This past month, my mom and I decided to really use our 3D printer to the best of its abilities– to 3D print some ball jointed dolls! Found on the popular 3D printing site Thingiverse, these projects turned out to be winners!
The first project we decided to print was Froggy. Froggy was designed by an artist named Loubie. I am estimating it took me 26 or so hours to complete this print. I didn’t start keeping track of the hours each piece took until Robotica, who you’ll see next! Unlike the other two projects you’ll see, Froggy took some gluing before he was able to be strung. My favorite parts of him are his huge frog feet and his fantastically sculpted/designed face. Froggy was printed in green Dremel brand PLA filament. He wasn’t the simplest thing to string, but eventually we got him together.
The second project we printed also took around 26 hours to complete and is pretty awesome! Meet Robotica. She’s the creation of doll artist Shira (aka Sonja Verdu). Shira made an amazing sculpt/design for Robotica, which includes a cool panel like skin, a well defined bust/torso and some pretty awesome leg pieces. Robotica has a headcap, which allows you to do whatever you want with the eye area. My Robotica is currently using dark blue beads as eyes. She was printed with InLand temperature sensitive PLA. In cold temps, she’ll turn dark blue and in warmer temps, she’ll turn white-ish! For some reason, as you will see in the pictures below, she photographs purple in low light.
Because I strung her legs poorly, she won’t stand, but if someone who was a master at stringing worked on her, I bet she’d be really great at standing. I’m not going to worry about it for now, though, because she looks fine sitting and her arms and head are strung tight enough for me to pose her upper body. Robotica’s hands move forward and backward. Her wrists were supposed to turn, but my printer fused these pieces together.
The last project we tried was also designed by Shira. This time, we printed her smaller Jointed Robot. My mom requested him. He took about 9 hours to print and was a terror to string (those darn arms), but we managed it eventually! I love how the robot turned out, myself. The print, especially his face, is adorable. I think I may try to print this guy larger one of these days. (The same goes for Robotica. There was a company that printed her human size and the results look pretty cool!) If you do decide to print this Jointed Robot, you may run into issues with his fingers. I printed the hand, which included three fingers, multiple times and each time I did, the fingers, made to move independently, would break (or fall off). In the end, we had to glue these fingers into place.
Now, you may be thinking, ‘I don’t have a 3D printer, so I can never make these.’ Wrong. Many libraries nowadays are buying 3d printers and things for their patrons to use, so there’s a good chance that if you’re determined and okay with making several trips to, for example, your library, you can actually print one of these for your own collection! (Many schools are buying 3D printers, too, so if you’re a student, you may have access to one!) On top of that, there are sites that will actually print STL files for you and then ship you the results. Shapeways offers this service, but I’m sure there are also many other sites around that might be able to do this for you. It may be a little more costly then finding a local haunt with a rentable 3D printer, but it’s an option!
The number of projects on the internet for BJD’s like these are slim at the moment, but I hope more artists try their hand at making 3D printable dolls for us to enjoy! This whole thing makes me think about Makies, the 3D printed doll company that closed up shop early this year. (Find real printable Makies files on Thingiverse here!) Wouldn’t it have been interesting if they had evolved into something that was more ‘do it yourself’, rather than doing all the printing in house? If they had created files that were easy to print and modify for users to print on their own printers, saving them the cost of all that filament? (Sure they wouldn’t be as pretty or well constructed, but if printing these three dolls taught me anything, it’s that it’s so cool being able to say you printed your own BJD!) It’s an interesting thought.
So, I’ll leave you with this question. With 3D printers making their way from industrial plants into homes, how do you see them affecting the doll market? Do you plan on trying your hand at printing your own BJD or even designing your own? (I’m not talented enough to do that, so if you are, why not try!) Let me know in the comment area!
UPDATE 10/2016: The Makies brand seems to be dead right now. The site never re-opened and social media hasn’t been updated. As of this update, I am considering Makies out of business. Brands have been known to surprise us before and come out of oblivion, so you never know what will happen. But, for the time being, I would try to find a Makie second hand if you’re looking to add one to your collection. The fandom is still alive and well on Facebook, so I recommend searching Makies there and joining one of the fan groups.
