
Furthermore, we need more therianthropic characters. I’m not just talking dolls with resin ear attachments; I’m talking dolls with non-human limbs and torsos and such. We have not yet reached market saturation on centaurs, especially female ones, and merpeople. I also strongly advocate for naga [human/snake hybrids], human/bear hybrids and human/zebra hybrids. We definitely need more human/arachnid dolls [Soom Vesuvia and Impldoll Colin being the only ones I know of]. And we’re also seriously lacking in human/insect hybrids. That’s just for starters…
I'm active on 2 message boards for 1:6 figs. On one of them earlier this week, a heterosexual, married woman posted some pictures of her vampire dolls with an inexpensive Barbie subbing for one of the expensive vampire characters that she had not purchased, but wished to. She wrote, "Hubby says no more. At least until Christmas…" In other words, her husband told her that she can't buy any more figs till Xmas.
So her husband issued her an ultimatum about what she can and can't do in pursuit of her interests, and she just accepted it. That's not an interaction between equals; that's an interaction between a superior [husband] and a subordinate [wife]. Where does her husband get off, thinking he can control his wife's interests? Why does she accept his control without complaint?
I know why. Her husband probably earns and controls most of the money in their marriage. I bet she's financially dependent on him. Both of them think of the money as all his because it mostly flows from his job, his inheritance, blah blah blah. Both of them also think that, because it's his money, he gets to dictate its distribution. Therefore, he graciously permits his wife to have interests that involve spending money…well, until the interests become too expensive, in his estimation, at which point he forbids the continuation of his wife's interests because she is taking something away from him. She should be sacrificing for his preferences and wellbeing instead! I mean, God forbid the two approach their relationship from a standpoint of equality, mutual respect and support, rather than a standpoint of sexist, transactional manipulation.
I see the same type of interactions play out on DOA, a forum for people who like Asian ball-jointed dolls. I've heard the following story several times: a young, heterosexual woman writes that her boyfriend feels a deep, shuddering repugnance towards BJDs, not infrequently to the point of forbidding his girlfriend to get any more of them. The poster, of course, feels deep distress and wonders what to do.
Answer: Cultivate relationships with people who respect you and your interests. If a family member, friend or partner tries to control your interests, they're trying to control you because they don't like you the way that you are. They're trying to control you, especially if you're a woman and your interlocutor is a man, because they've internalized the sexist societal dread of autonomous, equal women. They're scared of you. They probably even hate you. Do the world a favor, and surround yourself with people who believe in and practice love instead of fear.
Anyone who says, "No more dolls till Xmas!" instead of "Let's work on our financial goals together" and "You do what you want with your hobby money, as long as you're happy and not hurting anyone" will be kicked to the curb. Anyone who says, "The dolls or me!" as an ultimatum will promptly be dumped in favor of the dolls. That's because I respect myself, while the other person obviously does not.
Phicen is a maker of 1:6 female action figures and clothing, known for their "seamless" body, in which most of the articulation hides underneath a flexible skin. They are currently selling a figure called Military Fun which proves, without a doubt, that their designers have weird senses of humor.
Military Fun, shown here on Phicen's company site, consists of a seamless Caucasian female figure body with a blond headsculpt that looks vaguely like Scarlett Johansson. Her brown tube top and miniskirt are apparently too small to contain her white underwear. She also has thigh-high, lace-up, bright green boots and a trench coat that matches her top and skirt. Nothing about this get-up screams "Military!" to me, much less "Fun!"
A quick glance at Phicen's other products shows that their target audience likes pretty faces, long hair, big boobs, realistic poseability, revealing outfits and extremely high heels.
Okay, I can play this game.
Here's my concept for a surefire bestselling Military Fun: headsculpt with noted similarity to current actress of the moment, long hair, seamless body with extra large bust and standard poseability, camo midriff-baring low-cut bolero top, camo short shorts, thigh-high green fishnets, big stompy black leather boots, some sort of hat, goggles [because goggles are cool], fingerless gloved hands AND LOTS OF GUNS. Or maybe just ONE BIG GUN, like a Gatling assault cannon, or whatever the hell Cy Girl Destiny's big honkin' piece was. Maybe some grenades and bombs too. Don't forget the harnesses and holsters! There — instant sell-out!
See — I know my audience! :p
That being said, I find Military Fun hilarious, which is why I purchased her. [Also she was only $60.00 at SithLord MacGyver's, and when was the last time you got a complete figure with painted, haired head, body, alternative hands, clothes and shoes/bootfeet for <$90.00? No, you old farts, I'm not talking about the glory days of the early millennium when you could buy Cy Girls for $30.00. I'm talking about modern times.] And I like her head…and her long green boots.
I haven't purchased a new 1:6 action figure in YEARS. This'll be my first Phicen and first seamless body too. I'll definitely report back when I get her!
These approximately 1:6, double-jointed, porcelain dolls with strung bodies and leather-padded joints will be for sale some time in early March, No further details about cost, but I admire their curvy bodies and serene faces.
