What does the hobby mean to you?

Apr 9, 2019

    1. This is a rather general, even personal, question and can be answered in many ways - please do. The other day I was reflecting on the years I've been in the hobby and what I have gained from it, and how it has changed me.

      Before I collected dolls I wasn't a very tactile person. I prefer solving math problems over arts and crafts but being with dolls have compelled me to work more with my hands more and experience what that means. Whether it is learning about resin qualities, figuring out how doll joints and poses work, thinking about fabric and sewing patterns, or even holding my doll and enjoying his presence, the hobby has augmented my life experience. If I didn't have dolls I wouldn't have considered taking up sewing or photography. Looking back, it seems that owning a doll was just the beginning.

      I didn't have any goals when I started out - the motivation was merely that dolls were pretty and I'd like to own one. Little did I know that the hobby comes with responsibilities and it wasn't just about collecting and putting them in a display case like figurines. However, being thrown into the deep end and having to learn how to swim, figuratively speaking, in order to make the most of my doll and take care of it properly, has been rewarding. I had started out anxious and terrified but now I can sit my doll down without worrying I'd drop him, and that progress means something.

      My BJDs are shelled characters and because of that, they are a living remnant of my creative streak from adolescence to adulthood. When I was younger I wrote stories and daydreamed but since graduating from university and landing a job, it seems that life encroaches upon these little moments. Someone who works from 9-5 every day doesn't have the same time and energy to create imaginary worlds, or dream or savour moments of abandon (I think of the main character from Terry Gilliam's movie, Brazil). When the 'working all day, going home, going to bed' routine seems dreary, my doll reminds me of the things I used to do and the person I was, and that I don't have to give that all up just because everything around seems to demand it. I like having him for company when I read or watch a film at the end of the day.
       
      #1 raphaelite, Apr 9, 2019
      Last edited: Apr 9, 2019
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    2. This is such a great topic for discussion. It's always interesting to read how dolls changed someone's life and how the hobby evolved during the years because you grew with it.

      I started hobby as a child, I was around 14 back then and I am glad my parent allowed me to spend that much money on just a fun thing. I got my first camera because of dolls and became seriously interested in photography. I spent lots of time taking photos and learning photo editing. I learned a few Photoshop tricks which helped me in future. I tried faceup, sewing, doing stuff from clay to realize that those things do not work for me : D Now when I look back, I think partly because of dolls I became a graphic designer because I kind of started being creative and learned photography, which was my main dominative skill when I applied to uni.
      Also, I met lots of people and had a great company of BJD-friends. We explored the city and different cafes and it was amazing. We don't meet anymore with most of them, but I am still glad that it happened.

      When I moved to another country, I took a doll with me, but I was busy with life, so I never had time and then I had 4 years break in the hobby, not even touching my dolls.

      Then in 2018, I kind of became excited about dolls. I can't remember how it happened, but the whole year I was feeling truly happy and most of my great hobbies came back. It was nice to reconnect with myself from the past and feel free and energetic, play with dolls, practice photography. Nowadays I am busier, I spend a lot of time at work, and at home, I am mostly tired, but I feel that dolls lighten up my days. I love to think about them, touch them, spend money on them. And I still practice photos, which is great. It's amazing how I have a hobby now which helps me to switch off from work.
       
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    3. For me, bjds started out as an escape. When I first really got interested in the hobby and was in a position to afford a doll, I had some very shitty life circumstances and a terrible living situation. I started small and worked my way up from there, and I had to take a break for a year because at one point I was homeless and living in my car. During that year I had one full doll and one head bought prior to becoming homeless, both of which I never sold but also never got anything for. My one full doll had two full outfits annd my head had eyes and a wig, and I was content with that. When I lived in my car, I actually was working and going to college, but I made nowhere near enough to rent a place (socal is expensive!) and paid out of pocket for college. When my living situation got better, I didn't dive more into the hobby for about another 6 months because I was afraid I'd fall back into being homeless, so I saved up any extra income I had to get ahead on rent and other bills. It's been about 4 years since I was homeless, and I still have the dolls I had at the time. Even though they're both not my favorite size, I can never bring myself to part with them.

      I still consider this hobby an important part of my life, but it's no longer an escape for me. Now it's just something that makes me happy. Something that I can do as I please and has no deadline.
       
