The term "ball-jointed doll", or BJD, typically refers to Asian articulated dolls, which are noted for their great flexibility, range of customising options, and realistic yet idealised appearance. Ball-jointed dolls are very attractive, but they are also very expensive, which often leads enthusiasts to try to create their own. Super Sculpey is a material that can be easily used to create BJDs. It is a polymer clay that reaches a ceramic-like finish when baked. The appeal of this clay is that it is fairly inexpensive and can be baked in an ordinary oven.
Draw a blueprint for your doll or download one from the Internet. Make a fairly detailed drawing of how big you want all of the parts to be, their shape, and a drawing of the face. This helps guide you as you make your doll by serving as a reference of how big each part should be for the doll to look right.
Make the arms by cutting the drinking straws into segments that are as long as each segment in the arms and legs, then wrap them with foil so that they are a little smaller than each segment in the blueprint. Don't make the ovals too big; they must be covered with a thin layer of Sculpey. You can use wire for the fingers.
Cover the ovals that are intended for the head and torso with masking tape.
Sculpting the doll
Cover the segments with a thin layer of Sculpey, about 6 mm (1/4 inch) thick. Don't make it any thicker than 12 mm (1/2 inch). It is easier to sculpt the torso as one piece and cut it apart into two segments later so that they fit more exactly; the clay will need to be stiff for this. You can either wait for the clay to harden or put it into the freezer for a short amount of time.
Refine the clay until you are satisfied with the look of the doll. Use your blueprints and photos of dolls to help you achieve the look that you want. If your doll is not perfectly smooth, don't worry. Sculpey can be sanded after baking.
Sculpt the face, leaving just enough room in the head to take out the form. Make a hollow at the bottom of the head for the neck to fit, and hollows at the eyesockets so that eyes can be added later.
Bake the face in an oven according to the instructions on the box: 135 degrees Celsius at 15 minutes per 6 mm (1/4 inch) of thickness. You will probably need to bake your piece for 20-30 minutes. The clay can discolour if the oven is too hot or it bakes for too long, so monitoring the clay is a good idea.
Add clay to form the back of the head, leaving a hole just big enough for you to put your fingers inside so that you can add eyes and string later, and bake again.
Form a small cap that covers this opening.
Sculpt the torso as one complete piece and cut it apart to form two halves that are separated at the ribcage. The clay will need to be stiff for this; put it into the freezer for a short amount of time before cutting. Keep in mind while sculpting that torso must be hollow after baking. It must be in two pieces so that you can pull the torso apart and remove the form inside; the masking tape covering the form will make it easier to pull out later.
Make small balls for the joints. You can use Sculpey for this, or you may find that small wooden beads that are already uniform and won't change their shape are easier to use.
Make a hollow in each segment and for each joint to accommodate the ball joint. Use a thin tool to poke a hole through the balls and into the hollow interior of the joints or drill a hole later, after the clay has been baked.
Make holes at the hips, shoulders, and neck in the torso for strings that hold in the arms, legs, and head by scraping away clay until the form inside shows. Make the holes large enough that the balls will move smoothly, but not so big that the arms and legs will be drawn into the torso.
Make five small wire loops. Insert these into the hands and feet, at the wrist and ankle, and into the cap that you made for the top of the doll's head. Make the loops as big as you can without them showing when the hands and feet are in their correct places; a bigger loop makes it easier to string your doll later.
Bake all of your unbaked pieces in the same way that you baked the head.
When the clay is cool, pull out the foil from the torso pieces.
Finishing the doll
Sand the doll to desired smoothness using 150 grit sandpaper. The smoother the doll is, the better. Sanding can help make the eyes fit better, so this is a good time to try to fit them into the sockets.
Paint the doll. Super Sculpey is flesh-toned, so you may or may not wish to paint the body. Painting eyelashes and the lips on a BJD is traditional. Seal the paint to protect the finish.
Make a loop of elastic, then attach it to a hand, leaving a long tail. String the tail through all the joints on one side of the doll, through the holes at the shoulder, through all the joints on the other side of the doll, and attach the end to the other hand. For the legs, make another loop of elastic and double it. Attach the top of the loop to the top of the head, then string the elastic through the neck and into the torso, out of the holes at both hips, through all the leg joints and tie it off at the feet.
Finish the doll by adding eyes, wig, and clothes as desired.
Bake the parts on a baking tray. To ensure best results, use an oven thermometer and monitor the temperature, and put the clay on a piece of batting to cushion it during baking. Super Sculpey is flesh-toned. You can change the colour by adding small amounts of Sculpey III. Look at lots of pictures of ball-jointed dolls and their parts. This will help you decide the easiest way for you to make your doll, as well as how you would like for your doll to look. BJDs are usually made of resin cast in a mould. You can use this doll to make a mould yourself and create a resin doll, just skip the steps for painting and stringing. If you do decide to match the proportions of dolls that are available commercially, it is easier to purchase accessories for them.
Things you need
- Drinking straws
- Aluminium foil
- Masking tape
- Clay tools
- Polyester quilt batting
- Doll elastic
- Crochet hook
- Needle-nose pliers