Whatever happened to kits?

Dec 8, 2020

    1. Sorry if there's another topic like this, but this has been on my mind since I adopted my kit Maggie from Mandarake in October! Back in the early days of the hobby, Volks sold most of their MSDs as kits to be taken home and assembled and customized to the owner's liking - rather like the "hobby" and model kits they also sold. Eventually, they stopped selling the MSD kits, and started selling their dolls pre-assembled with wigs, eyes, and faceups already taken care of.

      Now, over 15 years later, the only dolls I see sold as kits are Unoas, and even they have an option to be sold pre-assembled and painted. I suspect it has to do with marketplace/consumer trends that veered away from "hobbyists" to "collectors" - "collectors" meaning, someone who simply wants to enjoy a doll right out of the box, and avoid customizing themselves (something that could drastically effect resale value, especially with how many limited edition or limited release dolls are produced as the hobby has changed and developed). It also occurred to me that a company could turn more of a profit from assembling the doll themselves, so the consumer can go on to buy wigs, eyes, and outfits for their complete doll. Of course, that point may be moot if a company like Volks were the ones producing/selling the customization tools!

      Personally, I used to be more of the "collector" mindset, who didn't want to do much in the way of customization myself. Getting my old kit Maggie really made me do a complete 180 on that! Even though I didn't have to assemble her myself, I really enjoy having a project doll to work on as I pull her back together, and dreaming about what looks I can create for her. (I guess this is what Volks means by their "we seek creativity" slogan!)
      So I guess my question is - what do you think the turning point of selling dolls as kits was? Would you buy a doll as a kit to assemble at home now? Are there other factors I'm missing? I'd be interested to hear what other people think!
      #1 Ferret-hime, Dec 8, 2020
      Last edited: Dec 8, 2020
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    2. I think, in some ways, the idea of the "kit" lives on, just in different forms. I have noticed that fullset collectors are just as popular these days as the build-a-bear hobbyists, when the latter used to (in my experience) be the dominant way to approach the hobby. But the idea of total customization is alive and well, especially in people buying limited head sculpts from smaller artists. Often these companies don't have bodies, or if they do, they're extremely limited ; and they surely don't have wigs, eyes, fullsets, or even offer faceups. My first back-to-the-hobby doll is slowly being assembled kit-style. He just got his body a few days ago, and tonight I modded elf ears to fit his head. He's still waiting on his clothes, wig, etc. In some way, I feel like I'm working with a kit, even if I'm not.

      But in general, I feel like people like the ease and the prestige of fullset dolls. They fetch higher coin secondhand and they're a stable investment. I've seen dolls with beautiful custom faceups sit on sale groups for weeks, months even as well as sculpts from small-name artisans, while blank dolls with fullset clothes and floating heads with popular factory faceups go as soon as they're posted. I think it's all about familiarity, beauty, and money. Customizing is a risk some just don't have the time to do or are afraid to, which I can't blame them for.
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    3. I'd love to assemble a doll from a kit on the condition that nothing is missing and everything is well engineered!
      I wouldn't want a doll to be incapable of standing or sitting correctly or unfinished because the kit maker didn't provide the right length or strength elastic.
      As long as everything has been well planned, I'd rather pay less and learn more, especially if the kit ships faster!
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    4. I myself lean away from "kits" but not out of a dislike, I just have other ways of customizing my dolls. Not one full set doll I have is in all of it's full set options, I always end up giving outfits, eyes, and wigs, or special parts/weapons/etc to other dolls in my collect. I like to buy basic dolls with only the face up when I can. (Mostly cuz my face up skills are weak.) However I am learning to do some modifications like scaring, tattooing, dying and other more complex things.