One school of thought wants to make the 1:6 set or diorama realistic down to the smallest details. I've seen people print and bind their own legible books for mini libraries, make their own quilts for mini beds and construct matching storage boxes for mini shelves. These are the people who have at least 4 different backgrounds, 1 for each season, to stick outside their set windows. These are the people whose 1:6 clocks most likely have movable hands to indicate passing time in successive scenes. They build stone walls out of individual Styrofoam bricks, which are then weathered with multiple coats of paint. These are the people who dislike Barbie stuff because it's slightly undersized for 1:6. These are the people who use multiple plastic cats, all painted the same, but in different positions, to stand in for a 1:6 pet in different positions. This school of thought has nothing but my admiration, but it is certainly not me.
My school of thought is defined by a suggestive aesthetic, more akin to that of sets for a play. Things don't have to look meticulously similar to reality; they just have to look close enough to suggest reality. Books are made out of small pieces of foamcore wrapped with paper. There may be one quilt that appears on all different beds and one storage unit that appears in different room sets. People who merely suggest reality probably ignore windows as excessively detailed. They don't care about the hours shown on 1:6 clocks. Their stone walls are made from printed cotton fabric stapled to foamcore. They don't weather anything. Barbie stuff is fine; even the pink can be acceptable. Plastic pets have only 1 position. My aesthetic is defined by ease of creation, parsimony and reuse.
I like expensive dolls, namely, resin Asian ball-jointed dolls. For example, my incoming Lola Paprika was $309.00 including doll, eyes, faceup [painting], outfit and shipping. Because she was on a special sale, she would have normally cost more. Without the steep discount, the same items would have cost me just about $615.00. You can see why I, accustomed to such prices for 60cm BJDs, call Lola Paprika my “cheap” 1:3er.
Anyway, even as I revel in the thought of getting such a beautiful doll for such a relative bargain, I am also highly aware of the loads of money which I casually drop upon BJDs. This is obviously a luxury interest, which sometimes leaves me ambivalent about spending so much. Surely that money could go toward things either more necessary than or just as enjoyable as, but cheaper than, BJDs. [For example, think of how much 1:6 stuff I could get with $309.00! At the rate Hot Toys’ prices are going, it would just be 1.25 fully kitted figs, but I digress. I could also get scads of crack…I mean Rement.]
Then I think about my BJD spending in context. In general, I don’t spend a lot of money. I don’t pinch pennies, but I also don’t spend excessive amounts of money when furnishing my necessities. Dolls and their accoutrements represent pretty much my only excess. Since my finances are stable and organized, I can afford to have BJDs. I am in such a position of financial and class privilege that allows me to say that I don’t think my interest in expensive dolls is a problem.
Today’s profundity has been brought to you by Angelsdoll, purveyor of BJDs with relatively realistic and affordable shapes. Today’s profundity has NOT been brought to you by Hot Toys, whose prices I find galling for 1:6 scale. [Funny how $125.00 is my limit for 1:6 scale spending, but a mere sneeze in the bucket against my 1:3 scale spending.]
Thinking about the pretty Soom Breccia head that I sort of want, I ask myself what I would do with her. Of course she’d get a body. I’m sure she would dress up in the cheap, tacky remnants of my 1:3 wardrobe. It’s entirely possible that I would give her some sort of sloppy custom faceup that would further decrease her value, not to mention pink hair. And then…
Then what? Then she would go on the “big dollies” shelf along with Sardonix and Junebug, and she would sit there, making friends with them and quietly yellowing. She would come out for doll meets, where the audience would ooh and aah over her and take photos, and I’m sure she’d have televised chats with Sardonix and Junebug occasionally, but I don’t think I’d take lots of pictures of her or play with her a lot. Certainly not as frequently as I play with my 1:6ers.
I’d like a big doll with pink hair. None of my past BJDs had the appropriate type of pink hair. Zephque had a pale pink wig with double buns, but it wasn’t pink enough. My Soom Uyoo version of Jennifer had a wig of pink yarn for a while that looked good, but too much like Anneka’s hair. My Soom Sabik Will had a bright pink fur wig of the appropriate color, but it didn’t have double ponytails, and he was too big for me anyway…
I think I would get a Volks Dollfie Dream body for the putative Breccia head. It’s nice and light and sexy and relatively poseable. It’s also kinda cheap. The only problem is that Dollfie Dreams stain really easily. I’d have to make sure that all her clothes were lined, and nothing denim and/or black for her! That’s easy…I already have the an42 pink and orange paisley dress that I’d want her to wear…and the stripey black and white socks.
She would be such a pretty doll!
I think I need a camera with a really good zoom lens, or I need a good zoom lens to put on my current camera.
This disjointed entry has been brought to you by the Society of Useless Sexy Expensive Dolls, or USED.