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    4. For me it's really all about freedom. Freedom to finally be able to afford something I've wanted for years, freedom to do something that makes me happy and boosts my creativity, freedom to pursue my personal interests, which has always been very important to me. I totally agree that it's so refreshing to see your doll(s) after a long day of work and responsibilities - it reminds me that I don't need to give up on things that make me happy in order to be successful.
      It's nice to do something that doesn't require overthinking - it's just there whenever you need it! :)
       
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    5. I have always been interested in collectable dolls but up to last year I collected model horses but gone as far as I can with that as been collecting since a child as I had a very enjoyable time in this hobby I started looking at another and learnt to crochet then I thought about the BJDs I saw years ago and started to look into have a small collection.
      I started late last year and the joy it has brought me not just the pretty dolls but the friendships I have made. My social life is ok but limited due to health issues so to join the forum and chat to people and learn about the hobby is fabulous. Over on the BJD groups on face book I have made many new friends who I chat to regularly about the dolls we collect. For me the hobby has enriched my life as I live alone its nice to be able to share the hobby even if its on line
       
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    6. Discovering the BJD community when I was a kid was one of the first times I thought it was okay to be interested in things “for girls”. It helped me to feel okay about who I was.

      The hobby represents a way for me to express my feminine side, as well as a different aspect of my creativity, in a more controlled environment. Speaking as a gay man I don’t personally fit the mold of traditional masculinity that’s expected by certain parts of society. So I have a tendency to overcompensate during my day to day life.

      Collecting dolls is a way to express a part of myself that I often neglect. That’s a really sentimental thing to me.
       
      #6 MortatHero, Apr 9, 2019
      Last edited: Apr 9, 2019
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    7. Early on the hobby offered me a medium to bring my stories into a more tangible realm. That attracted me, but I realize now I was also lonely. BJDs gave teenage me a silent sort of companionship with no pressure to remember social rules.

      The hobby also provided a sense of control that I continue to return to. My life is about to take another change and I’ve been occasionally overwhelmed with countless decisions and responsibilities associated with it. Returning to my dolls puts me in a place where nothing matters except my own expression, artistry and enjoyment. I’m allowed to be selfish and do everything my own way. It makes the world a little bit smaller for a few hours at a time and gives me the freedom to let go of everything expected of me. Like being a child again, I suppose.
       
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    8. I love hearing everyone's stories. It amazes me how much hobbies can help people who are experiencing difficulties or social marginalizations. It's like society wants us to forget to have joy in our lives, to always be miserable working consumers of useless things.

      When I started this hobby, I was a bit like @Cap'n, I lived in an unhappy home and was not financially well off and I even spent a few months sleeping in the back room of a friend because I had nowhere else to go, no home of my own. Everything that was precious in the world to me had to fit into a backpack and a rolling suitcase (though I slowly recovered more and more of my belongings) and two of the things were my first two dolls. The very first doll I had was an impromptu gift from my partner, a case of the right place and right time (and right price). I'd probably still be waiting for my first doll if not for that precious gift.
      I've improved my life and financial circumstances drastically since then (almost 2 years!) and have gotten many more dolls. I've been limiting myself to shelling mostly beloved characters from my stories, or else beloved concepts I need more of in my life. In that way, my dolls are animistic to me: each of them means a lot more than just a cool character I wrote about. They embody the things I want in my life: friendship, beauty, joy, love. All that.
       
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    9. I was collecting a lot of dolls in 2005 (and prior but with no regularity) in particular Pullips and Blythe. BJD, as I saw it, were the pinnacle of the doll hobby. They had interesting styles, and were often presented as black canvases for their owners. I got my first that year, and my most-loved BJD the year after. I still have her, and while I don't get to interact with my dolls everyday, especially after having a baby, they are still on display in my bedroom where I can see them each day.
       
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    10. I just started my journey in the bjd hobby with my first doll. I’m already a visual artist and I like to run tabletop games for my friends. Bjds seem to be an extension of both of those passions for me. I styled my doll to look like a tabletop character who’s become a fan favorite among my players, and I’m making use of my painting and crafting skills to create his accessories. There’s a certain freedom I enjoy in expressing what I want with this doll, and there’s also a sense of pride that I created a silly character that a small group of people enjoy.
       
