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On Respecting Chinese BJD Artists

Jul 17, 2015

    1. I think this is something that DOA should know. It mentions artist dolls but the bulk of the post is about BJD Companies, with a link to my blog post where I showcase some of the artist dolls I believe are deserve more love and support from a BJD community that's edging them out by buying recasts on one hand and expecting Chinese dolls to sell for second-rate prices on the other.

      DISCLAIMER: I’m Chinese-American and a sculptor-wannabe. Due no reason in particular most sculptors I know personally are Chinese. Some of them have applied for company jobs or had dealings where companies tried to buy their sculpt. I believe what I say below to be accurate.

      Dear Anon:

      It looks like you don’t know very many Chinese artists but I know the thing you’re talking about.

      The problem isn’t the artists. The problem is with the companies’ art directors.

      Many of the earlier companies were not founded by doll companies but by entrepreneurs or creative people in adjacent hobbies, and in fact one BJD company is simply a department in a mass-market toy factory (this company’s resin quality is superb, though). Without an artist at the helm with a clear vision for a “look”, the sculptors for hire had to take orders from management, some of whom, it must be said, aren’t in it for the right reasons.

      Worse, there is an expectation in China and the West that Chinese BJDs aught to be cheap. This price ceiling, along with stiff competition from recasters for down-market consumers, means that there’s a very narrow niche in which legitimate Chinese companies must then try and compete with all their many colleagues for a livelihood.

      The cost of living in Chinese cities, where artists congregate to develop professionally, is as high as Seoul and Tokyo. Yet people expect to pay less for Chinese dolls!

      Profit margins are so thin that companies cannot afford to pay very well or take too many artistic risk. It has driven many independent artists underground, since even accounting for faceup, clothing commission, wig, eye, accessories, photography props, publicity, and casting costs that the artist has to now pay themselves, it is still more likely for the artist to break even selling a much smaller number than it is to sell the copyright to a company.

      At least independent and freelance company artists have the freedom to work at their own pace (and earn sporadically). In-house sculptors usually work under a quota system, with only a few heads making it to the final product.

      I can name at least two companies that were founded by sculptors dissatisfied with company work and decided to strike out on their own. I would say that their style is recognizably theirs, but once they founded a company, they're immediately faced with the same market pressures as their former employers, squeezed between recasters and the price ceiling.

      China doesn't lack for artists with rigorous training and mature, unique sensibilities.

      Granado is a Chinese artist.
      La Legende de Temps is a Chinese artist.
      Nabarro is Chinese artists.

      And here are some more. Some of whom are my friends and mentors. Please support them and treat them well.

      ================
      But since these are artist dolls and I don't know their DOA status, please look at them here:

      http://eugenio-ruspoli.tumblr.com/post/124276408512/on-respecting-chinese-bjd-artists
       
      • x 9
    2. Love the article and the pic of the lil guy with his tongue out in your link.

      I think my Leon by Leong Soul is Chinese? I know my Evan from IP is Korean made. Perhaps my Shakuku from Island Doll is also Chinese?

      I love China - the food, the people and the art ....
       
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    3. That's right. Loongsoul and Island Doll are both Chinese companies. And thank you (in a general sense) for your support and understanding.
       
      • x 1
    4. Well, what I'm looking for in dolls is - let's call it some kind of "special feature". Something that makes me go "Wow, wanna!" It doesn't matter if it's a Chinese or Korean or Japanese or European or American artist who made the doll. I'll either like it or LOVE it or go "ok - nice but not for me". When I like a doll and when the quality's good I'm willing to pay just as much for a Chinese BJD as for any other BJD. It doesn't matter where it came from - a beautiful doll is a beautiful doll and I'll want to support the artist so they'll be able to sculpt more beautiful dolls. I mean, yah, I do get why people expect Chinese dolls to be cheaper than Korean or Japanese dolls - it's because of China's reputation of manufacturing cheap toys. But dolls aren't toys, they're works of art and if I'm to give an example, then I'm willing to pay just as much or most likely even more for LLT's Ludwig (when he finally is released) as I paid for my Iplehouse or Volks dolls.

      That said - I absolutely LOVE that little guy with his tongue out that you're showing under your article! And that's definitely the kind of doll I'm talking of - very unique!
       
      • x 1
    5. My first two dolls (Plus another floating head now too) were both from DollZone, and it was late last year that I discovered Granado (which I now have one of). To me, the country the doll is made in does not matter. What matters is that I find something there that (to me at least) is beautiful. I would be more than willing to pay as much for a Chinese-made BJD - they are works of art in their own right and just because they're from China does not mean they have to be 'cheap'.
      I wish Chinese artist dolls were more readily available because that's where an artist's creativity really shines (and unique doll are just amazing). Thanks for the link by the way, I love the little fairy girl second from the bottom!
       
      • x 1
    6. Very thoughtful and well stated post!

      Thanks also for the link. It looks like most of the dolls pictured would be on topic. I'd love to see some of those artists apply to the mods for approval and post on DoA.
       