An informal timeline of recent doll developments shows a plethora of increasingly articulated fashion or playline dolls available in your average department store or toy store.
Short film, Alma, by Rodrigo Blaas, makes you wonder what your dolls are doing when you’re not looking. Are they trying to escape?? If Alma the character were translated exactly into plastic, she’d make a really cute doll.
From boston.com: "Earlier this week, 1.5 million people filled the streets of Berlin, Germany to watch a several-day performance by France’s Royal de Luxe street theatre company titled "The Berlin Reunion". Part of the celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Reunion show featured two massive marionettes, the Big Giant, a deep-sea diver, and his niece, the Little Giantess. The storyline of the performance has the two separated by a wall, thrown up by "land and sea monsters". The Big Giant has just returned from a long and difficult – but successful – expedition to destroy the wall, and now the two are walking the streets of Berlin, seeking each other after many years apart.."
My favorite photo from this set is the one of la petite geante sleeping in her uncle’s lap. They look so peaceful and loving!
La petite geante goes pee-pee in the street, part of the same performance:
To see la petite geante in an earlier performance, go here. Watch her lick a lollipop! She has an articulated tongue! Also marvel at her body language; she looks on tenderly as the little girls are swinging on her arms. I think that one of the best things about these dolls is that they show body language, blinking, swinging their arms and breathing, while the operators are putting them into position.
These jointed models of pregnant women and their fetuses, made of painted wood, are from Japan during the Edo Period. The mothers appear to have wigs of real hair and inset glass eyes. Note impressive jointing on wooden baby at bottom of page so it can assume the fetal position. Awwwww…
Here’s my self-introduction on MWD, written a few days after I joined in October, 2001. It gives a glimpse into my 1:6 universe back then:
My collection’s mostly female, heavy on that wondrous Cy body, small, but eclectic and dynamic. It includes a drag king [an AA Jane with an earplug in her pants], a drag queen [a Mattel Frank Sinatra with black curls and a shitload of glitter], a porn star, a sword-wielding book guardian, a dominatrix/slam poet and the lead singer of the band I just made up, Flaming Hot Pussy.
Each 1:6 doll has been renamed, redressed and given a particular personality. For example, I turned A.J. into a 16-year-old bad-ass, Amelia, with one hand missing due to a motorcycle accident [ah, those detachable CY hands]. She wears her baseball cap backwards and adopts a rebellious, defiant stance. Very sexy in Kat’s tank top and a pair of hot pink hot pants from "Lauren," a horribly cheap dollar-store find.
She and all the other dolls change poses regularly, as they have a soap-opera-like series of tableaux going on. I haven’t been writing in a while, but this is my way of creating in the interim. I customize my figs’ **psychology,** rather than their appearance [resculpting, headswapping, etc.], if that makes any sense. Does anyone else do this [storylines, I mean], or am I the only one? *looks around*
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I’ve hooking my girlfriend on the hobby, and we spend many happy hours kitbashing together. Pretty amazing, once you consider that the rest of the world thinks I’m fricking weird as it is.
Time passes, but the essentials remain. My characters are still soap-operatic, queer, gender-fucking, kinky, disabled, bad-ass and dressed in cheap, tacky clothes. Each has a detailed personality. The only major development in my 1:6 interests has been my increasing proficiency modding dolls and sculpting my own accessories.
Hmmm, from this clip, I seem like an interesting, but very defensive, person.
Latinworks made a series of ads for activelifemovement.org, each depicting sedentary, fat versions of childhood toys, surrounded by the detritus of junk food. The tagline is "Keep obesity away from your child." Yup…because we all know that fat is a horrible contagious disease invading from outside, and body shape and weight have nothing to do with genetics and everything to do with sitting around and stuffing your face, and, with enough willpower, you can enforce skinniness! Besides its misinformed, moralizing scare tactics directed towards weight, the version below the cut also features a problematic reshaping of a fashion doll body, a plastic icon already well analyzed for its vexed cultural messages. Nasty, misogynist, anti-fat piece of drivel.
I do want that doll, though, as well as some of the fat little Playmobil pirates seen in another ad in the series. This series makes me think that I should try again to make a fat doll. My first fat doll, Margie, came out pretty well, but I couldn’t sculpt fats on her because I didn’t have the right modeling compound. Now that I have some Sculpey, I can add fats to a doll’s head and body! Continue reading Because fat is a contagious creeping crud. [Also…I want this doll.]
Besides poor posing, I really dislike poor doll photography. Like any other visual art, photography has many aspects that one can alter for varying effect: lighting, framing, focus, etc. [No, I don’t know the technical terms.] However, I have, unfortunately, experienced way too many photos where these aspects are altered out of sheer ineptitude, rather than artistic consideration. While we poor amateurs may not be able to take photos as beautiful as those of the masters, we can at least follow some basic rules to make our own works functional:
- The camera should be focused on the subject. If the subject is a particular doll head, I don’t want to see fine-grained, macro-level detail of the wall just behind the doll. [Here’s a beautiful example in the first panel of Unreal Life 1.5.]