      That said I get the enjoyment of a kit, and enjoy building from the ground up other kinds of toys. Just with BJDs I have never seen a kit doll as more customizable then a blank or basic doll. Each one of my dolls is unique, even ones with company face ups. so /shrug

      That said, I do recall the days of kit dolls, I was never much of a Volks fan so can't say when I noted kits slowly phasing out.
      Side note Soom still sells their joined hands as "kits", and those I buy when ever I have both the need and the cash.
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    5. I never knew about bjd kits. Although to be fair, I'd be pretty nervous to string a bjd myself. It's probably not all that hard (I hope) but I can make a mess out of just about anything.
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    6. The first full-resin BJD I got (as a Christmas gift from my mom & bff) in 2005, was a kit from SoulDoll; they used to call them unfinished kit, or something along those lines and I feel like it was an event sale for Christmas, that they might not have continued doing afterward. However, it was just an unstrung doll, it wasn't like a Unoa kit where you have to pretty much clean all the parts, even eye openings. With the SoulDoll kit, you could chose to have it faced-up and got free eyes and a wig, just like the fully assembled dolls (even got the full box and pillows). They were a few dollars less, because they weren't assembled. I loved the idea of saving some money back then, because I was still in college and had to pay for all obvious costs of that, plus rent, software and books. I was planning on paying for the doll myself, but then I got informed that my bff and mom had already gone an gotten the doll for me, so that was that. DX

      I was always into building scaled model kits (mostly Gundam and cars), so the idea of building my own doll was really neat. I would love to see that now too, if it saved money as well, that would be awesome. Although, I am no longer looking to add more BJD to my collection, it would be cool to see them in kit form. I feel that because this hobby has expanded a lot more over the years (become more known, to a broader audience), there's a lot more people who are not looking into doing any of the customization work. I don't feel that there are less people who want to do all customizations themselves, I just feel there's probably a lot more that just want to collect. Building kits is not something a lot of people enjoy doing, and even when people collect kits, a lot prefer to have them sent to others to be built for them. I think that's probably the case with BJD as well.
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    7. I’m trying to remember when Soom stopped doing their yearly Xmas doll kit sales. I miss the kit buying format too. More than happy to save some wait time and a bit of cash in exchange for doing hands-on work. I think the garage kit ethos some companies/lines originally had, particularly Volks and Unoa but many others, has definitely vanished over time.

      When the modern ABJD was first popularized, many hobbyists’ interest was as an outgrowth of 1/6 customization (see: the prefixless original Dollfie), which tends to be hands-on and kitbashy, or else cast resin GKs. I do not think this is the case any longer. I agree with your assessment of the current mindset of newer collectors. Maybe because it’s somewhat more common to nowadays run across a cool photo of a BJD on social media and find out what they are that way and go “oh i want to buy that” while having no other interest in crafting or customization-based hobbies.
      #7 evilhamster13, Dec 8, 2020
      Last edited: Dec 8, 2020
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    8. I'd have said the blank but strung dolls were sort of a midway point anyway. And I feel like they probably only string them now because it means they can be sure everything is where it should be. Did the old kits require sanding and finishing at all or just stringing together?

      I buy all my dolls blank and I don't mind restringing but i've found these days companies don't even charge for stringing so even ordering a doll unassembled doesn't save you any money.
      Which may be why nobody does kits now because what's the point?

      also a lot of new bjd people seem to be unreasonably afraid of the idea of stringing a doll which I think companies are aware of. At least by selling blank but strung, faceup but otherwise blank and then full set they kinda hit all three markets.

      But I don't know when the change happened. I dipped my toe into bjds waaaay back in the early 2000s and backed out again due to the prohibitive cost, the archaic and strange payment methods (western union and things like that were the only way to pay a lot of places) and how unfriendly the hobby spaces were. So I left for several years during which time a LOT changed. Honestly the hobby is completely different now to what it was then and it's quite astounding how fast everything changed.

      Still, kits that required that last stage of finishing and then stringing up would be really cool to the right people.