    7. Thank you for the post. Just the other day, people on facebook were wining about the price difference between Korean and Chinese companies. I was trying to defend them saying that different countries apply. It seems that I am partially right in some areas and wrong in others.
      My defense was, the artists in China have little to no rights, they were paid cheaply or none at all for their hard work - hence the reason why prices can be kept so low. While in Korea, there are LAWS stipulating that workers cannot be abused in such a way and that is why the prices reflect that.

      But then someone jumped in and said something like: "Well Soom outsource their dolls to China so it shouldn't be that expensive!" And then another person said "Well the companies in China are just so much cheaper, which proves that BJDs are actually really cheap! So there!"

      But since I am not part of the manufacturing or production of BJDs, I had no proof that somewhere, those cheap prices were hurting someone. And it seems that "someone" are the artists. The real people that should be awarded for their creativity.

      What got me a little annoyed in the end was the tone of some people who had entitlement issues so I left the conversation pronto.
       
    8. I personally love Chinese companies and admire all the hard work put into them. My first doll was a Doll Leaves Wish and he's the best posing doll I've ever ran across. Two of my grail heads (just due to how ridiculously rare they are) are SCdoll's Kaka and Yabi, both made by the extremely talented artist small. I've also got two dolls from Dollzone (Nyu and Coral) and aspire to own two more (a Benjamin and Big Dipper). Heck my favorite company is Doll Chateau; Mephy (a Hugh) is one of my most prized possessions and -again- the last two dolls in my wishlist come from them.

      I find it so silly that people consider them to be of lesser quality... artists in China are the same as everywhere and they struggle so much yet despite that the customer service has been stellar in each and every case. I wouldn't change my Chinese dolls for the world. =/
       
      • x 1
    9. Well I do think the Serenade dolls (by a new Chinese BJD Company) are absolutely stunning/unusual and really amazing in person. Unfortunately, they are not a particularly reliable company (I think mostly due to language difficulty and difficulty filling more orders than they expected), but if you ever DO get your products you will be amazed...
       
    10. Could you give me more details about Soom's outsourcing? Did Soom mention it in a blog/news post? Can I still find and read it? When I tried to search this, I get the impression that people think Soom's outsourcing partner was dishonest and had a part in creating the proliferation of Soom recasts. This does not corroborate with what I hear from Chinese forums. Did Soom make a statement about the recast situation?

      Please anyone with information contact me.
       
    11. No I've never read about them outsourcing to China. But it seems that people assume they do. I don't believe the person who wrote the comment had any proof either.

      "... except doll companies, like SOOM, outsource all their casting to China. And wholesale resin is cheap, especially since they don't have to import it to Korea. Plus, Luts is Korean, and their dolls are far more affordable than either IH or Soom."
       
    12. We really need to see more love for Chinese artists and companies. My first BJD was an Angel of Dream, which is Chinese. Two of my absolute favorites are Doll Family-H dolls. I never understood the animosity that can exist in the hobby in relation to Chienese dolls.
       
      • x 1
    13. I love my Chinese dolls so much (Doll Family-H and Illusion Spirit, primarily). I feel like their faces have so much character and expression, and their look is so distinctive from anything else out there. They're well-made, beautifully sculpted, and I would have happily paid much, much more to bring them home. My Illusion Spirit boy is a dream come true, and one of my favorite dolls.

      These days, I go to the Chinese companies first when I'm looking for bodies or a new doll. There seems to be much more variety in the look and potential for the dolls, and an ever-evolving aesthetic, which is very exciting after ten years in the hobby.
       
      • x 1
    14. At least half of my collection are dolls from China. My favorite company is Granado- which is based out of China. They have, hands down, the best customer service I've ever experienced in this hobby.The doll origin has never really been a factor for me. I look for dolls I love and then I buy them. I have certainly never found Chinese dolls to be lacking in beauty, craftsmanship, or uniqueness.
       
      • x 1
    15. Most of my bjd collection is Chinese dolls (Doll Leaves and Dollzone). I love them all! Right now DZ and Doll Chateau seem to be my favorites as far as unusual sculpts. Their event dolls are amazing!

      Thank you for this thread, it has been very informative -great link!
       
      • x 1
    16. Immediately upon reading this I thought of Angell Studio. My knowledge of Chinese companies specifically is limited, or I simple am not aware of their ethnicity, but Angell Studio, for me, are the greatest example of a successful and respective Chinese BJD company. Their catalogue alone speaks for itself, and they offer a huge variety of things that most companies don't. This is what people should think of when thinking of Chinese companies, not cheap recasts or 'the generic doll'.

      I think the previous anon argument is very vague however, there are only so many things one can write about this. This topic has been discussed before not just among Chinese companies but throughout the entire hobby, and honestly finding a good unique sculpt takes a lot of time and effort and some research, which is an issue for some people it seems.
      Adding to what you said earlier, I think the reason why they feel that way towards Chinese dolls is because of the following:

      1) Because people tend to look at the same notable companies over and over again, creating a barrier for themselves and making it seem like they're becoming more generic.