- Lighting should be appropriate to the subject. Consider that fluorescents make things yellow, and flashes tend to wash out the subject. [And here in Unreal Life 4.6, we can’t even see what’s happening because it’s too damn dark.]
- The level of blur should be appropriate to the subject. If the dolls are supposed to be running, feel free to move the camera as the shutter is closing. But, if you’re supposedly taking a static shot, blur sabotages all the detail that you’re allegedly capturing. [Unfortunately, all the pictures of Meg’s Onyx that I took at doll club on Saturday were blurry!]
I really can take a decent picture, though, you know!
I do not like displays or photos in which dolls are poorly posed. A doll’s hands/feet shouldn’t be twisted around, nor should its elbows/knees bend backward or sideways. A doll should be in a position that is either a) physically possible for a human being or b) physically impossible for a human being, but fine for the character. Ideally, a doll’s clothes and hair should behave appropriately for the photo [disarrayed if you need disarray, neat, tidy and controlled otherwise]. I find poor posing such a distraction that I don’t care how unusual, rare or interesting the doll is; if it’s imitating a pretzel with bed head, I will ignore the overall picture in favor of sloppy details.
There are no visual aids for this post because I couldn’t find any suitably anonymous examples and I’m not subjecting my own dolls to the humiliation of illustrating what NOT to do in posing.
I have collected many dolls from various sources, but I do not think of myself as a collector. To me, a collector is a person mostly concerned with the acquisition of things, amassing a comprehensive array of stuff in a certain category. Collectors may display some of their stuff, but, in my mind, they are less interested in the objects themselves than they are the very fact of owning the objects. Having a complete set of something or a rare exemplar of something provides more satisfaction to collectors than the actual objects themselves. In fact, the objects themselves are immaterial; for example, people may collect experiences, less for the experiences themselves than for the thrill of pursuit and the sense of accomplishment derived from creating a complete set of something.
I do collect things, but not dolls. For me, dolls aren’t just physical objects, but confluences of several of my interests, talents and hobbies. They are kind of like lenses that allow me to focus my skills in writing, photography, set construction, painting, figure customization, sewing [?!], etc. I have a lot of them because I have a lot of characters. I’m not collecting a full set; I’m making a cast so I can play with them.
In contrast to a collector of dolls, I would call myself a user of dolls, in the same way that collectors of computers may be contrasted to users of computers. While collectors may fetishize completeness and the concept of certain objects, users fetishize interactivity. They debox; they customize; they pose; they photograph their dolls. They use them as dressmakers’ dummies, stress relief, story characters, construction experiments, etc. They may have lots of dolls, but they don’t think that they have collections; instead, they think of their dolls as works in progress. They can always develop a character’s personality or find a better outfit or repaint or re-pose…. To an untrained observer, a doll user looks pretty much like a doll collector, when, in actuality, the doll collector’s dolls don’t move, while the doll user’s dolls are constantly fidgeting.
Thanks, Volks. This chart explains everything: how dolls are born, how they grow, how they have lives, how they die?! …But I wonder about hybrid dolls. Does Frank, a Volks Yukinojo head on a Dollmore Model Doll body with Twiglimbs arms, have only 1/3 of a soul or something? The chart is silent. Noooooo ! Just when I think this hobby is all about people having fun and playing with dolls, something reminds me that there are some big cultural differences between my perceptions of dolls and other BJD owners’ perceptions. Continue reading The dolls are alive…we’ve diagrammed their life cycle.
La La A Go Go has a whole Flickr set of beautiful repros of 1960s Barbie ads! More later after I flick through them…
Prompting by the recent theatrical release of Kitt Kittredge: An American Girl, some Slate writers have an informal discussion about the series of dolls that spawned said movie.
Having read AG books and catalogs in the past and having long sustained an interest in dolls, I read with avidity said Slate discussion about the messages of the AG empire. The participants seem to agree that the AG empire promotes conspicuous consumption by showing an upper bourgeois lifestyle in its books and pricing items so that only rich people can afford them. One commenter, Nina, has the following insight:
I like the idea of teaching kids that quality and craftsmanship matter and that investing in special items can be OK. But it doesn’t just stop at the dolls—there’s the outfits, and the furniture, and the tea parties. And that makes me a little uncomfortable. It feels too much like a patina of morality masks conspicuous consumption. It’s the kind of rationalization that makes it seem OK to spend thousands of dollars on, say, a mint-condition Eames chair.
The phrase “patina of morality [masking] conspicuous consumption” is spot-on. AG empire books always end with morals that promote friendship, acceptance, kindness, bravery, loyalty — like some class-, race- and gender-blind version of the Girl Scouts. However, the books and dolls exist to reinforce each other, which is to say that the books ultimately do not wish to promote morality. The books actually subserve greater consumption of AG goods.
