Forgotten Dolls

the hobby of doll collecting

Art dolls -- OOAK, limited, and handmade

art dolls

Art dolls are created by an artist as artwork for display by adults rather than used as a child's toy. They may be created in a variety of media to bring to life an artist's vision -- clay including paperclay and polymer clay, fabric, wood, beads, wax, or natural products such as hair or plant materials. The dolls are as realistic or not as the artist envisions them to be. If more than one type of material is used in a particular doll, the doll is termed a "mixed-media assemblage".

Of particular note are "primitive" dolls created from wood or cloth in a similar (but not identical) style to an antique doll. Primitive dolls are handmade and hand-painted, generally by a particular artist or company. There is variation even among those produced by companies.

Some artists may specialize in creating OOAK (One Of A Kind) art dolls. This means each doll is made by the artist from the start of designing process to completion of the doll to be unique in its features and attributes. Once that particular doll is complete, it will never be recreated in the same form.

Note: OOAK means different things to different artists. Did the artist create the doll entirely from scratch? Were are molds used in the process? Will this piece be reproduced in the future as a limited edition, or even an unlimited edition with slight variants?

Modern ball-jointed dolls

modern ball jointed dolls

Modern ball-jointed dolls (termed 'BJD') are fully-articulated resin dolls designed and cast by artists and small companies (generally only a few employees who hand-pour each doll when casting). These dolls are strung with heavy-gauge elastic for increased pose-ability.

The first modern ball-jointed doll was the Super Dollfie by Volks of Japan, whose original motto was "We Seek Creativity". These dolls were created in 1998, based on the structure of antique French and German fashion dolls. The ball-jointed structure of the bodies allows for tremendous pose-ability with articulation -- generally at neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, and ankles. This type of doll is designed to be customized; wigs and eyes can be changed, the body can be modified by both changing out parts or by additive or subtractive modifications, and default paint can be removed and redone.

The size of a modern ball jointed doll ranges in height from under 10 cm to in excess of 80cm. Skin tones vary by company but can include fantasy colours in addition to typical human skin tones.

The changing face of the hobby

The hobby of collecting modern resin ball-jointed dolls has changed somewhat to be closer to that of the fashion doll collecting hobby in which "never removed from box" (NRFB) and "never modified" are necessary for a high resale value if one chooses to sell a doll. Many dolls are available only as a limited edition, with collectors disinclined to change the appearance of these limited dolls.

Unless you are trying to sell a fullset limited doll which was never breathed-on the wrong way, you should not expect the doll to have held its value for even a short time. If the doll is older and shows any wear at all including yellowing (which is normal for resin dolls), the value will be far below the original purchase price. The days of new prices for a gently used doll are long gone.

Where to buy a modern ball jointed doll

If you are looking for your very first ball jointed doll, you should first decide if there is a particular company or even a particular model you would like to own. Buy the doll you love rather than worrying about the price.

Tip: Do not fall prey to the idea of settling for a cheap doll when you are first getting started. Many of the recommended “starter dolls” have structural issues such that I would never recommend them to someone with no experience.

I suggest shopping around until you have a short wishlist of those dolls that catch your eye. You can always save up money for a while if you fall for an expensive doll.

New currently-available limited and standard release dolls can be purchased directly from the company of your choice. If you decide on an older or discontinued doll, your best bet is to try the secondary market (typically a forum centered on this type of doll), and wait until you find the doll you are looking for. If you don't find the doll within a reasonable time, you can post a "WTB" (Want To Buy) with the model, condition, and the price you can pay.

Enchanted Dolls

Enchanted Dolls

The Enchanted Dolls are 13.5 inch tall fully-articulated ball-jointed dolls created by Russian artist Marina Bychkova. She credits the inspiration for her dolls to famed German artist Sulamith Wülfing, whose work she discovered in 2002.

While most of Bychkova's works are porcelain structured with a unique spring system rather than conventional stringing, a limited number of cast resin Enchanted Dolls have been available.