      But I feel like others have already hit the nail on the head that back in the day bjd people were mostly coming from the garage kit and figurine side of things and now they're coming more from fashion dolls and similar so the expectations of the consumer have changed and more people now want that instant gratification of a doll they can just dress or even just literally put on a shelf fully done already.
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    9. You can still see the kit idea in some 3D printed BJDs available on Etsy, which come completely blank and still needing sanding and finishing. But I'd love to see that idea carried over into resin dolls more often. I, for one, would be happy to be able to purchase new dolls unstrung, especially.
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    10. I love the assembly process for art projects, and would be excited to see kits. I knew they existed at some point, but mostly have only stumbled on the discussion when related to Unoa dolls.

      For me, I really want to have access to all the "levels" of participation, from purchasing full sets to purchasing kits (and even sculpting and molding my own dolls) because each provides their own jump-off point for where you might choose to do the bulk of your learning.

      Kits would allow me to learn finishing, stringing, and then everything else. But I might be tired once I string the doll so it might sit for a while before I motivate myself to do more with it!

      Blank dolls allow me to "focus" on the faceup, and then I might buy clothing or sew clothing, and purchase wigs... so I learn how to sew for the dolls, and I learn about the overall market environment and what is available (and why!).

      A fullset allows me to feel the joy of the hobby in its complete form, which motivates the other activities.

      I appreciate being able to dip into all these areas, so that I can focus on different skills with different dolls and appreciate all the effort put into making a doll from beginning to end. I think there is a lot of value in having a hands-on understanding of all the parts, why the move and pose the way they do, why the product costs what it does, etc., etc.
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    11. I'm personally not a fan of fullsets - it feels like a doll of a pre-existing character, instead of a character i get to invent myself. Not to mention it looks like every other fullset of the same type.

      Although it doesn't help that i also don't actually have money to *get* a fullset, even if i wanted one. I'm not invested enough in the hobby to spend 500+ on a doll when i could use it for other, smaller things (pet supplies, yummy food, clothes for dolls i already have.)

      Who knows, though! Maybe one day i'll get a fullset and fall in love.
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    12. I love kits, and I wish I was in the hobby when Volks was making theirs. When I joined the hobby, I did look for kits, but by then, there weren’t any. I was so disappointed. I’ve been putting together kits for dollhouses, plastic models, and various crafts for most of my life. Having a bjd to completely put together would be an awesome experience. I like sanding, and messing around, but I will admit that after the bjd was put together, the rest is a real pain! I’m good at making, but the other skills (face ups) isn’t easy, so I mostly don’t do it. :sweat
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    13. Every year around this time, I think wistfully of the Soom Xmas kits event they would run. Apart from the fun and creativity, it was so neat to get a doll one adored and save money doing so. I really miss this, to see the doll you craved come into existance right under your hands. It provided some of the strongest bonding experiences possible, to me.

      Yes, I think the kits have largely vanished with the overall shift in the bjd buyers' demographic, away from a majority of hands-on hobbyists interested in trying their hand at almost everything, to a majority of rather risk-averse hobbyists whose consumers' experience consists mainly of the joy of shopping and possessing and, invariably, showcasing their possessions in the social media.

      There can be creativity in both ways, of course, but I think this is part of a much larger phenomenon, of how many first-world people these days live their lives - generally less hands-on , unless to touch a smart phone screen.
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    14. This is exactly how I feel too. I have bought one fullset in my nearly 13 years in the hobby and it wasn't worth the extra cost to me. He wore the outfit once, and I didn't fully enjoy him until I wiped his faceup and redid it and got him a different wig and eyes. I would have been better off buying him blank and nude.

      I did buy one of Soom's Christmas kits back in 2012, and I was more than happy to string him and paint him myself to save some money. If I had to fully sand a doll, I might be less interested, but I'm all for assembling one myself. Restringing is relatively easy on most dolls, definitely worth it if it saves me money.