I noticed the problems of class and consumption in the AG empire when I was reading the Pleasant Company catalog back when I was 8 or 10. Of course, I wasn’t talking with sophistication about patinas of morality, but I did notice several things about the catalog that really pissed me off. For one thing, dolls and their accessories were sold separately. [They still are.] Since the dolls were frequently shown using their accessories, I had assumed that dolls and accessories came in one package. I regarded the separation thereof as a misleading disappointment and a way to get more money out of people.
Another example of implicit bourgeois assumption that I noticed early on appeared in the owner-sized outfits sold along with the dolls. One winter outfit inspired by the Kirsten doll included a pair of soft, moccasin-like boots. The copy described them as “perfect for apres-ski.” I was puzzled by this until I figured out that “apres-ski” meant “post-skiing,” and even then I was still puzzled. In my personal experience, I and all the other skiers I knew put on their regular, everyday boots after skiing. In my frame of reference, there was no need for specific apres-ski footwear. The advertising copy clued me in to the fact that some people somewhere did have specialized post-skiing boots, which meant that they probably had more money than I did, which meant that the advertising copy was not talking to me. I didn’t end up wishing for apres-ski boots in an aspirational sense; I just ended up annoyed. Now I can finally articulate why.
From Shakesville. The Times Online covers a thriving tangent of the toy industry in its article “Disability dolls become more popular.” Dolls like this are nothing new, as far as I’m concerned, so what interests me about this article is the people who object — OBJECT — to the very concept of dolls portraying people with disabilities.
Jenni Smith, a chartered educational psychologist in London, says: “I feel that children who have disabilities, including children with Down’s syndrome, tend to see themselves as ‘like everyone else’ and to offer a toy that ‘looks like them’ may only emphasise the difference.”
Does Smith know any children with disabilities? If she does, does she even pay attention to them? In my experience, people with disabilities — especially those whose disabilities have outward markers such as certain facial features, paralysis, speech impediments or the need for mobility/communication aids — do NOT see themselves as “like everyone else.” To take a mild example, I’m near-sighted, so I wear glasses. From the very first time that I wore them at age 8, I noticed the obvious, namely, that I had glasses, and most other kids didn’t. I had an outward sign of a mild visual disability, unlike many of my classmates. I was therefore not “like everyone else.” My conception of myself therefore includes my visual deficits, my corrective lenses and my resultant difference from everyone else.
From my personal experience and from my experience with other people with disabilities, people who have disabilities recognize that that are not the same as “everyone else.” However, while we may function or look differently from “everyone else,” we are the same as everyone else in one way: we want to see ourselves reflected in the books we read, shows we watch, toys we play with, et cetera. In my case, I want dolls with glasses. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to find in-scale glasses for 1:6 figs, but I have pursued this goal to the point of importing them from Japan at exorbitant prices because, contrary to Jenni Smith’s claim, I do want dolls that look like me. As for my sister, who has cerebral palsy and uses an electric wheelchair, she too wants to see images in her media and her toys that reflect her own experience, which is why almost all of her dolls use wheelchairs too, even if they did not come with mobility aids. Toys that mirror the experience of people with disabilities do not “emphasise the difference” between people with disabilities and the rest of the world. In fact, dolls with disabilities validate the experience of people with disabilities, demonstrating that their disabilities are acknowledged by others [in the form of media companies or toy manufacturers]. To see representations of oneself out in the world is to receive proof that others see one and know that one exists. In some way, dolls with disabilities thus have an inclusive, affirmative function, saying to the people with disabilities, “Yes, you exist; you are people too; we acknowledge you.”
P.S. Raise your hand if you too want the little doll with Down’s Syndrome shown at the top of the article.
…Detailed in this thread right here. Woo hoo! More to read!
While poking around online, looking for more information about DiD’s Hitler Youth figs [one of which, Timo Ducca, will be supplying Davry’s head], I found another Hitler Youth fig [Hermann Weber] sold at a site called PzG. Billed as “Your Third Reich Nazi Adolf Hitler HQ!,” this site promises products “void of distracting propaganda and politically correct distortions.” What does that mean? Uh, that means you can get reproductions of anti-Semitic posters put out by the Nazi regime, mouse pads with Hitler portraits, costumes for reenactors and 1:6 figs of WWII German soldiers.
Why yes — it’s an Internet storefront run by white supremacists, a fact reinforced by the photos of satisfied customers giving straight-armed salutes. The militant, defensive, unreasoning hatred oozing from this site — even though it pretends to be reasonable and balanced — makes me feel queasy. I am distressed that some weirdo extremists want to glorify and relive what other people find interesting for historical, admonitory or just military reasons.
You know where most of my time, energy and money goes regarding my dolls? This goes for 1:6 action figs, BJDs and my digital models. It goes to CLOTHES. I spend the most money not on the basic figures themselves or sets or accessories, but outfits. And I spend time not on scripting, lighting, posing, shooting or editing, but dressing and undressing.
