Beauty vs Function and Enchanted Dolls.

11 years, 5 months ago 20
Posted in: Doll Accessories


I thought I’d walk you through the things I have to consider before designing and making something. This is a glimpse of what goes on inside my head when I’m working things out. Whether I’m designing a dress or a jointing mechanism, or crown or a doll face or anything else, I think about it a lot sometimes days, sometimes weeks, turning over and over and over in my head like a 3D model on a computer, until I come up with a solution to my problem. Functionality and strenght are always a concern because I don’t like making things that don’t work, or can’t be touched because they will break. That’s why I don’t like polymer clay dolls and figurines: They are fragile and have no function beyond sitting on the shelf and gathering dust, while mass produced, commercial dolls have the function, but lack beauty.


That’s my slogan. I think I should have majored in Industrial Design at Emily Carr. I believe I would have been good at it. My math is too weak for engineering or architecture, but I noticed that my mind is king of geared to making things work. After all, I am an engineer’s daughter. The first decade of my life was spent inventing and building things with my dad. Which was awesome.

Anyway, here we go.

When you’re making a highly articulated, ball jointed, porcelain doll on the 1:6 scale, conventional techniques and methods of doll making frequently don’t apply. You have to think outside the box and consider MANY things to produce a beautiful and functional product. Most important thing to do before you begin any project, is to clearly identify your goals to yourself. When you have your goals down, choose the primary and the secondary one which will be the key and the heart of your project, the very essence of what you want the end result to be. Then, make a plan of how to capture that essence.

My primary and secondary goals when I make Enchanted Dolls are:

a) Beautiful and smooth, realistically stylized  body lines with a beautiful face.

b) Extensive, yet aesthetically un-intrusive ball jointed articulation and superb posing abilities.

There. This is the essence of Enchanted Dolls. This is what dictates the choices I need to make from here on in order to achieve the perfect balance between the two. You probably noticed that my a and b goals are at conflict with one another: Too many, too big joints and the beautiful body lines are visually disrupted, yet fewer and subtler joints significantly reduce articulation and realistic posing. Which one do I choose over the other? I don’t want to abandon either in favor of one, but sacrifice of some aspects of both a and b is inevitable.

I appreciate all the input and feedback I get from Enchanted Doll fans every day. I get suggestions too, on how to improve my dolls sometimes, which is great, but I want to explain to you guys who think that EDs are not living up to their full potential, that every square millimeter of the doll is carefully thought through and considered a hundred times. Every aspect of the doll is there for a very good reason and not because it just happens to be like that. Let me put it this way:

Everything you can think of about ball-jointed dolls – I’ve already thought of it.  <:)

I want to address the suggestion of giving EDs closing eyes. Those of you who think that this would be a good idea- I’m sorry, but you’re wrong. It’s a lovely idea on its own, but please consider  what it will take to do that while remembering the Beauty vs Function dilemma:

Closing eyes can be effective and aesthetically pleasing only on a medium or better yet, large sized dolls, but Enchanted Doll’s head is less than 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter. First of all, it will be visually ugly and will interfere with the realistic quality of the face because the eye sockets are tiny (5 x 7 mm) and closing mechanism will require 1-2 millimeters of clearance of the eyeballs from the eye openings. This is not a problem for a big doll, but on a 1:6 scale doll the gap between the head and the eyeballs will be very noticeable. It will look plastic and fake. Ugly.

Structural composition and stringing of the doll has to be taken into account as well. I have a large spring running through the centre of the doll’s head which holds all the extremities together. With an already tiny space inside the head and a spring running right through the centre of it, where am I supposed to put the pendulum weight mechanism, required to open and close the eyes? But more importantly is, how am I going to put it in there, when unlike most bjd’s, Enchanted Doll’s head is solid closed? I can’t cut the head in half in order to stick the eyes in even if I really wanted to do it because of my stringing technique: unless the head is a complete, whole sphere, it won’t be strong enough to support the tension of industrial springs which are required to hold the doll together. It will break.

I can’t cut the head open, put the eyes in and glue the halves together because no glue will withstand the tension put on the head by the spring for a long period of time. It will break. I can’t cut the head open, put the eyes in and then fire the halves back together because the only way porcelain halves will seal back to 100% strength is at 2300 ºF. Everything besides porcelain will be evaporated in the kiln. So, my question is: How do I put the eyes in?

In order to be able to cut the head open and glue it back together safely after putting the eye socket mechanism in, I would have to reduce the tension in the head. I could do that by replacing the industrial springs inside my dolls which give them such splendid tension and therefore, articulation, with elastic. Elastic is common in bjd stringing, but it’s a very poor substitute for industrial springs. Anybody who handled an Enchanted Doll and ANY OTHER bjd will know the difference. I won’t be able to achieve the tension required for posing. Using thicker elastic won’t solve the problem either, because most doll’s parts are too small to accommodate it. Besides, why would I want to change spring to elastic when it wears out over time, while springs do not? So, which is it: springs or eyes?