If this first week of 2016 is any indication, it’s going to be a whirlwind year for doll collectors. Fresh off the heels of Mattel and their Monster High reboot fiasco, Makies has announced a quick change of their own. Operations are moving from the UK to the United States. Shocker, right? Part of the fun of Makies for me has always been that they weren’t produced by a US based company. Knowing this doll was printed and shipped from the UK made the wait for her very exciting. It was like my Makie was already having an adventure, even though she hadn’t yet arrived at my doorstep! On top of that, the 2 week shipping promise was usually on point, which is a very short wait for a custom doll from another country.
I first became acquainted with Makies back in November of 2013. A Facebook ad for Makies had popped up on the sidebar of my timeline and it stirred my curiosity. 3D printed dolls that you could design? How cool was that? Shortly after, I sent out an e-mail to Jen, who was the Communications Director at the time, asking for more information on the line. Honestly, I didn’t expect an e-mail back. Not many companies care about tiny blogs like mine. But surprisingly, shortly after sending the message, Jen replied back and answered all my questions. That’s when I realized that MakieLabs wasn’t your typical doll business. Since that original correspondence, I’ve tried to keep track of Makies and have tried to add one to my collection every few years. Most recently, I posted an interview with Christina, current Chief Marketing Officer, in an effort to understand some of the recent changes Makies has been going through this past six months.
The most recent bombshell from the company happened the other day, when the website displayed the following message: Makies are moving to America! Things are afoot and so the MakieLab is moving to the USA. The land of opportunity awaits. Will they be back online soon? Have they gone back to the future? Watch this space…
The line, “have they gone back to the future” makes me wonder if they’ve devised a way to keep the new price, but still have fully 3D printed bodies. The new plastic bodies they introduced a few months back look like they have a lot of kinks to work out still, so maybe they’re going back to the original concept of having your doll be 3D printed from head to toe? I’d be more than okay with that!
There are a few reasons why this move could be happening, but honestly, it’s all speculation at this point. All the company has officially posted is the blurb on the website. Does it have something to do with being accepted into the Disney Accelerator program for 2015, a program where they receive funding and mentorship? Maybe, but I don’t see any rule stating the companies need to be in the US full-time to be accepted. Could it be that the US has allowances for businesses that the UK doesn’t? I have literally no idea. It’s a huge question mark as to why this move is happening.
What I can safely deduce, though, is that most likely the move has very little to do with the fan base or competitive sales (US vs UK). There are a lot of collectors here in the States, but the UK collectors are far more boisterous about the line. In fact, most of the people I’ve talked with who own Makies are based somewhere in the UK, not the US. At least, that’s how it seems based on the doll shows I’ve attended with my Makies, where people tend to ask me lots of questions about them, because they have never heard of the line and/or weren’t sure if they could trust it.
The move itself is frustrating to me, because it seems to have come out of nowhere. Thank goodness I didn’t buy anyone gift cards this Christmas! With no re-opening date posted and no idea what this new Makie store will look like and offer, I would hate to think I gave someone a gift that they couldn’t use for who knows how long.
Those in the UK have even more reasons to be frustrated, I’d imagine, because I’ve heard the horror stories about the fees that are tacked onto packages from the US and elsewhere. I would hate for Makies to be hard to get in the country that they originated in. I also feel bad for the people who helped build MakieLabs (the brand), who may not be able/want to move their entire lives to the USA.
My hope is that MakieLabs will give us a bit more information as soon as they can. Collectors young and old would really like to know more about the future of the line or, at the very least, when the shop will reopen. And then there’s the weird boys in the website screenshot (ie: the guy with the beard). What’s the deal with him? I don’t dislike him, but I’m hungry for information.
What do you think of Makies and their move to the US? Pros? Cons? Share your thoughts in the comment area!