      Dollmore still offers kits for their Banji dolls, but I'm not aware of any others currently offering them.
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    15. This is a really interesting insight to me. I've been hanging out a lot here in DoA and also trying to survey the landscape over on instagram (disclaimer: I only got instagram this fall, so I'm still learning / take my experience with a grain of salt). I am generally mostly interested in documenting processes, more than final products ... because it tends to take me FOREVER to finish projects, so if I didn't share the process, I'd have nothing to say. And this has led me to feel like I definitely would have a hard time keeping up with the social media community. I'm not sure though! Maybe people there would like process stuff too?

      But I certainly think there's a bias toward really bright, colorful, well posed imagery, etc. which is kind of the antithesis of "I got a kit and here are the pieces and struggles!"
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    16. @maxxxamillion While the majority of content is nice finished dolls there's definitely a community of people who like to follow along with process! Doll artist Bimong was doing regular livestreams of his sculpting process, for example. I follow many modders and other crafty people who share WIPs and enjoy that more than just seeing the finished piece. So if you ever feel like documenting and sharing your projects, you would probably find an audience!
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    17. @evilhamster13 Oh, thank you for sharing that. That's actually really encouraging. I do suffer a bit from a tendency to wait until I've got the "right" things to share before trying out sharing at all, so maybe I should just jump in and see what happens!

      I am planning to try to sculpt and make a mold for a tiny 1/12 doll soon, and I do know that I like to be able to go back and see the process of other artists, so I suppose I can hope that others feel the same way!
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    18. I've had a tendency to note there's trends in hobbies/hobbyists that fall into weighted categories of Collector/Participator (or maker) /Experiencer, with none really being better than another, just different ways of enjoying hobbies.

      I'm mostly used to the availability of strung (though sometimes unstrung) doll bodies, sanded but unpainted as a norm for me. Mostly I wouldn't buy a kit without just some base sanding on the seams because while I've got equipment and am happy to do my own faceups and blushing, I'm personally uncomfortable doing modding of the resin due to risk of inhaling the toxic dust. I already wear a dust mask and use a HEPA filter when using pastels and then a P100 half mask for spraying outside, but I don't feel I could get the resin dust dispersed enough.
      I like making my dolls into my own characters and all, and I have thoughts on working on my old 3d modeling skills to see about getting a particular character of mine sculpted and printed, which will likely mean sanding the figure itself, but overall I try to avoid messing with the resin itself for health reasons.

      Interestingly, I've gotten back into plastic model kits again over the last year and have started exploring a lot of the detail of making those kits and kitbashing(no airbrushing yet, though sure I might). It's been an interesting alternative for wanting to do things with my hands but also being currently happy with my faceups and not wanting to add more dolls. Of course I'm immediately attracted to the more human form kits (Megami Device, Frame Arms Girls, etc), which I blame entirely on my doll-focus.
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    19. Ahh that's awesome! At this point I consider the model kits and the dolls two sides of the same coin.
      My husband had always wanted to build and paint models for a variety of games, etc., and jumped into that full swing last year. When I suddenly had a moment of clarity in the summer where I realized that I had been so interested in BJDs in my teen years, and wanted to get into it now, his accumulation of tools and materials in the past year meant I had pretty much everything I needed already in the house. ...With the exception of like, pink and purple varieties of paint :P
      So that was awesome, and one day a few weeks ago we were both working in the craft room, and I was like, "Hey, so we basically do the same hobby - mine's just dolls." and he was like, "yeah, of course."

      The kit bashing for those figures is like the same as wanting to put different heads on different doll bodies and so on and so forth. It's super cool to realize it's kind of all the same mind-workings of creativity when it comes down to it!

      Finally, I feel like having your view of the breadth of what can be done with the same set of materials and tools is helpful for keeping an open mind about what kinds of accessories or scenery you can build for your dolls too... maybe would be fun to kit-bash a robot model kit to create a cyborg arm for a doll or something like that!
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    20. Oh man, thats SUCH a cool idea! I'd love to see that some someday - i don't have the funds for it atm, but maybe later?
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