In conclusion, we find that giving Enchanted Dolls a pair of fake-looking, closing eyes will entail dramatic changes and sacrifices of the fundamental mechanism of the doll. And the trade is not even worth it.

Scale, ladies and gentlemen, scale is the key here. Although there are many deciding factors at play because the doll is held together by a careful relationship between its components and changing one will require changing the rest, in the end, it’s the small size of the doll which makes this particular change counter productive to both of my main goals: beauty and function.

Any questions?

20 Responses

  1. annina says:

    i wouldn’t want closing eyes on enchanted dolls anyway, i don’t really see the appeal of it.
    one can see looking at your dolls that you make them about both beauty and function, it is because of your high standards that i have complete trust in that i’ll like whatever you make. that is why i am very curious to see “your take on resin bjd’s” when/if your project or “resin” ED’s succeeds!

  2. annina says:

    …project of “resin” ED’s…

    and adding:
    i understand though that porcelain is the perfect material for your dolls and i look forward to when i can own one. but besides that i am curious about your resin project.

  3. Marina says:

    Resin project is in Alpha stage at the moment, Annia. I got an email from the casting tech last week that the new resin we ordered finally came in and now more casting tests and evaluation can begin again.
    The resin ED project has been in development for almost a year now, and it will be some time still before conclusive results.

  4. annina says:

    good to hear it is going onwards with casting tests! i understand that it takes time and is in the beginning stage. i am glad that you have such high standards as that will ensure for the project to have the best result possible.

  5. Amal says:

    Hi Marina,

    It’s clear that you consider every aspect of your work even before you begin. Your determination in engineering these dolls to the highest standard is really admirable.

    I’m curious about the porcelain, as the scale is so small… how thin is the thinnest part? Does this affect the strength of the porcelain?

    I would love to see more accessories in the future, like the headpieces/helmets, they are really wonderful :)

  6. miss LK says:


    It’s very nice of you to take the time explaining your objectives with ED!

    Being a product designer myself trained in both industrial design and mechanical engineering, ED’s joints were the first element that got me interested. They are definitely visible but integrated in a seamless visual harmony. And then there come the porcelain and spring steel – a lethal combination for me. I adore the strength and beauty of bone china… as a child, I have always been fascinated with hardware more so than toys :)

    Last but not least, the vivid and intricate painting on a delicate size pulls everything together for me – every ED comes alive with a mesmerizing personality like a 3D story telling.

    Thank you for the wonderful talents and the extremely dedicated hard work!

  7. I can’t imagine EDs with eyes any other than those painted by Marina. They are just exquisite and while I normally prefer glass eyes (closing or not) in most dolls, there is something captivating in the quality of painting.

    One thing I am particularly curious about is the way the stringing mechanism works. I never had a chance to handle an ED, but from the videos on the website and other people’s accounts, it sounds like they take poses incredibly well. I would love to find out how that is achieved, even though I understand it is probably one of “trade secrets” and top security information.

    Thank you for this post, though, I found it very informative.

  8. Crystal says:

    I too am very grateful for that informative post.I find polymer frustrating because it’s more like making figurines then dolls.
    Please never give in to mass production if you can’t keep the wonderful quality of your dolls.Resin sounds like a great alternative for those who cannot afford porcelain, but I’m sure they won’t be cheap if they are made as well as you would demand.
    I myself can’t wait to get my hands on a porcelain doll.No matter what I have to sell on e-bay to get it!!!

  9. aspring says:

    Марина, видать крепко вас достали со всякими “усовершенствованиями”, редкий по силе пост. А вообще – эти предложения из серии “давайте дорисуем Джоконде брови, а Венере Милосской увеличим грудь”. Ваши куклы – такие, какие они есть, тем и ценны и уникальны. Удачи вам вов всем и не давайте себя расстраивать.

  10. philippe from Paris says:

    Bonjour Marina
    I dare say you’re quite right about the closing eyes dilemna. I don’t think it would suit your dolls that well…

    I’d love to see rubbicon like dolls in your own ways, a little like Rubbens paintings characters dolls. I’m pretty sure round shapes would fit the perfect texture of the porcelain you’re crafting…
    kises from paris and all the best to you both


  11. Manu says:

    Hello Marina,
    the way that you painting eyes it’s very exquisite ,one of the beauty that i admire in your work it’s the impression look of your dolls

    i don’t know if closing eyes will be a good choice for your dolls,it’s depend first of your feeling and the way that you can do that project.I am more curios about resin line project
    Aniway all that you made it’s great and will be a succes

  12. kelly says:

    There is no need for people to criticize how you make your dolls, and no need for you to defend, Marina. If someone wants a doll like yours with opening/closing eyes, let them make one. Good luck to them!

  13. oki says:

    I loved reading this, it’s so cool to hear about the design process in such intense detail, thank you for sharing it! ;3;

  14. keo says:

    you just gained fan :)

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  20. Ann Svensson says:

    Hi, I wonder what you ment by polymer clay just breaking?? If its baked at exact temp and time it is unbreakable plastics. Thanks for lovely site and dolls BTW!!! Love from sweden

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