Enchanted Doll pricing

The artist has long since ceased to the option of ordering a nude doll as she had done when first starting out. For the last several years her work was available through certain shows and galleries, with an occasional special costumed doll auctioned through eBay. However, doll production seems to have ceased.

At this time the best chance of acquiring a particular doll is either during a show or through the secondary market. Expect to pay around $5000 to $7000 CDN for a second-hand resin doll, and in excess of $20000 CDN for a porcelain nude. The rare costumed dolls can easily go for more if one should come up for sale.

If you enjoy the look of Marina’s costumed dolls, watch the secondary market for the metal accessories she has previously created for her dolls. She has cast corsets, crowns, and even shoes from both silver and bronze, all of which are sized for her dolls. Sadly, she is no longer producing these items for general sale.

Enchanted Doll measurements

Porcelain

  • Height: 34cm
  • Wig size: 4/5
  • Circumference of head: 12cm
  • Circumference of chest: 12.7cm
  • Circumference of waist: 8.5cm
  • Circumference of hips: 14.5cm
  • Circumference of wrist: 2.5cm
  • Circumference of ankle: 3.5cm
  • Length of arm: 13.5cm
  • Length from waist to heel: 21cm
  • Foot size: 3.2cm
  Resin

  • Height: 34cm
  • Wig size: 4
  • Circumference of head: 10.16cm
  • Circumference of chest: 11.4cm
  • Circumference of waist: 8cm
  • Circumference of hips: 13.8cm
  • Circumference of wrist: 2.5cm
  • Circumference of ankle: 3.5cm
  • Length of arm: 10.3cm
  • Length from hip to heel: 17.3cm
  • Foot size: 3.1cm

About recasts

While this may be a non-issue for fabric and mixed-media dolls, porcelain and resin ball jointed dolls are recast regularly. This means a copy of the doll has been made without permission of that doll's creator. This is done either by taking a mold of the original doll or by digital scan. Even if recast for personal use, this is a violation of the original creator's rights. Respectable doll community forums will not allow recasts in any capacity.

This has led to paranoia among doll artists who now feel obligated to document every step of their design process rather than face the accusation of producing a recast. This is perhaps not unwarranted, given the current state of the ball jointed doll community.

Many companies do have authorized retailers whose shop will be clearly marked as such. If a shop does not show an official designation, ask the company about that shop before buying anything.

How to identify a recast

Recast dolls may or may not be identified as such by both sellers of recasts and by their subsequent owners. Tip-offs to whether a doll may be a recast include:

Warning: The shoddy quality of recasts such as Forever Dolls made it easy to spot a recast doll in the early years of the hobby. Of late however, recasters even provide faked paperwork and boxes to try to pass their recasts off as the genuine article.

If the price seems too good for a brand-new ball jointed doll, it probably is.

Note: While there is a secondary market for 'gently used' modern ball jointed dolls, do ask for more photos of any sale that seems "off". Do your research before buying anything.

Profiles of my art dolls

 
Anastasia
  Name: Anastasia
Medium: artist-made mixed-media doll
Year: 1989
Made by: Gretchen Lima
Signed: tagged on bottom
Size: 13" tall

Notes: Her hang tag is missing, so I have no idea if she had a "proper" name. She has a lot of jewelry and is holding a crystal ball.

 
 
Aniwata
  Name: Aniwata the Butterfly Woman
Medium: artist-made mixed-media doll
Year: 2007
Made by: Gretchen Lima
Signed: on back
Size: 20" tall

Notes: This is one of the large "wall-hanger" dolls from this artist.

 
 
Annelise
  Name: Annelise
Medium: artist-made mixed-media doll
Year: 1987
Made by: Gretchen Lima
Signed: tagged on bottom
Size: 13" tall

Notes: Her hang tag is missing, so I have no idea if she had a "proper" name. Her basket is full of bread and flour.