I have a barrelful of deeply emotional and aesthetic reasons for enjoying dolls, but I would like to add a simple, not-so-profound one to the list. Dressing up and down is FUN. Dressing one’s own human self up and down is often limited by available funds or available sizes, while dressing small replicas of people up and down tends to be cheaper and less hampered by sizing problems. Besides being less expensive and also easier than dressing oneself up and down, dressing dolls up and down also offers the pleasures of an open-ended puzzle in which one keeps rearranging elements to achieve some desired solution or look.
Furthermore, dressing dolls up and down provides a challenge — to successfully dress/undress the doll — than can be as simple or as complex as one wishes. For example, one can have a general goal [i.e., winter clothes suitable for a background character] or a more elusive, yet specific goal [i.e., something for a male character that highlights gender ambiguity and play without crossing into the stereotypical territory of transvestite or drag queen, while containing high levels of pink and orange, as well as high heels and something form-fitting]. [The last is usually my general set of provisions when choosing clothes for Will.] Because the level of sophistication is determined entirely by the doll owner’s level of interest, doll dressing/undressing can, in many cases, be both a challenge with a series of obstacles and a deeply satisfying endeavor.
Dressing dolls up and down seems to be such an integral part of the way that doll owners use their dolls that I sometimes think that people get dolls solely to take their clothes off and put them back on. Clothing removal and addition is a major way that people play with their dolls. It’s a version of the child’s game of “dress up,” which entails formulating strange outfits from the leftovers of hand-me-downs and old costumes. By this analogy, doll dressing/undressing furthers no greater goal [i.e., the dolls aren’t necessarily dressing up to go somewhere] and has no deeper meaning. It’s simply an end in and of itself.
P.S. Purveyors of paper dolls understand the sheer joy that comes from dressing/undressing dolls, and they exploit this to its logical extremity. Paper dolls remove the extraneous details from a doll — articulation, eyes, hair, even its very three-dimensionality — in favor of a mere base upon which different outfits can be applied.
Hmmm…interesting. Commentary later.
LATER: I’m rather annoyed by the narration’s tendency to overdetermine the women’s experience by addressing the reborn dolls as if they are actual children, rather than dolls. From what I can see so far, owners of reborn dolls range in their reasons for owning and playing with reborn dolls, just in the same manner that people own and play with any other type of dolls [duh], from action figs to Barbies to RealDolls to 3-D models. The very title of the docu, My Fake Baby, sensationalizes the reborn doll interest as a pathological baby substitute for old woman with empty aching wombs, but, if you investigate the docu closely, you’ll see the dolls functioning as much more than kiddy substitutes.
I really like the artist in the first segment who paints the reborn dolls. She gets into the technical details and allows viewers to see that making one of these dolls is no different from any other detailed artistic endeavor. At the same time, the artist also knows that reborn dolls have a special affective power because they look like babies, which we are all programmed to respond protectively toward, and she cannily exploits the natural human interest in small Homo sapiens with her advertising techniques. She apparently goes out into public with her wares and gets people to do double-takes, then hands them business cards. She respects the emotive power that the dolls have for people and that people use the dolls for various emotional purposes, but she also has a straightforward view that she uses the dolls to make a living. Despite the paternalistic narration of the documentary, the artist also comes across as sane and average.
P.S. I’m never really impressed by the caliber of YouTube commenters, but I would like to point out that some of the commenters think that the reborn doll owners are insane because they talk as if the dolls are alive and because they spend lots of money on them. Oh good God! Just because someone treats an inanimate object as if it is alive, that is not automatically grounds for insanity. For just a few examples of the general populace treating inanimate objects as if they are alive, look at someone who gets angry at a rock after tripping over it, the loving personification that car owners may give to their cars, or the antagonism many people direct toward their electronic devices. Rather than being pathological, personification is more like an innate human tendency. There are pathological extremes of personification, to be sure, but I don’t see that any of these doll owners are manifesting it.
As for the argument that spending a lot of money on something means that someone is insane, that is just a different way of saying, “I cannot fathom what you are spending money on, so you must be nuts.” It’s not even worth a serious rebuttal, since it’s just a value judgment.
…please marvel at the music video for Dionysos’ Tais Toi Mon Coeur. Just in case you couldn’t figure it out from the associated pictures, Tais Toi Mon Coeur is French for, literally, Be Quiet, My Heart. In the dismissive, bouncy tone of the song, it can better be translated as Fuck Off, Heart. The animation reminds me of Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride or The Nightmare Before Christmas. It looks like it’s acted out by Victorian automatons. The general ambiance smells like Poe or Baudelaire, with that sort of cheer in gloominess. For some reason, it also reminds me of the BTVS ep Once More With Feeling and Spike singing to Buffy. Then, of course, there are the generally fascinating allusions to death, resurrection, self-objectification and mannequinization [which should be a word if it isn’t]. All in all, it’s quite an entertaining little number. I like the little wire-and-wood articulated hands and the shadowed eyelids the best. Clunky translation of lyrics here.