UPDATE 10/2016: The Makies brand seems to be dead right now. The site never re-opened and social media hasn’t been updated. As of this update, I am considering Makies out of business. Brands have been known to surprise us before and come out of oblivion, so you never know what will happen. But, for the time being, I would try to find a Makie second hand if you’re looking to add one to your collection. This interview was done a few months before the beginning of the end. Clearly, they had plans, some which were very exciting by the sounds of it, but alas, most of them never saw the light of day.
Makies are very popular jointed 3D printed dolls. I’ve been a fan ever since I stumbled upon a facebook advertisement. Currently, I own two Makies and love them both! Because of this, I thought they’d be the perfect company to spotlight with a Q and A post! Christina Hsu, CMO of Makielab, was kind enough to answer a few questions about the line and the changes they have recently rolled out.
Question: Makies have been on the cutting edge of the doll world creatively since they made their debut. Can you talk a little about the inspiration for this unique line?
Answer: Absolutely! Our CEO and Co-Founder, Alice Taylor, came up with the idea for Makies while attending an industry toy fair. At the time she was a corporate executive working in the digital and games space. As an avid gamer herself, she thought — how cool would it be to bring digital/virtual goods to life in physical form. And, since she had a toddler at home, she set out to create a toy that her own child would love. It was important for the new toy to be stereotype-breaking, forward thinking, technology related and overall AWESOME. What happened next? Makies were introduced!
Since we started the company, we set out to make the best toys that we can imagine, which turns out is the best toy that all of you can imagine. Makies are the world’s first 3d printed toys, certified toy-safe for children 3+. We love that kids of all ages, from age 5 to 95, can enjoy our products and the experiences of making them.
Question: How have fans taken to the line? How does that make you, as a company, feel?
Answer: Our fans have been so supportive and enthusiastic since day one. Our first iteration of the dolls were prototypes to test our Makie Maker engine, and to see if there was demand for 3D printed characters. And it worked! Ever since we have been optimizing and improving our product. It doesn’t stop here. We’re driven by product development. We’re happy to say anyone who has experienced creating and making a Makie has given us incredibly helpful and positive feedback.
How does it make us feel? We love it! We love hearing feedback and seeing our customers’ excitement. We physically make the Makies, but you are truly creating the Makies universe with us and we couldn’t be happier! The creativity we see on social media with everything all of our fans have done with their Makies is incredibly inspiring. It keeps us moving forward on a daily basis. So we want to send a big thanks to our community!
Question: One thing that draws Makies apart from other doll lines is that the company isn’t afraid to take risks. Cutting right to the chase, what can you tell us about the changes that were recently made to the Makies dolls?
Answer: As you know, Makies are premium, modern, creative dolls. We love that we can give creators, like yourself, a chance to make their own dolls. Since we launched, we’ve been listening to our customers and hearing your feedback. In fact, we plan to launch more feedback and surveys, so it would mean the world to hear from you when we do.
We’ve learned that for people who love Makies but don’t buy, it’s overwhelmingly because the price is too high. 3D printing is expensive technology, and over the past few years we’ve optimized our processes and models to bring our costs down and pass the savings on to Makies fans. Unfortunately, materials costs haven’t come down as fast as we’d hoped, and we realized that the only way we could continue to keep our custom dolls on the market and offer them at an affordable price was to introduce injection molded bodies. We thought hard and explored a lot of options before arriving at this decision. We’re a very small company, and we need growth in order to survive and thrive in the competitive toy space.
At this time, we have Girl Makies available for purchase. Our Boy Makies will be taking a “vacation” for the rest of 2015 and will return with new and improved bodies in early 2016. Most of the creativity happens with the custom face and accessories which continue to be fully 3d printed. With the introduction of the new bodies, we’ve been able to drop the price of a Makie doll from $115 / £69 to $74.99/£49.99. Best of all they are still made locally in Kent, England.
Question: How will these changes affect the line? What are the positives and/or negatives?