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    11. I started back in like ~2010, I actually got into it from the same person who introduced me to anime (more specifically, Sailor Moon) and I got my first doll body from her and I still have that doll today. I didn't do much in the community after a while until coming back in recently after finally deciding enough is enough, I need to get a body for my one floating head!
      I started school for fashion design fall 2017 because I didn't really knew what I wanted to do for a living, but the more that I think about it the more I think I want to go into making doll clothes and same/similar outfits that are people sized. I recently made a sloper (very basic, form-fitting garment that you use as a base pattern for literally any other design) for my Kid Delf and afterwards I felt really accomplished because I did it from scratch using my own skills.
       
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    12. I have to confess that I'm no where near as passionate about BJDs as I was when I had better health. But I maintain an interest, and through dolls, I met a lot of wonderful people. I dabbled in photography, I tried sculpting, sewing, face-upping, miniature painting, and became more educated about EGL and EGA fashion. In short, while I was always creatively inclined, BJDs opened up vast new genres and mediums for me. I'm also very awkward socially, so being involved in the BJD hobby was the first time I ever felt to knowing what means to "finding your tribe". It's odd to think back now, but the day a google search brought up pictures of BJDs in 2008 completely changed my life.
       
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    13. My dolls are an escape from reality and a creative outlet.

      I've enjoyed making up stories for my dolls/toys since I was a toddler, the toys just grew up as I did. I mostly only have my BJDs and a few fashion dolls now, and I really only have stories, characters and backgrounds for my BJDs. I roleplay them regularly, even if only for an hour or so at a time. It's nice to break away from the stresses of daily life for awhile and do fun stuff in character.

      It's not just about character creation, but I've also greatly improved my sewing, faceup skills and prop/diorama making.

      And lastly, I've made a lot of friends because of the hobby. I live in a small town where most people my age are only into parenting, sports or movies, and the ones who are into arts and crafts mostly just make country home decor or baby/toddler accessories to sell. It is SO HARD to find people around here to hangout with and actually connect with. Finding online communities for the dolls had lead me to making friends through roleplay, forums, conventions and meet ups. I've even made friends with some doll people that I hang out with in situations that have absolutely nothing to do with dolls. Socializing is so much easier with people who not only tolerate your weird hobbies, but actively take part too!
       
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    14. BJDs are a major outlet for me. I love to create, and BJDs are my models. Through them, I've grown in leaps and bounds as a textile artist. I adore fashion history, and they wear the fruits of my research. Via sewing and knitting, I learned I can do math- I just need it to be tangible, like adjusting a human-sized pattern for dolls.

      They're also a way to let my fan flag fly. Several of my dolls are based on game or literary characters, and I like having something tangible from the fandoms to treat as I please.
       
    15. For me the hobby just combines everything I love. I like to say that these are blank canvases in doll form.
      I can be artistic and crafty in making their outfits and doing face ups. They also fulfill my itch to collect things. Aside from the resin babies I have a plethora of figures ranging from blind bag grabs to things more like action figures to 1/6 scale Hot Toys figures. I have so many in fact I don’t have room to display them all.
      Also several of my dolls shell characters I’d like to have figures of but never could get any because either the character or the things they are part of wasn’t popular enough for official merch.
      One of my dolls, Ashera is slowly being turned into my own character and it’s satisfying to see my own creation becoming real.
      And of course I enjoy being part of the community, going to meets and making friends through this hobby, or sucking my other friends on into it. :wiggle
       
    16. Wow, this thread is a perfect start to my every day questions.

      Why do we still collect, play and dress our dolls?

      I have entered a age where I find everything sad and depressing. Its hard to cope sometimes with my fears, doubts and discouragement. My dolls bring me into a world full of happiness and excitement. Joy... or as the OP mentioned, a reflection of her adolescence in her doll.

      I too feel when I hold my doll she is a symbol of when I was younger, of when I imagined life was simpler in ways that I never imagined. Where I dreamed of growing older swinging high above my swing with an ice cream cone in my hand that would later tilt and fall out of the cone as my reminiscing of becoming older stopped as the cone dropped to the floor.

      I wonder why we wish to be older, with so many responsibilities- when being young was the most precious moment of our lives.

      My dolls are my life now- my happiness in secrecy. I say secrecy because many won't understand our hobby. However, my husband and daughter do and with them I share my quiet hobby that keeps me happy and alive.
       