      2) Simply saying 'generic' is very general in itself. I can't tell you how fast I skip through hundreds of dolls everyday that to me, look like they could all be relatives lol. Even my sisters who are not in the doll hobby have difficulty recognising a new doll I've bought from my previous crew, which is natural. And this is among multiple companies of different origins, so imagine how it'll be like when that is minimised over one country of origin? It takes time and a keen eye to find a perfect sculpt if you put in the time.

      3) I think part of the reason is similar to what you said Eugenio. Some 'more popular' companies with obviously more customers try to cater for them and their demands for a certain style or aesthetic, whether that be a more Westernised approach or not. Meanwhile, the opposite is true for smaller companies who are only exploring their own artistic freedom and do not have so much to lose if their customers don't demand a certain type, which Chinese companies may happen to be categorised in.

      4) Marketing. This is in bold because it is so very important. This may not apply to some Chinese companies but from a potential customer's point of view, I feel that these same Chinese companies lack the power of marketing, which is essential for any type of business. People are just not aware of the different sculpts and heads and dolls that they have to offer, which makes them base their opinions on the Chinese companies they already know of only. I spend a lot (and I do mean a LOT :P ) of time browsing doll websites daily, and I've seen maybe one or two Chinese artists who have wonderful sculpts but only sell them through Taobao, or have no website, or are just really confusing to learn and research about. One example is the wonderful Chinese artist Sarina, who is the mastermind behind Oasisdoll. These girls are absolutely marvellous and so gorgeous, and she also provides a Porcelain line too! The only weak point is that there is no proper website for them, only a blog which is not updated often and it is generally quite difficult to know how to obtain them :-( *Sarina is one of my favourites, and I would hate to drive away customers, so for future customer's knowledge sake, if you are looking for your own Oasisdoll, contact Twiggy aka. killbill here on DoA :) She's her dealer!)

      As for the issue about Chinese dolls being cheaper, I think it mainly has to do with the stereotype that Chinese products in general are always much cheaper and that their dolls should be too. It is very hard to clear away such stereotypes especially when most of the things we own today are 'Made in China' and we have this image that China has easier and cheaper means of producing just about anything, which makes it difficult for people to comprehend that 'Hey, I'm purchasing a piece of artwork that took a lot of time and effort and is not mass-produced, so I should pay more for it no matter where it originates from.'

      I must say that I can sympathise with your frustration on this topic. Some time ago I have read a confession post about someone who claimed that only 'Japanese' dolls were good-looking and Chinese/Korean dolls just did not compare, which really saddened me on how low some people view some of these dolls and companies. I honestly feel bad for them for having such a close-minded opinion xD

      PS: Confession blogs are toxic and you should avoid such toxic things ;)

      PPS: Also, isn't Ringdoll a Chinese company as well? If Ringdoll isn't unique and refined I don't know what is :P
       
      • x 1
    17. This is an incredibly interesting read.
      And, as was mentioned before, there are plenty of unique and loveable Chinese sculpts.
       
      • x 1
    18. I will buy from any company Chinese,Korean, Japanese, European, etc. Unfortunately I have heard this argument across the board for many artistic endeavors. SO many people feel as they have the right to tell an artist/sculptor what THEY should be charging for their work and it sickens me. These people have a life, livelihood, and PRIDE in their work for Gods sake, and you have NO right to tell the creator of something what they should be pricing their work! Not only is it entitled as hell but it's incredibly ignorant given the vast amount of work that goes into these companies sculpts and planning.

      It's such a shame that the Chinese artists have to go through so much just to create their work freely, but then face the ridicule of being told their prices are too high or that their business isn't good enough! I LOVE the Chinese doll market! I appreciate that are more wiling to sell outside of their market and give other countries an opportunity to but their things. I love the detail and quality that comes into the products that I've bought from the dealers I frequent. And hell, there have been so many times I feel that these dealers are underselling themselves for the amount of work they put into their items for what they charge! And unfortunately a lot of artists tend to undersell themselves, compared to the amount of work that goes into whatever they are creating.

      I've learned that most people who complain constantly about company prices in this hobby, have a great misunderstanding of how much work actually goes into to the items they are wishing to buy.
       
      • x 1
    19. Eh. Anyone who still thinks that every doll from a Chinese sculptor or company is "simple" or "unfinished" just hasn't been paying attention for the last few years... While there definitely are some that aren't as refined or as well-made as their Korean and Japanese counterparts, there are also plenty out there that are.

      I own two larger dolls (a Pierre and a Dolores-) and an assortment of little "beasties" from Doll Chateau, as well as two Dream High micros and a FectDoll Patiya, myself, and I wouldn't call any of them less well-sculpted or well-made than my CP, Soom and Volks dolls. They do have a somewhat different sculptural style than the Japanese and Korean dolls... but then, so do European and American art-dolls. I don't consider that a Bad Thing. Doll collecting would be a much less interesting hobby if everyone's sculpts looked alike. :lol:
       
    20. This post is awesome! :aheartbea Actually, I have never compared the price difference between dolls from different countries before. I make a decision to get this or those doll just from their appearance and quality (asking from doll owners). My first doll is from a Chinese BJD company, Doll Family H. He is very gorgeous and his joints are perfect, can post better than other dolls in my collection.
       
      • x 1