 
 
Bena
  Name: Bena the Guardian Spirit
Medium: artist-made mixed-media doll
Year: 1997
Made by: Gretchen Lima
Signed: on back
Size: 12" tall
 
 
Loiyetu
  Name: Loiyetu the Guardian Spirit
Medium: artist-made mixed-media doll
Year: 1996
Made by: Gretchen Lima
Signed: on back
Size: 12" tall
 
 
Magenta
  Name: Magenta the Guardian Spirit
Medium: artist-made mixed-media doll
Year: 1996
Made by: Gretchen Lima
Signed: on back
Size: 12" tall
 
 
Nuna
  Name: Nuna the Guardian Spirit
Medium: artist-made mixed-media doll
Year: 2000
Made by: Gretchen Lima
Signed: on back
Size: 12" tall
 
 
Prudence
  Name: Prudence
Medium: artist-made cloth doll
Year: 2010
Made by: Shari Lutz
Signed: on leg
Size: 10" tall
 
 
Stella
  Name: Stella
Medium: artist-made cloth doll
Year: 2005
Made by: Susan Fosnot
Signed: lithographed on front
Size: 11" tall

Notes: Kansas City UFDC 2005 "A Dream Come True" event doll, limited to 900 pieces. She came with a carry bag.

 
 
Tzotolin
  Name: Tzotolin
Medium: artist-made mixed-media doll
Year: unknown
Made by: M. Huntley
Signed: on hang tag
Size: 7" tall

Notes: Desert Spirit Doll #202. "Tzotolin" is from the Nahuatl word for "long-leaved palm".

 
Esther Name: Esther.
Model: Enchanted Doll, European sculpt.
Medium: resin.
Skin tone: normal.
Eyes: 6mm Tallina's in Violet (glass).
Hair: white mohair.
Customizations: painted by previous owner.
Head & neck markings: "Enchanted Doll" (on head), "Enchanted Doll MB" (on neck).
Notes: Esther is one of 100 resin Enchanted Dolls. She is from the first batch of Resin orders from the waiting list.
 
Miina Name: Miina.
Model: unique Enchanted Doll.
Medium: porcelain.
Skin tone: white.
Eyes: brown (painted).
Hair: white silk.
Customizations: none.
Neck markings: "2009 NUDE ED MB".
Notes: Miina is a unique doll created by Marina Bychkova for the 2009 Enchanted Doll Forum “Marina’s Birthday” contest. She is a modified version of the Ruby mold with larger eyes.
 

Further reading

Anatomy of a Doll Anatomy of a Doll by Susanna Oroyan (C&T Publishing, 1997): An artist's guide to designing and assembling a mixed-media art doll. Most of the book consists of instructions for creating different styles of body. An excellent reference for fabric artists.   Batik For Artists and Quilters Batik For Artists and Quilters by Eloise Piper (Hand Books Press, 2001): Although this is primarily a guide for designing batik fabric and creating art with it, it includes suggestions for art dolls which effectively incorporate both commercial and hand-dyed batik fabrics in their designs.
Fantastic Figures Fantastic Figures by Susanna Oroyan (C&T Publishing, 1994): An artist's guide to doll-making in clay-based media. Includes information on each clay type, sculpting and firing, and dressing the completed doll. A bit dated by now since these clays are no longer new, but still an excellent reference.   Designing the Doll Designing the Doll by Susanna Oroyan (C&T Publishing, 1999): An excellent reference for the start to finish process of designing and creating an art doll. Includes preliminary sketching, materials options, jointing, armature, and mold-making.
The Doll by Contemporary Artists The Doll by Contemporary Artists by Krystyna Poray Goddu (Abbeville Press, 1995): An excellent reference for contemporary doll artists with photos of each artist's work.   Enchanted Doll Enchanted Doll by Marina Bychkova: Marina’s artbook about her dolls. It is presently in its fourth edition in three languages (Russian, Chinese, and English), including special limited artist’s editions. It includes full-colour photos of her dolls to time of printing for each edition, and each edition has slightly different sets of exclusive photos.

These books can be difficult to find since many are out of print. Some great places to buy used books online include:

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