Extra, extra! Remember the delicate, skeletal harp-playing double amputee I linked to yesterday? Her name is L’Harpiste Mauresque, or the Moorish Harpist, and she was created around 1880 by the French automatonist Gustave Vichy.
Well, there’s a full version of her at the Morris Museum in Morristown, NJ, and she’s wearing golden spangles and seated on an octagonal stand. If you go to the Morris Museum’s main site, then Current Exhibitions, then Musical Machines and Living Dolls, then the picture of L’Harpiste [last one in the first row], you can see a high-quality video of her playing and, yes, moving her eyelids.
Here’s a still from the February 2005 Journal of Antiques, where you can see her expressive little purple face.
for the links.] I like the haggard-looking one better… I want one.
This is an automaton from the 1880s, unrestored, a bust of a harpist playing a song. The skeletal and stained condition makes it all the more affecting and compelling. She’s beautiful!
Sometimes The Onion is funny, but, when the writing committee combines its historical perspective and incisive sarcasm, as in this article, their satire can be almost sublime. I especially like the ways in which the conventions of genocide and execution have been adapted for toys, with the Barbies being “separated from their Kens” and “leaned against the wall” for the firing squad [because they can’t stand up by themselves]. The best detail, however, is the nonchalant, almost bured mention of civilian deaths. Genius!
About three years ago, I joined DOA, right before it moved from a Yahoo group to a phpBB group. Here are some of my early posts [subject lines only] on the phpBB version, just for my personal amusement, I guess:
Has anyone ever put a Luts head on an Azone 60cm body?
Does 1 CustomHouse “point” = $1USD?
Broken glass eyeball stem advice
My DD can’t sit up 90 degrees…any quick mods to fix?
Jareth the Goblin King BJD part II … photo art concept…
Difference between Hugo, Hugo sn and Hugo sw / how to get?
So…which BJD looks like Jareth the Goblin King?
I know a lot more about BJDs now than I did back then. Other than that, not much has changed. I’m still interested in a) Jareth, b) inexpensive alternatives and c) body mods. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose, I guess. This has been an irrelevant annoucement from the Boring Club.
My dolls are my actors. They play out scenes from my imagination for the film of my camera.
My dolls are my catalysts for relaxation. When I play with them, I absorb myself with their interactions, their outfits, their personalities and their setting. I think less about the problems of my life I can’t control and more about my dolls, which I can control.
My dolls are my attempt to understand the world. They represent people, which I then put through different configurations. With my plastic cast of characters, I create 1:6 replicas of social situations to inform real life.
My dolls are my raw material. They have paintable faces, removable hair, bodies that can be hacked up and glued back together. To me, “doll” is a material like canvas, paint, stone or words, waiting to be manipulated.
My dolls are my photographic subjects. Because they never change shape or expression, they challenge me to achieve my photographic goals through presence/absence of light, width/narrowness of shot, angularity/straightness of aim and focus/lack of focus in lens. My dolls’ stillness makes my photos’ settings more active and expressive.
My dolls are my tools to find beauty in the world. The placement of a still figure in an active world highlights both the stillness of the figure and the activity of the world. The world plays off the dolls; I can see the world more clearly when comparing it to my dolls, and I can appreciate the change and evanescence of things more poignantly by putting dolls in my line of perception.
My dolls are my thoughts made manifest. They are all characters who used to live intangibly inside my head. When I make a doll of a character, though, the character and the doll unite, so the character takes on a physical form. As a doll, the character is real in a way that my thoughts are not.
My dolls are me. As works of art, they all express some aspect of me. As characters, they are all semi-autobiographical because I write about what I know best, which is me.
My dolls are time capsules. Either in their physical construction or in the ways they act, they remind me of how I used to do things. They are my history in holdable form.
My dolls are works in progress. I change their poses, clothes, hair, body parts and actions over time. They exist continuously, immediately, never finished. Even if I don’t modify their forms, I may change the way that I think about their characters, so they are as much of the present as they are of the past.
My dolls are my role models. I make them do things I’d like to do, but am afraid to do. I make them say and wear what I’d like to, but haven’t yet. I make them act the way that I will some day act when I get up the courage.
My dolls are my characters. Many of my dolls are not dolls OF my characters. They are the characters themselves, which is not to say that they are beings that know that they are dolls. It is rather to say that my dolls are my characters because they unite the imaginary aspect of the characters [what I’ve thought up in my head] with the solid reality that a well-rounded character has. The doll form is like a representation for my characters’ well-roundedness and convincing status.
My dolls are a means of self-examination. I separate aspects of myself from me and encapsulate them in plastic form, then have them play and fight. That way, I can stand back a bit to get a better perspective on how the multitude of people inside me play and fight.
