Building a BJD

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I’ve been on hiatus for a while, because life got in the way, and I was thinking about moving the blog or redesigning it or whatever, and I still am, but for now I’m going to keep posting what I’m working on.

So, for years, I’ve wanted to make my own bjd. I started on a head a while ago. She was named Calico, because an unfortunate oven accident left her scorched in a variety of colors. She worked out well enough, but I got caught up with trying to make her perfectly symmetrical and never finished.

Then, a couple of months ago, I decided to just quit dilly-dallying and make a bjd, already. If it sucks, it sucks. At least I’ll be able to say I did it. So I picked a tutorial by Allison MeCleary from the Woodland Earth Studio forum that used polymer clay and worked from the inside out, which made logical sense to me, and just started it. Here’s what I have so far. Her name is Elidee.

Elidee  04

The tutorial I’m following uses wooden beads for the ball joints, but that’s because she was going to make a mold and cast hers. I’m not planning to do that, so I want the whole doll to be made out of clay. I decided to use the beads to form the sockets for her joints, then form the ball part of her joints out of polymer clay. It was going great until I got to her knees. Knee joints are hard! I’m hoping that once I figure them out, the elbows will be easier.

Elidee 02


This was my first attempt at the knee joint (You can see that I left the head and one leg piece in the oven too long and they turned a darker color than the rest of the pieces). I thought it was working well, but unfortunately some liquid clay got into the joint while I was curing it the second or third time, and it all fused together. It broke into pieces when I tried to separate it from the leg. But I already carved out the excess stuff and rebuilt the sockets, and I still have the sculpted knee part, so all I have to do is rebuild the ball joints. Meanwhile I’ve sculpted the other leg and now I know to be more careful with any part that has liquid clay on it.

One part of this that has been great is that I’ve been forced to use an X-acto knife and a Dremel tool to carve the cured clay a lot more than I’ve ever done before. There’s something satisfying about it; it feels like being an engineer. One thing that baffled me before was how to sculpt over a hollow form, but this way I’m sculpting over a solid form made of cured polymer clay, and then drilling out the channels for the strings.

I think she’ll be about 18 cm when she’s finished. I’m terribly in love with her right now, but I know she’s not up to a professional level yet. She’s nowhere near symmetrical and her joints probably won’t work as well as I want them to. The one thing I want is for her to be fun to play with. If she’s fun, then I’ll consider her a success.

Fun with tiny skeletons

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So, a couple of years ago, I noticed they had these creepy little plastic skeletons on a garland for sale as Halloween decorations. I didn’t buy any, because they were too expensive at the time, but I kept thinking about it. Then the next year I didn’t see them again, but I still wanted some, so I kicked myself for having missed out.

I should have trusted the holiday novelty market, however, because sure enough, they’re back, and today I actually found some at the dollar store. They’re really detailed and dollhouse-scale, so naturally I’m not the only one who thought you could do something really awesome — or maybe gruesome would be a better word — with them.

So, here are some links to what other people are doing with these little skeletons. Enjoy!


• Trust Ulla to make a wonderful multimedia project with them like these Day of the Dead glass coffins.


• It takes a special kind of twistedness, I think, to come up with this horrible/awesome mummified fairy, but apparently Art of Darkness is just the place for especially twisted ideas. Seriously, is that not the cleverest and creepiest thing ever?

• Finally, since the skeletons are roughly dollhouse scale, check out this 1:12 skeleton bride , skeleton pirates and skeleton cowboys from the dollhouse community.

Have fun! I think I’m going to make a creepy wreath for my front door with mine…

Animation inspiration

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Dolls and puppets aren’t that different, right? So for your continuing education, today I present a link with a bunch of pages about building stop-motion animation puppets. You might find a new kind of armature you’ve never thought of before, and there are several links to discussions of materials that are rarely used for dolls, like latex and silicon. Take a look around and see if you don’t get some new inspiration for your dollmaking.

Link via Shelley Noble at Notes from Halfland.

Handmade Puppet Dreams

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Visit this site when you have some time on your hands. Handmade Puppet Dreams is a collection of short films made by young, independent artists and featuring real-time puppetry with a focus on character. My favorite one is Harker, in Volume II, but be prepared to spend fifteen minutes or so doing nothing but staring at the screen!

Have a great weekend!

Linda Smith’s tutorials

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Linda Smith, formerly the president of our Kansas City-based doll club, is one of the hardest-working dollmakers I know personally. Her dolls are amazingly realistic for being so tiny, and they would be elegant in any scale. So I was very pleased to see that she has a new blog which includes a lot of information about her working process. If you make little fairies, you really ought to check out her tutorials, working with mohair and fairy and mermaid armature. Take the time to read the rest of her blog, too, as she posts lots and lots of high-quality work-in-progress pictures.

Have fun, and be sure to leave Linda a comment thanking her for sharing so generously!

More Halloween prop tutorials

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These have some applications to dollmaking.

Uncialle’s How to Haunt instructions for making Amon-Ratep, the mummy.

Shawn Nagle tips on sculpting a werewolf worthy of the movies.

Instructables, which is apparently a whole website full of do-it-yourself stuff (I’m bookmarking it for when I get around to reupholstering that sofa!), has this entry on a crazy franken-mad-scientist mask by Pokiespout. Looks like the painting instructions are particularly detailed.