Intro: Failed Attempt to Make a Ball Jointed Doll From Air Dry Clay
While unpacking my things during the move to our new apartment I came across my abandoned ball jointed doll project. Unfortunately, I can't find my original blueprint of the doll but I do have some screenshots of my sketch against the doll from my YouTube videos. She was originally planned to be Daenerys Targaryen from the Game of Thrones novel. Even though I didn't get to complete this project, I learned a lot from the process. I learned to handle air dry clay, designing my doll, and gained more experience in sculpting a realistic figure.
One of my goals as a sculptor was to be able to create a ball jointed doll from scratch. Ever since I discovered the beautiful dolls made by Volks, I started researching online on how to make one. I finally found a book by Ryo Yoshida titled Yoshida Style Ball Jointed Doll Making Guide in Japanese which I purchased online. The book was full of step by step images to guide me through the process. Flipping through it, I felt a bit overwhelmed with the materials and skills needed to be able to build one. This was about more than a year ago when I started this project, and during that time, I'm still learning to sculpt human figures. You definitely need some skills in sculpting and knowledge in anatomy if you want to make your doll to look human.
So first off, I started gathering my materials. I decided to buy my supplies in my local craft shop and art store but most of the materials are not available. To minimise the costs I tried to find alternative materials for the project. For the core armature, I used Daiso paper clay instead of styrofoam. I'm thinking it would be less messy if I sculpted the armature instead of carving it from styrofoam. The air dry clay that I used, was Jovi air dry clay instead of LaDoll. I chose Jovi because that's what's available in the shop and it was white in color just like LaDoll, but I have no idea on the difference of the quality of both clay.
Before you make the doll, you need to decide on the height of the doll and sketch it on paper. You would need a front and sideview profile. This is your doll's blue print and will guide you as you sculpt the doll. The author of the book was making a 54 cm tall doll. I wanted a smaller doll so I made mine 30 cm tall.
I then made the core for the head and torso of the doll using Daiso paper clay. Anyway, for this clay you need some water to smooth it out and you need about a day to let it completely dry before applying the Jovi clay. For the arms and legs, I used paper straws for the core. The core is important because you want your doll to be hollow for the elastic to run through it and you want the head and torso light so that the doll will stand unaided.
When the core is dry and hard, you need to apply the clay base. I rolled out the Jovi clay to about 3mm thick and applied it to the core. For the arms and legs, I rolled out the clay thinner since the straws are rigid and will be permanently be in the doll. I then let it dry. It needs to be completely dried before adding anymore details.
Before adding clay, I sand it first then sprayed with water to help adhere the fresh clay. Then start adding details to the head sculpting in the eyes, nose, mouth, ears as well as the torso, arms and legs. Detailing is very tedious. You need to carve, sand, add fresh clay then let it dry before doing it over again until you are satisfied with it. When you are happy with it, that's the time you sand it smooth before painting. I didn't get to that part that's why my doll looks really rough.
When I was making the legs, I found her to be too short and made her legs longer by adding clay to the top of the thighs. During this time, I hollowed out the core of the torso using some carving tools.
I then started making the hands out of thin gauge wire then applying clay to that and letting it dry.
When I laid out my doll, I found it to be too top heavy and this will hinder her from standing on her own. Also, the proportions of the whole figure looks unnatural. The head and hands are too big for the body. I decided to stop from this point and thought of investing on the recommended clay. LaDoll might be lighter compared to the one that I used. Also, I needed more skills in figure sculpting.
Air dry clay is pretty messy to work with and you definitely need a lot of patience working with this clay with the drying time. But, the great thing about it is you can make bigger dolls with this medium because you don't need an oven or kiln to cure it.
Hopefully, when I get my hands on LaDoll clay, I can make another doll and get to finish it.