My dolls are expressions of love. I make them with artistic care and pride, a form of love. I also make likeness dolls out of sheer love for the act of creation as well as affection for whoever’s likeness I’m doing. I give my dolls to people as a sign of friendship because I think that doing so might make them happy.
My dolls are my friends. They are well-rounded characters, and they are embodied, albeit in small plastic form, so they are real. Being real, they of course have their own subjectivities and voices. They talk to me. I talk back. A lot of it is me attempting to boss them around or vice versa. We know that the balance of control shifts a lot, so it’s mostly jocular.
My dolls are my equals, not all of them, but the strongest ones, the realest ones. I, as the ego from which I frequently experience the universe, am a created fiction, a character in my own drama. My favorite dolls are created fictions too, just like me. I realize it; they realize it; that’s why we can talk to each other as friends, without abasement or delusions of grandeur.
My dolls are my desires. They may be the kind of friends to each other that I want to be to other people. They have the kind of sex I might want to have. They act out my fantasies.
My dolls are my memorials. Some of them are based on my friends, my family members, people that I once knew but who now have left my life through death or distance of time. These dolls remind me of what I once loved. They are memories and tributes.
My dolls are my toys!
Given my interest in a) South Park and b) dolls, I’ve long wanted to see Team America. Ever since it was originally announced in 2004, I was fascinated by the idea of a movie starring a cast made entirely of 1:3 puppets. If the content was generated by the same foul-mouthed pop-culture satirists, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, behind South Park, that could only be a bonus, right?
Wrong, of course. BJD lovers should see below for my extensive critique of the puppetry.
After watching Team America last night, I would like to say that I have rarely been so disappointed in a movie. I was expecting a) a mordant send-up of American jingoism, terrorism, action movies, Hollywood’s self-importance, Kim Jong-Il’s weirdness, etc. and b) and original and catchy use of puppets. The movie delivered on neither count.
As far as an action movie, Team America never rose above the creaky, boring cliches of the genre, such as the Unwilling Hero, the Love Interest Who Believes In Him, the Gruff Guy Who Eventually Supports The Hero, the Hero’s Dramatic Self-Doubt And Exit, Follwed By A Last-Minute World-Saving, blah blah blah. As I stared at the screen, waiting for something interesting to happen, I wondered if this was really the product of the same creative team who combined flatulent Canadian TV stars, songs like What Would Brian Boitano Do? and a Saddam+Satan gay love pairing to create an uproarious, silly and rather sharp South Park movie. Matt Stone and Trey Parker lost their big-screen edginess, I guess.
As far as the use of puppets, Team America also never exploited this ripe device. For just one example, the puppets had articulated mouths and eyelids, which made them very expressive, but this lifelikeness was rarely used. Instead, the makers favored multiple reaction shots that were just the puppet equivalent of a blank stare: DUHHHH. Was this intentional? Were they commenting on the characters’ vapidity? But no. If you remember, a running gag in the movie is the characters’ acting abilities, a skill that trades in expressiveness. So clearly the film makers wanted to showcase the puppets’ expressiveness, but, unfortunately, the puppets’ “acting mode” was just as uninflected, unblinking and unmoving as their “normal mode.” It seems like the creators got a cool idea — “Hey, let’s use puppets!” — but never fleshed out the concept to its fullest.
Not only were the Team America puppets boring and flat in their expressions, but the puppeteers did not know how to move the puppets! You have to understand that I was exposed to masterful puppetry [goblins from Jim Henson’s Creature Shop in Labyrinth] from a young age, and I’ve always known that clever use of posing, lighting and angling the camera can conjure up not just emotions, but also a sense of movement, in dolls. This is why the film disappointed me. The puppeteers made all the puppets rise to standing with weird, gravity-defying jumps. They made the puppets walk with less attention to leg and foot movements and more attention to dragging the puppets forward as if they were being blown by a gale. The puppet sex scene demonstrated that the puppeteers could have realistic control over relatively fine movements [i.e., a character thrusting his hips while keeping his lower legs stationery] , but, unfortunately, such attention to detail did not extend to the rest of the film.
I guess that the film makers got lazy. They thought that the very presence of the puppets would be sufficient. Maybe they assumed that puppets would be easier to work with than humans because puppets would do whatever the film makers wanted. The problem is that the film makers didn’t want the puppets to do very much. Such “dead space” and lack of imagination in their concept showed up blindingly in the final product. I turned off the DVD thinking that I could take one doll photo that could express more emotion, movement, subtlety, humor and irony than the entire film.
I started off with 1:6 dolls and built up quite the little universe. Wanting something larger, I actually entertained two mannequins for a while, then sold them because they were too big. Continue reading Stories of BJDs
I see this discussed on DoA a lot. It refers to an owner’s response toward her BJD. Continue reading What is it with “bonding?”
I’ve also been getting excited because I keep thinking she’s going to be released soon. First I thought it was in October. No…wait…November. Now latest news says the END of December. Her constantly postponed release makes me very antsy. Continue reading This is an elf Lishe rant.