Answer: What these changes mean specifically: the customizable elements of the doll remain EXACTLY as they were before: fully-custom sculptural facial features, choices of skin tone, choices of outfit, choices of hair and eyes and accessories. The new body is smoother, so it’s much easier to dress compared to the former 3D printed surface, and it’s also shinier. Most joints have been re-designed: the new neck joint is much more robust, and the wrist and ankle joints have been adjusted so they’re easier to play with than ever. A side effect of this is that hands and pop-on shoes designed for the former 3D printed bodies won’t fit the new bodies and vice-versa: we’ve heard from many Makie owners that they’d still like the option of buying goodies for their fully 3D printed Makies, so we’re looking at ways to make that happen.
A big plus is that the combination of the new plastics and the slightly tweaked joints gives Makies a wider range of motion and freer joint movement. New Makies can pose in ways that weren’t possible before – they can even do the splits! The hands and feet are more detailed, and Makies continue to be toy-safe and practically indestructible. Best of all, you can now bring a Makie home for far less money (35% lower than before). The dolls are still one-of-a-kind, custom and unique to you only.
We’re already looking into how to improve these new bodies, too. This includes minimizing seams and injection marks (which are very common in plastic toys), making better color matches, and updating our shop offerings for new Makies, including hands and shoes.
Question: Does the changing of the body type limit the skin tone options? How do the new colors compare to the colors used prior to the new bodies?
Answer: Ice Frosting (plain white) has been retired for now, but we still offer three delicious choices: Strawberry Milk (pink flesh tone), Cool Caramel (tan flesh tone) and Cocoa Bean (rich brown tone). We’re looking into additional tones too, and would love to expand the range in 2016 – we’ll see!
Right now, we’re working with our suppliers to minimize the slight variation between the tone and finish of Makie faces and the new bodies, which is most apparent with Cocoa Bean. When Makies are dressed the differences are barely noticeable, but of course we’d like to get the match perfect!
Question: Are the ‘old’ style 3DP bodies gone or is there hope that that kind of body might stick around for die-hard 3DP Makies fans?
Answer: For the time being, fully 3D printed Makies aren’t available, but we’ve heard from many Makie fans who would still like to buy them, so we’re looking into how we can offer them. It’s not as straightforward as it may seem … but watch this space. 🙂
Question: Do you have any final remarks for my readers? Where can we find/follow Makies online?
Answer: At MakieLab, we are constantly looking at ways to optimize and improve our Makies and the Makies experience. We recently participated in a program with The Walt Disney Company and announced some exciting news which you can see here. We can’t say more than that for now, but definitely follow us (@officialmakies) on social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube. We’ll share more information as it becomes publicly available in a few weeks or so.
One final note, thanks to all our Makies friends for your support, feedback and enthusiasm for our product. We love Makies and what makes every day even better for us, is developing Makies that you love too. We love to see what you make and how you play with Makies – please share your creations on social media with us!
Huge thank you to Christina for answering my questions! I love how Makies continue to change and grow. Some companies become popular and then are too afraid to adapt or improve upon their concept– MakieLab does not fall into that category. The changes they’re implementing now may seem like a lot to some, but I have faith that they’ll make the line even better than before.
The news announced at the 2015 Disney Accelerator Demo Day regarding Makies (and other start ups) is very exciting. From the article, “MakieLab lets kids bring toys to life by building their own customizable 3D-printed toys through creative games and apps. MakieLab will be introducing Disney-, Disney•Pixar- and Marvel-branded accessories for Makie dolls, as well as helping kids create their own versions of a Star Darling—inspired by Disney’s brand-new franchise for girls—in Fall 2016.” Funny enough, I was just thinking how neat it would be if MakieLab worked with Disney–they can make so many cool things with their 3D printers. Sign me up for two Makie sized Mickey Mouse ear hats!
I encourage you to say hello to the MakieLab team via the social media sites linked in the interview. What do you think of the changes currently being made to the Makie line? Do you own a Makie? Are you excited about MakieLab’s creating Disney themed accessories for Makie dolls? (Clearly, with my newest Disney toy endeavour, I am!) Share your thoughts below.
I just wanted to give you a quick update on a few projects that are going on in the doll world! First off, I have launched (kind of) another website, this one themed around Disney Toys, for About.com. If you have a moment, check it out. I’m still writing here, of course, so don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere.