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    17. @ngolts87 What you wrote moved me. I feel I understand what you mean by 'happiness in secrecy', my dolls are also a little corner of my world. Thank you for sharing, and I hope life will give you more to be cheerful about.
       
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    18. For me it's a place to let my imagination loose without pressure to 'succeed'. I love to write but I can't do it just for fun, I stress about the result too much. With the dolls, it's just whatever I want it to be. I can be cheesy, goofy, romantic, whatever I like. I think it's about the only area of life where I don't worry about getting things right, I just go with what I feel. It's really liberating. And so I have dolls with imperfect faceups, dolls who are yellow as hell, my photos are mostly taken with an iPad - if I want to up my game I can, but I don't have to.
       
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    19. As with, I think, many others, the hobby has provided me with an escape.

      I took the plunge and bought my first doll back in 2012, shortly after my mum had been diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia and hospitalised for treatment. I needed a huge distraction to keep me going, to keep me functioning like a normal human being. So, I put my first doll on layaway, a Ringdoll Sol. If I remember this next part correctly, then it carries a great significance. I remember he came home either on the day that my mum did or just shortly after. I seem to think it was on the day she was discharged with the all-clear. So, he carries quite the coincidental significance.

      After a year in the hobby, I took three out. I can't remember exactly why, but I was somewhat disillusioned and 'bored' in a sense. I couldn't afford all of the dolls I wanted, or to see all of my plans come to fruition. So, I put my boy aside and turned to other hobbies. Then, in 2016, the stuff that usually hits the fan hit the fan. I spiralled down again, with several idols of mine passing away that year along with my two pet rats [and an estranged grandfather]. I instinctively reached for my resin companion from 2012. The resin boy who had been stalwartly by my side the first time that certain stuff hit the fan big-time. But, then, another resin companion begged to come home. Ethan, the boy in my avatar. Ethan was something of a special literary character of my own creation. He'd been created to help cope with some of the grief that weighed me down. So, I naturally wanted him in doll form. He came home in 2017, with his girlfriend not too far behind.

      In the years that have followed, I've managed to bring home the heads of two [and currently paying off the third and final one] for Ethan's three bandmates, and I've also secured one doll [with another on layaway] for the projects that inspired me seven years ago.

      The hobby is an escape, a place [a companionship], that I can retreat to in times of trouble and strife. When my writing doesn't quite pull me out, my dolls often can. Even if it's just holding them, or changing the hair or clothes, I have another means of escape. It's escapism, plain and simple, but deeper than that it's actually a companionship. Like my Barbie dolls or Beanie Babies of my childhood, my BJDs are that secondary companionship. I sometimes imagine the conversations I'd have with the characters, or that the characters would have amongst themselves. Like, what would Ethan say to Resident Evil's Leon Kennedy [two of my dolls are designated for Capcom characters, Leon and Dante], or what would Alex [my first doll] say to Ethan? And, as a creative person, I don't find much escape in video games or films, because the content is there already, but in the creating of characters and stories. Video games are entertaining, but BJDs are inspiring. Whether they're new stories or new characters for existing stories, they inspire me to create.
       
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    20. I would lie if I'd say I haven't shed a year or two while reading what you all have written in this topic as I have felt reflected in your experiences. Thank you for sharing them with us.
      For me, I was still in the university when I bought my first doll, studying a career I didn't know if I was capable to finish or if it would take me anywhere. Things at home weren't the best and I was in a long-distance relationship with my actual husband. I had really bad days but I had to endure everything specially for my sister, who was being bullied at school at the same time...
      I wrote a lot in that time, but it felt everything I was writing was embedded with the same sadness I was dealing with so it wouldn't bring me comfort.
      When I got my first doll I didn't felt what I thought I was supposed to feel and all because I settled for one I didn't really love but was within my price range so it was hard. Luckily, a collector in my country was selling a head I seriously fell in love with... And that's that. After that head, I found in her and the next dolls something I could dedicate my attention and forget everything else. My sister got interested too and we spent hours discussing projects and stories. She never entered the hobby as that she doesn't have her own doll but mine are partially hers too.
      Dolls are therapeutic for me, really. Every time I look at them, specially my Yo-SD girl, I feel warmth and happiness. Not everyone understands that, but I don't need to.
       
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