How Many Hours Does it Take to Make an Art Doll?

Question: How many hours does it take to make one doll? What if someone asked you to make 10 of them and happy to pay you? Would you make each doll individually or are there ways to use one doll as a master mold and multiply somehow?  Question is from a YouTuber going by the name Super Kitty Show.

That’s a great question. Art dolls are incredibly time consuming. Even though they’re expensive, once you add up all the time, the hourly rate usually isn’t impressive. I make dolls because I’d make them even if I wasn’t getting paid, so it’s just a bonus that there are people out there that are willing to support my work. Really famous art doll artists are able to charge huge amounts for their dolls, so it’s also nice to know as the doll artist improves their skill and continues with their promoting efforts, they have the potential to make a really comfortable living just making dolls all day. Ooh, that sounds good, doesn’t it?

There are ways the doll artist can multiply their efforts and molds are a big part of that. It just depends on the business model. I’ve found that most art doll artists make a living without using any molds at all. You save a little time if you use molds and so you can charge a little less, so if you can get a larger volume of buyers, that may be the way to go for you. However I’ve found ***a lot** of my time goes into painting and clothing the doll. That wasn’t the case when I first started doll making. At first the bulk of the time goes into sculpting, and I mean hours upon hours. As with everything in life, it takes time to learn a skill. As the artist improves and get faster at sculpting, that part of the process goes relatively quickly, and, besides, the artist can ask more for a OOAK hand sculpted doll.

I tried molds a while back, and personally, I don’t like using them for my kind of art dolls. I enjoy every part of doll making. The sculpting, the painting, applying the hair, making the clothes, everything. If I skipped the sculpting step and replaced it with molds, it just wouldn’t be as much a labor of love, and I’d never get better (and faster) at sculpting, and besides all that, I’d have to charge less.

However, I don’t make ball jointed dolls. If you’re planning to be a BJD maker, molds can really speed up your process. This is because everything must be perfect on the BJD, not just the face and hands. You can glue clothing directly onto a stagnant doll, so there’s no need to make every part of the body perfectly. Buyers expect to change the clothing on a BJD, and they expect to be able to move the doll in a large range of motion effortlessly.  To sculpt the entire body perfectly, so that it looks amazing and it moves smoothly, is very time consuming, even for well seasoned artists. So it’s customary for the BJD artist to use molds in their process. It’s still expensive to buy a BJD art doll even when molds are used, but it should be outrageously expensive to buy a OOAK BJD.

Ok, so now I’m thinking, I just rambled on and on but did I actually answer the question? Scrolls up to question. Failed. Fixing that now.

Time it takes to make one doll? Oh, that question. I am still wondering that myself. I always try to keep track of my hours with every doll I make, but I am equally faithful at failing in following through with that endeavor. I get so wrapped up in the process because I love it. For my most recent doll I probably took two, or, gosh, it was probably more like three hours, just on her hair. I fixed her hair while watching Cinderella with my two daughters. Great movie, by the way (the 2015 live action version). If I had to guess I’d go with 30 hours for one doll when I do things like watch Cinderella while doll making.

So, to sum up, the one-of-a-kind doll artist banks on two factors to justify the time it takes to make the OOAK doll.

  1. The artist that continually practices sculpting will get better and faster at sculpting
  2. With enough time and enough promotional effort, the OOAK doll artist can charge more for their work

So there is this exponential growth thing that happens with time and practice. See…even though it looks like you’re just watching Cinderella and playing with dolls all day long, your husband will end up thanking you because that exponential growth thing will really happen, and you guys will be able to see Italy and retire early. Thank you so much for the thought provoking question, Super Kitty!

with love, Caroline