Second, A Girl for All Time announced a new line recently, Your Modern Girl. This line “will be wonderfully unique and reflect the world that today’s girls live in – a world more ethnically, socially, and economically diverse than at any other time this century with girls who are strong, confident, and comfortable in their own skin.” They’re going to raise funds for this new line via a Kickstarter. A Girl for All Time is reaching out to fans ages 8-14 to voice their opinion on the Your Modern Girl range via video submission. I don’t know when the deadline for this is, but it was announced mid-October, so get your submissions in as soon as possible. Details on how fans ages 8-14 can share their opinion and have a chance to be featured on the kickstarter’s page can be found here. (On the same note, check out the rest of Frances blog posts. They’re always fun to read!)
Third, you may have heard that Makies are going through a bit of a transformation at the moment. The bodies are no longer being 3D printed like they were before. The heads, though, are still being 3D printed. The biggest bit of news at the moment is that the boy dolls are being re-worked and will not be available to order from the website starting November 9th. That is a few days from now, so get your orders in now if you have a boy in your Makies account you can’t live without.
Fourth, my PO box is going way. It was a failed experiment, so please delete the PO box from your address books. (Do people even keep address books anymore? Am I showing my age?)
That’s about it, I think, for housekeeping at the moment. Stay tuned for the usual reviews and a special Q and A with Christina from Makielabs. Cheers!
Earlier, I posted a memoriam to doll lines that lost their momentum in 2014. But what about the doll lines that thrived? Let’s look back at a few lines that blazed through 2014.
Ever After High: Even with all the hoopla about Barbie’s low sales, Mattel has a lot to be proud of. (Though, I think it’s wise to point out that even with Barbie’s lower than average sales, she is still one of the top-selling doll lines ever created.) Mattel has two really successful non- Barbie properties on toy shelves at the moment. Ever After High made its debut back in 2013, as a spin-off of Monster High. 2014 was a huge year for this line. Collectors saw new lines, such as the gorgeous Thronecoming dolls and the Hat-Tastic Tea Party series. On top of that, we saw new royals and rebels being introduced like Dexter Charming and Lizzie Hearts. I see Ever After High entertaining us for many years to come.
Monster High: Mattel’s second hot buy of 2014 was Monster High. Popular since its 2010 release, the Monster High train is still moving at full speed! 2014 was the year of Freaky Fusion. We met new students, hybrids and got another entertaining movie to add to our dvd collection. Most exciting, in my opinion, was the line that finished off the year, Haunted. I don’t see Monster High slowing down any time soon!
Makies: Oh my, Makies has had quite a year! Winning numerous awards this year for their creative, fresh concept, Makies are on the right path! The company has been constantly evolving, keeping this 3D printed doll line from growing stale. I currently own two Makies, Siena and one brand new Makie who I only quickly introduced here on the blog last week. Keep your eyes open for a post regarding my new girl in January!
Equestria Girls: I was very, very unsure about Hasbro’s Equestria Girls line when it was announced. As a die-hard G1 pony fan, the thought of transforming my four-legged friends into two-legged teenagers worried me– a lot. However, as I try to do with all things in life, I went into the Equestria Girls with an open mind and was happily surprised. They weren’t perfect when they started appearing in toy stores. Hasbro made them with horrible peg legs, but somebody must have been listening at Hasbro, as most of the 2014 lines had feet! I, also, found myself drawn to the Rainbow Rocks line, partly because of the fun styling on the girls and the fact that I have a side collection (that is pushed aside a lot of the time) of doll ‘bands’, like Jem and the Holograms, K-On and Barbie’s Rockers and Sensations.
A Girl for All Time: I’ve been a fan of A Girl for All Time since I first learned about them. Year after year, the company keeps releasing beautiful dolls and outfits, as well as story books. If you haven’t joined their fan club on facebook yet, you should! It’s a fun, active community of fans and a great place to go if you want to see how others dress and style their A Girl for All Time dolls. I think it’s safe to say this is a line that is here to stay!
Of course, there are many other lines that have thrived in 2014, but these are my top five. What lines do you think excelled in 2014? Share your thoughts below!